Check out The Adoption App

AdoptionApp-Checklist-e1350313275560.pngI recently had the chance to test The Adoption App, a new app for the iPhone/iPod/iPad. The Adoption App was created by Sharon Simons, an Adoptive Mom who, after successfully navigating the rigors and challenges of the adoption process, decided to craft an app to make the adoption process much easier for others.

If only this app had been available at the beginning our journey…. it’s packed full of great information that every pre-adoptive parent should be armed with …whether domestic infant adoption, adoption from foster care or international adoption! From a calendar to organize all of those important meeting dates to a checklist filled with valuable information about the many required documents. It even includes links to information by state! I was thrilled to see that the check list can be edited so it can be tailored to your specific case or agency requirements.

I would highly recommend this app to any family looking into adoption! To have this kind of organization available at your fingertips is worth far more than $4.99!

For more information about this awesome new app, visit www.theadoptionapp.com.
Note: I did receive a test version of this app to facilitate my review. The opinions here are my own and are not influenced by any other person. 

The Donald Update

So, where is Donald at, you ask? Sadly, no where new. He is still at the RTC. We have continued to call him almost daily, write letters and visit him 2-3 times per month. He is definitely pulling away from us, telling us most days that he does not want to talk and not calling on Mondays (his call day). His clinician is, of course, turning this around on us, having told the former fosters that she “doesn’t know how long we will be  around.” I feel like that is a completely unfair statement as we have been 100% consistant both in actions and in message for the 9 months since he disrupted from our home.

The team has finally secured a TFCBT therapist for him and he has been going for about a month now. It has been noted that his behaviors are escalating, as expected under the circumstances.

He has continued to have 2 visits monthly with his birth mom. The clinician is HELL BENT on sending him back to her. She believes that they have the right to another chance to fail (or succeed) together. The team is quite divided on whether or not that is the best course of action. Honestly, I am not sure what I believe is best. On one hand, his birth mom had NUMEROUS chances to “get it right” since the kids were first pulled from her home in 2004. While there is no question that she LOVES him, there are certainly doubts about her ability to parent him. She is also remarried and has a young step-daughter living in the home as well as numerous pets. It has been determined that Donald should be the only child in the home and that he should not have access to animals. Sending him back to live with her/them is dangerous for them and a set up to fail for him. She still lives in the same home where he was abused. His birth father (the abuser) still lives in the same town. Both will be huge triggers for his PTSD.

On the other hand, Donald WILL go back to her, whether its legally when he is 18… or gets his license and can drive there… or runs away. They are drawn to each other. Knowing that is a certainty, maybe it IS best if the state works with the birth mom to get her to point of being able to understand him and learn to cope with and manage his many behaviors. Maybe its best of the state explores this with Donald so that he can understand the reality of what living with her will be like rather than the fairy tale he has built up in his mind.

The team is scheduling another consult with the top trauma specialist in the state to get her thoughts on a reunification (which would technically be an adoption since TPR occurred 4+ years ago) You can read about the first consult here… interesting that the state picked and chose what recommendations they wanted to listen to from the last consult, especially the part where she recommended that we should not be involved at this point since it’s too confusing for him to have so many “families” in his life. [Shaking my head]

Anyway, I spoke with Daffy’s therapist about the fact the team is considering sending him back to the birth mom. This would be devastating to Daffy. When I brought the idea up to Daffy at one point, she said there was NO WAY her birth mom would let Donald come back because she would never choose him over her. 😦 The therapist suggested that we not even try to process this with her at this time. She said even if Donald starts to transition back to his birth mom, there is a good chance he will disrupt so there is no need to get Daffy all wound up about something that is so unlikely to succeed.

It’s bizarre that while we have crossed the adoption threshold, this is still such an active case with so much more to deal with.

Daisy & April

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I have recently been tweeting about Daisy & April… two former residents of the group home that Donald and Daffy were placed at. I thought I would take some time to give you the background.

We first met this sibling group when we were matched with Donald and Daffy and began visits at the group home last November. These girls were Daffy’s very best friends. As we visited with Donald and Daffy at the group home, we got to know Daisy & April as we would often play in the yard together. After the first few weeks of visits, the staff at the group home stopped the girls from playing with us during visits. I think they realized that the girls were getting attached, not so much because they necessarily felt a connection (although maybe they did) but because they were desperate for a family themselves and envied what they saw Donald and Daffy receiving from us emotionally. It was extremely sad to see the staff call the girls away from us, their faces falling in disappointment. Mickey and I talked with our bio kids at length about how connected we felt to these girls. We knew we could be biting off more than we could chew but decided to send this email to the group home on January 3rd, 2012:

I am writing to you because Mickey & I both value your opinion. There has been something weighing on our minds since we first came to the group home. I have stopped myself several times from mentioning it. We have prayed about it extensively and we both feel compelled to get more information.

Let me say first, we both deeply love Daffy & Donald. We want what is best for them above all. That said, something we have discussed from the start is that if things “went well” we would consider adopting another sibling group in the future. There is currently another sibling group at the group home that we feel drawn to and wonder if that is something we should explore or if that would not be in Donald and Daffy’s best interest at this time. There is a part of me that feels that they need everything we have to offer right now, but there is another part that feels we could be “leaving behind” this other sibling group who are also in need of a family (that could be a good match for our family). One of our downfalls is obviously that we want to “save the world” and while we know this isnt possible, we feel compelled to do what we can.

We did mention this briefly to our social worker this morning who suggested we not mention it to anyone unless we were sure (for fear of being pressured), but I know that you know all the children well enough to provide an honest opinion that truly looks out for their best interest. We would appreciate any thoughts you have.

Best,
Minnie

At our next visit, we discussed this with the staff at the group home and they discouraged us from pursuing the sibling group. I think they knew how full our hands would be with Donald and Daffy.  (As a side note, at the time, they were a sibling group of 3… 2 girls and a boy. The boy is ironically now separated from his sisters and lives in the same RTC as Donald.) The girls were placed with a pre-adoptive family this summer. We attempted to make contact with the girls on Daffy’s behalf numerous times through our caseworker but were unsuccessful.

The day before Daffy’s adoption, our cw let us know that the girls had disrupted from their pre-adoptive home and may be returning to the group home. It felt like the ultimate sign that this was meant to be. Heck, it STILL feels that way. Over the past 9 months, I have had a nagging feeling that we “left behind” members of our family.

Since we learned about the disruption, I have sent numerous emails to the group home, to our former case worker and to other foster care contacts at the state level whom I have email addresses for. On Friday, I heard from our former case worker that the girls did not return to the group home, but are placed with another foster family. She said she is unsure whether this is a pre-adoptive home. She also wrote to the girl’s case worker and gave me her name (which means I was easily able to deduce her email address since they all follow the same format in our state). I wrote to the case worker myself expressing our interest in submitting our home study. I then heard back from 3 other people (2 at the state level and our new resource worker). They were all forwarding our information to the worker as well. Ummmm, can you say cw’s email is blowing up with our names? LOL I am HOPING the squeaky wheel gets the oil, but we have yet to receive any response.

I couldn’t guess what will happen from here. I have no clue if we will be matched. I don’t know their history and I have no idea why they disrupted. All I know is that we have felt connected for almost a year and I feel compelled to explore this further. Only time will tell….

Classic Daffy

Stock Photo from Wikipedia

Daffy had her physical last week and FINALLY received an ADHD diagnosis. She began medication last week and I am hopeful this will benefit her long term. As I told her last week during chat time, the medication wont change who she is, but should help her to feel like her head in not in a blender getting all mixed up all the time.

Earlier that same night she had written me this letter after she struggled to work on the thank you cards from her adoption gifts.

Mom,

I’m sorry if I did something wrong. I didn’t mean to. If I was The reason that I didn’t get it done when you came out of the shower was cause I was crying for one or two minutes then I went down stairs and yes I did get distracted. I saw the pickles on the counter so I took one. I know I should of asked but it was really tempting and I didn’t want to ask you cause you were in the shower and you wouldn’t of heard me and also you would of yell’d at me for not writing the letters so I made a bad choice then I went in the warm room and looked for a clipboard in there cause thats where they are then that took like 5 minutes then I found one and ran back upstairs. I looked for the notes and I thought I took them with me so I went back downstairs and looked for them for about 1 or 2 min. I went back upstairs and found them. There under my list of people I needed to write thank you notes to so by the time I took out a card, wrote Tracy on it you came out. I don’t know why I didn’t tell you the hole story but there it is. Oh also when you said go in your room I thought you meant go in your room and write the letters in there so I was confused. Sorry.

Love, Daffy Lastname

PS I’m crying cause I don’t know if I did something bad. PSS I still love you PPSS Can I still write my letters? PPSSS Can I still go to the Monster Mash? PPPSSS Write me back please.

Reading her letter made me DIZZY and confirmed for me exactly why the ADHD diagnosis and medication is appropriate for her.

So far the only drawback we have seen with the meds is how it affects her sleep schedule. Her bedtime is 7pm on school nights and 8pm on the weekends. Several nights last week, she was still awake at 11pm. Reports from the school are that she had a very good week. She reported herself that she felt like her brain had flip flopped from bad to focused. We have  seen a lot less difficulty in completely homework and a lot more focus on getting her room cleaned up. Overall, I feel like this is a good choice for her, I just need to decide if this is the right medication for her or if the issues with sleep are too much and we should try a different medication.

I am still planning to follow through on the nueropsych exam that her therapist has recommended because I think it will give us a lot more insight as to areas she needs the most help.

The Post About The School Stuff

Ooooooooh boy!  Almost from the first day of school, Daffy struggled to balance her time in the afternoon to allow for homework. She cried, fought us and flat out refused to do her work. She even went so far as to FORGE my name in her planner to indicate she had done the work when she had not. (For those of you wondering, her artistic talents were put to good use… she did quite a nice job on the forgery, LOL)

About a month ago, I received a call from the vice principal indicating that she had gotten into a fight on the bus with 2 boys. She had clocked them over the head with a metal water bottle, thrown food at them and swore. The vice principal was not aware of Daffy’s status as a foster child which only complicated the situation when she asked if anything was “bothering” Daffy and Daffy shared that she was being adopted and wished she could live with her birth mom even though she knew that we were the right family for her. The vice principal was baffled and Daffy ended up feeling like her privacy was violated under the barrage of questions that followed from this administrator. The vice principal and I exchanged a few phone calls and emails after the fact and I thought things were back on track.

Three days later, I received a call from the vice principal again. This time, she asked that I come pick Daffy up from school as she was being suspended. I was mortified as she explained that Daffy had brought 3 knives to school which clearly violates school policy. She also let me know that the police had been contacted. I was pretty freaked out. I called our sw (who was out of town at a seminar) and our cw (who was off for the day) and then headed across town to pick Daffy up. My mind was racing thinking of all the things I have learned about kids with trauma and how I should deal with this situation. I walked into the school and was sent immediately to the vice principal’s office where there was a police officer waiting. Without giving him too many details, I did share some of what Daffy was feeling as the days drew closer to adoption. Daffy was called into the office and sat in shamed silence as the officer told her that she would be arrested and brought to jail if she brought knives to school again. (Honestly, I felt this was a little excessive on his part considering Daffy had no intent to harm anyone.) Anyway, Daffy and I left in silence. I drove about a mile and pulled over by the lake. I got out of the car without saying a single word, Daffy following me, and walked over to a picnic table overlooking the lake. I started with something like “Let’s hear it!”…. Daffy stayed silent and tears began to build in her eyes. I put my arm around her and told her that I would always love her but that her behaviors were unacceptable. Daffy began to sob and managed to say “I thought you wouldn’t love me anymore!“… I held her for a while while she cried, reassuring her that there was nothing she could do that would make me not love her. We talked about how important it is to be safe, to follow rules and how to stand up to peer pressure. It was a tough lesson for Daffy, but I think it turned out to be one of those defining moments where we passed the “test”, getting to prove our devotion to Daffy.

I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen next since there were still 3 weeks left for her to “test” us before the adoption but thankfully this was the the peak of her behaviors. Daffy has now settled in nicely to school and homework is much less of a struggle.

So, Is She Like Breaking Up With Our Family?

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that our family has faced some challenges in the past month. Towards the end of September I tweeted about a conflict that we were experiencing with Mickey’s oldest daughter, Belle. Before I get into the thick of it, though, let me back track a little.

Mickey and I met in August of 1993. His daughter, Belle, was not quite four years old at that time. Belle and I have had an interesting step-parent/step-child relationship over the years. Initially, we were very close. Mickey and I even considered fighting for custody at one point when Belle was about 6 years old… when we went to court, his ex-wife made up crazy allegations of abuse against me which spawned an investigation of appropriateness and safety. A GAL was assigned to our case and was supposed to complete this review within 6 months. Two years later, the GAL finally wrapped up her report with glowing statements about the model parent that I was and how I should absolutely be a part of Belle’s life. The damage was done, though. Being kept apart from Belle in such formative years put a huge strain on my relationship with her. Though I wanted to parent her equally with my biological children, I never did. I was afraid to upset her in any way for fear her mother would again make up lies preventing our relationship at all. We saw Belle weekly over the years and always included her in all aspects of our lives. In fact, there were many things we missed out on as a family because we wouldn’t do “family things” unless she was included. The teen years were fairly typical. Belle struggled with friendships and her mother was extremely over protective. Belle would often complain to me, more as if I were her friend than a parent figure, though. During her junior year, Belle invited me to see her off to a formal school dance. I was extremely apprehensive to attend as I hadn’t seen or spoken to her mother in YEARS. Despite my desire to ignore the whole thing, I decided to go in support of Belle.

Surprising, things went very well that night. Despite the fact that Belle’s mom was taking us to court just 2 days later (to increase child support), we got along very well. It was the beginning of a friendship that lasted nearly a half decade. As Belle prepared to go into the armed forces, her mom & I got closer and closer. While Belle was at boot camp, her Mom & I spoke every single day. It’s been four years since the summer Belle went away. I thought we had beat the odds… that we were the model for how ex wives and new wives should interact.

All of that ended last month. Mickey & I learned that Belle is not his biological daughter. Belle’s mom knew that from the time she conceived. She never gave Mickey’s medical history at the doctor’s when she took Belle because she knew it had no bearing. When Belle was 15,  her mom tricked Mickey into giving a hair sample saying that it would help match Belle should something happen while in the military. In fact, she was using it to confirm (or rather, deny) paternity with a DNA test. She never said a word when she received the test results confirming that Mickey was not Belle’s biological father. In fact, she continued to accept child suport payments and even took us to court for an increase. She allowed me into her life and built a friendship with me, all based on lies.

As much as learning that biologically Mickey and Belle are not related was a punch in the gut, it really wouldn’t have changed anything for Mickey or I. Mickey has always considered Belle his daughter. I have considered her my family for 19 years. Biology could never change that….. but Belle could.

Belle called Mickey from oversees and confirmed the entire story. She then called me and left a nasty voicemail making threats and telling me that come January she will no longer share our last name. She had decided to end her relationship with our family.

There we were just a few weeks away from adopting Daffy, telling Daffy how we would be her FOREVER family, yet facing the very idea that families are NOT always forever. I met with our sw and discussed how I could share this with Daffy. I am a very honest person and knew that Daffy was feeling the stress in our family. I like to deal with things head on. Our sw suggested that we explain that OUR love for Belle will never change and that she will always be welcome in our family, but that Belle is old enough to make different choices. As I explained to Daffy about Belle’s choices she innocently asked “So, is she like breaking up with our family?” *sigh* I suppose she is, Daffy, I suppose she is.

A Respite Update

The pregnant teen stayed with us for 6 consecutive nights in September. The last few days of her stay, we also had Alice for the weekend. That turned out to be a very bad decision and not one I will repeat. I ended up having to call the on-call services available through our (former) agency for advice which is something I hadn’t done since Donald was here in January. The pregnant teen believed that Alice had stolen her iPod and was insistant that I needed to STRIP SEARCH her. Uh, no. Just no. It was intense at the time, but that is long behind us now.

We have a planned respite for the pregnant teen at the beginning of November. I am planning a baby shower for her which I am really excited about. Regardless of the challenges she faces as a teen mom, I want her to feel nurtured and loved and I certainly want her to have the things she needs to best care for her baby. The odds are stacked against her in every way possible, so this is the least I can do.

Alice is currently in a group home and her team is considering whether or not going back to her foster family is the best thing for her (or for her sisters who are placed with the foster family). It’s looking unlikely she will return to them so our role as her respite family is on hold indefinitely.

She’s Adopted!

The judge shaking Daffy’s hand after the adoption

The past 6 weeks have been a blur. Rather than documenting them, I spent my time living them. There is a part of me that regrets that because I know many details will be lost before I can share them here, but at the same time, there is another part of me that enjoyed the break. There was no pressure to look for deeper meanings and no pressure to find the silver lining in any of the things (many painful) our family experienced.

With that out of the way, I am thrilled to share that DAFFY IS OFFICIALLY ADOPTED!

As I posted before, Daffy chose 10/11/12 as her adoption date. Although the adoption was scheduled for 2:30pm, I needed to attend a meeting and a hearing at the courthouse for Donald ahead of the adoption. We left home around noon, with Daffy dressed in a gown from Tiffany & Co given to her by her former foster family (Woody, Jessie & Buzz). She was a perfect angel as we made the hour trip to the courthouse. When we arrived her and Goofy found some chairs by a window and sat down to play with their electronics. Once I finished the meetings, I expected complete mayhem but came out to find she was sitting as peaceful and calm as when I had gone in. Weird…. yet wonderful!

It was a reunion of sorts as we waited for everyone to arrive and be called into the courtroom. One of the staff from the group home Daffy lived at (pre-adoption) came. The group home had also told her Godparents about the adoption and they came with their daughter. There was a slew of social workers and case workers from the past 9 months on Daffy’s case. FINALLY, the bailiff called us into the courtroom… we filled every chair and then some! The judge started with introductions and then asked Mickey and I a series of questions to be sure we understood the legal implications of adopting Daffy. The judge asked Daffy if she wanted to be adopted and, of course, she said yes.The judge then confirmed the name Daffy had chosen, spelling it to confirm it was correct. In retrospect, I wish that we had to SIGN something in the court room, but all the paperwork had been signed over the summer at our kitchen table and was simply awaiting the judges signature… which she happily provided. That was it… the official end of the hearing. The judge then called Daffy up to sit in her chair and let her choose a stuffed animal from her special “adoption drawer.” Our family went up for group photos with the judge and then the judge called Daffy into her chambers…. she wanted to show Daffy that she had hung the drawing Daffy had given her in July right on her wall! Daffy was really pleased to see that! I could tell that made her feel special!

Once the photo opps with the judge ended, we went back into the lobby where Daffy opened a few gifts and cards and then headed outside for more photos with all the people who had attended. Everyone was full of congratulations for us and lots & lots of hugs!

Our family (& a close family friend) went for dinner at Olive Garden and feasted to our heart’s content! It was at the end of the meal that Daffy got to write her full name (including new middle and last names) for the very first time…. right on her take out box! lol

By the time we got home, it was already Daffy’s bedtime, especially considering it was a school night. Of course, we made time for one of our famous chats.

I will share more about the adoption celebration party in another post soon….