Saturday, April 2, 2016

Waiting Games

We are still in limbo with little to update.

The follow up meeting with the administrators and adoption team happened. The supervisor who was condescending and obviously against us moving forward with our adoption in the last meeting sent a list of questions to our marriage counselor before we met. The response she got back was blunt (and hilarious, but I'm sure only to me); the agency is outside their scope by pushing into issues that do not impact the well being of our children. I was nervous walking into the meeting knowing that exchange had occurred. I was pleasantly surprised when we were met with smiling faces and supportive accolades from the team. The meeting was short and sweet. None of that means anything, though.

On St. Patrick's Day, we had the fair hearing to overturn the indication on Brandon from the investigation back in August. The indication is still the thing holding up our adoption process. We really need it to be overturned. We hired a lawyer who is as confident as we are that the evidence in the CPS investigation does not support any theory that Brandon neglected or abused Baby 12. Further, when he obtained the CPS file, it was clear that CPS doesn't have a theory at all. He said the report is the equivalent of saying, "The sky was blue on Thursday. You were outside on Thursday. You made the sky blue.". I was still sick to my stomach walking into the court building, though. The CPS investigator, county attorney, our attorney, and us were the only people there. I could not go in because I am a witness and could not hear the investigator's testimony. I waited in the lobby for 3 hours. Occasionally I heard our lawyer raise his voice. It seemed pretty intense. They were not done questioning the investigator before the judge said we had run out of time and had to come back for a continuation. We had waited all this time, and nothing happened. Again. Brandon and our lawyer were both pleased with how it went. I guess that's something.

Then we went back to waiting.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Turned Tables

We sat at the conference table while everyone introduced themselves: Homefinder, Adoption Supervisor, Adoption Administrator, Adoption senior worker, Adoption case worker, Homefinding Administrator, Homefinding supervisor, Me. I never feel small. As a matter of fact, I often feel too big: larger than life, louder than appropriate, always needing to tone it down. Right then, I felt like I had to sit up tall, enunciate, and throw my voice to make sure it got across the room.

They started,  "Tell us what got us here.".

Uh, well, I guess it starts in August with the first CPS report and the injuries to the child in our home. We don't know what happened to that child. It shook me because we protect kids. We've given the past seven years of our lives to this. He clearly got hurt, but no one knows how, and then CPS said it was my husband's fault. I didn't handle that well. It put pressure on our marriage. We dealt with the stress very differently. I wanted to talk and connect with other people and get out of my head. He wanted to internalize and shut down; not worry until there was something to worry about. I started going out frequently. The affairs, you know about. You have to understand that we have surrounded ourselves with conservative Christian people who all speak CPS fluently. This was a conscious choice on our part, but it hasn't served us well here. When my behavior started to change, the people around us responded very strongly. I don't think that a different group of friends would have had any concerns for our children. My husband is here with me. We have sought counsel. We are committed to our family and our children. We have proven ourselves over 7 seven years and 15 children. I've struggled for 4 months. I'm asking for time to recover from the rug being pulled out from under us.

Their responses are mottled in my memory:

I have seen other families go through false allegations and indications, and I can tell you your behavior is not typical. We usually see these situations strengthen the family. They come together and support each other.

We cannot recommend adoption at this time when we question the stability of your marriage.

I have to imagine that if he is supporting you, he is either lying about being upset or he's completely indifferent to you. Neither is a good thing.

Are you going to continue any relationships outside of your marriage? No.

What about the drinking? There is no drinking problem. All of those reports have come back unfounded.

Are you staying home? Yes.

We need to see you take responsibility for your actions. I don't know how to show a caseworker that I'm taking responsibility for the cracks in my marriage when my kids are not involved in that.

Your faith-based counselor is not comfortable communicating with us. You have to start secular couples' therapy. We need to hear from that therapist that you are stable and ready to adopt.

I have to address the pink elephant in the room. Get it together, guys.

You look really nice. I was worried that you would come in looking haggard. 

...if you want to move forward with fostering.... I'd rather set myself on fire.

Essentially, you have become the clients. You have to prove to us that you are making progress.

Sometimes we see, mostly with birthparents, that they say they want their children, but when the time comes their actions tell us they aren't really sure. Could it be that adopting a third child in the same amount of years is too much? Absolutely not. The pending threat that a governing agency can come in a take my daughter who I love more than life based on the opinion of a person behind a desk formed by the allegations of former friends who now hate me is too much.

You can't have any police contact. We've never had any police contact.

"We're here. We are not going anywhere. We'll do everything you ask us to. Baby 9 is our top priority."

I cried throughout the meeting because I was so frustrated. They all clearly have opinions about me. I don't need them to like me or understand our situation. I really need them to leave their opinions out of their official decisions. I don't think that's happening, though. They are not sticking to the questions they ask everyone who is adopting. No one else gets asked about who they sleep with. They can't tell me what typically happens in families when crisis comes. I know the families she's talking about. I've talked to them after their meltdowns. I've heard the stories. They just don't have their friends running to the CPS hotline every time they're mad. Ironically, that night is the first night in a while I want to stay out and be away from my family. It's too hard to keep a happy face today.

It hits me hard right then. This is how our kid's parents are treated. A seemingly insurmountable number of people gather with bits and pieces of your story and want you to prove yourself. They say, "Go.", and you know it doesn't matter what you do. All that matters is how they interpret it- which you obviously have no control over. It's hard not to get caught up in insignificant details. I wanted so badly to go back to the drinking and police comments, "Why is that even being mentioned? That's not part of our story.". I know that fight would be futile and more important is doing what I can with the issues that do apply. The system is built to put the most stress possible on a family that is already in crisis. That way, we know they can handle staying together. I wonder, though, if supporting the family and removing some of the stress would allow them to better display their strengths. If we didn't cause more stress, would we see faster recoveries? I think a lot of the relapses we see in our parents are reactions from dealing with the system- not from the natural stresses of life. They would probably be fine with just life. I'd probably be fine with just life.

From this side of the table, I don't feel like we're protecting children or helping families. This side of the table feels like war.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Weary in Well Doing

Since August, I've been waiting for a moment- no matter how brief- of sun break where I can post something flowery and uplifting. Around October, I began searching for even something neutral to write. Now all this time has passed, and you're getting another bummer update from an unrecognizable version of me.

First, and certainly most important: all 5 of us are still here together. Baby 9's adoption has been paused for now. Despite several valiant efforts, the agency has not successfully been able to defend their desire to move her.

The fair hearing to overturn the indication is in March. That's our biggest hurdle. Having an indication means the judge has to decide to give us an exemption in order to adopt. We don't want to have to rely on that.

There have been more reports made to CPS that have come back unfounded. Allegations that I am drunk and high while with my children. That I come home drunk and "pass out" at night. One said that Brandon has pointed a gun at me. All are completely false and were made specifically to stop Baby 9's adoption and hurt me. Anyone who knows us and sees our children would never have legitimate concerns for their well being.

I have learned a lot about people in the past 6 months. I have learned a lot about myself. I honestly didn't know that people can turn so dramatically and quickly under pressure. I always assumed that someone's character was relatively constant. Now I know that even really good people can become horribly destructive and heinous in the right (wrong) circumstances. I've done it. I've made choices that I knew would hurt people I love because my own survival was my top priority. I've had it done to me. I've been lied to. I've been left by people who told me they understood and supported me. I've watched my story get tossed around and twisted to fit another person's vendetta. I've seen the moment where love starts costing too much and hate's affordability turns the people I thought would never leave. I know about being reckless and selfish. Those things hurt, but I at least get it. I've racked up quite the list of collateral damage from my actions. I'm still adjusting to the news that sometimes people do horrible things specifically to cause injury to others. I really didn't think that people- normal people, who hang out and go to church and raise kids- would go out of their way to destroy another person when there is nothing to gain for them. Hearing about the accusation that Baby Girl "is underweight, and not fed properly", when her pediatrician has been monitoring her weight gain to make sure she's not too heavy for her height, taught me quickly that I've been wrong about a lot of things.

So many times, I've wanted to quit. I really want to run. I want CPS and foster care away from my family. Why are we still here? What's the point of dragging my family through months and months more of trauma, stress, and fear when it may leave Baby 9 without us anyway? It's in these moments, I have to step aside and let God. I get still and He steps in, immediately reminding me He hasn't left us yet. He hasn't let any of my children go out of His sight. He has held us through every other horrible heartbreak that I never imagined surviving. I have been saved by His grace. I have been forgiven through His blood. There is no possible reason for me to believe that it was all so we could get to this point and God would say, "Alright, this is on you. Good luck.". My view of the world has changed, but God's view remains the same. My spirit has been crushed, but His Spirit is omnipotent. I fail daily, but He has never failed.

Baby 9 has people who will never leave her. She is healthy, and developing, and full of joy because God saw fit in His awesome design to use my family in her redemption story. He looked at her and let her path intersect mine. We are part of a good plan. We are here for His work.

"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Galatians 6:9

I'm holding on. It's exhausting. I take more breaks than forward steps. But I haven't given up.