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.

 

Where Things Stand

What a day! I have to admit, I am a “glass half empty” kind of girl (as much as I try not to be), but I really didnt expect things to go as poorly as they did this morning! I was totally caught off guard. I truly felt attacked to hear that the state didn’t believe that we are fully committed to Donald. We have constantly been commended for going above and beyond the call of duty to stay connected to him. We have advocated for the very best care for him at every opportunity. I simply can’t wrap my mind around how they came to that determination.

Anyway, our sw said that today was the day for honesty. I was terrified going into the team meeting. I knew that we would leave there finding out where everyone stands and that they might not see things the way that Mickey & I see them. Our sw started the meeting and announced we had no specific agenda. She said that there was obviously an elephant in the room that needed to be addressed and address it, we did. I felt very nervous to speak, fearing that one wrong word could pull the plug, but somehow I was able to find words to share how we are feeling. I told them that I am VERY MUCH willing to continue to do whatever they ask, but with that said, I did not feel that would guarantee any true change for Donald and that sadly no one can predict the future. I further shared that if we needed to make an absolute choice TODAY that we were unable to take Donald back. I reminded them that I told them from the very first day Donald left  we said we would support a relationship between him an his sister and that I think our actions have proven that.

From there our social worker shared that Daffy’s therapist is officially ready to go on the record recommending that Donald and Daffy NOT be placed together. (FYI: This is not the first therapist to make this recommendation, including Donald’s own therapists in the past.) The therapist compares their situation to one of domestic violence. She believes that Daffy should be allowed permanence, independent from her brother.

The Wendy’s Wonderful Kids worker then asked the state worker what the state’s position is. The cw had a difficult time giving an answer. She indicated that there are varying opinions within their department. Her view is that Daffy should NOT have to wait for her brother to be ready to be adopted and that she believes Donald has many YEARS of work ahead of him. She reminded the team that these kids have been legally free for adoption for 4 years without any permanence.

The cw asked the GAL to share his opinion. While I dont think he was ready to make an official decision, this meeting sort of forced his hand. He said that he believes we should adopt Daffy and that this time with Donald in the RTC is great for Daffy allowing her to discover who SHE is, outside of being “Donald’s brother”.

All at the meeting agreed that many great injustices have been done in this case and that its time to start the process of correcting them. As I read this, it sounds like a “dream meeting” but the bottom line is there are 1 or 2 people at a much higher level within the system who have said from day one that these kids will NOT be separated and that Daffy will NOT be adopted without Donald. This position has cost Daffy MULTIPLE opportunities to be adopted while Donald has made zero progress. It’s time for change and the team realizes that, it’s just going to be an uphill battle.

One of the most interesting people in attendance was an adoption specialist who works at the state offices. She (and a team of 2-3 others) at the state level took the initiative to run this case by a specialist within our  state. She got some very valuable information, including a strong stance that Daffy should be adopted as soon as she is ready. This specialist also gave some suggestions for Donald’s therapy. I need to do some research on this woman because she is clearly well respected by the state offices and this could be someone who may finally be able to effect the change we need to adopt Daffy. The full consultation with her should occur within the next 2 weeks. At that time, the cw is planning to take all the information from the varying sources back up the chain of command in hopes of a different answer. If history repeats itself, the answer will still be no and Daffy will be moved.

Hopefully we will have a new plan of attack if  we get to that point. We do have an amazing team of smart people advocating for both kids so if anyone can help us get to our happily ever after, they can.

So, for now, my glass is half full!