Preschool Portrait Day

Moriah was sick on the first picture day scheduled this fall, so this photo was taken December 2015 on make-up day.

I’ve never been a fan of studio lighting for her skin tone, but she’s still a cutie pie!

She wore flat twists gathered into two puffs. It was a style I could do the night before with very little fussing in the morning. It’s hard to believe Moriah is four years old already!

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

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Holiday Happenings

The months of November and December are so busy, aren’t they?  But lots of memories and fun are packed into those short weeks!  Our home was no exception.  We enjoyed visiting extended family and welcomed a new sibling right before Christmas. (It’s getting hard to find photos of Moriah without any of the babies; she loves being near them!)

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We were able to see the Festival of Trees and Trains again this year.  Moriah made many beautiful crafts in preschool.  And we looked forward to opening a new door in the LEGO Friends advent calendar each morning!

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

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Halloween and Fall Fun

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Our little lady requested Tinker Bell for Halloween. (We found a cute option online.) This was her first year trick-or-treating, and she got to wear the costume two other times at parties. It’s so fun to watch her imagine at home in her fairy dress! :)

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All the kids have enjoyed playing outside this Fall as well!  I’ve noticed that I haven’t taken very many photos while we’re out so I captured a few yesterday while Dad was blowing leaves / cleaning up the yard.  Here’s a few of Moriah:

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We also got portraits taken yesterday for the babies’ birthdays.  We got one shot of them together, which is adorable.  She loves her Bub and Sis so much!  I can’t share pictures of those cuties, though.  Moriah is growing so fast!  She’s such a little lady, now.

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

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fourth birthday

A few days ago, I was reminded what our life looked like before children.  It was quiet and mostly boring.  And filled with longings and hopes and anticipation.  It was a good reminder how much has changed in five years.

During that time, we prayed that our home would be filled with children.  We asked for a family.  HOWEVER — although we knew there would be joy in store for us as parents — our focus was not solely on ourselves.  We wanted to give a safe family to a child.

I was also optimistic and idealistic about our relationship with our future child’s original family.  Now, I know that open adoptions are hard. Closed adoptions are hard.  Adoption is complicated and no “cookie cutter” solution works for your child and her two families.  Even so, I am so grateful we get to raise Moriah.  She is a beautiful little person.  We pray for her birth mother today (and always) as we celebrate Moriah’s birth and life.

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Necklace from Grandpa and Grandma that Moriah received after her adoption.

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We have had a fun weekend celebrating her fourth birthday!  (And we look forward to more excitement this coming weekend.)  She received so much love expressed through gifts and guests and well wishes and texts and hugs.

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Birthday girl with her Hello Kitty cake.

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Moriah took a special treat to preschool today for snack time.  She, of course, helped make Minion cups (so easy!) and fill them with popcorn (so inexpensive).  She was thrilled!  Win-win.

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After school, we spent the evening playing at a park and enjoying a picnic as a family! :)  We love our sweet four-year-old!

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

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this hair journey

I think about hair often.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how the community of adoptive families can be so helpful and supportive. We all want the best for our kids. Yet, when it comes to transracial adoption, talking only to other White moms about hair can sometimes give a new parent incomplete or even over-complicated ideas about hair care. Still, other times, the advice is accurate but not age-appropriate. We “try our best” but, in some cases, our best is simply insufficient. We need more tools. More resources. More help.

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In February, I joined an online hair care group specifically for transracial adoptive families. I deeply appreciate the thorough instructions and patient advice directly from Black women in this group.

 – I have learned I am doing some things well.

 – I have learned I need to gain more understanding (and practice) on some other things.

It’s been stretching but SO GOOD for my daughter’s hair!  Prior to joining the group — I watched YouTube videos, read natural hair bloggers, bought all the books. I would receive many compliments on Moriah’s hair, but — secretly — I felt that I did not have enough knowledge to earn those endorsements.

Plus, basic hygiene is the role of a parent. I don’t like getting praise for doing Moriah’s hair well.  It’s what I should do!

IMG_4446b. I have more to learn (particularly related to culturally-appropriate styles and accessories), yet I have made progress in the last six months.

Most importantly, I have learned that daily care (and styles) need not be complicated.

We have tried to focus on healthy hair using the L.O.C. method (layering liquid, oil, and cream — in that order). Unfortunately, in the past year, my hands have started to react to oil. I originally thought it was just coconut oil but I seem to get teeny tiny blisters on my palms with olive oil and avocado oil too. They itch, feel dry, and eventually open. I’ve been wearing gloves (tried latex, vinyl, and nitrile) while doing her hair but haven’t been able to completely eliminate the issue. And I don’t feel like I can stop using the products.

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I even started a hair journal to try to narrow down the cause but  I haven’t had much success. (I abandoned the hair journal a while ago.)

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The natural hair movement has done a lot to empower women to stop chemically altering their locks.  In the beginning of our journey, I sought advice from these experienced women who were giving tips to other adult women transitioning their hair to its natural state.  I made a big mistake when I transferred that advice given for adult women to my care of a child.  It seems obvious now.  But I did not understand what styles were age-appropriate for a toddler.  To complicate matters, many mainstream advertisers feature African-American girls in afros only.  (But loose hair is common for older teens only in most regions.)

I have tried to keep styles simple. I really have. But I find that puffs get dry and so tangled, and her edges get broken and thin when it’s merely smoothed back over and over. So, I prefer flat-twists: they hold all day (or two!) and I can put them in quickly and they are protected / moisturized AND (most important) she experiences less breakage. For now it’s what works.

Our goal is healthy hair. 

I want my child to love her hair. To learn to care for it herself. To know that she is wonderfully made.

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We are still on this journey. Still learning. Still taking advice (with more discretion!) for her sake.

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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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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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