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 away...in 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...