Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Water of Life

Today is the last day of National Adoption Month. I hope my posts this month have been helpful and informative, but more importantly, I hope they may have led someone to consider adoption.

I want to close the month with my all-time favorite quote about adoption. It is from the Jewish Talmud:

"A mother is likened unto a mountain spring that nourishes the tree at its root;
But one who mothers another’s child is likened unto a water that rises into a cloud and goes a long distance to nourish a lone tree in the desert."

Will you consider providing nourishment for that lone tree????

Monday, November 29, 2010

Stacey's Story

As National Adoption Month draws to a close, I want to devote one post to a very difficult subject - disruption. Disruption is the word used to describe an adoption failure. Actually, I don't like the word failure, but it usually goes hand in hand with disruption.

I truly don't believe anyone goes into an adoption thinking that if things don't work out, the child can be given back. It's like a marriage. Ask the bride as she is walking down the aisle to meet her groom if she ever thinks she will divorce her beloved, and the answer will be a resounding NO. The same is true for adoption. But sometimes, things just don't work. Fortunately in adoptions, unlike marriages, the not working out is very rare.

Having never lived through or even considered adoption disruption, it's very difficult for me to describe what I think the adoptive parents may feel. But, I know someone who can describe those feelings, and describe them in heartbreaking detail.

Stacey is one of the bravest and smartest people I know. She is completely devoted to her family, and she shares her stories of that devotion as an artist shares her craft. Read this post, and I believe you will understand completely the effect adoption disruption has on everyone involved.

Thank you, Stacey, for having the strength to share your story.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Leftover Children

Leftovers – lots of leftovers – turkey, gravy, yams, stuffing, green beans, rolls. One of the best things about Thanksgiving dinner is having leftovers for the next few days. One of my favorites is a hot turkey sandwich – leftover turkey piled high on leftover yeast rolls and then covered in leftover gravy. After a few days, we are driven to get creative with the leftovers, but to me, they are still just as good.

Did you know that a lot of the children in foster care, children waiting for a family to call their own, feel like leftovers? They have watched their friends and sometimes their family members get adopted, but they still wait. The feel like the leftovers that everyone has grown tired of.

But just as we get creative with our Thanksgiving leftovers, we can get creative with the children who wait for a forever family. It’s certainly not going to be easy to bring a teenager into your family, a teenager who has been rejected so many times that he will try to reject you. It’s not easy to bring the group of three siblings home to your quiet, clean house, but trust me, they won’t have much to bring with them to mess up your house. Or the child with significant disabilities that is spending her life in an institutional setting – all she wants, even if she can’t verbalize it, is to wake each morning with the knowledge that she is loved and wanted.

As National Adoption Awareness Month draws to a close, I implore you to examine your lives closely and see if there is any way possible that you can bring home a child who believes he is a leftover that no one wants.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Blessings Galore

I am thankful for so many things this year that it is impossible to list them all. But, I'm going to give it a try. If I leave anything or anybody out, it's only because I'm also old and tired and my brain is slow :)

First and foremost, I am thankful for my family. It is a family that has grown in unconventional ways over many years, a family that seems to fit together perfectly.

I am thankful for all the people that have helped architect my family - the birth mothers, the extended family members, the social workers, and the friends and family that have supported me through the years.

I am thankful for the people who stand by me - the people who haven't laughed at me or shaken their heads in disbelief at the decisions I have made for my family.

I am thankful for the shoulders that are always there for a good cry, and the hands that reach out to lift me up when staying down seems to be the answer.

I am thankful for the people and organizations that fight along with me for my children's rights and needs.

I am thankful for my job and the means it provides to meet my financial obligations. We have a comfortable, warm house when others struggle to survive in the cold. We have food when others are hungry. We have clean clothes and books to read. We have things to occupy our leisure and vacations every so often. We all know we are loved, and we know that our family is our refuge in the storm. We have what so many people long to have, and most importantly, all my children understand how blessed we are and are always willing to share those blessings.

I am thankful for all of you in this blogosphere. You read what I write - good or bad. You reach out to me when I need support, and you graciously share your stories with me. Friendships are defined very differently these days then they were 50 years ago, and I am thankful for that. Because of our friendships - near, far, friends who have grown up together, or friends we have not yet met - we find the strength to fight for our children, and to make their lives the best they can be.

I hope that each one of you knows how very important you are to me, and how blessed I am that our paths have crossed.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Special Exposure Wednesday

A Boy Adopted!!!

This picture was taken on National Adoption Day just after Ronnie had walked approximately 100 yards out of the courtroom and down the hall - a brand new record for him. that's probably why he looks a little tired!

Be sure to check out all the other Special Exposure Wednesday shots at 5 Minutes For Special Needs!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Rich, The Famous, The Adopted!!

During Ronnie's final adoption ceremony last Saturday, the judge listed famous people who had been adopted. I was pretty amazed at the list, so decided to share the list with you also. If you are considering adoption, maybe a future president, musician, or company founder will be joining your family!!!

Steve Jobs
Larry Ellison (head of Oracle Corporation)
Deborah Harry
Ray Liotta
Babe Ruth
Nelson Mandela
Marilyn Monroe
John Lennon
Faith Hill
Jamie Foxx
Dave Thomas
Jesse Jackson
Sarah McLachlan
Scott Hamilton
Bo Didley
Melissa Gilbert
Dr. Ruth Westheimer
Bill Clinton
Jesse Jackson
Greg Louganis
Eleanor Roosevelt
Lynette Cole - Miss USA 2000
Priscilla Presley
Edward Albee (playwright)
John J. Audubon
Sen. Robert Byrd
Peter and Kitty Carruthers (skaters)
Nat King Cole
Christina Crawford (author)
Ted Danson
Eric Dickerson (professional football)
President Gerald Ford
Art Linkletter
James Michener
Tom Monaghan (founder of Domino's Pizza, owner of Detroit Tigers)
Moses (Biblical leader)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Three Miracles

Saturday, National Adoption Day, was a day of three miracles.

First Miracle - all my children were up, dressed and in the van by 6:35 AM so we could make the trip to DC for Ronnie's final adoption ceremony. 6:35 AM - I still can't believe it.

Second Miracle - The adoption ceremony was incredible. Thanks to our social worker and many other people, the celebration made all the families feel so special. There were pictures, tears, laughter, yummy food, and gifts for the children and families. The judge was very kind as well as inspiring, and did a great job of getting each child to sign their own adoption order. At around 11:45 AM, Ronnie became a legal part of our family, and had his name changed. He always was my son, but now absolutely no one can dispute that!

Third Miracle - When we left the celebration, Ronnie's spirit seemed lighter, happier. I can't find the right words to describe it, but it was almost like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. We had our own celebration when we returned home, and Ronnie got his favorite meal - Kentucky Fried Chicken. At bedtime, as I always do, I told him 'good night' and then signed 'I Love You'. Finally after 8 months, he signed it back!

I hope to have more pictures later, but here are a couple I was able to get with my camera:

The judge chuckled when I offered him a 'cigar'!!

Ronnie's birth siblings attended the ceremony to celebrate with him. They were so sweet, and offered their congratulations as Ronnie walked (yes, walked) out of the courtroom. Ronnie had been practicing and practicing with his new braces, and was determined to walk to receive his final order of adoption. He succeeded and there wasn't a dry eye in the courtroom!

Friday, November 19, 2010

National Adoption Day

Tomorrow is National Adoption Day. Tomorrow many, many families will celebrate the joy that adoption has brought into their life by finalizing their children's adoptions.

We will be one of those families.

We are traveling to the Washington, DC area - all of us. We will walk forward with Ronnie to acknowledge before the court that he is really and legally a part of our family.

We will laugh and we will cry. We will be forever joined together. He is my son every bit as much as the son to whom I gave birth. I hope he feels that. I hope he knows how much we all love him, and that we will always be there for him.

I wish you could all be there to share in our celebration, but I will be sure to share pictures next week!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Their Story Needs Telling

I was one of those parents who didn’t do a baby book for my son – I did a baby box! Well, actually several boxes. I think I am up to 4 boxes and he is now 20 years old. So many things were precious to me, and I had to save them. I want my son to have the mementos of the earliest moment of his life, and all the important things that have come since that beginning.

I have a recording of the first time I heard his heartbeat in utero. I have ultrasound pictures. I have all the cards from the baby shower my co-workers gave me, and I have the first stuffed animal he ever stared at. I have his first kindergarten registration form, and his awards for winning first place in the PTA Reflections photography contest. I have his first T-ball uniform, and his scrapbook from his trip to Space Camp in Florida. The list goes on and on.

I remember my dear mother-in-law presenting me with my ex-husband’s memory boxes when we were first married, and I plan to share my son’s boxes with the special person he chooses to spend his life with.

Sadly, I don’t have all those things for the children I have adopted.

Most of my children came with a few memory items – a random picture, a first outfit, maybe some early school photos. While I cannot recreate all the special moments from their birth until they joined my family, I can create a life book for them. I found this wonderful explanation about life books and what can be included in them from the Adoption Blog at Forever Parents. The information was compiled by Joanne Greco:

Your childs lifebook is their story. It’s their past, present and future. It’s a record of their life though words, photographs, memorabilia, artwork and more. There is no wrong way to do a lifebook. It’s really more of a concept. If your child is old enough to participate in helping to put together their lifebook, encourage them to do so. It is great way for open up lines of communication about how they feel about having been adopted, feelings they may have about their birthfamily, etc. Plus, it is a fun thing to do as a family.

For those of you who are starting the process, start early and plan it out. Invest in a journal or notebook where you can make notes of things you want to include in the lifebook. Be sure to include your feelings. When you actually sit down to do your lifebook pages, then your journaling information will be already put together and you can use it as a reference. Save mementos & pictures that you may want to use.
Here are some page ideas to get you started. Some may apply to your adoption, some may not.
~ Why you decided to adopt
~ Why you chose a specific country
~ The process you went thru
~ Those who helped you with the process
~ Copies of paperwork that you might want to include
~ Agency letterhead
~ The referral call & what you did when you got it
~ Referral photos & other photos you receive (be sure to write down all those emotions you felt when you saw the photos)
~ Medical exam info
~ What you did during the wait to keep busy
~ Your child’s name – who named them, significance, how decided upon, etc
~ Their room you fixed up for them
~ Preparing your home
~ Family trees (both your family tree and birthfamily info & pictures, if any is known). If you want to wait before sharing more detailed birthfamily info with your child you could put these pages in a separate private album and let your child decide if they want to add them to their album, etc or you add them once you have discussed these issues with your child. Whatever you and your child are most comfortable with.
~ Pictures of your child that you received during the process.
~ Information about their birth place during this timeframe – significant events, stats on what life was like at the time of their adoption, relevant articles, etc
~ A newspaper from the date they were born
~Picture of you ready to embark on your journey to meet or bring your child home.
~ Travel itinerary
~ Ticket stubs
~ Brochures of places you visited
~ Something from the hotels you stayed at, etc.
~ Notable events & people from your trip
~ Pictures from your trip
~ Pictures of the orphanage, caretakers, foster family, foster family home, birth location
~ adoption quotes
~ adoption poems
~ Your first family picture.
~ Your feelings on finally meeting your child.
~ Information your child’s foster family or caretakers share about your child.
~ Your court appearances or visa appointments.
~ First day in their new home.
~ Adoption timeline.
~ Copies of any adoption announcements you placed.
copyright 2007 Joanne Greco

Again, because I have decided to save so many things, my children don't have life books, they have life boxes, and they enjoy looking through them every bit as much as my birth son likes looking through his!

Make sure your children - all your children - have access to their special stories. It will help ground them in so many positive ways, trust me!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Special Exposure Wednesday

Today's Special Exposure Wednesday is dedicated to a waiting child - a child who wants nothing more than to be a part of a family. Look at her - read about her - and know that there are thousands more like her...

When first meeting Cassandra, she is quiet, soft-spoken and shy. But once she warms up to you, she easily engages in conversation. Her face lights up when you talk about music. According to her music teacher, she is a talented singer. Cassandra has a job at CiCi’s pizza and enjoys having her own money. She is eager to be adopted and prefers a home with older kids and to be placed with an African American family. She wants a family that is relatively active; going out to eat and doing other weekend activities. A family with dogs or cats would be fine according to her. Cassandra needs a family that will help build her self-esteem, demonstrate unconditional love and acceptance, and be willing to make a lifetime commitment to assist with her vocational training and special educational needs, giving her positive feedback and encouragement.

Be sure to visit all the other Special Exposure Wednesday sites at 5 Minutes For Special Needs!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

RAD - An Adoption Issue

In celebration of National Adoption Month, I written many things about the joys of adopting, especially adopting from the foster care system. However, adoption from the system does not come without its share of problems. Today I want to address one of the more common problems - Reactive Attachement Disorder.

The Mayo Clinic describes Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)as:

Reactive attachment disorder is a rare but serious condition in which infants and young children don't establish healthy bonds with parents or caregivers.

A child with reactive attachment disorder is typically neglected, abused, or moved multiple times from one caregiver to another. Because the child's basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren't met, he or she never establishes loving and caring attachments with others. This may permanently alter the child's growing brain and hurt their ability to establish future relationships.

Reactive attachment disorder is a lifelong condition, but with treatment children can develop more stable and healthy relationships with caregivers and others. Safe and proven treatments for reactive attachment disorder include psychological counseling and parent or caregiver education.

Here is a link to a post I wrote in 2007 about how RAD had personally affected my family.

I know when reading about RAD, many people would ask, "Why in the world would I want to adopt a child like that?" And my answer would be "Because these are the children that most need a loving, secure family in which to heal."

As the Mayo Clinic notes indicate, there is hope for healing for a child with RAD. I know it can happen - I have witnessed it first hand.

Just read my post from May of this year, and you will understand.

And please, if you are considering adoption of an older child from the foster care system, don't shy away from the children who need you the most. There are resources to help you all become a healthy, loving family, and who doesn't want that?!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Adoptive Parenting

Over the years people have asked me if I have to parent my adopted children differently than my birth child. Well, at least in my family, the answer is yes and no.

Everyone in the family has basic rules to live by. For instance, no hitting is allowed - calling some stupid is forbidden - and making fun of someone in a malicious way will not be tolerated. If someone breaks ones of those rules, there will be consequences. It usually doesn't take too long for any child to learn that - whether they joined the family by birth or adoption.

But sometimes the differences are more subtle.

This past weekend, Ronnie made some very bad choices - choices that cost his brother, Chip, about $100. I don't think Ronnie did it on purpose, but I do believe that he wasn't thinking about what choices he was making.

Once the offense was discovered, a discussion ensued and consequences were doled out. And that's where things got interesting. Ronnie sat stoicly through the discussions about his poor choices, and when Chip told him that he was NOT happy, the briefest flicker of fear passed through Ronnie's eyes. When the discussion was over, Ronnie went to his room and curled up on his bed.

Here was a time when a child had to be parented differently.

Since I just became Ronnie's parent 7 months ago, many, many things happened in his life before he joined our family. His time in foster families may have resulted in poor parenting, different parenting, and maybe even no parenting. Ronnie really had no reference point when he became a part of our family. He needed to learn that even if he made bad choices, it didn't mean he was a bad person.

In his most recent foster placement, Ronnie made a bad choice, and from that point forward, the foster dad made up his mind to have Ronnie removed from the family's home. The fear I saw flicker across Ronnie's eyes during the discussion about the poor choice he made this weekend was very real, and Ronnie probably wondered if now he would be moved from our family.

I hope that after a longer discussion in his room - a discussion during which he was told he was loved and nothing, absolutely nothing, would cause this family to want him to leave - he felt better. He did seem to perk up, so I am hopeful.

That is one example of how an adopted child might need to be parented differently. It' not rocket science - it's just understanding that your child has many life experiences that you have not shared.

In time, I believe Ronnie, and most adopted children, will relax and learn that the words forever family mean forever.

Friday, November 12, 2010

You Don't Have To Be Perfect

I wanted to close this week of posts with something a little more light-hearted. I love, love, love the following adoption public service announcements, and I hope you will also! Happy weekend!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Adoption Opus

**Warning - long post today - you may want to get a cuppa tea before reading**

While my heart belongs to special needs adoptions from the foster care system, other types of adoption do exist and are quite popular. While I have some reservations about these other types, and I will share those reservations with you, here first is a short explanation of those other types.

At least in my state, there are two types of adoptions – agency placements and non-agency placements.

Agency placements occur when the child is in the custody of a public or private social service agency. In an agency placement, all parental rights are terminated by the courts OR the birth parents sign an "entrustment" to the agency. The termination or entrustment gives the agency the authority to place the child for adoption, and the agency consents to the child's adoption before the child is placed for adoption. These are the special needs/foster care adoptions about which I write.

A non-agency placement occurs when the child is not in the custody of an agency. In a non-agency placement, the birth parents or legal guardian(s) consent to the adoption and parental rights are terminated via direct consent of the birth parents in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

Non-agency placements are broken down further into three types.

Parental Placement Adoptions - In a parental placement, a licensed child-placing agency completes a home study report, conducts the Simultaneous Meeting (no longer required by law, but is required by this agency for our clients) between birth and adoptive parents, and provides a Report to Court. The Report includes home study information, background information on the birth parents and birth of the child and certifies to the Court that all identifying information has been exchanged, all parties are making an informed and un-coerced decision and recommends that this placement appears to be in the best interest of the child. The adoptive parents' attorney files a petition in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court for execution of the birth parents consent and awarding of custody of the child to the prospective adoptive parents. The Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court reviews the Report to Court to determine whether the requirements of law have been met, accepts parental consent, and transfers custody to the adoptive parents. An Adoption Petition may then be filed in Circuit Court. Please note that this type of adoption frequently has the physical placement of the child into the adoptive family occur prior to court consent, usually from the hospital. This means that the adoptive family accepts placement of the child under "legal risk" as the placing parents still have time to change their mind about adoption

Stepparent adoptions - A stepparent adoption is when the spouse of the birth or adoptive parent is adopting the child. Typically, no home study is required unless the parent whose rights will be terminated disagrees with the stepparent adoption.

Adult Adoptions - An adult adoption is the adoption of any person who is 18 years of age or older at the time that the adoption petition is filed.

Adoptions may also be facilitated from other states and from foreign countries.

Interstate Adoptions – An adoption where the child from one state is adopted by parents in another state. All Interstate Adoptions must comply with all regulations and procedures of the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) office, in both the adoptive parent state and the child’s state of residence.

Intercountry Adoptions – An Intercountry adoption is when parents adopt a child from a foreign country. This is a type of adoption I know the least about. However, I know and have many friends who have chosen this route to adoption.

So what are my concerns with non-agency adoptions and intercountry adoptions? First – a disclaimer. My concerns are based solely on observations and information from families that have chosen those types of adoptions. I do not, in any capacity, claim to be an expert in these matters.

I have several friends who chose intercountry adoption because they believed they could get a healthy, Caucasian infant or young child, something that is often difficult in the states. I have seen some of those adoptions flourish, but I have also seen many problems and failures.

Children who grow up in institutions will not be unscathed by the experience. Some children can handle that and grow into healthy, happy young people. Some cannot. The same issues often seen in adoptions from the foster care system – Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, emotional problems, developmental delay – will be seen in children adopted from other countries. Added into those issues is almost always a language problem for some period of time.

Earlier this year, I posted a story about a mother who sent her adopted son back to Russia. Unfortunately, I have many friends who have had similar experiences with children adopted overseas. While none of them put their child on a plane to go back to their home country, life continues to be difficult for those families.

I also have friends who have adopted their children through parental placements – children who at birth were placed in their adoptive families. There are success stories and there are horror stories. As we all know, just because a baby is born seemingly healthy, does not mean they will have no issues.

My primary concern then is that the children from parental placements and intercountry placements do not have access to many of the supports that children from foster care placements have. And those supports are often lifelines.

Medicaid is one example. Most children from the foster care system come with full Medicaid benefits, and those benefits are not based on the parents’ income. Children without those benefits must be placed on their parents’ insurance policies. That’s great when it works, when the deductibles are manageable, and if the parents do not lose their jobs.

Most children from the foster care system are able to access subsidy payments, money that adoptive parents can use for supports they otherwise couldn’t afford. Without the help provided me from social services, my bathroom would not be accessible for Ronnie.

Again, these are just example, and are truly just my observations. I KNOW adoptions of all types can work and work well, and the bottom line is, ALL children deserve a loving family.

I tip my hat to all the families that have been built through adoption, adoption of any sort.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Special Exposure Wednesday

I wrote yesterday that prospective adoptive parents don't have to give up on the 'firsts' of their child's life when adopting a teenager. While they may not be there for the first words, first steps or the first day of kindergarten, adopting a teen provides just as many 'firsts'! Here are some pictures to illustrate my point!

Ronnie's first go-cart!

And his first shave!

And his first girlfriend!

And his first time participating on a sports team!

And yes, even his first steps!

I urge you all to consider sharing the 'firsts' with a teenager in need of a forever family!

Be sure to check out all the other Special Exposure Wednesday shots at 5 Minutes For Special Needs!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Where Will He Spend Christmas?

So far this month, this month I have dedicated to the subject of adoption, I have written primarily about special needs adoption. I am planning before the month is over to write about other types – parental placement and overseas adoption for example. But before I move on and away from special needs adoption, there is one more point I want to cover.

I know many families are reluctant to consider the adoption of an older child, and specifically teenagers. That’s why there are so many teenagers that wait, and so many that eventually ‘age out’ of the foster care system.

There was a wonderful article in our local newspaper this past weekend that addressed that very point. The article was tough to read. There were statistics like:

  • Once children in foster care reach age 9, they are less likely to be adopted. Research shows that many of them will face significant obstacles in the future, including homelessness, incarceration, unemployment, depression, substance abuse, and the lack of educational attainment. These outcomes impact all of society, which bears the costs at the local, state, and national level.

  • While their circumstances and backgrounds vary, the demographics of foster care children awaiting adoption have been changing. As of September, 27.8 percent of the children in foster care were between the ages of 16 and 18. Another 16.8 percent were between the ages of 13 and15. Forty percent are African-American, and more than half are male.

  • Every day that a waiting child remains in foster care, his or her chances of being adopted grow dimmer.

These are the facts that break my heart. I imagine a young man, say 17 years old, who has been working really hard to improve himself. He has the support of a group home and probably several organizations to help him along that path to improvement. But he knows his time is running out. Where will he go on his 18th birthday? Will he have to call the streets his home? Who will help to keep him safe?

And my mother’s heart has even more questions. Who will tell him Happy Birthday? Who will ask him what he wants for Christmas? How can he look forward to holidays when in his life, holidays are just the same as all the other days?

Parenting a teenager is not for the weak of heart. But parenting a teenager from the foster care system can make your heart grow stronger. Often I hear parents say, “But if I adopt a teenager, I will have missed all the ‘firsts’ in their life – first steps, first words, first day of school.” Check back with me tomorrow and we will talk about ‘firsts’, and how you can still celebrate them with your adopted teenager.


The child pictured above is Charles. He is waiting for his family. Please contact me by email if you would like to know how to get in touch with Charle's social worker.

Charles is a delightful 12-year-old boy who is sensitive, kind and creative. He loves art, Japanese animation and playing Pokemon video games. He likes to eat out and is open to eating at fast food restaurants to nice ones with seafood. He likes to drive go-carts and play video games. He is shy at first, but once he warms up he is friendly and has a good sense of humor. Charles needs a family who can spend time and have fun with him; family vacations, video games, movies, etc. Charles had a rough start in life but feels that it is important to forgive people because it doesn’t do any good to carry those feelings around and people make mistakes. He has made major changes in his behavior over the past few years and needs to have a family committed to helping him continue to become all he can be. He needs parents who will help him with his schoolwork, who will accept him as he is and show him they are proud of him.

Monday, November 8, 2010

You Want To Know WHAT???

HOME STUDY. While attending my adoption classes, those two words kept surfacing. None of us participants knew exactly what a HOME STUDY was, but it sounded very invasive. Yes, we all understood that a child was not going to just be handed over to us without social services making sure we would be good parents, but just the thought of having a relative stranger poking around in all our business made us all nervous.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I really didn’t have to be so nervous. And I especially did not need to clean my house with a ½ gallon of bleach the day before the social worker was scheduled to visit. I wanted super clean, but what I got was a very strong lingering odor of swimming pool.

Yes, a social worker doing your home study will have to delve into some areas that a lot of folks consider sensitive – your financial profile, for example. But one thing I learned after a couple of home study updates, the social worker really does want you to get approved. While it may feel like you are being tested, and oh no you might fail the test, that’s not really what it’s all about.

I have a link to a great site that talks all about the home study process. The site is part of the Child Welfare Information Gateway, run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While some things may vary slightly from state to state, this site hits all the basics. Take a look around and let me know if you have any questions. I have had my original home study completed as well as three updates to that study – AND SURVIVED – AND BROUGHT A NEW FAMILY MEMBER HOME EACH TIME!!

Perhaps all the hoops prospective adoptive parents have to jump through are just training for some of many hoops they will face once a child is placed in their family. All it takes to survive the process is a little organization. And if you are one of those folks who feel very organizationally-challenged, I can help there also. One of my favorite teeshirts is emblazoned with OCD WORKS FOR ME!

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Journey Begins

“She’s not a pretty baby”, the social worker told me for the third time. “Her left eye is at least twice the size of her right. Are you sure you want to meet her?” I hid my impatience with a calm smile and nodded yes. I was ready to go and meet this baby that was available for adoption.

We drove just a short distance from the social services office, and the social worker slowed in front of a row of townhouses. They were all the same except for their different colored shutters, making them look like crayons in a Crayola box. The social worker parked her car, got out and headed towards the Raw Sienna townhouse. She knocked on the front door, and it was immediately answered by a rather large, disheveled woman. This woman, introduced to me as Linda, the foster mother, headed up a flight of stairs and we followed behind.

The room in which we stopped, a living room I assumed, was small, very cluttered with furniture, and dark because all the drapes were drawn closed. I almost tripped over a porta-crib set up in the corner of the room. We all sat down in the small, crowded room and Linda stepped to the porta-crib and lifted a baby out. Although this baby was 18 months old, she seemed more the size of a 8-9 month old baby. She was incredibly beautiful!

An unspoken rule about who was permitted to hold the baby was transmitted though the room with eye contact between the social worker and the foster mother, and the baby went to the waiting arms of the social worker. I was told this was Ashley, and that Ashley, according to the foster mother, ‘had many needs’ and would have these needs for the rest of her life. She talked further about the difficulties of caring for Ashley and how many doctor appointments she had every week. She told me Ashley wouldn’t eat and didn’t sleep well. She told me that Ashley was fussy and hadn’t met any of the developmental milestones a child her age should have already mastered. She seemed to be trying to scare me or talk me out of wanting Ashley. It didn’t work. I loved her from the moment I laid eyes on her…

At that point I knew - the reward I imagined as I sat through my difficult adoption classes had arrived, and my journey was just beginning...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

PRIDE Goeth Before the Fall

Once I made the decision to contact UMFS and sign up for their adoption training, I started to get a little apprehensive. At that point, I still had no idea what adoption was really like. I was the parent of a toddler, but I didn’t have a lot of parenting experience.

When I showed up for my first class and was introduced to the other participants, I realized that most of us were in the same boat. We liked the idea of adoption, but none of us really understood what would be involved. Since some of the participants had no children, I felt a little better with my limited parenting experience. But I was a tad overconfident. My meager amount of parenting experience was not going to prepare me for what I started learning in those classes.

Our instructor was a no-nonsense, tell it like it is kind of guy. He didn’t pull any punches. I don’t think he intentionally set out to shock us or test us, but that is exactly what happened.

We heard about children who set fires, who hurt animals, who hurt themselves. We heard about children who had been sexually abused – children the same age as my toddler son. We heard about children who had been hurt so many times in so many ways that their mission in life was to hurt their prospective family before they themselves could be hurt again. We heard about teenagers who had been in dozens of foster homes and who were now in residential ‘schools’. We learned what CPS stands for (child protective services), and we were told that our home studies would consist of police background checks. In short, we were scared out of our minds.

So why did none of us leave that night and never come to another class?

I was there, and I continued with the classes because I felt that was where I was intended to be at that point in my life. I felt as if there was a reward waiting for me at the end of this journey, and as difficult as it was to hear the instructor’s stories, the lure of that reward kept me coming back.

And I am eternally grateful that I did - more tomorrow…

(When I completed my first adoption training, the foster care trainees and the adoption trainees took separate classes. Now, 15 years later, everyone takes the same training, and most states are using the same curriculum – PRIDE training.

Here is some more information about PRIDE training, provided by a West Virginia organization.)

The child pictured above is named Matthew. I have met Matthew and for years have wanted to bring him home with me. That hasn't worked out, but I am hoping that he will soon find his forever family. Here is a little more about Matthew:

Matthew is a sweet boy who is eager to join a family. Matthew experiences the world differently than other children. Matthew is responsive to nurturing touch. He enjoys toys that make music and playing in water. Matthew especially likes it when someone stays with him until he falls asleep. Matthew likes to carry items with certain textures with him to provide him with soothing and security. He is currently 16 years old. Matthew needs parents who have experience with children who have special needs or can be trained on how to best meet his developmental needs. He is waiting for a family who can celebrate each one of his successes.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Special Exposure Wednesday - Adoption Perspective

Imagine just for a moment what it's like for a child to be in a foster family, or multiple foster families and never really knowing what their future holds. Too many moves with clothes packed in trashbags - too many adults who tell you to call them Mom and Dad - too many new schools and other kids who never really will be your friends. More often than not, that foster child has their life turned upside down over and over again.

But if that child can find an adult, or pair of adults, who are willing to make a lifetime committment to them - adults who will say "I love you" and really mean it - adults who will fight for that child even as the child is fighting them - their lives can be turned right side up forever.

You can bring the smile to that child's face. You can be their anchor in the storm. You can give their life meaning, and you can be the circus for their clowning!

Be sure to check out all the other Special Exposure Wednesday shots at 5 Minutes For Special Needs!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Should I? Could I? Could You?

My journey to adoption began 15 years ago in a Methodist church hallway. I was waiting just outside the church gymnasium with my toddler son, Chip, counting down the minutes until my aerobics class would begin. I was reading the many notices on the church bulletin board when I saw a child’s face, a face filled with longing, disappointment, and what seemed to be a tad little bit of hope.

The notice on the bulletin board was from an organization called United Methodist Family Services, and it was promoting training classes for prospective adoptive parents. Something led me to taking the notice and stuffing it in my gym bag.

All throughout my aerobics class, I wondered, “Could I adopt a child?” What exactly was meant by “special needs adoption?” Would UMFS even talk to me since I had been raised in the Catholic church not a Methodist church? And most importantly, did I want another child, a second child to raise as a single parent?

That evening, after reading through the notice several more times, I decided the only way I would get my questions answered would be to contact United Methodist Family Services.

The very next morning, I called and signed up to attend the next series of special needs adoption classes….but more on that a little later.

Have you had questions similar to mine? Do you wonder what would be involved in adopting a child with special needs? Is special needs adoption the only kind of adoption? Just what does ‘special needs’ mean?

Here is a wonderful link to help you get started on finding answers to your questions. The North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) has devoted an entire section of their website detailing special needs adoption. From defining special needs, to locating an adoption agency, to investigating ways to cover adoption expenses – the answers are all there. (By the way, my four special needs adoptions have cost NOTHING.)

Take a look at the NACAC information, and then come back tomorrow for some more adoption information!

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Dedication

Any of you who have been long time readers of this blog know beyond a shadow of a doubt how wonderfully adoption has touched my life. Although in my early twenties I had absolutely no vision of a house full of children, now I can't imagine my life without them, and maybe more.

November is National Adoption Month. I have decided that each post I write this month will be on the topic of adoption. I'll take a look at the good, the not so good, the easy and the difficult. I'll explore the many facets of adoption, and I will share some amazing stories.

I will have some guest posts, and I will link you to lots and lots of resources to answer any questions you may have about adoption. I'll try to post some pictures of children that are waiting for their families, and maybe I can even get an interview with one of those children.

Even if you are not starting this month with any thought that adoption will one day touch your life, I ask that you still read my posts. Perhaps if not you, a family member, a co-worker or a close friend will consider adoption, and you will be able to understand and maybe even help them as they progress through their journey of finding a new addition to their family.

17 years ago, I was led down a path about which I had no understanding. I just knew that I needed to follow that leading. Again this month I feel led to dedicate this month to adoption. The first leading changed my life in glorious ways. Maybe, just maybe my posts this month will reveal a leading and a glorious change for your life!