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 our gain.  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 “M”.  She is a beautiful little person.  We pray for her birth mother as we celebrate M’s birth and life.

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Necklace from Grandpa and Grandma that “M” 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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“M” 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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Peace in Transition

March-2015-bw“M” 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 M’s adoption.  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 celebrate “Gotcha Day” in our home.  For some reason, though, I couldn’t get M’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, 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. 

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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.

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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.

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

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