Sunday, September 23, 2012


I don't even know where to start.  I have been an advocate for children in foster care for years.  I have been frustrated with what doesn't work in the foster care system and saddened by the impact of those short comings to the children that we are supposed to be protecting.  In an earlier post, The Importance of Connections, I discussed the difficult decisions that social services has to make when it comes to separating siblings.  There are no easy answers.  Truly, siblings are separated because social services has no choice.  Trust me, no social worker WANTS to separate kids but it happens all the time.

This country is in a crisis with these kids in state care and most people are not aware or believe that it doesn't pertain to them.  I know if feels like I am beating you with this information but I know there are a many of you that read my blog and yet I know that I have not yet made a difference in the number of people stepping forward to love these children.  I know not everybody is cut out to take on some of these kids but for 12 years I have tried to help recruit families and somedays I wonder if I am making a difference at all.

Again, I don't even know where to start...

I need to stop answering the phone.  Lets start there.  Two weeks ago I got a phone call and was asked to take a 3 year old boy.  We had just accepted K8 & K9 as a placement and with 7 kids in the home and 2 married and out of the home, we felt right in saying "no."  As always, it is hard to know that I just turned away an amazing child that has the ability to do great things in this world if SOMEBODY would just show unconditional love, commitment and stability.

I hope somebody is looking for him...waiting to love him, smother him with kisses, and wipe his tears.  I hope there is somebody that wants to hold him when he is scared and help him with his homework.  I hope that he isn't just another kid that gets bounced through the system only to age out at 18 and end up as one of the homeless statistics or more criminal in jail.  Harsh words I know.  I imagine that you are thinking "come on!  He is 3!  Somebody will adopt him.  He won't be one of the ones bounced around."

Ya right.  Remember, K5 was 4 when she was taken into care.  We did not find her until she was 11.  And yes, she went through several homes first.  She is an amazing young woman and I missed out on the first 11 years of her life.  Those were spent with somebody else.  Somebody that couldn't provide stability and permanency.

Yesterday, the phone rang again.  I am still in shock.  Speechless really.  From the moment we heard about K8 & K9, we were told that they had a sibling that had been separated from them.  That sibling was placed immediately into an adoptive placement.  There were very good reasons for this to happen and all the kids have made tremendous progress during the time they were in care.  But as happens all too often in the system, something changed.  Something so big that now that sibling is in need of a new home.  Seriously.  I have GOT to stop answering the phone.  "So, I know it is a wild and crazy idea and you don't have to give an answer right now...but I wanted to ask you something so that you could think about it over the weekend.  Is there any chance you would be interested in reuniting the siblings and adopting all three or at the very least provide temporary care to this adorable 2 year old while we find another family?" asked the social worker.

Seriously?  How can I ever justify saying no?  How can I look K8 & K9 in the eyes and say "we had a chance to adopt your sister too but we said no."  We are an enormous family by today's standards.  We stick out in a crowd and are starting to look "old" for raising children in this age group.  People talk about us behind our backs and yet we are selected as the best option for this young toddler and my 2 youngest children.  Social services knows when they have a family that will do what it takes to make it work.  They know that this child now will have a failed adoption attached to her file and that will play into the minds of future prospective placements.  People will wonder if it is the child's fault and if she is somehow defective.  The child is TWO for crying out loud!  How can this be a 2 year olds fault?  Still think there is no crisis here in the US foster care system?

There is a lot that will have to happen before I will know for sure if social services will reunite the children in our home.  Safety comes first as it should.  But I already love this child and will fight for her.  She deserves it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Just a mom...

With the addition of K8 and K9, our family certainly sticks out in a crowd.  Well, I guess we always did, but apparently now with bi-racial children it is even more obvious.  Obvious enough that I now notice people looking at us at the mall for instance.  Robert says that people have looked at us for years, but I never noticed, but I am forced to notice now - more on that in a moment.

My newest munchkins have been with us for a few weeks now.  They are settling in well.  In other words, there is a lots of screaming and tantruming as they learn our family routines and rules, there have been many time "ins" and a few time "outs."  (Time ins when their behavior is clearly based on their fears of loss, time outs when I am witnessing normal preschooler behavior around learning basic social skills.)

There is the chaos of weekly therapy appointments to squeeze into our already tight schedule.  School enrollment and the various testing that occurs with children such as mine to ensure that they can be successful in the classroom is taking up most of my days.  Then there are the requirements of social services that the children must be seen by the pediatrician and dentist within 2 weeks of the placement.  Well, fortunately the fine print really says the appointments have to be scheduled within 2 weeks, the actual appointment can be scheduled a little further out.  Then there is the meal planning for a large family.  Digging out the crock pot has helped, but we are definitely not eating healthy right now as we try to figure out what is going to work for us.  Then we have the monthly social worker visits and guardian ad litem visits to plan around.  Yes it is a lot to organize and not let my other children fall through the cracks and miss out on their important activities as well.  But, we are managing and this kind of chaos seems to be something that I even thrive in.  I jump in with both feet and write all over my calendar and enter info into my iPhone.  I would drown without these basic household management tools.  But, please know that I am not complaining.  Nope...I am just a mom and all of us moms struggle with these issues.

Speaking of just being a mom, I know I am not alone in hating the dreaded "they are so lucky" comments adoptive parents are forced to hear.  I know it is always well intentioned...but really?  My children were lucky?  They were lucky to have been removed from their birth families?  They were lucky to spend time in foster care?  I am the lucky one.  I was given a chance to love them.  Of course, the lucky comment is followed by the "you are a saint" comment which again, might be well intentioned, but drives me up a wall.  I am no saint I can promise you that.  Feel free to ask any of my kids if they feel "lucky" to live with "Saint" Mom.  I don't expect them to feel grateful or lucky.  I expect them to be angry, feel hurt, scared and abandoned.  I anticipate years of them not trusting me, and hating me when I stand firm on house rules.  I don't tolerate my kids in a "saintly" way, I love them as a mom because they are my children.  

My children.  I like the sound of that.  So much so that it cuts me to the core when other people question my role as mom.  As I stated earlier, we seem to stick out in a crowd.  Ever since k4 joined our family, I would be asked "are they all yours?" to which I would smile and say yes.  With the addition of K8 and K9 now, that has changed.  I have always struggled to understand racism, but for the first time in my life, I FELT it.  It was subtle and I am trying to not make too big of a deal of it because I seriously doubt that the person was even aware that her comment put me in a defensive position about my children's race!  But there it was.  We were playing in the park, my caucasian, hispanic, korean and bi-racial children.  It was a beautiful day full of the children's laughter and smiling faces.  As I walked across the playground to check in with the youngest kiddos, another mom looked at me as said "are you a foster parent?"  Again, not necessarily a racist comment, but let me explain.  In 12 years of adopting children of various ethnicities, I have NEVER been asked that question.  People have always assumed I adopted them (or had many men in my life...) but the children were clearly identified as MY children. This was the FIRST time I had been asked about foster care.  I didn't think much about it at the time and simply answered, "no these are my kids."  But it gnawed at me for hours.  Later I finally talked to Robert about it.  I pointed out that at the time, I was surprised but as I thought about it, I was offended at the question!  Not that there is something wrong with being a foster parent, in fact I admire the people that can give their hearts in that way.  No, I was offended that it is only when I have bi-racial children that I would be asked such a question.  Is it because they are black that the assumption is foster care?  Are my beautiful bi-racial children not worthy of adoption in the eyes of this woman?  I will never know for sure what exactly went through her mind.  But it makes me sad to know, that to some people, my children and I will have to defend our right to be a family.  And defend I will, because I am just a mom.  Their mom.