Thursday, December 8, 2011

Loss of Control

As Christmas rolled around a year after K5 moved in, we were pondering what a truly fantastic present would be for her.  Not that she was asking for anything extravagant...but as parents, we really wanted to indulge her.  How it all played out was beyond our imagination.

K5 had a very strong relationship with an older girl that had been in the same foster home as K5.  We had heard that this foster sibling (not a biological relationship) would be aging out of foster care in January.  It broke our hearts that she had not been reunited with her birth family AND she had not been adopted into another family.  This was a child facing adulthood without a concrete family to call her own.  The hubby and I talked about it...mostly he talked and I balked, but in the end we decided to invite this foster sibling to visit us over Christmas.  She had sent us letters and had kept in touch with K5 and it was clear that they were very bonded to each other.  We contact social services, fought through some red tape and brought her to K5 as a surprise on Christmas Eve.

I will never be able to express in words what that moment was like.  I had wrapped a giant empty box and left it in the living room for a week.  The younger kids all took turns picking it up and commenting on how LIGHT it was considering the size.  I told them that it would be super heavy by Christmas because I was filling it with LOVE everyday.  On Christmas eve, we snuck K5's foster sibling in the front door, cut a hole in the bottom of the box, leaving just enough edge that she could step on it so the box would suddenly be heavy and dropped it over her head.  Hubby would tap on the box so she could move her feet for the big reveal.  We then called the kids up from the basement were they had been distracted with a video game.  The kids headed for the big box and where shocked at how heavy it suddenly was.  The moment my daughter realized that her foster sister was standing in our living room, she started jumping up and down and screaming.  Her excitement was so much more than we could have ever imagined.  It was also apparently more shock than her little system could handle since she went from screaming with excitement to collapsing in giant heartbreaking sobs against her foster sister.  As I said, I can not do the story justice, so I will just let you watch the video,  but I warn might need some tissues.

After Christmas, well, we couldn't just send her home without offering to be some sort of support in her life.  We talked with her a great length and she asked us if we would be willing to adopt her.  She had been in an "Independence" program in foster care and so she had been living in a townhouse on her own for several months with just a social worker checking on her about once a week.  She was excited at the prospect of being in our family and living in a home with lots of people.  And that is how K6 came to join our family.  She aged out of foster care and within an hour our lawyer had filed in the same court room a petition for us to legally adopt her as an adult.  We helped her pack all her belongings and moved her to our state.  We flew back to MO a month later to finalize the adoption.  Studies of adult adoptions show that these kids can really struggle.  Going from being essentially on their own, to being in a family, is very difficult.  Our experience pretty much agreed with the statistics.  K6 faced a lot of anxiety and frustration in our home.  She just never allowed herself to many ways I think she didn't want to belong.  More than anything she wanted the very thing we couldn't give her, biological connections.  In the end, she ran back to MO as being a part of our family was just too hard for her and she longed for contact with her biological siblings.  She broke our hearts when she left.  She has since gotten married.  I know that she struggles to understand where she belongs in life and I pray she finds the peace and happiness she is looking for.  I will always love her, but I have to accept what I can and cannot help her with.  She is a legal adult and I have very little say over her life.  She does visit from time to time and I maintain hope that as she matures, she will one day understand the real love of a parent.

In July, a mere 3 months after K6 had run away, my husband sent me a profile of a waiting child from the Adoption Exchange website.  I said no.  Plain and simple.  I was broken hearted.  I believed my spirit was broken beyond repair and I just honestly couldn't stomach the idea of adopting again.  My husband pushed me on it a bit and I remember becoming very angry and yelling that I had 6 of which hated me and I had done my share already.  I remember telling my husband that the ONLY way I was ever adopting again is if GOD HIMSELF told me too.  I was very specific!  I said God had to drop a little boy off on my doorstep because I was NOT going adopt another girl, do a home study, and work with a social worker to go looking for one!!!

One learns in life that mocking God or challenging him in any way is generally a good way to end up doing exactly what you said you wouldn't do.  I was no exception.  One evening in August, I received a phone call from some friends of ours.  They were part of the core team for the adoption support group that we helped facilitate at the church we attended at that time.  There was a child in need and they were asking our advice.  This child had been previously adopted but the family dynamics where not good and the adoptive parents wanted to disrupt the adoption.  He was described by his adoptive family as aggressive, unattached, violent, mentally retarded and physically delayed.  The family stated that they were afraid of this child.  Afraid for their lives and the lives of their children.  He was 4 years old.  My eyes filled with tears as I heard this little guy's story and in my heart, I knew what God wanted me to do.  Honestly, I felt DRIVEN to taken this little boy in.  His adoptive family showed up at my house and dropped him off.  They had never met us before.  We had no home study or a social worker.  We never went looking for a child.  The only connection was that they had contacted an organization that had contacted our church.  God had literally led this little boy directly to my doorstep...just as I had told my husband it would have to happen.  Well, needless to say, six months later, we finalized his adoption and K7 became my next lottery winning.  Well if you had opened the door and there was a baby in a basket on your doorstep, what would you have done?

Ya me too, only my doorstep looked more like this:

What an experience to take in a child badly diagnosed and on numerous psychotropic drugs.  Drugs he never needed and had only served to delay his growth and development.  We fought with psychiatrists and social workers to pull the meds as quickly and as safely as possible...and it still took months.  In fact, we even dropped one adoption agency because the social worker refused to support us on pulling K7 off medication.  She went so far as to tell us that we were harming K7 and she even went back to K7's previous family and told them to take K7 away from us because we were not acting in his best interest.  We maintained that if WE were going to be K7's family, WE needed to see what we were medicating.  We finally "fired" that adoption agency and landed with Positive Outcomes to handle the relinquishment with social workers that agreed that the Psychiatrist and my husband and I should determine what medications he should be on.  K7 came to us barely able to walk or talk.  His little body shook so hard he could hardly feed himself.  He was so heavily medicated that he couldn't grow and develop. Here is a brief article on the topic.  K7 was on bi-polar meds, depression meds, meds to treat aggression, Iron supplements and then medication to counter the Iron so he could have bowel movements.  His fear of punishment was extreme.  He would sob in my arms for hours - telling me that he couldn't calm down unless I gave him medicine.  And yet my most heart breaking moment was when he fell off the playground equipment and caught his lip with a tooth.  The blood gushed and it had to have hurt...but he just sat there with the blood dripping down his chin.  He never said a word.  He never shed a tear.  It was then that I understood the seriousness of his neglect.

I had been taught that children that had faced serious neglect might exhibit this behavior but I had never seen it before.  The philosophy is that the child will learn that tears do no good because nobody will come and help anyway.  His adoptive mom had told me out right that, per her therapist's and psychiatrist's advice, she would lock him in his room until he stopped crying...sometimes as long as 8 hours.  When I asked her why they said to do this, she replied that from the moment he arrived in their home, he was inconsolable and nothing she tried would work.  She got bad advice.  REALLY bad advice.  This little boy had been placed in her home at age 1 from another country.  He had left his caregivers, his smells, his favorite foods, his language and sounds.  Nothing was familiar to him...he was scared.  What he NEEDED was for her to love him, to protect him, to help him feel safe, to hold him for hours until he collapsed from exhaustion.  Needless to say, they never appropriately bonded as a result and the match was doomed to fail.  In the end, I had to teach him how to cry in order to learn that I would wipe his tears with my kisses and hold him as long as he needed.

K7 has been with us over a year now.  He still shows signs of the extreme discipline from his previous life.  He has insecurities that he may never leave behind...but he is medication free.  Now when he is upset, instead of begging for medicine, he cries big tears and says "mommy, I just need hugs and kisses!"  He is a happy little guy that bounces everywhere he goes.  He has no issues with walking or feeding himself and has no cognitive delays.  He is in speech therapy and is getting a little help in kindergarten for reading.  Beyond that he is a normal, healthy little boy.  He is ALL boy and is seriously rough and tumble.  Much more so than my two biological boys had been.  I am astonished at how hard he plays and how many toys are destroyed in the process.  But his happy twinkling eyes make me smile.  And last week, when I dropped him off at school, he had to run all the way back to the car to give me "just one more" hug and kiss.  Then he galloped (we are still working on skipping) all the way to the kindergarten playground yelling "I love you mommy!"  and blowing me kisses.  I thank God for sending me this blessing and reminding me that I am not in control because GOD has a better plan.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Boats and adoption

I pondered how to write today's blog.  This is a public forum and so it is doubly important to respect people's privacy.  I also feel it is important to say that yes, we struggled.  Part of the point of this blog is to help other people see that they are not alone.  Please understand that my story will not be filled with the details but that I will attempt to share the emotions behind this time period in my life.

In trying to figure out how to start this blog, Charles Dickens's famous "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" comes to mind.  K4 came to us with some issues.  She had a rough start in life...which was only compounded by her time in foster care.  Her history is her story and I will not share it here.  That is for her to tell.  What I will say, is that for the next four years K4 struggled to trust us.  She struggled to walk away from the bad influences in her life and she struggled to embrace the new values and ethics we were trying to teach her.  We struggled too.  We struggled to stay calm in the face of problems.  Our anger and frustration sometimes consumed us.  There were times I was afraid to come home and even more times that the screaming at night drove me to do middle of the night Wal-mart runs, just to get away. (Thank you Walmart for being open 24 hours)  I wonder how many times I sat in the car drinking a bottle of orange juice and eating chocolate covered donuts?  Well, according to my waist line, it was certainly more than once.

From the day I saw K4's picture, I knew I wanted her to be my daughter.  I then saw her in a video clip on CBS for Wednesday's child.  I knew I had to adopt her.  My husband and I immediately called the county and started the home study process again.  Now, usually home studies tend to take several months.  But our timing was impeccable and we apparently had some luck on our side.  We were able to immediately jump into a training class that was to begin a week later.  After 20 hours of training, a social worker came to our home to visit us.  Within 5 min of sitting on our couch, I had handed her just about everything she needed to complete our home study...things that most people only find out about and START to complete when they meet the social worker for the first time.  Since we had been through this before, we knew what was needed and had a stack of papers ready to go.  Our CPR and 1st aid certification had been updated, additional training hours had been completed online and our certificates printed, our pets vaccine records, our medical records, finger prints, back ground checks, our letters of reference and the large stack of question and answer pages that they had given us at the end of training and been placed in her hands.  Now she only needed to complete the required visits, tour our home and write up the study.  She was a bit flustered and said that she had never had anybody do it this way before.  Guess that is just my Type A personality showing through.  Well, it worked.  =)  We had our home study completed in just 6 weeks, and our new daughter came home.

After a few months, K4's intense fears and anger started to crumble our reserve.  The behaviors were at times overwhelming and I didn't know if we would survive.  She even ran away a few times.  I remember one night sleeping on the cold, hardwood floor blocking the front door so she couldn't leave.  I was terrified something horrible would happen to her.  Around the same time, my husband's family disowned us.  It had nothing to do with us adopting.  We did what we knew what the right thing to do, and not everybody in the family agreed with us.  I don't really care, at least I can look in the mirror everyday and KNOW that I always did what I believed was right.  God never said doing the right thing would make our lives easy, in fact, he specifically says doing what is right will often be painful.  At a time when we were trying to teach our struggling 14 year old about unconditional love and a forever family, she was watching her new family on her dad's side say that not only was love conditional but that it can be ripped away from you based on lies.  This made it difficult to teach K4 that we would always love her and be here for her, that family was forever.  It was a very dark time in our life and I look back and wonder how we survived.  I truly thought that we wouldn't.  To this day we still don't have contact with certain people, and to be honest, I now realize that God knew that those people should NOT be in my children's life.  To put it bluntly, their ethics and values were vastly different than ours and we really didn't need their values interfering with what we were trying to teach our children.

K4 had the courage to keep trying.  I know there were times that she wanted to give up.  I know there were times that I handled her completely wrong.  Robert's EXTREMELY wise grandmother once said to me "when you yell at a child, you change them forever."  Every time I lost it with K4, I would remember grandma's (AKA Saint Elaine's) wise words.

We knew that we needed to do better for K4.  We eventually happened onto a different kind of therapy.  Something that FINALLY understood traumatized children.  We threw ourselves into the training and really tried to change how we looked at parenting.  We PRAYED that being trained in emotional regulation would be our answer.  We realized that THIS is what our original training in California for K3 had been about.  Look beyond the behavior and identify the trigger in order to modify the behavior.  Dr. Brian Post's stress model made so much sense to us.  We bought the books, we attended extremely emotional seminars and we started to put things into practice.  We made a lot of mistakes.  My husband and I still struggled because although we had attended all the same trainings, we somehow got different ideas about the "right" way to implement it.  In the end, we realized that what was important was remaining calm and remembering what our goals were.  1.  Make her laugh everyday, 2.  Help her graduate high school and 3.  Don't let her get pregnant.  We were both headed to the same destination with K4...but needed to take two different paths to get there.  I tended to be the parent that set the firm boundaries, while he tended to be the parent that was more about comforting and working through the problems.  4 years later, K4 graduated high school, had laughed most of the days, and was indeed not pregnant.  In fact, she graduated a semester early!  It would take a couple more years for her to finally accept that we would be her family forever.  She is now in college, holding down a job and engaged to guy we really like.  She joins us for church on Sundays and calls home every few days.  Ya, I would say I was blessed to win the lottery a second time.  She is turning into an exceptional adult.

In 2008, K5 came into the picture.  She was a beautiful 11 year in a different state and she had been waiting for a family for 7 years.  People were shocked that we would consider adopting again.  I can understand why as many of those people had helped carry us through the hardest times and most likely feared that we would need even MORE help.  I am certain they were overwhelmed.  My husband's best friend point blank asked us why, after how hard things had been, would we even consider changing the family dynamics that had only recently begun to settle down into something comfortable.  For us the answer was easy.  We love children...and we love the sound of their laughter in our home.  But it was more than that.  My husband explained it best by asking his friend to imagine being on a leaky boat in the middle of a large lake or even an ocean.  He explained that the boat would float but would need somebody to help bail water out sometimes.  As you are sailing along, imagine seeing somebody floating in the water struggling to stay a float.  They are yelling for help.  Do you stop and pull them aboard or do you sail by?  For us, all people deserved to be loved and given a chance at life.  We choose to haul them aboard.  And so, for the 3rd time, we won the lottery.

Yes, K5 was a challenge at first, but we had become experts on the behaviors she exhibited from parenting K4.  She could be stubborn...well, still can be, but she has a heart of purity and innocence that is not often seen in foster children.  She has been in our home for just over 3 years and honestly, you wouldn't believe the transformation in her!  She is doing well in school, in fact, she even makes honor roll some semesters!  She is active and fun loving.  She is passionate about what she believes and will stand up for those that she loves.  Yes, we are blessed to have her in our family.  Although, we believe she is of German decent, I think somehow some of my Irish temper and need for "everything in its place" was genetically transferred to her.  We'll just say...she and I are alike in many ways and leave it at that!

Wow...5 kids already in this story, and I have 2 more adoptions to tell you about.  Do something special tonight.  Take 15 min with your child.  Don't plan anything in particular.  Just sit with them undistracted  from household chores, work or the phone.  Just follow their lead for 15 minutes of emotionally connected time with your child.  Enjoy the peace you will feel.


After watching that short video and hearing a child's voice declare that she wanted to be adopted but that she believed she wasn't pretty enough, we knew that we had forever been changed.  When we started realizing that we were battling "secondary infertility issues," we immediately begin to think of adoption as an option.  My husband had graduated with his Ph.D and been offered a fantastic job in California.  We wondered if the foster care system was different in California then it was in Colorado.  But before we had a chance to pursue anything, I found out I was pregnant with our 2nd son.  However, the seed had been planted and we knew we wanted to adopt.  About a year after our son was born, we attended specialized training classes to prepare for a traumatized child.  When loving a child that comes with a history, it quickly became apparent to us that all the parenting skills we had used with our sons would have to be set aside.  Many traumatized children will need some special handling and cannot be parent in "traditional" ways.  Think of it this way, if a child is misbehaving, traditionally parents might spank a child or perhaps a time out.  However for a child that has been abused and abandoned, a spanking will be nothing compared to having their arm broken when they were thrown against a wall, or pushed down the stairs, or how about when somebody tried to choke them or stab them with a kitchen knife.  A time out will be meaningless to a child who was locked in a closet, isolated from people, for hours at a time.  Those children will just look at you and think "really?  is that all you got?"  So we learned about "time ins."  We learned to ignore the behavior and try to look at what was going on BEFORE the behavior to identify why the incident happened in the first place.  We learned that being alert to those triggers and minimizing or, when possible, eliminating the trigger would reduce the behavior.  In theory this sounded easy.  We wouldn't find out how hard this is to actually apply until much later.  But, let me leave you with this thought from Juli Alvarado,  "When you observe a child, or anyone doing something inappropriate and then you amplify it with your words, you only add energy to the very inappropriate thing you would rather go the quiet, explore it with a focus on what is better, not what is wrong."

About 18 months after we completed our training, we were matched with a beautiful baby girl.  Yes, I said a baby girl.  Social Services says this "NEVER" happens.  She was 3 days old and was being relinquished by her birthmother.  Not due to neglect or poverty, but rather because her birthmom loved her baby and wanted her to have a better life.  I never had a chance to met my daughter's birthmother, but I am grateful to her everyday.  My daughter is an amazing 11 year old now, and I treasure everyday with her.  That was the first time I won the lottery.

After our daughter was placed in our home, we moved back to Colorado.  We had to go through ICPC in order to complete the adoption process.  What a nightmare ICPC is.  Maybe one day I will have my husband post a blog on here about the ICPC process.  He has become a bit of an expert on it since we later did another out of state adoption.  Honestly, unless you are a personality type of a "dog with a bone" then I would avoid out of state adoptions if possible.  Regardless, we got through the ICPC red tape and eventually finalized our daughters adoption.  She was 18 months old by the time we completed the process.  Remember, she had been fully relinquished by her birthmother when she was 3 days old...and it STILL took a year and a half to finalize the adoption.  Friends and family were so afraid for us that our precious daughter would be somehow taken away, but we knew that wasn't going to happen.  The day we finalized her adoption was such a joyous occasion.  Friends and family joined us in the court room and we were full smiles and laughter.

A year later, our family started talking about adoption again.  In some ways, we felt a little cheated!  Our intentions had been to adopt an older child and instead we had a newborn infant handed to us.  So, we got our home study updated and identified a waiting child that we felt would be a good match for our family.  She was 14 years old...5 years older than our oldest son.  I love her with all my heart, but OH BOY did we jump in the frying pan.  She challenged us with all kind of behaviors...and yet, each time we got through it together and we each learned a little bit more about relationships.  She learned to trust that we would be there for her and we would take care of her.  She learned that our love was unconditional and we learned to not be shocked by her behaviors.  She learned that people that love you, pay attention to what you are doing and try to help you make good choices.  She learned that loving parents really do have eyes in the back of their heads and spies in the community. We learned patience, compassion and that timing is everything.  We learned to face chaos with peace and calm.  We learned that not all therapists are good...  DO THE RESEARCH!

In fact, I think I will wrap this blog up here and leave you hanging again.  But, to clarify my statement regarding therapists, I do want to tell one short story.  Lets see, kid #4 or "K4" (for now on I will refer to the children in the order they joined our family) was assigned a therapist from the state just shortly after being matched with us. Her social worker thought this would be a terrific therapist because she was young and could connect with K4.  I had serious reservations because what I heard was "inexperienced" when the social worker said "young and fresh out of college."  Turns out I was right.  K4 did her job...she went to therapy and vented, and vented, and vented.   ROFL  After a few months, my husband and I were called into therapy with K4.  K4 had indicated that she wasn't comfortable saying something to us directly and wanted the therapist to say it for her.  This was lesson one in manipulation for K4.  K4 chose not to be present and waited in the reception area while the therapist spoke with us.  She had a very guilty look on her face.  The therapist took us back to her office and proceeded to inform us that K4 was really struggling in our home because she was working so hard to be good and perfect.  She stated that K4 needed to be dropped off at the local mall to hang out with friends and "be herself" without her father and I staying at the mall and supervising her behavior.  I literally was biting my tongue to keep from laughing out loud.  I was remembering a VERY recent incident with K4 at the mall that I am sure she DIDN'T want us to witness.  I finally couldn't stop my laughter from bubbling out a little bit and I looked at the therapist and very carefully said, "Do you have children?"  She said no and I paused for a deep breath before politely stating that the truth of the matter was that if K4 was not being herself in OUR presence we had a bigger issue at hand as she would not be able to live her whole life pretending to be perfect in our home.   I then went on to say that in all honesty, if MORE parents would stay at the mall and supervise their wayward children, perhaps our society would be a better place.  I politely thanked her for her thoughts but stated that my experience with K4 was a bit more extensive and I felt that what she needed was parents that loved her and parented her.  I suggested that in future therapy sessions she focus on helping K4 accept that we were the parents and that rules and boundaries would be determined by us.  I reminded her that her job was to help K4 join our family not to try to change our family to accommodate what K4 wanted...because as a 14 year old, she might know what she WANTED, but she had no idea what she NEEDED.

And so, in my next blog...I will finally explain the sailboats...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

And so it began...

One question I am frequently asked is "why do you adopt children from foster care?"  Sometimes I am ornery and ask a question back.  Depending on the sincerity of the person asking me, I might respond with, "Why do you ask?" or "If I don't, who will?" and one time when I felt like the person was being judgmental and rude I actually said, "Well, why WON'T you adopt a child out of foster care?"  Regardless, it is an understandable question, but not really one that is easily answered in casual conversation.

My husband's and my journey began many years ago, ok, many many years ago.  We were in college, newly married and feeling very grown-up.  We knew we wanted children "some day" but recognized the time was not right to start a family.  I  knew of a foster family in my hometown that would take on foster children and it got me to thinking about the possibility of providing temporary care to children in need.  My husband, bless his heart, let me follow my heart and attended the DCFS informational meeting with me.  The meeting was a real eye opener for us.  If you have never attended one, I strongly encourage you to do so.  It was filled with valuable information on the children that come into state care.  Information about the number children that come into care was overwhelming.  Then there was the ages, the races, the abuse, the poverty and neglect.  It was heartbreaking to get a real picture painted in my head of what it was like to end up a foster child, and yet, I knew I couldn't possibly understand what a child really went through or felt like sitting in a foster home.  Words like lost, hurt, abandoned, scared, and angry came to mind, but really that is just the tip of the iceberg.  After that meeting, my husband and I chose NOT to do foster care.  I bet you weren't expecting THAT statement.  =)  The truth of the matter was that at that time, foster children were not allowed to leave the state with their foster parents.  This presented a insurmountable problem for my husband and I since our parents lived in another state about an hour and a half a way and we generally drove up to visit them at least twice a month.  Tearing through DCFS red tape twice a month to bring a foster child with us really didn't seem like a good option.

Skip forward 4 years.  My husband was about to finish his Ph.D and I had just given birth to our first born son.  As I looked into his beautiful little infant face, I was overcome with emotion and dedication to this precious life we had created.  I wanted only the perfect life for him.  I knew my job was to love him, protect him and guide him into adulthood.  Don't ALL parents want that for their children?  I believe they do, but perhaps cannot always provide it.  One evening as my husband and I sat snuggling with our little boy while watching the news, a strange video came on.  The newscaster was at a "prospective adoptive parent party" for children in foster care.  That alone caught our attention, but what really made our hearts break was when the newscaster interviewed a little girl.  I don't remember her name but I will always remember her face.  She was about 9 or 10 years old at the time.  The newscaster asked some general questions about the party and the girl smiled and said she was having fun.  They talked about the food, the go carts and the video games that were available to the kids at the party.  Then the little girl looked straight into the camera and said something that changed my life forever.  With sad eyes, she looked straight at me and said, "I just hope that somebody thinks I am pretty enough to adopt this time."  This told us two things, 1 that she had been to one of these parties before and had not been adopted and 2 that her self esteem was so low that she truly believed that she would only be adopted if somebody thought she was pretty.

Needless to say, we called the newstation and they told us to contact The Adoption Exchange the next morning.  When we called, we were asked by the staff if we had a completed home study.  We did not and so they advised us to contact our local DCFS.  They went on to say that they had received many phone calls on this child and that she probably wouldn't be available by the time we had a completed home study.  We didn't follow through since it seemed like the child wouldn't be available anyway.  The perception we got was that there were plenty of parents willing to adopt these children.  Oh boy, were we wrong.

To be continued...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Winning the Lottery

I woke up this morning kind of excited about writing on my blog again today.  Now, don't let this spoil you as I am not promising I will write everyday.  But then again, I am not sure anybody is reading this anyway, so I guess I don't need to worry yet about disappointing anybody!!!  Regardless, I woke up thinking about what I should write about.  It only took a minute for me to realize that I only started the story yesterday and I need to tell some more of the story today.  If yesterday's blog scared you, hopefully today's blog will give you hope for the future.

A friend contacted me last night and asked for my insight on a child she is currently being considered for as a prospective adoptive parent.  I read through his short online bio and had to smile to myself.  This precious little boy is a child that I had run across before on the web-site.  I too had pondered inquiring about this child.  I will keep him in my prayers and hope that this means that there have been enough inquiries that a good match can be made for this child.  I fear that all too often children end up being placed in a home partly because nobody else wanted them.  That really doesn't provide the "best" home for the child.  Better than remaining in foster care for sure, but still not the best.   If my friend is matched with him, she will feel like she just won the lottery.

Shouldn't we be doing better for these kids?  Ok, seriously, we are a large affluent community.  We spend more on Starbucks each year then it would cost to adopt a foster kid. We have the means and the services available with a flick of an app on our iPhones to provide for a child.  I have FIVE adopted kids and my husband and I describe the experience as similar to winning the lottery!  Perhaps not a financial lottery, but certainly an emotional one.  Each one of my kiddos has such a unique personality and has many qualities to be cherished.  That does not mean they are "easy to parent" and "have no problems."  In fact, we are actually a therapeutic adoptive home so some of my kids actually come to us with significantly identifiable emotional disabilities.  On a school IEP that is known as an SIED.  This term encompasses the majority of "alphabet soup diagnosis."  PTSD, FAS, ADHD, Bi-Polar, AS, ED, MR,  and so many more.  Now granted, I do not have experience with ALL the alphabet soup diagnosis, but I am certainly experienced in some.  And yet, my husband and I still feel that we are very lucky to have these children in our home because:
  1. They make us laugh
  2. They make us cry
  3. They make us think
  4. They make us pull our hair out
  5. They make us proud
  6. They surprise us
  7. They worry us
  8. They keep us young
  9. They argue with us
  10. They remind us that we are old (don't want #8 to go to our heads I suspect.)
  11. They remind us that God has a plan and that really our only job is to love our children and teach them to love others...and then let them go.
I can keep going...  but I think you get the picture.  They do the same things that my 2 biological children do to us.  So being gifted the opportunity to love a child, to guide a child, to learn from a child, and to hold their hand in adulthood is a gift to be cherished.  So where are the families?  The children are waiting...but the families are not lining up.  At least not in the way I would expect considering that they have a really good chance at winning the lottery.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Ugly Truth

November is national adoption month.  It is a busy month for my family as we scramble to help spread the word about foster care adoption.  As an adoptive mother, I am often approached by many genuine people looking to understand what I do and why.  It is a simple question, but has a very complex answer.  As I pondered my efforts over the last month, I realized that I might be able to help people outside my immediate community by starting a blog.  Seems like everybody I know has a blog these days and I guess maybe I am feeling a little left out.  Before adopting 5 children (after giving birth to 2), I was on the leading edge of internet usage.  I hosted bulletin boards for infertility support groups.  I bought HTML for Dummies and figured out how to design my own web-page.  After kids...well, I facebooked.  Does that count?  As I pondered this, I realized that my 11 years of experience with children in the foster care system might be helpful to others that are either new at navigating the system or have navigated the system and are struggling to keep their family together.   And so here I am.  Signing up for my 1st blog and wondering if I will have an impact on anybody...and more importantly an impact on the amazing kids in foster care waiting for their stability.  Waiting for somebody to tuck them in at night and say "I love you forever and ever."  Waiting for a parent to love them enough to attend their after school activities.  Wondering if praying for a mom and dad is a waste of their time.

I did some research today, the first day of December, on children in foster care.  This is the month we celebrate Christmas, the month we celebrate family.  The research broke my heart.  463,000 children in foster care in 2011. Can you picture 463,000 people in one space? Wait, lets put that into perspective. Invesco Field seats 76,125 people. Now imagine the size of a stadium that would seat all our foster children. That would be SIX stadiums the size of Invesco. Children of all different races, sizes, and ages.  I picture an endless sea of faces, the faces of our nation's foster children.  

Did you know that of these children, each year 30,000 of them will become "too old" for foster care?  They will be released from state care and expected to be "adults" in society.  Wow.  Imagine being 18 and told "support yourself."  Were YOU a mature adult at 18?  Did you graduate high school, move on to college and just become a GROWNUP?  I didn't.  Yes, I graduated high school and left for college.  In fact a year later, I was married.  But I sure was glad I could call mom and dad when things were tough.  I am so thankful that they would drive across state lines to help me in a pinch.  They provided unconditional love, sometimes unsolicited advice, and more often then not, a little extra spending cash.  Sometimes they would just make sure I had good tires on my car in the winter and a full tank of gas before a winter storm.  I was NOT truly self sufficient.  I can't imagine how a child survives foster care, let alone survives leaving foster care with no real family to help them.  So of these 30,000 kids that emancipate or "age out of the system" 65% have no place to live, less than 3% will go to college and 51% will be unemployed.  If that doesn't scare you enough, go to your local homeless shelter and start listening to their stories.  40% of them are ex-foster kids.  I don't know if it is true or not, but I recently heard that 70% of our inmates are ex-foster kids.  I can understand why when so many of them age out of the system with no place to live and no advanced education or job to support themselves.  They probably feel like they don't have a choice but to turn to a life of crime to survive.

Our country is in crisis with our foster kids.  Most people don't want to look at the ugly truth and even fewer people think they can change it.  But they can, and should.  More on that in future blogs.  In the meantime, let me leave you with one place you CAN help.  Make a donation to a local adoption ANYTHING.  An adoption support group (check local churches), an online photo listing of waiting children (The Adoption Exchange is my favorite) your local department of children and family services.  Do a search for "adoption" at  Just do something this holiday season that supports the fatherless children in your community.