Why Not You?

Adoptive families for children in foster care are needed!

This article by Angela Tucker is worth your time.

I certainly understand the challenges that come with foster adoption, and know that not every person is equipped to handle those challenges. However, when I meet prospective adoptive parents who fear the unknowns of foster adoption, I often find myself responding with a variation of – “Why not you?”

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The summer has been filled with new babies in the house, HOT weather, and — therefore — lots of time spent indoors. Moriah-bug has felt a bit cooped up. (Mom has felt a bit cooped up.)

We’re making the best of it and looking forward to fall. :)

For now we’re playing inside during the day and Moriah ventures out on the back deck (where it is shaded) in the evenings. Moriah tells me that she’s making cookies for the birds when she’s out there in the sandbox and water table. Haha!

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And though you never know all the steps
You must learn to join the dance

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Maddie spent the night this week! It was Moriah’s first sleep over at our house. Every 20 minutes, she told me, “Maddie will sleep in my bed.” Well, at bed time, Maddie was asleep in 15 minutes… and Moriah was still ready to be ornery! She’s was bummed. I was thankful! And I’m thankful for their friendship. I’m sure we’ll have many more opportunities for all-nighters in the future, little lady.

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Everything To Me — story behind the song

“Everything To Me” is a powerful song by Mark Schultz about his birth mom. I, too, am grateful for the selfless mothers who see beyond today and chose life!

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I must have felt your tears
When they took me from your arms
I’m sure I must have heard you say goodbye
Lonely and afraid had you made a big mistake
Could an ocean even hold the tears you cried

But you had dreams for me
You wanted the best for me
And you made the only choice you could that night

[Chorus]
You gave life to me
A brand new world to see
Like playing baseball in the yard with dad at night
Mom reading Goodnight Moon
And praying in my room
So if you worry if your choice was right
You gave me up but you gave everything to me

And if I saw you on the street
Would you know that it was me
And would your eyes be blue or green like mine
Would we share a warm embrace
Would you know me in your heart
Or would you smile and let me walk on by
Knowing you had dreams for me
You wanted the best for me
And I hope that you’d be proud of who I am

[Chorus]
You gave life to me
A chance to find my dreams
And a chance to fall in love
You should have seen her shining face
On our wedding day
Oh is this the dream you had in mind
When you gave me up
You gave everything to me

And when I see you there
Watching from heaven’s gates
Into your arms
I’m gonna run
And when you look in my eyes
You can see my whole life
See who I was
And who I’ve become

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Love One Another

With each new phone call from Children Services, we have a decision to make: we can either decline or agree to care for the child.

Last week I was faced with establishing whether we could practically and responsibly add a newborn to our clan, which already included two-year-old Moriah and ten-month-old “Baby Bear.” After thinking through sleeping arrangements and testing to ensure three car seats would fit in the backseat of our car, I agreed to pick up “Sugar” from the hospital in a few days.

Although I knew the days (nights) ahead would be tiring, I genuinely looked forward to bringing the little bundle into our home. Sugar would likely be transitioning to a family member in only a few weeks, I was told.

I often say that we love on our foster children when they’re with us and pray for them when they leave us. But, more accurately, our love for the child is demonstrated in how we love the birth family.

Recently I saw a former foster child with her mom while grocery shopping. I was encouraged by mom’s motivation to overcome so much. And she was making positive choices for her daughter’s future!

A few days later Baby Bear’s mom shared that she had been in foster care as a teen. She had lived in three different foster homes. She was “truly grateful” that he was in our particular home. She added, “I’m working on learning to be the mom that I never had. I can’t wait to get my little man back so we can put the past behind us and move forward and never look back again.”

Now, to be fair, we don’t deserve ANY credit for the progress these courageous women are making. And, not everyone sings our praises. Haha! Nevertheless, it is a privilege to witness determination like that – and to know we got to be a small part.

We view our role as foster parents like a relay race. We take our turn running the circuit. There is anticipation as we wait to be handed the baton. There is anxiety that the handoffs might not be smooth. There is exhaustion as we sprint our leg of the race. Yet, in the whole of a child’s life, our turn was just one small part of the team effort.

Plus, as we practice our part, it gets more natural.

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Over the first few days with Sugar, we were showered with love from family and friends. One invited Moriah to spend the night, another brought us dinner, and others messaged me to check in. I was reminded that we are not alone in our care of vulnerable kids – and we really CANNOT do it alone.

That week, Sugar’s case manager asked us to arrange a visit with the family member who was awaiting approval to care for her. I agreed to travel two hours to make the visit easier. Being a guest in the home of your foster child’s family can sound awkward. And I anticipated it would be weird as I sat on the side watching her hold the baby.

Yet, my concerns were eased when I met her. She was kind and welcoming. And appreciative.

She asked me about my faith right away. We shared the same Hope. She was my sister; she was not a stranger after all. She told me that I sounded “calm” on the phone, and she was relieved her grandchild was in the home of a Christian couple.

She shared with me the struggle of not being able to make decisions for your adult children. She repeatedly said, “Every one in the family deals with the consequences.” They were all learning and helping one another, too.

I listened. I shared our story. I listened more. I reassured her that we believe families should be preserved and kept together when possible. But ultimately she encouraged me. I was blessed to spend the afternoon visiting with her.

As I drove home with Sugar asleep in the backseat, I thought about the love I had experienced.

Love is patient and kind;

love does not envy or boast;

it is not arrogant or rude.

It does not insist on its own way;

it is not irritable or resentful;

it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

Love bears all things,

believes all things,

hopes all things,

endures all things.

Love never ends.

–The Bible, 1 Corinthians 13

On that day, loving my neighbor did not seem like a “service” but, rather, the truest and most right action. It was fitting to JUST LOVE!

A few days later I was sitting in the local WIC office with Sugar. The nutritionist was asking personal questions related to the baby being in care, and I answered as vaguely as possible without being rude. She did not need to know the details. I finally said, “The babies in our care will likely never remember us. My husband and I believe our real service is to their families. They can trust that their children are safe and loved so that they can fully focus on other things. They can take that time to make changes that will last. Some of them have never been encouraged or given hope.”

Her blank stare was interrupted when she realized I was now silent.

Then she shared her own story.

Nearly 20 years ago, she and her young daughter had left an unsafe home to escape an alcoholic man and his friends. She packed her truck and moved to a college town where she knew no one. She lived in campus housing for families while finishing a degree.

She said she saw her past in many of her clients’ lives. The girls seemed trapped in a cycle. She wanted them to know it could be different.

When she looked up and our eyes met, she said, “I never thought about foster care as a way to a better life for the parents.”

I nodded, and said that we do our best to encourage each mom to press on. We tell her that her child loves her and needs her to be healthy. We try to show her love.

She agreed: “They don’t need to hear more judgment. They already know what brought you into their lives.”

I encouraged the nutritionist to share her personal story more. I added that she might consider becoming a CASA volunteer. As a Court Appointed Advocate, her voice (and experience) might make a difference for teens who don’t want to listen to foster parents. She excitedly took notes and pledged to learn more.

As I drove home from that encounter, I remembered a sign in our home that hangs near photos of each of our foster children. It reads “LOVE MAKES FAMILY.” I think the phrase was originally meant to mean “love is what creates family, not blood.” However–the more I interact with birth families–I am learning that it may mean “love has the power to add people to your family, whether blood or not.”

We have a growing family. And we will continue to say “yes” to new opportunities to love because God enables His people to complete the work to which He has called them.

We pray regularly for birth families — past, present, and future. They are continually on our minds. Moreover, Love has imprinted them on our hearts forever.

 

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swimming at the lake

This week our family took a short trip to Long’s Retreat. We thought Moriah would like the Splash Pad (fountains and sprinklers) but she was not a fan.

Thankfully she enjoyed splashing the lake with Daddy.

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RadLab Recipe: Vario-Tone, Claire-ify, EZ-Burn (Original), Iron Mouse

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ReMoved

Any child has the potential to exhibit challenging behavior. And children who have experienced trauma, especially, may act out or try to create drama in their foster home — often because it’s all they’ve ever known. They simply are not comfortable in a quiet, conflict-free home. Other children may be “triggered” by a smell, a room, a person; and, therefore, respond to the memory in a confusing and challenging way for foster parents.

We have been there.

And it was difficult. The challenging behaviors happened (seemingly suddenly) after three months of relative “expected” behaviors. Moreover, we did not feel the child’s case worker understood the situation. She said we were “inexperienced parents.” Yet we knew the behavior was not “typical” and the child needed therapy. We also believed the safety of a younger, smaller child in the home was compromised by dismissing the aggressions.

After months of pleading for intervention, we asked for the child to be moved. We were able to start some services before the child returned to a safe family member’s home.

Disrupting that placement was not an easy decision. We did not take it lightly. We cried over it. We advocated for the child until the very end.

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When I first watched the short film, ReMoved, I thought of our experience.  The couple who created this film were inspired to make it while in foster parent training.

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ReMoved is a powerful film and worth 13 minutes of your time. You can watch the entire piece online — free. You can even download a copy. 

This — my past, my history, my story — is not my fault. It’s not because of me. And it doesn’t have to be what defines my future. I am loveable. I am worthy of care.

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Originally created for the 168 Film Festival, ReMoved follows the emotional story through the eyes of a young girl taken from her home and placed into foster care.

After winning Best Film and Audience Choice at the 168 Film Festival, as well as winning Best Film at the Enfoque Film Festival and being an official selection at the Santa Barbara Independent Film Festival, we’re extremely excited to share ReMoved online.

“It would be impossible to fully understand the life and emotions of a child going through the foster care system, but this short narrative film portrays that saga in a poetic light, with brushes of fear, anger, sadness, and a tiny bit of hope.” -Santa Barbara Independent

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Baking Cookies with Mom

We have a new foster baby in the house.

Moriah enjoys having a playmate — she “helps” feed him and reports when [she thinks] he has a need. She lavishes kisses on his plump cheeks and crawls on the floor when he does. She calls him into her room (where all our toys are kept) to play together, and yesterday one of her baby dolls was given his name.

And yet… most days she insists SHE is also a baby, too. She has suddenly forgotten how to use a fork and has had several potty accidents recently. She tells me “I can’t” and repeatedly asks “help mom” all day.

We have been giving her more affection and affirmation since his arrival. And I’m using every free minute to sit on the floor with her, to play one-on-one, and to read books. But it’s tough when you’re no longer the only one needing attention.

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So today I invited her to make cookies with Mommy while the baby napped. At the last minute, I pulled out an easy-looking recipe (not many ingredients) — it happens to be a gluten-free, which is okay but not a necessity in our house anymore.

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And we had a special time together making cookies:

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Guess which two cookies Moriah “rolled”…

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I am thankful for this little girl. I know she will not stay little forever.

And we continue to pray that God will add to our family in His timing.

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“it’s hammer time”

We have been working to clear an overgrown field near to our house. It’s abandoned but the owners cannot sell it until 2017. They did give us permission to use it, plant a garden, clean it up, etc.

So we are.

Papaw Hank mowed it with a bush hog last fall, and now we’re raking the branches, vines, and debris into piles to burn. Moriah watched (from a distance) as Dad used a pickaxe to remove some stubborn roots and stumps. Then, she declared, “It’s hammer time!” and used her toy rake to hit the ground too. She makes us laugh.

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She’s such a helper.

Look at those strawberry boots, too. ;)

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We have been getting a lot of house projects done this spring. Moriah helped Mommy move gravel for Daddy’s drainage project in the crawl space. (His job was MUCH more muddy than ours!)

We still want to install a retaining wall (with drainage tile) behind the house to prevent water from entering the crawl space. But we cannot find a contractor who will call us back after the initial site visit and quote. That may become another DIY project, too.

Moriah, I’m sure, will gladly help! She wants to be where the action is.

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She does not like the mud, though. “I messy.”

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celebrating mothers

Last year at Mother’s Day we started what we hoped would become a tradition.

We set out flowers for each child in our home. Our kitchen counter displayed three vases: two vases with a single flower in each were to honor birth-mothers for their link to our family — really, their connection to the children forever; plus, a fuller vase to represent our combined family.

This spring, however, we do not have any foster children in our home. So I let Moriah choose the flowers. She picked orange tulips. (Tulips are my favorite flower.)

A single tulip in a bud vase reminds us of her birth-mother. And the rest of the flowers are in a larger vase.

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I am so thankful for the woman who carried Moriah in her womb and then chose adoption for her daughter. And I celebrate her this Mother’s Day. She plays a meaningful part in our lives even though she is not an active part right now. She is remembered always. This week, she is honored.

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“It’s hard to explain to others that you love your children so much that you wish they had never been subjected to separation from their families through adoption.” -Andrea

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Are personal questions acceptable?

As foster parents we know many other families who have adopted children of various ages. In our area, though, most of the adoptees share the same race as their new parents so their non-biological relationship is not usually apparent just by looking at the family.

For us, however, as a Caucasian couple with a daughter of color, she/we get quizzical looks. We live in an area where talking to strangers is polite and the norm. Most people are very sweet and merely comment on Moriah’s beauty or her pretty, curly locks. I smile, thank them, and move along.

Some people, though, will say things like, “I need to get one of those.” Huh? I think they are trying to connect with us or affirm our decision to adopt.

But it just doesn’t sit right. On so many levels.

I am conflicted about comments like these: I want to correct them, but the grocery store isn’t quite the right place to instruct. And, ultimately, do I really want to subject my daughter to that conversation when we will likely never see this person again? Moreover, I want to protect Moriah so that she remains confident and self-assured.

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As a multiracial family, we will draw attention that single-race families do not; and, thus, positioning adoption as a defining aspect of our home. I do not want to limit Moriah by labels. Rather, I want her to understand and embrace her heritage as best as possible (both biological and adopted). And, therefore, helping her to value her identity, her self.

Justin Taylor of The Gospel Coalition says, “We don’t regard our transracial adoption as something especially noble or sacrificial, or anything like a social statement. This is simply the way that God in his providence has designed our family to expand, and we sense his great grace in the way he has knit our family together.”

It’s just our family. It should be that simple. However rude or ignorant comments reveal that it is not simple at all.

I recently shared a video by adoptive parents, Jesse and Marisa Butterworth. They came up with a rule of thumb: “If you wouldn’t say it about a boob job, don’t say it about an adoptive family.” Jesse offered suggestions (corrections) to help people avoid vocabulary faux pas when talking to adoptive families. Among the list of no-no questions were, “Is that your real daughter?” and “Where’d you get her?” He rephrased the questions with more acceptable ones like “Is she your biological daughter?” and “Where is she from?”

I shared the video — at the risk of offending people — because I felt it was a humorous way to educate. Like the Butterworth’s, I want to protect my daughter from inappropriate comments (particularly, intrusive comments made by strangers).

It felt a bit “PC” to me at the time, but I still saw value in the overall message.

A few days later I read a round table discussion between 10 adult adoptees. The Lost Daughters unanimously did not like that video. From their vantage point, the video makes an attempt to challenge social blunders but, instead, merely relabeled the disrespectful thinking instead of correcting it. Although this roundtable does not represent the opinion of all adoptees, it was interesting and insightful.

The group of ladies saw this video as a microagression. A microagression is when someone acts on a bias while being unconscious that he or she even has biased attitudes or feelings. In particular, a microagression is a demeaning message sent to a group of people by well-intentioned people who are unaware of the hidden messages being sent (source).

Amanda Woolston said,

Being a parent makes you an advocate for your child which means being willing to be uncomfortable for the child’s sake. This means not shutting adoption discourse down when you have a chance to engage with people about real change that can make a more positive atmosphere for adopted people. And not treating us like invisible, unaware bystanders who aren’t affected by these comments people make (or moreso).

Moreover, adoptive parents themselves may unintentionally spread messages that present the adoptee as a perpetual child. This renders the adoptee “voiceless.”

But the fact remains that right now my daughter IS a child — a toddler. She is an impressionable two-year-old who hears and processes (and sometimes repeats) what people say around here.

It seems the point The Lost Daughters are trying to make, though, goes beyond the parent’s responsibility to protect and train a minor child.

Karen Pickell adds:

… This video and other efforts like it consider only one point of view, that of the adoptive parent. They perpetuate the idea that the adoptive parent is the most important person to consider when thinking about adoption, when the reality is that it is the adopted person who should be forefront in the mind of anyone having a dialogue about adoption. Don’t misunderstand–I’m not saying that adoptive and original parents are unimportant or that their experiences should be discounted. I’m saying that adopted people are the ones most affected by adoption and, therefore, must always be considered in every conversation about adoption.

This is what I may have missed before: our need to train Moriah to take the lead in these conversations. I instinctively want to hold back, and maybe I should. Yet I can show her how to speak up with respect about her birth-family and adoptive family. To teach her that certain questions should only be asked by close friends or family. To affirm that she gets to decide whether or not to answer. And to offer appropriate ways to respond to impolite inquiries and insults — because they will come.

Again, Amanda offers:

I think the world forgets that adoptees offer keen insight on these remarks and they neglect to ask us our insight. As an adoptee, I have had almost 29 years of experience with these remarks. I can tell my parents how I’d like them to respond to questions asked about me. … “Is she your real daughter?” Yes, she is real. She also has two sets of real parents. “Where did you get her?” I’m sorry, can you rephrase that? “Do you wish you had one of your own?” She has two families and both are her own.

So much patience and empathy is needed as we navigate this journey together. I am thankful that I can learn from adult adoptees and, hopefully, our inquisitive neighbors will welcome instruction, too, with grace and kindness.

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