on hold

2017-adoption-final

.

We finalized two more adoptions in 2016 and a fourth in 2017!  We are blessed to know these incredible kids!

Currently I have no plans to continue updating this blog; however, I will keep some of the past posts open that may be helpful other families.

.

– – – – –

Elaine and her husband are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home.

.

.

.

.

.

Advertisements

April Eleventh

Eight years ago today, I was returning home after our rehearsal dinner. It was my last night as a single person. Our wedding was the next day! My heart was full of excitement and anticipation about what might lie ahead for me and Joey as a couple.

Five years ago today, we assembled a wooden bunkbed in one of our empty bedrooms. We had just completed our pre-service training and submitted an application to be foster parents. We would begin our home study process in the coming months. Our weary hearts clung to hope and trusted the Lord for what might lie ahead for our household.

Tonight, as my faithful husband studied for an exam in another part of the house, I drank hot tea with our three young kids. We sipped our peppermint drinks from mugs that Joey and I received as wedding presents. My 4-year-old reminded me that, earlier in the day, I had suggested we might bake a cake for what she called our “celebration day”. I agreed that should be on the agenda for tomorrow while Daddy is at work. Then, I helped the two oldest climb into the bunkbed and held their hands until they fell asleep. I prayed for all our kids, with my heart full.

0411162229_HDR-01

Lately, my heart is stirring. It’s nestled in a place between feeling “carefree in the care of God” while also restless for the Day our broken world will be made new.

As I wait, I look back on my adult life.

When one’s days are long and a dry season seems to linger, it’s good to step back and remember what God has done (and is doing). He is good! He is orchestrating our lives for His glory. The LORD is sovereign and holds all things in His hand.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

On this anniversary eve, I trust my life to the One who is directing it.

.

.

– – – –

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

.

.

problematic 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. (I don’t like that term either.) The mission of state foster care is to help the whole family, not just the kids.

Foster Love Tee

Third, 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.

.

.

– – – –

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

.

.

healing relationships

As I stood in the kitchen, I could hear “M” 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.

IMG_0985a

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 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. 🙂

.

.

– – – –

Elaine and her husband are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home.

.

.

absence and presence

Tragedy is part of our families’ stories. Our children’s stories.

Josh Hamby is an adoptive parent living in Africa. He wrote a piece at The Archibald Project that is worth your time.

Here’s a sample:

“Sin and grace, absence and presence, tragedy and comedy, they divide the world between them and where they meet head on, the Gospel happens.” – Frederick Buechner

I can’t think of a better way to describe adoption.  . . .

The call to explore adoption shouldn’t be centered around what we want. It’s a last resort for a child who has experienced tragedy. (And while I’m here, can I say those kids aren’t marketing materials? Because they aren’t, so stop using them as such.) The higher on the priority list the needs of the child are, the lower on the list of options adoption becomes. This makes adoption an extremely difficult and unglamorous journey. It isn’t always the best option, and thus we put ourselves at risk for pain.

I use that Buechner quote because I believe that’s where adoption lies – in the middle of sin and grace, absence and presence, tragedy and comedy. Sin means men and women suffer from poverty and struggle to provide, absence of family is a reality for abandoned children, and tragedy is what we can call those and every other example in the book.

But grace is what awaits all of us who seek refuge from sin. It walks alongside a single mother struggling to provide and instead of taking her children from her, tells her that keeping her children is a possibility worth pursuing. Presence is what every child deserves to feel – whether from biological family or adoptive. Comedy is joy in the resolution – whatever that ends up being.

If you have the desire to adopt, I encourage you to bathe it in prayer. Hold your motives with open hands so they may be formed and shaped to look more like the Father’s heart. Adoption isn’t for every family and it isn’t for every child.

And maybe that’s the whole point. Maybe the adoption journey, as hard as it is, doesn’t always have to end in adoption. But by grace and by God, if it ends in us looking more like Christ, it is well.

.

Read the full post HERE.

gospel-in-adoption

.

.

– – – –

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

 

.

.

Of Loss

My experience as a foster parent is limited. We have cared for only nine children and, by the providence of God, we adopted one of those children He placed in our home. During these past four years, though, I have learned that foster care and adoption involve transition and change. And, usually, loss too.

Even though I know it comes with the territory, I don’t always feel prepared for these changes.

  • I hurt with fellow foster parents who are heartbroken for the kids who have left. I hurt with foster families who are doing all they can to allow a child with challenging behavior to remain in their home.
  • I hurt for birth families who are struggling during the separation.
  • I hurt with children who are away from their birth family — whether temporarily or permanently.

The losses are real. The pain is real.

Sometimes I feel completely surrounded by hurting people.

Even in adoption, I know it is not win-win. Our beautiful daughter has been with us since birth. I realize I have that privilege to raise my feisty girlie because her first mother doesn’t. She will always be regarded with respect in our home — I feel a deep debt to her as I raise our daughter. Yet there is a void in our daughter’s life and in her birth mother’s life.

I can’t imagine the sorrow (sprinkled with comfort, in some cases) that a birthmom feels when she sees her child loved and cared for by another woman. That struggle could become unbearable. (I know each adoption is different. The circumstances and agreements are different. Some children enter a new family after relinquishment, others after removal by the state. I’m not an expert. But I am calling us ALL to feel with and hurt for one another.)

Hurting people often act in fear. They do or say things that they wouldn’t otherwise. There’s a common saying: “Hurting people hurt people.”  And it’s true.  Foster families (both the caregivers and the other children in the home) endure it often.  Although it still hurts, understanding WHY a person is behaving a certain way helps us to empathize.

“Everyone needs compassion, a love that’s never failing / Let mercy fall on me …”

10865888_10152662431346179_7838591350538550879_o

I don’t respond well to accusations, snide remarks, or rude behavior.  YET I know I could be that person making those remarks tomorrow (or today) if I let my focus shift away from what God has done and is doing and onto myself.  I could easily be the anxious one.

In these challenging times, God calms my spirit and reminds me that He is sovereign:

“If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing;
    whoever attacks you will surrender to you.

“See, it is I who created the blacksmith
    who fans the coals into flame
    and forges a weapon fit for its work.
And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc;
     no weapon forged against you will prevail,
    and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.”  Isaiah 54:15-17

.

God is the Sovereign One! He is with me. He cares. My well-being is His concern.

I like what Matthew Poole’s commentary says: “Both the blacksmith that makes all warlike instruments, and the soldier that uses them, are my creatures, and totally at my command, and therefore they cannot hurt you without my leave [i.e. permission].”

My pastor just finished a series in Esther. He put it this way: “Esther affirms the providence of God. Nothing just “happens” in life. In fact, if just one event could occur outside of the sovereign influence and care of the Lord, then we could not trust Him. But it can’t. The Lord is in control of everything” (Seeing God When You Can’t See God, February 1, 2015).

Even in transition. Even in change. Even in the midst of loss, God cares.

Understand this: That difficult person in your life is placed there by God. “His life, his strength, his skill, are all in my hands, and he can do nothing which I shall not deem it best to permit him to do. . . . I bare [i.e. confirm that I] made him, and he is wholly under my control and at my disposal” (Barnes’ Notes).

suffer

Life, in general, often involves loss, death, estrangement, removal, change.  We cannot escape heartache in this broken world.

I am learning to let myself fully feel loss and to grieve with / for my children and their first families. I don’t always do it well. But I know we can learn from one another. We can listen and remind ourselves that God is at work in and through these circumstances. One day He will make everything right again.

.

– – – –

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

 

.

Caring for Baby with Prenatal Drug Exposure

In our state, all perspective foster and adoptive families are required to complete a checklist of characteristics as part of the home study.  Couples and individuals must determine the “type” of children they are willing to consider.  Questions include: gender, age, race, family history, medical conditions, mental and emotional health, education, personality, behavior, etc.  It’s lengthy and (for us) overwhelming as every possible condition is considered.

One section that seemed particularly intimidating was related to maternal drug use.  The form distinguished between babies born addicted, babies who had positive toxicology screens at birth, and babies with prenatal drug exposure. At our initial licensing, we did not understand the differences. We checked “will consider” to each.

Now, six years later, we are NOT experts by any means but we have learned what works — and what does not — for infants with these birth histories. The first few weeks are very challenging; controlling the environment is critical. 

I no longer hesitate to accept newborns with drug addiction. We can give them a stable, loving start so they’re prepared to return home when it’s time.

.

We were particularly helped by a handbook developed by PICC. We were trained using their therapeutic handling principles, including baby wearing, swaddling, and controlling environmental stimuli.

I’m a big fan of swaddling for all babies! I love little baby burritos..

I am not qualified to offer medical advice. I do, however, want to offer a few suggestions based on our experience. AND I’d love to get feedback from other foster and adoptive parents on what has worked for you! Please comment below!

For these newborns with difficult backgrounds, the symptoms will vary. The type of drug, the length of use, frequency of use, and the nutrition of birth mother are all factors.  Do research on the particular drug, if possible (resources linked below).

Caring-for-Infant-Prenatal-

Signs and Symptoms might include:

-tremors /jitteriness

-pronounced Moro reflex (feeling of falling when the baby throws arms out and stiffens to support self)

-increased muscle tone

-sometimes difficult to comfort and settle

-over-active and agitated

-severe colic

-sensitivity to light (hiccuping, sneezing and frequent yawning are signs of over-stimulation)! This can be the biggest tip off that you need to reduce stimuli.

-exaggerated sucking reflex

-loose stools

Finnegan Scoring System is used to assess these babies before discharging home with caregiver. Many are treated with morphine while withdrawing. Ask your hospital about your newborn’s score. (Our local hospital requires score of less than 8 every 4 hours prior to being discharged.)

.

Tips for Caregiver:

-swaddle

-wear baby in wrap or carrier close to parent’s chest (frequent skin to skin contact is great too)

-offer pacifier

-dim lights at home

-reduce noise and fragrances in the home (we are SO GRATEFUL when our friends do not wear perfume or scented lotion)

-hold baby in “C position” (bend knees upward toward chest and curl back forward slightly)

-soothe baby by moving him up and down (vertical rock) in head-to-toe movement (keep baby swaddled and in C position); some babies like to be in a swing but bouncers are often too stimulating

.

.

Resources:

Toolkit for Children Prenatally Exposed; distributed by Macomb Intermediate School District. I found the chart most helpful.

Pediatric Interim Care Center (PICC), (their handbook was helpful or try these therapeutic handling tips!)

The Happiest Baby on the Block

The Nature of Nurture : Biology, Environment, and the Drug-Exposed Child

.

– – – –

Elaine and her husband are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home.

 

.

.

.

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?”

.

.

.

– – – –

Elaine and her husband are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home.

 

.

.

.

.

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 White 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 “M”’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 “M” so that she remains confident and self-assured.

what-is-adoption

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 “M” 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 “M” 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,.

.

 

– – – –

Elaine and her husband are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home.

.

 

Saying Goodbye to Foster Siblings

Last week your sister for the past nine months left our home. It was not sudden. In fact, we had three weeks to plan and think about it. She had longer visits with her family on the weekends to prepare for the move. And each weekend we talked about where she was. You would inform our friends, “Baby with her mommy.”

You understood.

Yet we recognized that you did not fully know what that meant.

So, Mom and Dad worried about how her move would affect you.

0311141612da

Prior to her joining our family, you had shared the house with three other foster siblings. You enjoyed kissing the infants and playing with mobile ones, but you did not seem to miss them much when they were gone. You were too young to remember or care, we reasoned. However, this time, we were not sure what your response would be like. As a 30-month-old, you are old enough to understand that she’s not coming back.

Frequent goodbyes are part of foster care — both for the kids in care and the families they are staying with. Dad and Mom knew that fact when we signed up. We weighed the (personal) risks and decided it was worth it.

But we did not have kids back then.

We want you to have a permanent sibling because we believe you need consistency at home just like any other kid. However, we cannot guarantee when you will have a permanent sibling (if ever).

When families open themselves to the possibilities, we are also opening up to the pain.

This week, as the house was quieter and you were lonely for a playmate, you repeatedly said, “You my mommy.” At first, I thought this was the game that you play often: you will declare that I am Daddy or Nana or Sammy (really, anyone I’m clearly not) and giggle and encourage me to rename you, too. However, it took a few days for us to notice that this time it was not a statement but, rather, a question. As in, “You are my mommy forever, right? Not like with Baby. Because I thought you were her mom, but you aren’t.”

That is heartbreaking.

So, we have spent the last several days reassuring you that you are staying. That we are staying. Even when you aren’t asking, we are telling you.

We simply did not anticipate this.

Looking back, it’s obvious that we could have coached you better. For a 2-year-old, it needs to be crystal clear what is happening.

Goodbyes are difficult for us, too. And they probably will not get easier with time. When you truly love someone and care about their future, it often hurts when they leave your life. I want you to know that Dad and Mom are very sad that Baby is gone, too.

We love her — and her family. We want them all to be healthy and whole.

We accepted her into our home, but we did not choose for her to leave.

We pray for all our children. We do not know what they are experiencing now, but the Sovereign One cares deeply for the weak and vulnerable. He is El Roi who sees them living in this broken, cursed world. We pray He sheds light onto anything that is happening in the dark. We pray for early intervention.

We cried the night before Baby left as we anticipated our final hours with her. We prayed that God would protect and save her parents, because true hope is only found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He alone brings new life and change.

Moreover, Christ alone gives our family the ability to love as we ought.

For that reason we will continue to love people who are struggling. Although it may seem painful for our family, including you (in the short term), we pray it will increase your capacity to show compassion and to love without hesitation (in the long term).

Another adoptive parent said it this way: “Some of the most painful things in life are the things that give us the greatest opportunities to grow (change) and become more loving and gracious.”

We love you, dear girl. You are a gift from God for your brief childhood. As we raise you, we rely on God to provide and to meet us where our inadequacies begin. We are seeking to train you to be an adult who is sensitive to His will.

Recently we have set up new parameters and “preferences” with Children Services to protect your heart as best we can, while still allowing the opportunity to welcome new children in our home. Hopefully one of those new children will stay forever, just like you.

hemingway - goodbye.

 

– – – –

Elaine and her husband are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home.