Friday, October 31, 2008

Streeeeeeeeeeeeetching Heart!

My arms are still outstretched waiting for the child God will place in our arms. In the meanwhile, my prayer life has totally been transformed. I have "met" so many wonderful fellow adoptive mom on the blogosphere. My prayers are no longer an outward spiral with me and my needs at the center. Instead, I find myself praying earnestly and fervently for perfect strangers, their children and husbands. I am consumed with other people's needs and continually petition God throughout the day on their behalf. I pray for a little girl adopted from Guatemala who is sick in the hospital with Leukemia. I pray for a little boy who in the hospital after a horrific accident five weeks after arriving home from Ethiopia-he lost his legs, and they are not sure if his hand will work. I pray for a wonderful lady whose family is going through the grief of an adoption disruption. I pray for several wonderful families waiting for their children to come home or whose children are already home and are going through the adjustments of creating a new family. I pray for wonderful lady bloggers whose faith and walk in Christ are an inspiration and who force me to step out of my comfort zone and seek to do and be all that God intends me to do and be. Oh, yeah, when I am done with praying, I have totally forgotten to ask for my "wants" that a few months ago I was convinced were "needs".

Throughout this journey, my faith is being strengthened, my passion for those with no voice is being renewed daily and I am constantly praying to have the heart for orphans and widows that our Heavenly father has commanded us to have.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


We graduated!! We finally finished our three Saturdays of pre-adoption classes. We even got nice certificates to prove it! I have tons of notes and references for when baby finally comes home! We have our physicals next week and that should be it. Our social worker told us she normally takes three days after the last home visit to write the home-study report, so hopefully we should be good to go by end of next week. It seems surreal!

We had both prospective foster and adoptive parents in the class and the emphasis of the classes seemed to be on foster parenting. I guess this is to be expected—there are approximately 8,000 children in foster care in my county and last year, only 200 adoptions were completed from the foster care system. The downside to this is that they did not cover some important adoption topics like attachment issues.

The group dynamics continued to keep the classes interesting and lively. Our “class rep” was going on and on about a teen she knows who is currently homeless, but is doing very well and taking college classes. The “class rep” was trying to find out how the system could help her teenage friend, but one person finally put the responsibility on our class rep’s lap! She jokingly told her since she was there to get licensed to foster teenage children, and she was so concerned for her friend, maybe she could open up her home to the teenager! That took the wind out of our “class rep” and she was quiet for the rest of the afternoon! I never thought there was anything that could keep her quiet!

We had a visit from a mom and dad whose baby was taken from them when the baby was born prematurely and both child and mom tested positive for meth exposure. It put a face to the drug problem—most of the children in foster care have been exposed to alcohol and/or drugs in utero. The family looked like your bank employees or high school teachers. They took about a year before they cleaned up their act and went into residential drug treatment programs. For them, it is a story of redemption and hope which unfortunately is not the norm for most other parents whose children are in the foster care system. The family currently works with the Child Welfare Agency mentoring other parents whose children have been removed from their care. They help them navigate the system, get to the point of taking responsibility for their actions and encourage them to take advantage of all the resources provided so that they can clean up their act and get their children back. It was refreshing to hear the couple take full ownership of their actions that led to their child being placed in foster care. They shared their journey from anger and rage at the “system” and trying to blame everyone for their problems once their child was removed from their home to finally looking at themselves in the mirror and deciding the problem would not go away until they faced their demons and took advantage of all the resources they were being offered.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pastors and Flying Plates!

This weekend, we met a pastor who spent time bragging talking about how many churches he has planted. He is currently planting a new church and was inviting us to the opening service. I am not sure why he feels led to plant churches in an area where there is no shortage of churches and where only 6% of the population actually attends church regularly! There is no problem yet of churches that are full to capacity—most have more than enough room to quadruple their attendance without the need to expand or start another church. Maybe we should be encouraging people to attend the existing Bible Believing churches? But I digress--that is another matter altogether. I guess if I had not had the following conversation with him, I would have been more charitable. The pastor asked my husband and me how many children we had and I told him one and shared that we were being led by God to adopt. His unsolicited advice: adoption is a wonderful thing, but we should first have at least three biological children and then consider adopting another one! What!!!!!! My husband was inwardly cracking up waiting to see what his formerly introverted wife who is a newly minted fierce activist would say. I was quickly praying for grace and an appropriate response while at the same time wondering at the velocity of a paper plate full of food that I was holding if I "accidentally" dropped it and if I was in the path of danger! Thankfully God is full of grace and someone interrupted our conversation and took the pastor away from imminent danger! Needless to say, if I had been looking for a new church home, his new church would not be the choice for our adopted child/ren! It is obvious that he believes bio children have more worth or value than adopted children.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Cry from a child's Heart

During our preadoptive class today, we watched a video titled, "A Young Child's Point of View on Foster Care and Adoption" by The Infant-Parent Institute. The video has no pictures, just sound and words, but it has to be the most profound and moving video I have ever watched. It is narrated by children giving their view of foster care and adoption and there was not a dry face in the room after we finished watching it. It really makes you face the reality of adoption related behaviors (like bed wetting, defecating outside the parents rooms everyday for weeks, control through food, harming pets or even children in the home, etc). The video did an excellent job of showing how the children get to these behaviors, what the behaviors mean and what it means if a parent is not in there for the long haul. It really forces one to have to examine if they have what it takes to be there through all these behaviors. If one does not have what it takes to be able to deal with these behaviors, it does more harm to take in the child either as a foster or adoptive parent only to bail ship once the behaviors arise.

The social worker did keep her promise and give us a copy of the adoptive parents' rights that she had promised last week. The list is lengthy so brace yourselves! I will reprint word for word the rights:

  • Familes have the right to apply for and to be considered for adoption. If a decision is made not to approve a family for adoption they have the right to appeal the decision.

Yes my friends, that is the total extent of the rights of the adoptive parents! I turned the page over and over again to make sure I was not missing something. I even clarified with the social worker that I had gotten the right printout. Nothing about the right to services for our foster care adoptive children, nothing about the right to get all information about our children available to the foster care agency, nothing about a right to decline a placement of a chid whose needs a parent feels they cannot possibly meet, etc, etc.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Magic Number 8

Yep, we finally had our 8th attempt to complete what should have been a four meeting homestudy (social worker interrupted the first meeting so that we could be transferred to another county's Child Welfare Agency; social worker missed 2 appointments; we had 1 visit with a social worker from the state before our local Child Welfare Agency decided we did not need to be licensed by the state after all. Finally, we had the mandated 4 visits with our current social worker)! I had been so looking forward to finally completing the home-study that I had not really been stressing much about the home walk through (the final part of the home-study process). Since we have a four year old, the home is already child-proofed so we did not really to worry about that. It was a pretty strange feeling having someone walk through your home as they go through the process of determining if you will be fit parents!

This final visit lasted for 2 1/2 hours. The social worker had insisted on having our son there for the final visit, but pretty much ignored him and asked if we could send him to another room once she got here! How does a four year old entertain himself in another room when mommy and daddy are home? He normally does not watch any T.V or movies during the weekdays and he did not know what to do with himself after being allowed to watch T.V. on a Thursday! He must have thought mommy and daddy finally lost their marbles! He finally took a nap after he figured mom and dad were not going to be too much fun to have around—no playing horsie, trains or hide and seek with dad today!

The social worker brought up open and closed adoptions. We discussed some of the pros and cons of the amount of openness based on the research I have done on the subject. I felt there were legitimate concerns and more so considering that the children in the foster care system have been forcibly removed from sometimes really dysfunctional birth families. There are issues like the child’s sense of rejection if the birth family stops contact, reduced ability to assimilate into the adoptive family, power struggles with the child possibly playing the birth and adoptive family against each other, identity confusion during the teen years, unreasonable expectations from both families etc, etc. However, the social worker really seemed to minimize these concerns and actually stated that only people on the fringe feel that open adoptions are not beneficial for all parties concerned! Now this is a social worker who works for the local child welfare system and most of the children come from really dysfunctional families and require supervised visits with the birth families! I think she has buried her head in the sand if she does not think there are legitimate concerns and considers everyone who has a differing opinion as being on the fringe! For me, this is an issue to be looked at on a case by case basis and one should not make a decision blindly without fully educating themselves on all the pros and cons.

To keep things ever more interesting, the social worker advised that she had been re-thinking her decision not to follow state guidelines in approving us to adopt either a girl or boy. California guidelines state that parents can be licensed to foster or adopt a boy or girl to share a bedroom if both are under the age of five. I thought this matter was closed and we were going to be approved to only adopt a boy. However, she said she had been re-thinking this matter and wanted to see what she could do to get a waiver for us and another family. She said it was actually not a County policy not to allow boys and girls under 5 years to share a room (which is what they had advised previously), but just general unwritten guidelines! I think the social worker was a tad disappointed that I was not overjoyed that she was making an exception for us! The one thing I have learnt through out this journey with the foster care system is to always expect the unexpected and that what we are told in one meeting will likely change in the next!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Finally Excited to take a class!

After our false start 4 months ago, we finally started our Foster/Adoption classes today. We will have classes from 9-4 for the next three Saturdays. The class consists of prospective foster and adoptive parents. There are 4 facilitators in the class--2 social workers from our local Child Welfare Agency, a foster and adoptive mom, and a college professor in Early Childhood Education who is also an adoptive mom to three sons. In keeping with the place where we live, the social workers spent the majority of the morning talking about the rights of children. Needless to say, the “right” that was most emphasized was the right of the foster and adopted children to have the foster or adoptive parents provide access to images, movies, books and magazines with different types of gender and sexual identities that the children may decide to take on. They really hammered this point and finally one prospective foster parent asked what the rights of the foster and adoptive parents were! It was unspoken but clear to all that she meant the rights to have religious or personal convictions about bringing materials in their home depicting lifestyles that they may not agree with. One social worker really stammered through the answer and finally said she would bring a list of the rights of parents to the next class. am really curious what is emphasized in the pre-foster and adoptive classes in the Midwest!

I am always fascinated by group dynamics and it never fails that in every class I have ever attended, there is always one student who answers almost all the questions, tries to finish the teacher/professor’s sentences, as well as tries to clarify for the teacher/professor and the class what the teacher/professor meant! This class is not much different. We had tons of moments of comedic relief with our class “representative”. Our representative is taking college classes in Early Childhood Education and she took such pains to let the class and professor know that she is a good student and remembers all the terminology from her ECE classes! At almost any given moment, you could see people’s shoulders shaking or tears streaming down their faces as they tried to suppress their laughter—the four given speakers each used different techniques to try to ignore our class’s spokersperson so that they could move the class along. The techniques had varying degrees of success!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Green-eyed monsters?

I just love, love, love my son’s pediatrician. He genuinely loves children and the practice of medicine. He is knowledgeable, patient, and never hurries you and constantly asks if you have any other questions. He has the ability to make you feel as though your child is the only child he has to see that day! He truly understands the angst of new parents and if you call with a minor problem such as a child throwing up, he will advise you what you need to do to keep the child hydrated. However, if he still hears any inkling of worry on the parents’ part, he will promptly make time to see your child and reassure the parents before sending them home with the same instructions as he had given them on the phone—usually pedialyte! He never makes you feel like a dork for worrying unnecessarily—his maxim is that a worried parent does not make a very good caregiver, so he believes in treating the child and making sure the parents are reassured! He totally believes in patient-centered medicine, and sees the practice of medicine as a partnership between the patient and the physician. He gives you all the different options about resolving a medical issue, and then his recommendation based on his experiences, but then totally lets the parents choose the option that works for them. Knowing that he has your child’s best interest at heart, it is so easy to follow his recommendations! We have never chosen an option that was not his recommendation!

Our son had his well-baby check up today and we discussed the adoption. He took time to ask us about our adoption and also gave us input from a pediatrician's point of view. He advised that most times when a new child comes into the home, parents tend to attribute the older child's acting out to jealousy of the new sibling. However, he told us that jealousy requires abstract thinking and a child has not yet mastered this skill. A child acts out to get attention because he or she understands that mom and dad are not spending the same amount of time with them as before. It would require abstract thinking to connect the arrival of the new child to the less attention and then going the next step to squarely place the blame on the new state of affairs on the new child. He said it would be the same as a parent spending a lot of time planning a family reunion. When the child acts out to get mom or dad's attention, the parent instinctively knows that the child is acting out because mom and dad are spending more time on the phone and less time with them. The parents never say the child is jealous of family reunions! He advised that the parents spend time trying to solve a problem that does not exist—“jealousy of the new child” instead of trying to solve the actual problem--carving out time to spend with the older child and reassuring the child of mom and dad’s love for them.

We talked about my son’s eating patterns, and while my son was playing with my husband and reading a book on trains, I told the pediatrician we are still trying to get new ways for my son to eat his vegetables. I did not even think that my son heard our conversation, but later when the pediatrician was examining him, he asked him what his favorite food was. My son promptly replied, “Vegetables”! Of course, I will be reminding him of this!