Peace in Transition

March-2015-bwMoriah has grown and changed a lot this spring. Her legs are longer. Her face is slimmer. She is speaking more clearly (and confidently). She can keep her panties dry all day. These days are passing so quickly!

Two years ago today, we finalized Moriah’s adoption.  She joined our foster family after birth, but — as of this summer — she has been our “official” daughter longer than she wasn’t.  Wow.  We are thankful for her life and for the privilege to raise her.  I am reminded that children are a responsibility, and parenting them for God’s glory matters most.

We do not usually celebrate “Gotcha Day” in our home.  For some reason, though, I couldn’t get Moriah’s adoption day off my mind today.  It was a wonderfully ordinary day.

In the last few years, I have matured in my understanding of adoption-related issues and its complexity.  It’s hard.  It’s heartbreaking in ways.  Yet, adoption is not about the parents.  It’s a promise to a child to provide, to nurture, to train, and to sacrifice ourselves by bringing her up in ways that honor God.  We also want to honor her birth family as much as we can.

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We don’t know what the future holds for our family.  Truthfully, we haven’t for a while.  Maybe it’s because we regularly have new children in our home, but we feel “in transition” all.the.time.  It’s okay.  At least we don’t have a false sense that we are in control!  That realization is a gift!

For now, Joey is planning to start grad school in January (if accepted), and the online program takes two years.  He will be a great Nurse Practitioner.  From there, we’ll see where he gets a J-O-B.  We love where we live now.  Yet, we would like to be in an area with more racial diversity so our neighbors, church family, school peers, and friends look more like our home.

We trust the One who is orchestrating all the details.  God has formed our family and we lean into His plan.  We have hopes and desires that we believe line up with His, and we’re watching Him direct (and redirect) us inch by inch.  Oh, I am so glad He is patient!

Just as the previous two years have FLOWN by, we know the next two will as well.  Sure, day-to-day life will have ups and downs as we wade through it; but, we are firmly anchored to the Rock.  He is unchanging.  We have peace in transition.

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio. Learn more about Joey and Elaine.

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Happy Father’s Day

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Dad is our #1 guy! He protects us from a “superhero”, plays outside in the sprinkler with us, reads bedtime stories, and prays with Riah each night. We love you, Dad!

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I am so glad I can share this journey with you, Joey! You are a loving father to all the kids in our home, even if they’re with us a short time. (I had a hard time finding photos of *just* you with Moriah.)

You have a huge heart!

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio. Learn more about Joey and Elaine.

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The problem with a Foster-to-Adopt mentalty

Foster-to-adopt is not a term that our agency uses. The licensing specialist who initially worked with us made a point to say, “That doesn’t really exist.”  She emphasized that, in Ohio, a family can be licensed to foster and also be licensed to adopt at the same time. Some people confuse this with fostering IN ORDER TO adopt. Motive aside, the foster parent is obligated to support reunification since the goal of state involvement is typically to reunify the child with birth parents.

To say that a case is “foster-to-adopt” (while the child is still a foster placement) is problematic. And, unfortunately, many less-than-ethical agencies use this term when marketing to potential foster families (hopeful adoptive families).

First, in my opinion, using this term sets up the foster parent (temporary caregiver) to make comparisons. Many caregivers will think, “Life is ‘better’ in my home because this child will have more ____ while here.” That type of thinking is a slippery slope. Realistically, a caseworker is not searching for a better home. She is connecting the birth family with resources so that THEIR home becomes safe, healthy, and stable and – therefore – the child can return home.

I believe kids need foster parents who love without hesitation, who pray for their first families, who dream and empower the children to reach their potential. They need cheerleaders. They need caregivers who focus on the children’s needs, not solely the adults’ desires for a permanent parenthood.

Second, it sets up perspective adoptive parents for “false hope” and heartache. Plain and simple: if you want to adopt, private adoption is the ideal route for you. Not foster care. A foster parent’s job is to support reunification. Foster families are always “Plan B” only AFTER every possible means of reunification (or kinship placement) is exhausted.

I understand those longings for children. And I understand the hurdles to adoption. But foster care is not merely the cheapest route to forever families. The mission of state foster care is to help the whole family, not just the kids.

Plan-BThird, in my personal experience, when a birth parent learns that we are licensed to both foster and adopt, he or she feels insecure about our intent. They often think that we secretly hope they will fail. Our attempts to encourage and support reunification are sometimes met with skepticism. And I get it. I would hate it, too, if I felt like every slip up was quietly celebrated. No thanks!

This last point bothers me most. I know that many birth families WANT to do better. They may not know HOW to do better. They need help. And, for them, temporary foster care will likely do what it’s intended to do: To offer the support they need to change the course of their lives.

For these reasons, when we are asked if we are a “foster-to-adopt” family, I immediately say no. And yet we have adopted from foster care. And we would like to adopt again, probably from foster care. But we are NOT fostering in order to adopt only. I struggle to communicate that difference that when we talk about our family’s situation.

I absolutely support adoption if reunification is not possible. Nevertheless, the term “foster-to-adopt” can create division and misconception. And, sadly, it’s often misused for that reason.

This document does a good job explaining the role of a child welfare agency.

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio. Learn more about Joey and Elaine.

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healing relationships

As I stood in the kitchen, I could hear Moriah playing in her bedroom. Little Bubby was playing in the room too. She was talking to him, but he was not listening nor even looking at her. She was pretending she is the mom and he is the dad — and she was telling him all about their baby.

She didn’t care that he’s distracted in parallel play. She didn’t care at all that he wasn’t really playing with her.  But she did shut the door to prevent him from wandering away.  She simply does not want to be alone. She needs a friend.

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Our little 3-year-old needs people near her all the time. She constantly asks if she can get in the pack-n-play with Baby Sis.  If she isn’t near one of them, she is resting her hand on me. She needs community and to connect.

Sometimes, as parents, we operate as if children do not need family.

Humans are designed to need healthy, consistent interaction from Day 1. Unfortunately, many children do not get that care.

This past weekend, Joey and I were able to get away and attend a parenting conference.  In particular, this training focused on children with difficult pasts: any child who had a stressful infancy or childhood; any child who had experienced trauma, abuse, or neglect; any child who was harmed by someone that should have protected him or her; any child who was exposed to drugs or alcohol in utero; even any child born prematurely who was unable to be held while in NICU. Children with these histories, are impacted neurologically. Simply put, their brains do not respond in the same way a child’s brain with a healthy beginning does.

Adoptive parent Terri Coley said: “A child from a hard place needs much more than a safe place to live.”  The premise of the training is this: Relationships heal what relationships harmed.

Deep healing takes intentionality.  Dr. Karyn Purvis said, “There is no quick fix for a child who has been harmed. … If you understand your child’s needs and you’re able to give it, tremendous healing can occur. It’s gonna take time.”  She recommends Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI).  It’s a balance of structure and nurture (Eph. 6:4).  It is purposeful parenting.  TBRI requires me to invest myself in my children.

I recently told a friend: “It’s tough to be an introvert with clingy kids.”  I recognize (and do my best to overcome) my natural tendency to seek Me Time.  Even though I want to connect with the kids, I sometimes get “lost” in the day-to-day tasks.  This is nearly every parent’s struggle, too.

I get it: Parenting is hard.  It’s exhausting, even when you have the resources you need.  For now, I am so thankful for a preschooler who reminds me, “I need you!”  Or when her actions say: I need my family!

I know that she will stop asking one day, “Mommy, will you hold me?”  Yet she will always need connection in an age-appropriate way.  As God enables, I will strive to meet her emotional needs.

Keep up the good (hard) work, moms and dads! Your kids need you. :)

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio. Learn more about Joey and Elaine.

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rain boots are for puddles

We only needed a few things from the grocery store, so I took the three kids by myself right after breakfast. It was still early in the day when we arrived, but it was raining.

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I carried the babies through the parking lot while Moriah ran behind me. As we tried to get inside as quickly as possible, I kept reminding her, “Stay close. Don’t jump in the puddles. Keep up.”

My sneakers were already soaked by the time I looked down and saw that we were standing in two inches of water. One huge puddle blocked the entrance! It could not be avoided. We trudged through it for about 15 feet before Moriah stopped in the middle of the busy parking lot. “Mom! I am wet!” she cried.

“I know, sis. Keep moving. It’s okay,” I replied as I glanced over my shoulder. The babies were starting to slip and my glasses were covered with rain drops.

“I am WET. Why are we walking through the RIVER?!!”  She remained motionless in the puddle.

“Moriah, let’s go. You cannot stop here,” I said in a firmer voice. She whimpered as she moved toward me.

We made it inside Kroger, and I began loading the kids in a cart. I was beginning to doubt the urgency of the trip. Moriah kept repeating “I’m wet” as if she were processing trauma. I continued to rearrange the children until everyone fit–the youngest baby was in a carseat (baby carrier) in the front of the cart while the two older kids sat in the basket area. An elderly woman walked by and asked, “How will you have room for groceries?”  I smiled.

We rolled into the produce section, picked out bananas and strawberries before moving on to collect cans of baby formula. Everything was going well, despite my soggy socks and Moriah’s blank stare of disbelief that her pants were wet up to her knees.

We grabbed milk and then checked out. On the way back to our car, Moriah remained quiet. She began talking when I put her in the car, “It’s cold. And I’m wet, Mom!”  She was wearing rain boots but somehow her socks were drenched too.

I kept laughing at myself on the ride home. The previous fifteen minutes were quite an experience. I didn’t see it coming, but I should have. It had been raining for 24 hours straight. Going anywhere alone with three small kids is a juggling act — I’m used to that, I guess. But adding bad weather to the mix is an equation for real… fun.

Often in life, we look down (or up) and find ourselves in a mess. It was unavoidable, but, nevertheless, we would have appreciated a warning.

As a transracial adoptive family, I realize that there are conversations that I MUST to have with my African-American daughter. I am starting to recognize “white privilege” and how it is so much a part of my life that I never saw it. Moreover, I know that she is given certain protections while she’s in my home because I am white. But–even then–she will experience ignorance and hatred because of her skin tone.

An adult adoptee recently encouraged all white adoptive parents to talk with their children about racism. He essentially said: To not talk to your child about racism is like not telling them how to safely cross the street. It wouldn’t protect them from the real dangers. When they face racial aggression (not if, when) and they are unprepared, it will be emotionally devastating. Your child of color needs tools to prepare them for the inevitable experiences of racism.

His comments were based on personal experience.

Then, I was reminded that this morning I had instructed Moriah to put on rain boots, yet it didn’t prevent her from getting wet. She was prepared but not completely covered.

It’s a silly illustration for a very real problem. I was thankful for the reminder.

Compassion. Empathy. Preparation.

Moriah is still a preschooler, but we talk about hard issues now. She listens but does not get it. I know one day I will be the one listening without the ability to fully relate. So we are praying about how to best prepare her for life. We are praying for Christian men and women of color who can be role models and friends with our family. It is best for our whole family.

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio. Learn more about Joey and Elaine.

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silence implies consent

This public “status update” was written by a fellow WAP (White Adoptive Parent) with grown children.

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Read her full letter:

Dear College and University faculty,

I am writing to ask you to save the lives of my grandchildren. Their names are Florence and Jack.

They are not my only grandchildren. I have another named Anthony, but I don’t worry as much about him. I find myself attending to only the garden-variety worries with Anthony: accidents, illness, friendships, school. My worries about Florence and Jack are much more frightening, the kind that chase away sleep and tighten around your throat, late at night when you least expect it.

I worry they will have occasion to walk alone in a white neighborhood at night and one of the people watching them from their window, will be the person who posted last week on FaceBook a picture of a noose next to a man who is black.

I worry they will be killed riding their bikes by someone like my friend’s father, who said he would “get two points if he hits a nigger with his car.”

I worry they will have someone in their neighborhood like my Uncle Jim, who defiantly proclaimed that he would be “goddamned if he would ever live next to an ignorant black buck.” It’s easier to hurt someone you think of as an animal.

I worry they will not follow their father’s example, who changes into khakis and a button-down shirt to make outside repairs on his home because it is safer for him.

I worry one of them will want a BB gun and will take it outside for target practice with old tin cans and be shot dead because of it.

I worry Florence and Jack will wear hoodies. I am not kidding. I worry that my grandchildren will wear hoodies.

I appreciate the attempts made by well-meaning people to fight racism and discrimination by attending diversity training, tolerance seminars, ethnic food fairs and cultural music festivals. But these are innocuous events that seem more about making us feel better, than actually improving the lives of those who are oppressed. I am thankful that they try but it is not enough.

I sincerely believe that the only people who can change the hatred and fear that continues to hold our country in bondage are teachers–in particular, higher education teachers. Faculty. You.

All of the power of change is in your hands. And that power comes by doing what you have dedicated your lives to and what you do best: teaching.

You know how to teach your students to think critically and look at issues and problems from all of the different angles and perspectives, through uncomfortable and prickly conversations that will make them squirm in their seats but will provoke their thinking.

You know how to teach them to be introspective, how to recognize their own biases, and to face the reality that we all discriminate and prejudge others.

You know how to teach them about the devastating effects racism and bigotry have on an individual, an institution, an economy, and a country.

You know how to teach them that white privilege is real and how the luck of the genetic draw confers power and opportunity on only some of us. And because of that, believing in the concept of a level playing field is absurd.

You know how to teach them that being “color-blind” is not a good thing and that having friends who are people of color does not make them incapable of racism.

You know how to teach your students to question everything, including themselves, and to learn how to change their own minds.

You know how to teach your students to understand that we who are white are the ones responsible for the suffering resulting from discrimination, racism, bias and bigotry. We caused it, we perpetuate it, and it is ours alone to fix.

Please teach them by example how to be activists. Show them by demanding the missions of your institutions reflect a commitment to teaching equality. Show them by altering your curriculum and your assignments to fit this mission. Teach your students to make a fuss. Teach them how to be vocal, insistent and relentless. Teach them to be maladapted. Most importantly, teach them to embrace the concept that silence implies consent.

I don’t know if there is a way to teach bravery. I don’t know how you teach someone to be strong enough to make family and friends and perfect strangers uncomfortable, when you speak up whenever an ethnic slur is used, or a bad joke told, or a belief expressed that is based in hatred. We are taught from such an early age to be courteous, to obey the rules, and to mind our manners. It is a difficult thing to push against those conventions, to remember that there is no such thing as courage without fear.

But you are faculty–you love a good challenge. Teach your students how to raise an objection. Give them the right words, the mantra that can be committed to memory and then employed each and every time they hear or see something that they know is not right. We all know what discrimination looks like. We all know what racism sounds like. We all know the words that express stereotyping or bigotry. What we don’t know is what to say to our beloved Aunt Gert or the grocery store clerk when those things are expressed. This part is the most difficult part, but also the most important. This is the part that requires bravery.

You can do this thing.

And if not you — who?

On behalf of all grandmothers who lose sleep at night, I thank you.
Nancy Erickson

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Will you share this message? Silence implies consent.

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