Would I Do It Again?

We have often been asked if we would “do this again”… what a difficult question to answer and one that is weighing heavily on our minds as we approach adoption. Once the adoption is complete, we will need to choose whether to transfer our license to another agency (and if so, which one) or to close our license.

If I had this situation to do over, of course I would do it again. I can’t imagine our lives without Daffy. She is our daughter, plain and sample.I have zero regrets. But, will we continue as foster parents or consider adopting again? I simply dont have an answer to that question. Sometimes I feel like we might consider it and other times I still feel too raw from those first few days with Donald in our home. Mickey often jokes about being ready and the kids all say they are for continuing as a foster family, but I can’t help but wonder if they say that because it’s abstract at this point. There is no worker knocking on our door asking us to take kids.

The number one thing that keeps me from being certain is the fear of failure. In many ways I feel like we failed Donald. This rocks me to the core and makes me doubt everything I once thought I was capable of handling. My mission to help kids in foster care has not changed, but I wonder if my drive and desire to help would be better served in another way.

At this point, I am leaning heavily towards closing our license and training to become a CASA volunteer. I want to be involved in children’s lives and I want to make a difference, but I just don’t know if fostering is the best route for us to continue. I am sure we will have many conversations as a family over the next couple months and I also know better than to say “never” because life has a way of doing just what it wants despite the best laid plans…

Book Review | The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy Tale

The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy Tale, by Grace Lin

A king and queen should be full of joy and contentment, but they both feel a strange pain that worsens every day. Then a peddler’s magic spectacles reveal a red thread pulling at each of their hearts. The king and queen know they must follow the thread.

The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy Tale is a children’s book with a stronge message that children of adoption are “meant to be” with their adoptive parents. Daffy, age 9, really enjoys reading this book and reports that her favorite part of the story is “when they find the baby.” While the message can pertain to the adoption of children of any age, whether domestic or international, the artwork will be most relatable to those adoptive parents who have adopted infants from other countries.

Grace Lin grew up in Upstate NY with her parents and 2 sisters, whom are featured in many of her books. You can visit her website at gracelin.com for more information about her books (behind the scene stories and pictures) as well as other amusing anecdotes!

Have you read this book? Please feel free to leave me a comment with your thoughts!

Daffy’s Story

This is the third in a series of Guest Posts by other Cast Members here at Foster Adoption. I asked Daffy to share her version of events from the time she first learned about our family through the hearing when we finally determined her adoption date. 

IT’S A PLANE OLD DAY AT THE GROUP HOME. ONE OF THE STAFF MEMBERS CALLS ALL THE KIDS IN FOR SUPPER AND THEN CALLS FOR EVERY ONE ELSE BY RINGING THE HOUSE BELL. AT DINNER ME AND DONALD GET BROUT INTO A MEETING! ME AND DONALD WERE KIND OF NERVOSE AT FIRST BUT THEN I SAW A SMILE ON OUR CASE WORKERS FACE SO I WAS FELT BETTER I DONT KNOW ABOUT DONALD? THENE THE CASE WORKER BRINGS IN A $1,000,000 AND THEN A NOTHER $1,000,000 I’M JOKING. SO ANYWAYS THE CASE WORKER PULLS OUT A PEAS OF PAPER AND ASKS US A FEW QUESTIONS LIKE….HOW ARE YOU? HOWS SCHOOL? WHAT DID YOU LEARN AT SCOOL?……THEN SHE PULLED OUT ANOTHER PEAS OF PAPER AND SAID VERY PROUDLY “DAFFY AND DONALD YOU HAVE A NEW FAMILY” DONALD AND I WERE SO HAPPY WE JUMPED OUT OF OUR SKIN AND SHOUTED FOR JOY!!!!!! THEN SHE SAID WE WOULD MEET THEM TOMORROW. I WAS REALLY EXCITED. DONALD WELL HE JUST SAT THERE WITH HIS MOUTH OPEN! I ASKED IF HE WAS COMING TO EAT BUT HE SAT THERE FOR ABOUT 15MIN AND WENE HE CAME BACK IN HE WAS JUST IN TIME FOR DESSERT. I COULDN’T GO TO SLEEP THAT NIGHT CAUSE I COULDN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT MY NEW FAMILY. THE NEXT MORNING I SPRUNG OUT OF MY BED AND WENE I FINISHED MAKING MY BED I HELPED THE OTHERS WITH THERE’S! WE DID OUR REGULAR CHORSE THEN I FINALLY GOT TO SEE THEM WENE I FIRST MEET I FELT NERVOSE BUT AFTER WE PLAYED GAMES AND DID OTHER FUN THINGS LIKE DRESS UP….AND THEN THE DAY CAME IT WAS A TUSDAY AND A very Very VEry VERy VERY SPECIAL DAY CAUSE I WAS GOING TO LIVE AT MY NEW FAMILY’S HOUSE! THE DAYS PASSED AND I LEARND ALL OF THE RULES AND MET NEW PEOPLE IN THERE FAMILY’S AND THEY ARE MEETING MINE!

-DAFFY, AGE 9

Overwhelmed

It’s been 5 days since Daffy’s birth mom was told about her adoption. It’s been a whirlwind of letters from the birth Mom, emails among the team members and phone calls with the case worker. I am overwhelmed.

When we first considered this concept of open adoption at the beginning of May,  my intentions were to allow letters with twice yearly visits. In the nearly 3 months since this concept was first introduced, it has evolved into something much more. Daffy’s birth Mom has seen Donald twice with another visit scheduled for this week- and while no definitive schedule is set, its looking like weekly visits may become the norm for them. The team has been unable to secure any sort of counseling for the  birth Mom, so to date, she is dealing with this completely on her on. This is a recipe for disaster. This is a woman who has lost 4 kids to the state over the course of her life. This is a woman who has had multiple psych hospitalizations for her own mental illness stabilization. This is a woman who, when evaluated last fall, was classified as someone stuck in the exact moment she last visited her children in 2009, unable to move forward in any way. She has had ZERO help to deal with her own issues, still takes no responsibility for why her children were removed in the first place and yet is expected to rejoin this team as an outsider (with no rights) and be appropriate in all she says and does? Its an impossible task.

One of the things that she wrote to me this week was that while she is happy for this opportunity, she wonders how long it will last. I think that’s a very fair question. This team has severed ties with many connections in the past in very abrupt ways. This team is doing nothing to help or guide her in how to help the kids or how to process all of this herself. One wrong move on her part and they could easily pull the plug again. And that’s just with Donald. Daffy will be adopted in October and the state will no longer have any control over her. Birth Mom doesn’t know us from a hole in the wall and is expected to “trust” our intentions.

This, and the fact the team is considering inviting her to upcoming team meetings, is what prompted me to request a face to face visit with her. I told the team that I feel the birth Mom and I need to establish a relationship before Daffy’s adoption and that I certainly dont want to meet her for the first time at a team meeting. I requested that our case worker and the adoption specialist both attend the meeting to help alleviate the pressure we are both feeling about this first meeting and also be there in case uncomfortable questions come up. They agreed and immediately got to work scheduling the visit. It’s scheduled for August 1st- 4 days away! Aaaaaack!

I have 4 days to prepare to meet the woman who gave birth to Donald and Daffy. That doesn’t feel like much time. In many ways it reminds me of my feelings while preparing to meet Donald and Daffy that first time. What should I wear that will make me look motherly? I don’t want to look “old” but its not a time to be edgy. A little nagging voice is saying I shouldn’t have gotten that drastic hair cut in June. Will she think my short hair is too “hard”? That I couldn’t possibly be loving?  Should I hug her when we first meet? What if I cry? What will she think of me? Will she like me? Will she like Mickey? What if she says something that ticks me off? What if I like her? What if I am not good at being able to establish boundaries from the get go? Have I mentioned lately that I am feeling overwhelmed? lol

Despite my nervousness, I feel that meeting her is definitely in everyone’s best interest. I want to be able to have visits with her and Donald. I want Donald to see us (and the rest of the team) as unified in his best interest and not people that he needs to divide his loyalties between. I know that I need to form a relationship with her to be able to sustain communication between her & Daffy. My fear, though, is that she wants more than Daffy does and that she will be hurt as we go forward.

When she emailed a letter for Daffy (through the caseworker) on Tuesday, the case worker and I questioned a couple of the things she had said, but I made the choice to pass the letter on to Daffy without edits saying that if there were tough discussions to be had, we might as well have them with Daffy now. We have a very open relationship with her in that we talk about everything in a very honest way. I want to continue to foster that openness. Anyway, Daffy checked her email, read the letter and then proceeded to check the rest of her email. She wrote back to Jessie (former foster mom), a friend of mine that emailed her and sent several emails to me. I reminded her that her time on the computer was nearing an end and if she wanted to reply to any other emails to get it done. Nothing. She was not interested in any way in replying to her birth mom.

The next day on the way home from dance camp, she told Mickey “I need to check my email when we get home so I can reply to Mom“… Mickey asked for clarification saying “Mommy or Mom?” and she clarified that she meant ME- Mom. She never did check her email that day, but it was clear that her birth mom was not on her mind.

On Thursday, Daffy and I received another round of emails from her birth mom. I felt, well, overwhelmed by this. The birth mom shared in her email that she checks her email several times per day to see if we have replied. I tried to remind myself that this is all new to her, but I couldn’t help but think she has a different set of expectations about what her role will be than we do. Anyway, I sent her email on to Daffy and then encouraged Daffy to check her email. Daffy did check and replied to all other emails first, but this time decided to write her birth mom back. Her birth mom had mentioned hoping to see her so Daffy and I had a discussion about when she would like to have a visit. At first, she said December, but then she decided Thanksgiving would be better. Daffy, thinking aloud, commented that since we had Thanksgiving here last year (she wasn’t even HERE for it since off site visits hadn’t started yet) that it would be at Mickey’s cousin’s house this year. I confirmed this and she replied “Then I would like to see her the day before Thanksgiving!” She asked me to find the date and wrote in her email response the specific date that she wanted to see her. (I had to laugh because her decision about her adoption date was a similar mental process determining a VERY specific date. Thankfully that all worked out!)

I will be very eager to hear her birth Mom’s reply to this. I think she will be upset that Daffy is not wanting to see her for nearly another four months and I also think she will believe we are behind this very specific date (although clearly we are not). Her feelings are something that I struggle with. By nature, I feel responsible to console her, to say things to reassure her that Daffy thinks of her and loves her. While these things are true, our agency social worker reminded me yesterday, this is not my job. My job is to protect Daffy, to advocate for HER needs and wants. Daffy shows us often through her actions that she is simply not that interested in seeing her birth Mom right now. She is nine years old. She wants to be a kid. She wants to play. She wants to spend time enmeshing herself in her new family and establishing her role as the (adorable) youngest. She wants to test limits… and she wants to grow. She does not want to be saddled by her past on a daily basis. I believe she very much wants a relationship with her birth Mom, but they can not simply pick up where they left off. This needs to be a NEW relationship. This needs to be a SAFE relationship, one that is respectful and one where Daffy has power. She has spent her entire life being powerless and it’s time for HER to have control.

Above all, this is why I will continue to advocate for the team to find some resolution to the therapy issue with the birth mom. She needs support during this process and it simply can not be me. I am eager to meet her Wednesday and start the next part of this journey with her, but my loyalties are and will always remain with Daffy. That may be tough for her to accept but I hope its a decision she will respect in the end.

 

Saying Good Bye

Since receiving the news of our agency’s closing, things have gone far better than I ever could have imagined! Not only did we get the okay for Daffy to be adopted, but we even set the date! While our case will be wrapped up before the agency closes, my heart still breaks for the many kids in our state (and neighboring states) who are losing a valuable resource and for the many employees who will be looking for work during an already depressed economic time.

In related news, both of our closest workers from the agency have secured jobs. I am extremely happy for them both, but find it difficult to say good-bye. The family suport specialist who worked closely with Daffy on 3-5-7 work has already left to pursue another career outside of the social work field. Our sw (a true God-send) will be leaving the agency in late September.

In some ways, saying good-bye one at a time is better than saying good bye all at once. It gives us the chance to find our legs and learn to stand on our own. Mickey and I were talking about just that very thing yesterday and I truly feel ready, confident even. I have grown so much since we started this process. I have learned to truly advocate. I have found my voice.

Ten Things I Wish I Knew Before We Started The Foster Adoption Process

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings
Ten Things I Wish I Knew Before We Started The Foster Adoption Process:

  1. Wendy’s Wonderful Kids are some of the toughest and hardest to place kids in the country.
    There is a reason they are chosen among all foster children to receive these additional resources/supports. The trauma and loss these kids have endured are immense and NOT for the faint of heart.
  2. Adoption profiles are deceitful.
    When Donald’s profile said “he has struggled with managing his emotions“, it really meant he would physically assault our family and pets. When the adoption listing said “energetic siblings“, it really meant they both have ADHD. I wish we better understood social work lingo and had viewed their profile with more realistic eyes.
  3. Adoptive Histories from the state are not complete.
    In fact, ours would purposely leave out many important pieces of information including sexual abuse allegations and a history of abuse to animals. I wish we had taken more time to research the case files from the past 10 years. I wish we had asked more questions. Most of all, I wish I had had enough courage to call the state out on their part in why the kids have been in the system so long instead of letting them glaze over that in the adoptive history.
  4. Reactive Attachment Disorder can not be “overcome” with love.
    RAD is not like depression or anxiety. RAD can not be cured. Research, research, research. Read books. Read blogs. Talk to other parents with children diagnosed with RAD. Ask questions. This is a life changing diagnosis, not just for the child, but for the entire family.
  5. Different workers will produce different resultsDo not be scared of change.
    History does not have to repeat itself if the right people are working the case. I wish I had spent less time worrying about the changes that were out of my control and more time working to make a quicker transition.
  6. Concurrent planning is extremely important.
    These plans are not a reflection on parents or their abilities. They do not mean that a placement will fail, but they provide a safety net that will save precious time in a child’s young life should things not go as planned. I wish I had pushed harder for a concurrent plan for Donald.
  7. Terminated Parental Rights do not mean that the kids will not have contact with their birth family.
    Things are always subject to change. Be open to this, always keeping in mind the best interest of the child.
  8. Documentation will be a valuable asset.
    Set up a system ahead of time that works to chart appointments and results, phone calls, daily notes, etc.
  9. Siblings do not always belong together.
    Enough said.
  10. Most of all, I wish I knew that this process would be the single most challenging of my life with the greatest reward at the end!
    Despite the challenges, I have to trust that we got to this very moment because this is where we are meant to be. Our family has been forever changed for the better withDaffy & Donald in our lives and for that, I will always be grateful.

This post is linked to Top Ten {Tuesday}.

Pluto’s Story

This is the second in a series of Guest Posts by other Cast Members here at Foster Adoption. I asked our son, Pluto, to share his version of events from the time we decided to pursue foster care through the hearing on Monday when we finally determined an adoption date for Daffy. 

The first day I met the kids they seemed ok but I think that was because they didn’t know us. When we visited them they would be on edge and fighting with eachother but could keep normal. Once they started staying with us over the weekends at our house, Donald would get crazy. One time I was on the computer and could hear yelling but then saw my mom restraining Donald. It got worse after he moved in. Right before the kids moved in Donald wasn’t listening to my mom my mom sent him to go out side and play in the snow. He was still mad and I think that might have made him more mad. He then hid one of the sleds that we were using and found a stick and put it in the dogs butt. After we all came inside he seemed less tense but if someone said something he didn’t like he would have probably freaked out. Another moment when he freaked out was after he met his teachers at school. In the car Daffy and Donald were suppose to be sharing the game boy but Donald didn’t share. When we got home he didn’t want to get out of the car so my dad stayed there with him. That was the first day I heard him swear. There was a few really scary times. The first really scary time was when he was in his room screaming and swearing. He came out near the balcony and starting throwing some bag with books in it at the dogs and cat. I was near watching and saw him throw it I got the animals and put them on the basement to be safe. Once he said “the basket is coming down next” he turned around and my mom restrained him. The other scary moment was when Daffy and her friend were playing in the closet and Donald was in there. He got mad for some reason and started punching a window in there. He grabbed a doll Daffy was playing with and she got out and was sitting on the couch and he threw it at her and hit her. She says, whenever we talk about it, that she passed out for a second. Now we all have been happy that he has been gone. I have only seen him once since he left. But when my parents told him that we are adopting Daffy, he was very angry, he didn’t answer any questions. He threw books and ran. Now everyone in the house is excited and cant wait for Daffy to get adopted in October.
-Pluto

Expectations

I recently talked to the pregnant respite teen‘s foster mom. She casually mentioned that the teen was pregnant (Duh!) and said “this isn’t what we bargained for“…. really? A 17 year old girl in foster care who has been in the system since infancy and disrupted from her adoptive home and placed in residential care? You couldn’t fathom that she would be pregnant at 17 years old by her abusive boyfriend? Really? Its almost predictable in my book.

That said, “An 11 year old boy, beaten brutally by his father on numerous occasions (requiring hospitalization), followed by 13 placements in 8 years with multiple disruptions?” And you thought you could handle that? Really? It should have been predictable.

The demons that we face as foster parents are unimaginable. There is no “perfect” foster child. Each comes with their own trauma history, their own set of negative behaviors and their own pain. They also come with their own hope and their own strengths. As foster parents, they need our guidance. They need our nurturing. They need our advocacy.

I am not sure that any amount of training could have prepared me for this journey. I came into this process filled with hope, and while I have learned an immeasurable amount and have faced countless challenges, I am no less hopeful today than I was on that very first day. Maybe it’s better that we didn’t know what was in store for us. If we had been scared away, we would be missing one of the greatest blessings of our lives!

Tink’s Story

This is the first in a series of Guest Posts by other Cast Members here at Foster Adoption. I asked our daughter, Tinkerbelle, to share her version of events from the time we decided to pursue foster care through the hearing on Monday when we finally determined an adoption date for Daffy. 

From the beginning and still to this day, I am in love with the idea of fostering and then adopting children. Everyone needs a loving family. Not just with the people they are born to, but when things don’t turn out right, they need the next loving family to take them and love them the way a child should be loved. I remember the first day that I was told about the idea of becoming a foster family; I was so in love with the idea. Words couldn’t describe how happy I was. I had always wanted a younger sister. And then the day my mom showed me the picture of Donald and Daffy, I fell in love. I cried with tears of happiness because I was so happy that we could help these kids. I couldn’t wait to meet them and for them to move in and spend their lives with us.

My parents met Donald and Daffy before I did, and I remember them coming home and showing us all the pictures they took and told us all the stories from the night. They told us about the other children living there as well. The day that I first met Donald and Daffy, I wanted to take them home with me and never bring them back. They kept a smile on my face the whole time. But along with all the happiness, I had fear because you could see in their eyes that [they thought] we were going to hurt them, which we never would. I also remember meeting all of the other kids and falling in love with all of them, because I felt so bad for them and how long they had all lived there [in the group home].

When they first started having sleepovers with us, it was still fun. I loved sharing a room with Daffy, even though she was a slob. Both Donald and Daffy were always testing us. They wouldn’t eat food, they were always fighting with each other and all of us. The day that we went to pick them up to move in officially, I bawled my eyes out so hard because I was so sad for the other kids still there that still do not have a family. That day was so hectic but it was still one of my favorites and will never be forgotten.

Since they moved in, Donald is now gone to a different foster home [rtc] because he was a monster and continually tried beating the girls up in this house. Daffy is the sweetest little sister anyone could ever have. I feel so connected to her. It was so kind of her when she told me that every night she reads the poster I made her saying “I love you lil sister” that she hung above her bead. My favorite memory I had with her is when we went up to my grandparents lake house for the 4th of July weekend, and she fit right in on the boat. It was so adorable when we all connected while I painted everyone’s nails and toenails. I love when Daffy lets me paint her nails and do her hair because I feel so close with her. I loved the day when she let me dye the underneath of her pink because it was something I did in the past, and I thought she did it to copy me.

We found out that we are adopting Daffy on 10/11/12 and I cried so hard because I was so happy that she will finally be in a home where everyone loves her. I can’t wait for her to become a part of our family. It is a great feeling to help previously neglected kids. I know when I get older, I will definitely want to adopt kids with my husband.

-Tinkerbelle

The Day After

This morning a slew of emails began. The team members who left the meeting early (or at the end, depending on how you look at it) were wondering how things had gone and those of us who attended…. ok, ME….. needed to process what the hell just happened.

Its been more than 24 hours now and I still dont know if I can wrap my arms around yesterday’s events.  Donald’s clinician believes that he had a PTSD reaction and truly doesn’t remember the events of what happened after we told him Daffy would be adopted. Initially, I believe he understood and simply wanted to kill his sister, but after talking to him tonight, I am not  so sure.

Below is an email (edited for the purpose of making it less searchable) that I sent to the team after talking to Donald tonight:

I had a great chat with the clinician this afternoon [Dont even go there…. I am pretty sure I still disagree with her on most points, but I do feel that somewhere deep down she cares about Donald even though she isnt the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree] and she suggested that I follow through on our nightly phone call to Donald. I am really happy that I did and wanted to update you about some things he said on the call…. These are sort of in random order….

First I asked how he was doing and he said not so good. I don’t know that I have ever heard him sound so “down”…  The only other time that comes close was when he was heavily medicated at the PSYCH Hospital in February. He talked far slower than usual and his voice was, well, depressed. I asked if he was still upset about yesterday and he said yes.

He asked me if we were adopting Daffy, to which I replied “Yes” and he said he thought she was getting adopted by a different family. I am wracking my brain trying to think about what I said yesterday that might have given him the impression that it wasn’t US that was adopting his sister and I cant think of anything. It could just be his poor memory, disassociation, or confusion, I suppose.

He asked if his sister could come on Saturday’s visit and I told him “No”…  I said I thought things needed to cool off, but said that they would see each other [in the future]. I also reassured him that even after adoption, Daffy would still be his sister. Adoption doesn’t change that.

I reminded him that we told him yesterday we would help him work to be ready for adoption, too. I  further explained that he and his sister are 2 different kids with 2 different needs and that the team is making choices that are best for each of them. I told him that Daffy still hasn’t seen their birth mom because the time isnt right for her (which he seemed to love and said “I am“, very proudly), and then took the opportunity to say that she is ready for adoption and he isnt yet. I then hammered home the point that “different kids do different things” when the time is right. He seemed to accept that, at least for the moment.

I told him that at the meeting yesterday I advocated for him to be able to see his birth Mom on an ongoing basis and reminded him of a conversation we had when he lived here when I told him that I would help him locate her when the time was right for him. He seemed to remember and I reminded him “I kept my word”… Then I asked if he wanted to continue to see his birth mom and he said “Yes, like I see you” [ugh, heartbreaking] and I told him that’s why it was important for him to speak at the team meetings about what is important to him. I told him that I knew it was scary, and if he wanted, he could sit with me at the next meeting. I reminded him that its important for him to be honest about his feelings.

He asked again if Daffy could come Saturday and I reminded him that now was not the right time. I said “Are you still angry with her?” and he replied “Yes” and I said “We need to wait for things to cool off a bit and work through some of the big feelings” and again reminded him that he WILL see her, just not right now. He seemed okay with the fact that Mickey & I would come alone. I told him that I wanted him to be safe between now and then and he agreed to try. We chatted a bit about what the RTC’s weekend event might be like. He said if they had a bounce house (and it was okay for adults to go in) that he would go with me. I also told him how he was a great photographer and asked if I brought my camera if he would take some pictures for me and he agreed. He then paused to tell a peer about how when we met he took hundreds of pictures with my camera. I suggested that taking photos might be something he would like to do for a job when he grows up. (I don’t think he believes he has a future, sadly, so I took this chance to remind him.)

Overall, its probably one of the most intense conversations I have had with him (outside of maybe the time he disclosed sexual abuse when he lived here in January). I felt like he was genuine and at least somewhat open to talking about scary feelings more than most days we have talked with him.

In closing, I am sad. Like I said to the clinician today, when we began this journey we purposely sought a sibling group with the goal of keeping siblings together in a system that often does whatever is easiest. We believed this was our calling and our strength in foster parenting. It’s ironic that because ofthe siblings we were matched with, we ended up fighting for the very opposite. The clinician mentioned hoping we would be a resource family for Donald in the future and I could say without hesitation that we ARE in this for the long haul with him. He & Daffy may not be able to live together but they will ALWAYS be connected and ALWAYS be siblings and we will do everything in our power to preserve that relationship and help them to achieve a healthy relationship going forward. Although we may not be the best match for Donald and may not be able to best meet his needs, we ARE connected to him and that will not change.

Sadness overwhelms me tonight. I ADORE Daffy and cant imagine my life without her, but leaving her brother behind was never part of the plan.