Dear Adoption

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Dear Adoption,

They never believed that we loved them, and therefore they could never really trust us. The promise you gave them was the one hope that always failed them, and continues to fail them.

When the decision-makers made choices that hurt them and us as a family, tensions and cortisol levels rose. Fear set in. Real, unadulterated fear. Fear of losing kids that were never really ours to begin with, or so everyone said. We fought that fear but everyone and everything told us to stop fighting; it was always a losing battle.

They never believed that we loved them, and therefore they could never really accept us as their parents. The promise you gave them was the one hope that always failed them, and continues to fail them.

We followed the guidance of someone who was supposed to be an “expert” and a “professional,” but his guidance led us down dark paths full of traps. We are bruised, battered, and scarred from walking those paths. And so are they.

They never believed that we loved them, and therefore they could never really feel safe. The promise you gave them was the one hope that always failed them, and continues to fail them.

Everyone gave them labels: traumatized, undesirable, unwanted, mentally unstable, hurting, stupid, troubled, broken, orphans, statistics, grim potential, unloved. We didn’t give them those labels; they came with those labels. We called them other things: cherished, treasured, intelligent, bright, full of potential, healing, our children, wanted, desirable, wished for, hoped for, longed for, prayed for, fought for, loved.

They never believed that we loved them, and therefore they never believed that they were accepted. The promise you gave them was the one hope that always failed them, and continues to fail them.

When our cries for help for them were met with lies, deceit, misinformation, confusion, anger, fear, grudges, slander, hatred, we knew that we had lost them, we knew that the fight was over. We also knew that the war had just begun. The war for change, the war for hope, the war for justice and reconciliation. War is on the horizon. Dawn is breaking. The darkness cannot hide from the light. We’re sorry they were the first casualties. The pain of that knowledge is immeasurable.

They never believed that we loved them, and therefore they could never really love us in return. The promise you gave them was the one hope that always failed them, and continues to fail them.

But love them we did. Love them we do. Love them we always will.

Sincerely,

The Adoptive Parents Who Never Were

P.S. They may not be our children on paper, but they will always be our children in our hearts.

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On Failed or Disrupted Placements

Image result for grieving motherHello Readers,

This post has been long in coming, but I honestly wasn’t ready to write about it until today.

My husband and I have spent the last year trying to adopt older kids. These older kids came with a hard past and a lot of mental health issues. That didn’t scare us. It’s also not what destroyed this placement.

What destroyed this placement and this adoption was the lack of accountability for the professionals involved in the case. Guardian ad Litem’s, for instance (that’s the kids’ lawyer), hardly have any oversight at all. Sure, one can file a complaint with the local Office of Child Representation, but more often than not those complaints are unfounded.

And it’s appalling.

In our case, the GAL had a personal vendetta against me. She’s been on this case for over five years now – WAY over the legal limits for children to have attained permanency. Why she had a personal vendetta against me, I don’t know nor will I ever know, but nevertheless she persisted. Her attacks on my character, and the department’s unwillingness to do anything about it, destroyed our placement, and as a consequence, disrupted our kids’ third adoptive placement. Third. Adoptive. Placement.

At one point we sat down and had a meeting with our department of human services’ attorney and the kids’ caseworker’s supervisor. A question was put to the department about who was keeping the department accountable. The county attorney gave a longwinded answer about how the department keeps the department accountable.

That’s NOT okay.

Because at the end of the day the children lose. Due to the lack of accountability for human services professionals, GALS, and any and all other decision makers on foster-adoptive cases, the children ALWAYS lose.

The adoptive parents lose too. We lost the last 14 months of our lives to this case and these children. We still love them and always will, but we are also currently grieving their loss. The last 14 months of my life have been the hardest I have ever endured, period.

Yet I still have my foster license and I still have a voice. I want to do something about this lack of accountability. So I’m starting a grassroots movement to increase accountability for GALs, caseworkers, and any other professionals who get to dictate what’s best for kids because kids, especially older kids like the ones we tried to adopt, are getting lost in the system and left behind.

I want to go to policy makers to change laws around the foster system. I want to advocate for positive changes for children. This lack of accountability has been going on for years and it needs to stop.

Some things we’ll be advocating for include, but are not limited to:

  1. Greater accountability for Guardian ad Litem’s and incremental reviews on cases open longer than twelve months. This can and should include appointing a second GAL or special official to cases that have had one or more placement disruptions, have been opened longer than two years, or have reached adoptive status.
  2. Court appointed counsel for foster parents from day one of a placement. Everyone on foster/ adoptive cases gets their own lawyer EXCEPT for foster parents, who are easily targeted scapegoats on cases, and can easily get lost in court documents, hearings, and department meetings without legal counsel.
  3. Greater accountability for county social services departments. This accountability should come from both the state and federal level. Currently, county departments’ only level of accountability comes from annual audits by the state. If “bad” cases don’t get pulled in that audit, there is absolutely nothing left to make sure the kids or families in those cases are protected.

Will you consider joining us in this fight to help children achieve permanency more effectively and efficiently? Will you help us fight for those who can’t fight for themselves? If you want to join this movement, please follow this blog and fill out the contact form on the “Contact Us” page.

 

 

Adopting is a painful process

Hello faithful readers!

We are in the process of creating what is categorized as a non-traditional family. That is, we aren’t creating our family through the typical means (i.e. biological pregnancy). I’m here to tell you today that while I might not experience actual labor pains upon adopting my foster children, this creation process, symbolically, is just as painful.

But the rewards are so great.

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Recently, Brett and I had what was supposed to be our last meeting with the county before they file for adoption. That is still happening (the adoption filing), but not without its hiccups. It takes one person, specifically, to derail an adoption process. That’s the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL, pronounced G-A-L). The GAL is the lawyer for the kids. Every child in the foster system has his or her own GAL (sibling sets have the same lawyer).

Everyone involved with the case can be on board with the adoption, be totally impressed with your parenting skills that improve daily, and be so happy with the progress the kids have made. Unless one kid cries in front of the GAL. Then you might have problems.

So your GAL disagrees with everyone else. What next?

First, don’t get discouraged. Yes, courts give A LOT of weight to the GAL, but this isn’t the end of the world. It’s the GAL’s job to be concerned about her clients and make rational, levelheaded choices for them. Of course, even GALs are human and can make mistakes. It’s not the GAL’s job, for instance, to make diagnoses of their client’s mental or physical health, so if that has happened, that should throw up red flags to everyone involved. And despite this, children in foster care will have potential mental and physical health issues. As long as the pre-adoptive parents are committed to supporting the child through his healing, then there is slim chance of a failed adoption or disrupted placement. If there’s truly no reason for concern and everyone else on the case is in agreement on this, let the agency/ county fight for you for a while.

Second, take a step back. Still reeling from that last permanency meeting and can’t make heads or tails as to why the GAL hates you so? Do this right now: inhale. Now exhale. It’s going to be okay.

Think through (calmly) everything that happened at the meeting and decide what your arguments are going to be. Talk to people you trust who are authorities in your life in one way or another. If you know one or two lawyers, talk to them about it as well because they can give you their opinion on the matter from their legal-training standpoint. They might be able to see something in the case that you simply can’t because you’re not a lawyer.

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It certainly is baffling — when foster-adoptive parents are in such high demand — that anyone would want to put up roadblocks to the successful creation of adoptive families. If there truly is no reason for the hold up, speak with your caseworker, the kid(s)’ caseworker, therapists, teachers, and anyone else who knows the child(ren) well. They undoubtedly will be able to see things differently from you and might be able to provide much needed defense of your case, or at the very least, insight.

Third, remember this: family is good and exists to provide a network of support for everyone inside its protective walls. If you are committed to supporting your children through the good, bad, and really ugly, you already have what it takes to be a successful parent. Stand firm and keeping fighting the good fight.

The Stupid Things People Ask and Say

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We don’t have a placement yet, but in this process of learning how to become parents, we’ve come across some really ridiculous questions and statements. Some are just downright insulting and some stem from lack of education on the subject. Either way, we thought this topic deserved its own post.

During training, we were warned that we’d come across certain comments and questions that might bother us or put us in a precarious position in front of our kids. We just never thought they’d really happen. Some people were well meaning in their statements, but nonetheless, the statements still hurt. So I, Shauna, one of the authors of this blog, began thinking about the things that people would never say to a pregnant woman or expecting couple that they say all of the time to people hoping to become parents through fostering or adoption.

Stupid Question #1                 Image result for question mark

Why do you think there are so many bad foster families out there?

Gee, I don’t know. Maybe you think there are so many bad foster families out there because those are the only ones you hear about. I personally know a lot of really amazing foster/ adoptive families whose children turned out just fine thank you. I could ask a similar question: why do you think there are so many bad parents out there?

Stupid Question #2

Which ones are yours?

What do you mean, which ones are mine? They are all mine, meaning, I’m currently raising and taking care of all of them. Who gives a rat’s tail which ones I personally birthed and which ones I didn’t?! Does it really matter at the end of the day? Just so you know, foster kids don’t like being distinguished as different or “other.” Asking that question in front of them just reminds them that their first experience with family was a broken one.

Stupid Question #3

Are you sure you want to do that? (Referring to choosing to foster children over the age of one).

Would you ask a pregnant woman if she was sure she made the right choice? No! Of course not! So why are you asking me if I’m sure I want to become a parent through the foster system?

Related imageStupid Statement #1

Kids cost a lot of money. 

Oh really? I thought they were free. Again, you wouldn’t say that to a pregnant woman. Of course kids cost a lot of money. Don’t you think people choosing to become parents through fostering/ adoption haven’t considered that? Not to mention, foster/ adoptive parent’s finances have been scrutinized for stability factors by the county, state, and federal government, not to mention any private agencies they used during the process.

Stupid Statement #2

You have no parenting experience.

Hmm. Neither do half a million new biological parents. They, however, weren’t required to go through hours and hours of extensive training, pass federal background checks/ fingerprinting, get physicals and have a doctor sign a form deeming them healthy enough for parental duty, tolerate extremely invasive interviews from complete strangers, or have an inspector study their home for safety violations. Mind you, perhaps if all biological parents were required to go through the same training/ interviews, etc., that foster parents have to go through, we wouldn’t have need of a foster system at all.

Stupid Statement #3

Good thing you felt called into this life (referring to revealing infertility issues)

I felt called to foster/ adopt long before I ever found out about my infertility. In fact, I think I was 13-years-old when I first decided I wanted to adopt a child or children one day. The fact that you think my heart for adoption is a good thing because I’m infertile is actually a very hurtful comment and certainly doesn’t help me heal from the possibility of never having biological children. Are you suggesting that all infertile couples should therefore adopt? Knowing what I know about fostering/ adopting, it’s not for the faint of heart, or for people who have infertility baggage they haven’t healed from yet. Infertility was never a reason for us to foster/ adopt. We just happen to have that specific heart for opening up our home to children in need, regardless of our ability to conceive.

There are other questions and statements that feel like lemon juice on a wound, and we might write about them one day. These were just the top three questions and statements that we’ve come across, more often than not, and felt they merited some attention. If you know someone going through the foster/ adopt process, please educate yourself and don’t say these things around them. They will most certainly not appreciate it, even if you are well-meaning.