the first three weeks

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

well, we are now three weeks into this. It doesn't seem like that long when I think about children being in foster care for months, but when we are living it, it seems very long. :)

The kids have settled in fairly well. The first week and a half went pretty smoothly, but that was before we started visitation with the dad. Well...first let me back up...

Day 1: We get the call and go to pick up the kids at the doctor's office where the social worker had taken them to have an initial exam. They were just waiting in the waiting room with about 30 other people who were waiting to be seen. We sat down at a little kids' table in front of everybody, signed a paper for each child, and then we took them home. That was it. It was very strange and a little creepy. I guess I was just hoping there would be more to it. We wrote down about twenty questions on the way to get them, but it was obvious when we got there that it was neither the time nor the place, and the social worker really didn't know the answers anyway. We brought them home, realized we had no where for the oldest to sleep, and so Wendell went out to get bunk beds for Maggie's room. He put them up, and it took until 11 pm to get everyone to bed. Our oldest little girl was pretty sad, but quiet. The youngest was much more fussy, so Wendell sat with him downstairs while he watched Dora and eventually fell asleep.

Following Days: I was really unprepared for the emotional part of this. I cried a lot for the first three days, I was sick to my stomach, couldn't eat, and I think Wendell was ready to have me committed. The information we were getting from the county was conflicting depending on who we talked to. We had no idea what was going on or what was normal for this situation since this was our first placement. I began to get very uncomfortable about the little girl's age (4 and a half). I had wanted three and under, and couldn't figure out why I had said yes to this old of a child. We really felt like they would go home pretty quickly, but the info was once again slow to come and conflicting in nature.

On Sunday, we had my birthday party, which frankly, I didn't really enjoy because I was so emotionally exhausted. Maggie was unbearable for most of the first week...well, she's still pretty unbearable. Every negative behavior that she had before increased ten-fold, plus we were extra-sensitive to negative behaviors because we were having to spend so much energy on the new children in our family. Part of the problem is that she will have to adjust to not being the youngest and the only child at home during the day. Another part of the problem is that by taking an older child, we negated her ability to become the big sister/helper. Miss R is incapable of playing alone, and Maggie is very used to playing alone so it is causing conflict. I am unwilling to displace her in birth order right now in case these kids go home, but I am also unwilling to keep her as second-born in case they stay because Miss R will go to kindergarten next year. Maggie will still be at home, and therefore the pecking order will clearly change come fall.

Recently, however, we did discover some information about the case that leads us to think that the kids will probably go home with their dad mid-June. This case was unusual in a lot of aspects, but one of the things was that the dad, who did not have custody, wants these kids. There was a conflict of interest in the first hearing (which occurred within 24 hours), so they had to reschedule a second hearing. But they couldn't fit it in until June 12th. Which is ridiculous, I think. The kids' case worker told us this week that Children's Services has no objection to the dad. Which, assuming that the judge agrees, means that these kids will have be in care for a little over 5 weeks for nothing. I feel frustrated on this dad's behalf. It's a terrible situation.

More on the first few weeks later...I'll share more of how the system is working (at least in this particular case) then.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Apparently licensing is less of a hassle than they make it out to be - at least when we really need it. On Tuesday, I received a call about our first placement. I said, "But we're not licensed!" And the case worker says, "well, you will be in twenty minutes!"

So right now I have Miss R (girl, 4) and Mr. R (boy, 2). They also have a little brother in the hospital. He is supposed to come home next week sometime - he's about three weeks old.

I have way too many things going on in my head to write down right now. I'm not sure I want to write all of them down at all. I am so emotional about what's occurring...just not sure what I think about everything. These little kids are really sweet. Well-behaved, polite, and clearly they have been fairly well-cared for. Not to say that they shouldn't have been removed at all - the reasoning behind the removal is obvious. I just have a lot of mixed feelings about them being here. More on that later, I think...

private vs. public

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Quite a few people have spoken with us or we've read/heard general advice about going with a private agency vs. going with the county direct. I thought for awhile that maybe we had made a mistake going with the county instead. Maybe we have still, I don't know. But there are several reasons why I feel good about our decision to go directly with the county. The first is that the county is the only agency that is non-profit. Private foster agencies, private adoption agencies, even adoption lawyers - all of these people are for-profit organizations. The second reason is that the county will go to private foster agencies ONLY if there is no available placement among their own homes or homes in surrounding counties. So, just as in foster-adopt vs. straight adoption licensing, if we are licensed directly with the county, we will get first priority when it comes to placing kids. The third reason why I have an initial level of reticence with private foster care is that it costs 3-4 times as much to place a child through private foster care. Whereas the payment for a child placed through the county would be about $20/day, when they place through private agencies, they are paying something more like $80/day. This doesn't sit tremendously well with me when we're looking at a system already strapped, a bad economy, and the possibility that funding will lessen depending on the financial direction of the government.

There are some advantages to going with private foster care. The most important that I can see is that you get a higher level of personal care. You will have your own case worker in addition to the child's case worker. You may be much more likely to get personal visits, prompt call-backs, etc. That extra money the county is paying to the agency is clearly going to pay for extra services which are provided to the families. Also, one of the primary places that I see private foster care playing a tremendously beneficial role in is with children who have more special needs - emotional, medical, whatever. In that case, the families who agree to take on the really hard cases will definitely need any extra support they can get. But in my case, at least the way I'm feeling right now - I'm more willing to fight with the system and take less personal service if that means that the county can save some money and hopefully provide needed services to the families that they care for. We'll see if my opinion changes as we continue this... :)

further on fost-to-adopt and adoption

Monday, February 2, 2009

In response to some questions, I thought I would clarify a little for the record why we made the decision to foster-to-adopt instead of just straight adoption through the state. Ohio offers an option to strictly be licensed to adopt through the state. Apparently not all states offer this option, which I find curious. Anyway, we decided not to go that route under counsel from the agency.

One of the reasons is that when kids come into the system, they are immediately placed with a foster family. It then takes a year or more for them to enter permanent custody. They are not eligible for adoption until they are in permanent custody. So in that year, these children have lived with one or more foster families, all of which have first 'dibs' when it comes time that the kids enter permanent custody of the state. We, at this point, feel strongly about not upsetting our birth order of the children we already have, plus we were counseled to stick with younger kids while we have young kids in the home still. As you can imagine though, it is very rare for toddlers and infants to enter permanent custody without an already identified foster home. Most of the time, if they are not adopted by relatives, the foster family that they are already living with adopts them. It is very difficult to get a very young child through adoption-only. I'm sure that there are instances where it has been done, but by and large, it's not really how the system works. (At least as far as our research and what we've been told....once again - we are NOT experts on all parts of the child welfare system)

We realize that choosing to foster first opens us up to some risk. In fact, they used to call foster-to-adopt "legal risk". The social workers may have a very good sense of where the case is heading, as in the one mom they have right now who is pregnant with her eighth child and all previous seven children have already been removed. Chances are high that this mom will not retain custody of this baby. But they cannot guarantee that...thus the 'risk'.

The thing that we are currently reminding ourselves of is that there are no guarantees in any section of life. I cannot guarantee that Ben and Maggie will live to reach tomorrow. They could have died at birth, even days, weeks, or months later. The fact is, they aren't MINE. They belong to God. I get to love them and live with them, but I'm not in control of their lives...or their deaths. So when I think about how much 'risk' we will accept in this process, or when I start to push to minimize all risk, I am taking things out of God's hands and trying to take control. We will have to make tough decisions in this arena when we start to get calls for placements, but we have to not try to control all parts of this situation. We're not in control. There is a huge possibility for pain, just as there is with having biological children. We could accept a child only to have them reunify with their families weeks or months later. I hope and pray that we will not have to experience that, but I don't know for sure where this journey will lead us. I have mixed emotions anyway because I very strongly believe that the absolute best place for any child is with their biological parents in a healthy family. So I expect some emotional conflict regarding the hope for healing and reunification with children's birth families vs. our desire to grow our own family through adoption.

I'm sure there will be much more to say about this portion of our journey later...many more hard decisions to come...we would definitely appreciate prayer for this aspect.

hope and disappointment

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I haven't blogged in awhile; I've been feeling pretty run-down and blogging seems to take so much emotional energy for me. I had high hopes for increasing my blog posts, but now I feel like I've let myself down. I've been reminded lately of how much I set myself up to be disappointed...last week I received some disappointing news regarding one of the aspects of our foster care paperwork. It wasn't that big of a deal and was easily fixed, but I just felt so let down. It was something that I was depending on someone else for, and it just didn't pan out in the way I expected.

This week, I received disappointing news about my health. I thought things were in a really different place regarding my thyroid issues...well, I knew I was still sick, but for some reason, I had put it in my head that when I visited the doctor this week that he would make me well again. I'm not sure why I've been believing this; it's not like he's magic...nevertheless, there it was, that hope I had for him. Once again, I left feeling tremendously discouraged and let down. I had really pinned all my hopes and plans on this one doctor's visit, kind of just ignoring what was actually going on in my body.

I know the reason for all this disappointment - it's misplaced hope. I had hope in other people for my application, I had hope in the doctor for my health, I had hope in myself for accomplishing my lists...all that hope that I'm placing everything and anywhere but in God. So the only thing on my list this week (and forever, really) is to put my hope in God and Him only. Yes, I know he uses other people and medicine and my abilities to get things done, but if I rely on those things without really seeking Him about those things, then I'm missing the point. I think I tend to compartmentalize, thinking, 'hey, God gave me medicine, it will eventually make me better and thus, I do not need to bother Him with this issue anymore., Or...'God called me to do this job, He gave me these specific abilities, and thus, I do not need to ask Him about it anymore.'

Now that I write this stuff out, I realize how ridiculous I sound. It's not like I stopped seeking God or spending time with Him, it's just like I have made my life a list of problems/needs and solutions. I have a pattern:
1) I consult God about these issues.
2) As soon as I feel He's given some sort of answer, I mark it down in the "solution" column. Even if it's not solved completely, I take what He's shown me as the final solution.
3) I mark it off the list completely, never to bother Him with it again.

Clearly this a pattern that is not working in my life. And the only way I'm going to make it through life, and especially this adoption journey, intact is to establish new thinking patterns.

New pattern:
1) Lay down my pride (thanks Jeremy Camp). It's embarrassing to admit that maybe what I thought God was telling me wasn't His final word to me in those situations. It's embarrassing to admit that I only sought His input to a certain point. It's embarrassing to admit my health weaknesses. I hate being weak or wrong. But now I have this step:
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

2) Seek God about ALL my needs, problems, life...continually...remembering this step:
I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:5
Side note: it doesn't say "look to me, find your answer, and then go merrily along your way" says, "remain in me".

3) Put my hope for my solutions in God and God alone.
Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love, which you have shown from long ages past.
Psalm 25:4-6

Quite Good

Saturday, January 3, 2009

I was watching an episode of Mad Men this week where one of the characters is thinking of adoption (and apparently - well at least according to this particular TV show - in the sixties, adoption was not all that common), and someone says to him "well, it's just not natural!" That particular conversation really stuck with me because of some verses that I've been meditating on. What is more natural than adoption? It's exactly what God intended from the start. It is His plan.

"Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved." Romans 8:23-24a

"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will..." Ephesians 1:4-5

Six years ago, I received my first adoption information packet from Family Life. Just basic stuff, but what struck me most was all the scripture included with it. It had never occurred to me before how much the orphan was mentioned in the Bible. I never took seriously the verse in James about the true religion that God accepts being that which cares for the orphan and the widow (James 1:27-28). And when I got to the verses about our adoption into God's family, it was humbling to realize that I never even paid attention to what the Bible actually SAID about this issue.

Adoption always seemed like some far away issue for me. I knew people who had adopted, but it was only overseas and only infertile couples. It took a couple years past that first packet before I started really hearing about and listening to options that weren't international. International adoption seems (still) a little glamorous to me. Plus, there are so many horrific stories about failed domestic adoptions. International adoption is touted as a "safer" option. That appealed to me for awhile, until I started learning about how many children are waiting for adoption right here. Our conversations about adoption took a different turn about 4 years ago or so when Wendell and I realized that it wasn't a far-away was a next door issue. We decided that we couldn't justify thousands of dollars and work for an overseas adoption when children in our own area needed a family to love them. We can't deny the child we see at the store a loving home in favor of our own personal "safety" when it comes having a child become a part of our family.

We need a continual reminder of the oft-used (perhaps over-used) quote from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe where the children ask the beaver if Aslan the Lion is 'quite safe'. The beaver replies, "Safe? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe, but he's good. He's the King, I tell you." This path, it involves risk to be sure, but there are no guarantees with any child. Ben or Maggie could have died a day, a week, a month after they were born...they still could be taken from us at any moment. Fortunately, our children are not our OWN. They are God's. They (and us, too) belong to a King who most definitely is not 'quite safe'...but He is quite good.
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