Monday, December 21, 2009

Christian's Birthfather

Originally Published on MEM's MEMOS on December 20, 2009

A couple of days after I wrote my last post (in which I took the liberty to vent about how much I dread birthparent visits) I got a call from Christian's caseworker informing me that his birth father suddenly decided to move back to Utah and would like to have a visit with his baby boy.

So on Tuesday morning I drove up to the DCFS Office to take Christian to see his birth father for the first time since they were separated 2 weeks ago.

Mental health experts say that pessimism isn't healthy or helpful, but I'm going to play devil's advocate on this one and beg to differ: When I'm in a particularly stressful situation I tend to worry and expect the worst possible outcome and then when the worse case scenario doesn't happen I am happily surprised and relieved.

Tuesday's visit was one of those times when I was happily surprised.

-I didn't have to drive up to Ogden in a snowstorm.

It was actually a very clear day with plenty of blue sky.

-Christian's birth father wasn't resentful or rude to me when I met him. He was actually very polite and when the visit was over he expressed his gratitude towards me for taking such good care of his son.

But perhaps what was most impressive to me about his birth father was how he interacted with Christian: When I lifted the sleeping baby out of his car seat and placed him into his father's arms, his father's face lit up with an expression of pure joy. It was almost like watching a little girl on Christmas morning discover a new doll.

It couldn't be more evident that Christian's birthfather is in love with his little boy and for that reason alone my heart goes out to this kid- (I must be getting older to refer to him as a kid!) He is a young (19) single parent who has fathered a child with a woman who is not interested or able to care for their child.

Christian's birthfather is trying to do all in his power to get his son back, which the court has mandated includes maintaining a steady job and housing. (He now has a job at McDonald's and proudly told me he has a place now too but I didn't ask for the details). Christian's caseworker was sick that day as well, otherwise I would have asked her a billion questions about the Service Plan.

It would be a lot easier on me if this birthfather were a total jerk- but he's not. Just meeting him once I could feel of his sincerity and there is an innocence about him that endears me to him.

As much as my husband and I want nothing more than to have another child, at this point in time it looks like the purpose of taking this placement is to provide Christian with a safe, loving home until he can be reunified with his father. It is perhaps one of the biggest ironies and heartaches of being a foster parent.

Difficult Birthparent Visits

(A continuation of thoughts from the previous post regarding difficult birthparent visits)

. . . It's even worse when your foster child's parents can find no good about you whatsoever and look for any reason to complain to the caseworker about what you're doing wrong with their child.

In the case of our last placement, "Molly" the weekly complaints varied from week to week:

One week they complained that Molly's diaper was too tight. So I loosened it.

And of course, the following week they complained about it being too loose.

One week they were suspicious of a scratch on her face-"Do you have a dog or cat in your home?" they immediately asked me.

"No," I calmly answered, leaving less room for their interrogation.

I'm 100% sure the scratch was from her scratching her face with her little nails so to prevent any further incidences in the future I cut her nails a day or two before the next visit before they had a chance to get long. The next visit their complaint was that I cut her nails too short.

Sometimes you just can't win.

Molly's birthparents would also come to all of her doctors visits- regular well baby check-ups as well as appointments with her pediatric cardiologist since she had a heart murmur.

This was also a time to complain or at least insinuate that I wasn't doing a good job parenting their child. At one of the first doctor's appointments her birthfather said to the doctor, "She seems to be especially fussy since she's been placed in foster care- sometimes at visits she just cries for no reason."

I have to admit that I really liked this doctor- I could tell that he could sense that Molly's BF was, well- how do I put it nicely- "full of crap" yet this pediatrician was always very diplomatic and validating to any of Molly's father's concerns- real or imaginary. I can't remember the explanation he gave for that particular complaint, but I do remember that right afterwards I couldn't help myself when I piped up and said (probably with a little too much sarcasm) "Evidently babies are known to cry from time to time".

Yes, it's very frustrating to voluntarily take a child into your home, love her like she was "your own" and instead of being thanked be treated with resentment. But a couple of months later at a training that exact topic came up (of birthparents resenting foster parents) and our trainer tried to explain that we shouldn't take it personally as it isn't so much a reflection on us as it is the birthparents dealing with a loss of control.

Foster Baby Update

Originally Posted on MEM's MEMOS on December 8, 2009

We've had the baby for over a week now. When we saw him for the first time at the DCFS Office I was a bit heartbroken because he looked more like a helpless, tiny old man (think Benjamin Button) instead of a regular, chubby baby. He is 2 ½ months old but only weighs 9 pounds- (which is 8 ounces less than what my husband weighed when he was born, incidentally!) That puts him below the 5th percentile for weight. Our goal is to give him lots of love and fatten him up. I have no idea how much he weighed when he was born so I don't know how much he's grown since birth.

DOES THE BABY HAVE ANY MEDICAL PROBLEMS?

Other than his small size he's in relatively good health. He does have some problems with reflux and a bit of thrush in his mouth which seems to be clearing up. Whenever we would feed him the first couple of days he was here he would gulp down the bottle like he was starving, which made his reflux worse or went right through him and gave him diahrhea. Fortunately, he's learned to relax and slow down when he eats which has helped to reduce so much spit-up (and laundry I might add- it's amazing how much more laundry a little person can add to a household).

Despite spitting up almost everytime he eats he seems to be getting the nutrition he needs as his hair and eyelashes seem to be growing a little longer every day and his little cheeks are starting to fatten up!

As of his 2 month check-up just a couple of weeks ago he's up to date on all of his vaccinations. I will be eager to see how much he's grown at his 4 month check-up (if we have him that long).

WHAT'S THE BABY'S NAME?

As with our other foster placements I won’t be using his real name to respect confidentiality issues, but I will be referring to him in my posts as “Christian” (which sounds somewhat similar to his real name and seems appropriate since he has come into our lives at Christmastime.)

I won't be posting pictures of him either because of confidentiality issues.

WILL HE HAVE VISITS WITH HIS BIRTHPARENTS?

At this point in time, Christian's birthmother is not interested in having visits with her baby and since Christian's birthfather moved out of state there obviously won't be visits with him.

I won't lie when I tell you that I was extremely relieved to hear that there will be no weekly supervised visits with this placement. The thought of driving up to the Ogden DCFS Office in the middle of winter (which, I might add, is located in between not one, not two, but THREE different gang territories!) and being in a waiting room full of parents who have lost their children to drug addiction or abuse is NOT an uplifting experience.

It's even worse when your foster child's parents can find no good about you whatsoever and use weekly visits as a time to express their complaints to the caseworker.

WHEN WILL CHRISTIAN BE REUNITED WITH HIS BIRTHPARENTS?

The soonest Christian would go back to his birthfather would be in six months when the Permanency Hearing is scheduled. It will be decided at that hearing whether Christian can safely be returned to his parent's care or if he needs to remain in foster care. If Christian's father can prove that he has kept a steady job and has housing appropriate for a baby then he can regain custody and/or guardianship of his baby. Of course, one thing I have learned regarding the legal system is that there can always be extensions or appeals. Depending on the judge, an extension (usually 3 months) may be given to the birthfather if he isn't sufficiently prepared at that time.

Until then, however, any of the birthfather's relatives who are interested in having guardianship of Christian can apply to have him placed in their home as a kinship placement, granted they can pass background checks and health & safety checks in their home and be approved by caseworkers first. After all, most parents with children in foster care would prefer to have their children placed with relatives instead of complete strangers.

As far as we know, Christian's birthmother's relatives aren't interested or are not good candidates for a kinship placement. Christian's birthfather has expressed a desire for his relatives to care for Christian, but since these relatives live out of state an Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) will have to be done which is basically a legal procedure giving permission to transfer the custody of children in one state into the custody of another state. This process varies from state to state and I have no idea how long it will take for the state Christian's relatives live in - it could take a month or it could take several months.

Our Third Foster Placement

Originally posted on MEM'S MEMOS on December 1, 2009.

Less than 12 hours ago I got a call from the Division of Child and Family Services asking if we would take another foster placement- this time to a two month old baby boy.

That baby boy is now currently snuggled in the crook of my left arm as I type this. (He seems to sleep better in my arms than he does in his bassinette!)

We don't know how long we'll get to have him in our home- it could be for a couple of weeks or it could be forever. It's a very surreal experience and I haven't even had time to process things yet. I will try to post some more info (as much as I can, that is) in the future.

Until then I will be brushing up on my baby care techniques using the following illustrated reference guide. After all, it's been over two years since I've cared for such a tiny, helpless creature!

CLICK TO ENLARGE.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Celebrities Who Adopt

I usually roll my eyes when I hear about another celebrity adopting because I'm a little cynical about their motives. Then again, maybe it's because I'm jealous of the seemingly endless money and resources at their disposal and their ability to travel anywhere in the world and "pick out" a child.

After reading Adoptee Voice I recently found out that Grey's Anatomy actress Kathryn Heigl is adopting a special needs baby from Korea. The blog post was well-written and echoed many of my sentiments, so I'll refer you to it here.

Since National Adoption Month is right around the corner, I want to put a plug in for Nia Vardolos (writer/star of My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding) who adopted a child from foster care last year. Here's what Nia said in an article which impressed me most:

"I was put in touch with a lawyer who works with, how shall I put this daintily... known people in my industry, and was informed I could be put at the top of The List and "have an infant within three days." But didn't that mean I would be moving someone down the list? Someone who had waited? Yeah, wrong."

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nia-vardalos/the-list_b_161241.html

Appropriately, Nia will be this year's National Adoption Day Spokesperson.

Perspectives from Those Who Are Adopted

Most of the blogs I have listed on my sidebar are about families who have adopted or fostered. I can easily relate to the struggles and joys they have gone through as they build their families through adoption.

Some of the blogs on my sidebar are written by birthmothers. Although I have no idea what it is like to be in their situation, I admire them for the obvious reason that the option to adopt wouldn't exist without their selflessness.

I only have two blogs on my sidebar, however, which were written by people who were adopted:

Valerie is not only adopted, but she is a birthmom as well. Valerie is an advocate for open adoption and she was recently the keynote speaker at the FSA Northeast Regional Conference in Pennsylvania.

Peter is an adopted Korean American. His blog, Adoptee Voice, has been particularly educational for me to read as he shares his feelings and perspectives as an adopted Korean American.

I think it's absolutely essential to try to see things from all perspectives of the adoption triad in order to gain a solid understanding of adoption.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Adopting Children with Special Needs

When my husband and I were going through the training to become foster parents, one of my biggest fears was fostering a child who wouldn't be able to bond with us no matter how much love we showed. The technical term for children who "cannot" bond is Reactive Attachment Disorder or RAD.

Given some of the neglect and abuse issues that foster children are bound to have, it shouldn't be a surprise that they have trouble forming healthy attachments. Furthermore, no matter how well-adjusted a child is, the fact that they are in foster care automatically places them in the category of "special needs". So, when I recently came across this story about a woman who adopted a little boy with RAD and then "gave him back" I was very interested- not just in the sad story itself but in all of the opinions and comments that resulted.

Some people villainized this little boy's adoptive mother for her decision [and while I see their point that adopting a child isn't like adopting a puppy that you can just find another home for if things don't work out] I think nobody can truly judge her unless they've been in her situation.

Other terms that "scare me off" when it comes to adopting or fostering children with special behavioral needs are Oppositional Defiance Disorder and Conduct Disorder. I think I would much rather prefer caring for a child who is medically fragile or has Down Syndrome than caring for a child who has "behavioral" problems. That is why I admire the foster parents out there who are willing to parent children with behavioral problems. I just don't think I would be equipped to handle that.

I am reading a book right now about a man and woman who adopted 12 children in just 12 years- and many of their children have special needs. "Wow!" is all I can say. Here's an excerpt from the back of the book which describes their family demographics:

"Five children are Hispanic. One is biracial. Two are Asian. Four are Caucasian. Ten are from four state foster care systems from across the United States, two are from a Guatemalan orphanage."

How's that for diversity! The book is Out of One, Many by Bart and Claudia Fletcher.

Another good read about foster parenting is Another Place at the Table by Kathy Harrison.

Just a Warning: Kathy Harrison's account is brutally honest and it might scare some people away from doing foster care as she has had to deal with some worst case scenarios. There were some parts of her book which were very hard to read- namely, when a young a foster child who had been sexually abused "acted out" abuse on another child in her home. I think that's got to be the scariest scenario a foster parent could face! But remember- if you are considering doing foster care YOU are the one who decides the extent of abuse or neglect or issues of the children who come into your home. (See paragraph 6 of this post.) It just so happens that Kathy Harrison was brave enough, comfortable enough, and confident enough that she was willing to take almost any child into her home.

And speaking of caring for children with special needs, my heart goes out to the 27-year-old woman and her husband who are caring for her nine adopted siblings, all of whom have disabilities since her parents were recently murdered, leaving these children basically orphaned.

I guess my point is that I really admire those individuals and families who are willing to welcome a child with special needs into their home. I don't know that I am capable enough or patient enough to do so myself.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Paper Pregnancy Thoughts

Every morning I cross my fingers and check our e-mail to see if any birthmothers have contacted us.
Despite the fact that I've sent out over 270 e-mails since December announcing that we want to adopt (First I sent e-mails to my immediate family members, then to extended family, then close friends, then neighbors, missionary companions, old roommates, high school friends, and finally "Facebook Friends" whom I haven't seen in over 15 years and whom I don't even associate on a regular basis, but Hey- That's what Facebook is for, right?) we've only had one very vague e-mail a couple of weeks ago asking, "Are you still wanting to adopt?"
A couple dozen people actually responded back to our e-mails and said something along the lines of "Good Luck" or "We'll Let You Know if We Hear of Anything" but other than that no leads: NADA-NOTHING-ZILCH.

We were, however, contacted by phone by one birthmother which turned out to be a scam. (After that incident we changed the contact phone number listed on our online profiles to our caseworker's phone number. We just don't have time or the emotional energy for scammers- we went through that with our last adoption!)

As for Foster Care, our Resource Family Consultant called a week or so ago just to check in on us and tell us that although she didn't have any placements for us, she hadn't forgotten about us.

Long story short: I'm starting to feel a little OVERDUE!
We've made it through 9 months of this "paper pregnancy" and I'm starting to wonder:

-HOW MANY MORE TRIMESTERS ARE IN STORE FOR US?
-WILL WE HAVE TO WAIT AS LONG AS AN ELEPHANT TO WELCOME OUR NEXT BABY? (Elephants are the mammals with the longest gestation period of 22 months)

-IS IT OKAY FOR ME TO ADMIT THAT I'M JEALOUS OF MY sweet niece who's expecting her first child (Yes, I'm going to be a great aunt again!) and has LOST 15 POUNDS IN HER FIRST TRIMESTER DUE TO MORNING SICKNESS?
-OR AM I TOTALLY SELFISH FOR WANTING ANOTHER CHILD and I just need to be content and grateful that we've already been blessed with a happy, healthy, beautiful child. (see Alma 29:3, Philipians 4:11, and Hebrews 13:5)
As far as adoption promotion I'm just not brave enough to do Pass-Along Cards or flyers . . . yet. The concept makes me feel so vulnerable, needy, and desperate. But if that's what it takes to find our next child, then I'll just have to summon up the courage.
In the meantime we need to update our online profile with a new family picture and I should probably re-read the posts I read about HOPE!

Monday, September 21, 2009

My Letter to the Editor

My mother-in-law called me this morning to tell me that I had a letter to the editor published in the Deseret News!


(I submitted it last week but my mom was the only person I told because I didn't even know if it would be published or not)

I feel so validated. Click here to read it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Unmet Expectations

When I experience times in my life when I feel like my desires or expectations are very different than what I had originally "planned" or when I feel like my prayers just aren't being answered, I know that I need to develop more patience and more trust in the Lord- which, of course, is always much easier said than done!

Since HOPE is synonymous with EXPECTATIONS, I'd like to share a couple of thoughts about what happens when we expect or desire something that hasn't come to pass . . .

My sister gave me a copy of this poem a long time ago about trusting the Lord with your prayers. Although I have used it in a lesson or two I don't know who the author is.

Prayer

I know not by what methods rare,
But this I know, God answers prayer.
I know that He has given His word,
Which tells me prayers are always heard
And will be answered, soon or late
and so I pray . . . and calmly wait.

I know not if the answer sought
Will come in just the way I thought,
But leave my prayer with him alone,
Whose ways are wiser than my own;
Assured that He will grant my quest.
Or send an answer far more blessed.

Sometimes God has different plans for us than we do.

Click here to watch a four minute Mormon Message on Trusting in the Lord. This story is about a family who waited 7 years for a child to join their family. Hmmm... sounds familiar!

Here's a quote by C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity along the lines of our own expectations for us versus the Lord's expectations for/of us.

"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself."


Finally, wise counsel from an apostle of the Lord on ways of handling adversity, including trusting Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

This 3 minute clip is from Elder Wirthlin's "Come What May and Love It" Conference address:



I love the promise that "The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude."

The Infinite Power of Hope

I just finished watching a clip on Mormon Messages about HOPE:



It is quite ironic that the clip was all about HOPE as that is a subject I have been thinking about a lot lately.

In fact, I am finally going to finish and publish two posts about hope today.

Defining Hope

The June 2009 Ensign had an article I really enjoyed entitled Hope: The Misunderstood Sister by Larry Hiller.

I liked the article for the following reasons:

*The author defined the concept/quality of hope as it relates to her "sisters" Faith and Charity:

"Hope is anything but wishful. It is strong and bright with promise. It is expectation based on experience".

I appreciated this since the scriptures have given me good definitions of faith and charity, (see Hebrews 11:1 and Moroni 7:47) but hope has always been a little bit ambiguous to me.

*The author was very concise- the article was only two pages long.

Very impressive for someone like me who goes on and on when I write, rather than keeping things simple!

*The article included a painting of Faith, Hope, and Charity personified.

*The author not only wrote an essay, but a very touching poem as well.

I could paraphrase the article, but I'll just let you read it yourself.

And while we're on the topic of HOPE . . . Check out some of these inspiring necklaces from mrs. r's etsy shop.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Molly's Back in Foster Care

A couple of weeks before my surgery I got a call from our Resource Family Consultant (RFC) telling me that Molly "might" be coming back into foster care.

MIGHT? What does that mean?!

Our RFC didn't really know any other details at the moment but she said that DCFS was trying to "explore all their options" and were putting "back-up plans in place". They just wanted to make sure that Jared and I were still willing to take Molly as a placement if it came to that.

"OF COURSE!" I told her. She then told me that DCFS would know more about the situation in a couple of days and then they'd be able to make a decision. She promised she would contact me either way- whether Molly came back into custody or not.

A couple of days passed and I didn't hear anything. I tried to remain calm on the outside but inside I was speculating like crazy. I tried to convince myself that no news was good news even though deep down I was frustrated and antsy that nobody had called me back. And of course, Murphy's Law applied to the situation: our RFC happened to be going out of town for about a week so even if I did try to call for more info I wouldn't be able to talk to her anyway!

Although I was extremely stressed I got the feeling that I should just "let things slide". So I tried to be patient, brush things aside, and busy myself with other things, but Molly was on my mind constantly.

The week after my surgery I couldn't wait any longer so I called our RFC back. I was hoping that she had just forgotten to call me back which turned out to be the case and she apologized profusely.

"Can you tell me if anything happened with Molly's case?"

"Yes" she said. Then she took a minute to track down her notes.

"Molly and her brother were placed," she continued . . .

(long pause while looking for the info)

. . ."Here it is" . . .

"with a maternal relative".

I wasn't expecting to hear that.

"WHEN were they placed?" I asked next.

"Let's see . . ." (more pausing)

"August 5th. That was just 2 days ago".

I started feeling a little betrayed, helpless, and even defensive that she had been placed without us even being told a thing.

"Aren't WE supposed to have first priority in taking her as a placement?" I asked, surprised at how defensive I sounded.

Our patient RFC explained that we do have first priority UNLESS there is a relative who is available. And THIS TIME there happened to be a relative who was willing to come forward and take both children (Molly and her little brother) and pass a background check and get approved by DCFS. (When Molly was in our care the first time, no relatives except for her birthfather's parents were interested in stepping forward. Even so, DCFS didn't feel comfortable placing her with them)

"But . . ." our RFC continued, "If things don't work out with this relative, then you will definitely be contacted."

I felt like a runner-up in a contest being given a consultation prize.

It didn't matter that my husband and I were the ones who cared for Molly for nine months of her life (from the time she was 4 months to 13 months old) or that she had at one time been attached to us in a safe, loving home.

None of that matters because we're not blood relatives, we're just lowly foster parents and as such we have no legal rights to this child or any say in the matter. Such is Foster Care!

I asked for Molly' caseworkers number to see if she could give me any more details. The caseworker was very nice but explained pretty much the same thing, "I can't really tell you anything- Sorry."

"Can you at least tell me how she's doing?" I asked.

"Oh sure- she's doing just fine." she casually answered.

So that's all I know about Molly: She's back in foster care, but not with us, and she's doing just "fine". Whatever that means.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

2009 FSA Conference

Last year was the first time I attended a Families Supporting Adoption (FSA) Conference. It was so inspiring and educational that this year I brought my husband along with me!

This year the Conference's theme was "Letting Love Lead" and on that note probably the best quote from the Conference was from the Keynote Speaker, Troy Dunn, who said,
"My mom introduced the beautiful concept of adoption in a very simple manner. She said, 'There is something that is called prayer trading, and we're going to trade prayers with somebody. Somewhere out there is a girl praying for a good family for her baby. We are going to pray for a good tummy with a baby in it, and we are going to answer each others' prayers."
I was also drawn to attend some of the birthparent panels. I was very impressed in particular with one birthmother, Tamra Hyde, who is very articulate and passionate about adoption. Tamra said something that at first might sound crass, but she made a really good point when she said, "These birthmothers (that place their children for adoption) aren't just your regular knocked-up girls . . ." and she then went on to site some statistics about how rare it is for unwed mothers to actually place their children for adoption.

You can read more about Tamra on her blog or learn a little about her personal story by watching this video or hear her share some of her story whch is featured with other birthmother's stories on ItsAboutLove.org.

I'm already looking forward to next year's conference!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Congratulations, It's a Cyst!

I would venture to guess that when most women go in for an ultrasound it is to determine the size and sex of the baby growing inside of their womb. This has not been the case with me thus far.

I have had three ultrasounds in my life. The first one was on my knee following a car accident when I was 18- Fortunately, nothing was wrong.

The second ultrasound was on my "female parts" over two years ago. That ultrasound revealed that I had some ovarian cysts and a polyp on my uterus. Consequently I had surgery to confirm that these growths were caused by endometriosis.

My most recent ultrasound was last month. After putting up with considerable pain and cramping which has just gotten worse over the past three or four months my husband finally urged me to make an appointment with my OB-GYN. I kept putting it off because going to the gynecologist is my LEAST FAVORITE THING TO DO!

My doctor gave me an exam and ordered an ultrasound as she suspected my endometriosis is growing back. Unfortunately, the news I received at Ultrasound #3 wasn't "Congratulations, It's a Girl! or "You're Having a Boy!" but rather, "It looks like you have another endometrial cyst on your ovary."

The GOOD NEWS is that endometrial cysts are non-cancerous and they can be removed. The disappointing news is that there's not a tiny baby growing inside of me but rather a pain-causing nuisance.

My doctor discussed my options with me: Since the pain is interfering with my life (I'm not in pain every single day, but about half of the time) I can:

OPTION # 1) Go on a medication which would cause me to go into early menopause.
No thanks, I'd rather wait to go through menopause when Mother Nature actually plans for me to go through menopause! Furthermore, if I go through an early menopause I won't be able to get pregnant.

MY BIOLOGICAL CLOCK IS TICKING! I just turned 35 and although I've been told that there is no reason aside from endometriosis that I shouldn't be able to get pregnant it just hasn't happened yet.

Don't get me wrong, it's not the end of the world if I never have the chance to be pregnant- after all, my husband and I have been very blessed with a beautiful baby girl THANKS TO ADOPTION. But I do think it would be neat to experience a pregnancy and be able to relate to what most women go through in their lifetime. I would actually have something to add to conversations of breastfeeding and epidurals, rather than just sitting quietly and smiling like a silent fool!

OPTION # 2) Go back on birth control.
No thanks, for the same reasons above plus I don't want to deal with any other unnecessary hormonal symptoms- I have enough of that.

OPTION # 3) Surgery. This would at least "clean me out" and make me symptom-free for another three or four years.

I decided to go with surgery which brought up some mixed emotions:
I'm hopeful that this surgery could increase my chances of becoming pregnant BUT
I feel like everyone around me who knows that I am getting this surgery will EXPECT me to get pregnant.

I feel like my body has betrayed me in the past and I have felt like a total failure. Now I feel like if I don't get pregnant after this surgery I won't just be letting myself down, but I will be letting everyone else down as well.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Molly Update/ Family Court 101

This post was originally published in MEM's MEMOS on April 21, 2009.

Here's what happened at today's hearing:

Because there are three different parties involved in this case,

1) Molly & her siblings
2) Molly's birthmother, and
3) The State of Utah/DCFS

there are three different lawyers:

1) Molly and her siblings are assigned a Guardian Ad Liteum (GAL) who represents their best interest,
2) Molly's birthmother is appointed a court-ordered public defender (unless she has the means to hire her own private attorney),
3) and the State of Utah has its own assistant attorney general who represents DCFS.

All three attorneys argued for the same thing: that Molly & her siblings be placed back with their mother ON THE CONDITION that Molly's birthfather have no contact with them. Without going into details, the reason the children came into custody this time was because of Molly's dad. Since Molly's mom did nothing to stop it she was charged with "failure to protect" her children.

Apparently Molly's dad is going to be leaving the state permanently. As long as he doesn't make contact with Molly's mother or her children, they will be able to remain with her.

The judge agreed with all three attorneys, so after spending a week in The Christmas Box House, the children will be reunited with their mother.

Lesson # 3 Continued

This post was originally published in MEM's MEMOS on April 16, 2009.

Wednesday night after returning home from the Christmas Box House my niece showed up to help with the kids. I had dropped M. off at a neighbor’s house before picking Molly and her brother up and when my neighbor brought M. home she was excited to find some new “friends” at our house. M. and Molly got along famously, but it soon became apparent that M. was jealous of Molly’s little brother or the “baby” as she called him.

Thank goodness for an extra pair of hands! A couple hours later my mom and two of my sisters came over. I asked them to pick up some size 3 diapers and two to three gallons of milk from the store on their way over. Molly and her younger brother conveniently wore the same size diapers- size 3- while our once teeny little preemie now wears size 5’s!

My mom was able to spend the night and my sisters stayed until my husband got home. Despite a warm bath (definitely the most traumatic part of the evening for Molly & her brother), clean pajamas, extra pairs of hands for rocking the babies, and dimmed lights & lullabies, all three children were so wound up that they didn't end up falling asleep till after 11 p.m! Molly and her little brother were eager to explore their new environment and when Molly would point to the Nursery Rhyme wallpaper in M's room and smile I almost wondered if she was remembering our house. M. was definitely the most hyper of all three children- she thought our house was “Party Central” and enjoyed showing off not just for grandma, but to her two new friends.

That night can best be described as a big game of “Musical Beds & Musical Babies”. At bedtime my mom and I were sleeping in my bedroom, Molly’s brother was sleeping in the crib in the nursery and Molly was in M’s toddler bed in her room. My husband took M downstairs where they slept in the basement. By the time morning came, however, I was on the floor of M’s room next to Molly, M. was sleeping with my mom, and Jared (bless his heart) took charge of Molly’s baby brother who woke three or four times during the course of the night with a shrieking cry. (We suspect he had an earache as he seemed to do much better when we held him upright). As soon as Molly’s brother started crying it set off a chain reaction in the other children. I think it was hardest on M- as soon as she heard him cry she would cling on to my husband’s neck with a death grip and cry out repeatedly, “Daddy, Daddy- Baby!” She was so confused and I can only imagine how confused Molly’s brother must have been to wake up in a strange new environment without his mother to comfort him.

It was a difficult night to say the least and that was with three caregivers for three children. I imagined what it would be like to go through another night like that without the help of my mom and without my husband being able to stay home from work the next day- which is exactly what he did.

First thing in the morning we called the caseworker and told her that although we were willing to care for Molly and her brother temporarily we realistically knew that we couldn't do it on a permanent basis. She was understanding and asked us if we could keep Molly’s brother until the hearing on Tuesday. “Sure” we said. We were greatly relieved when she expressed her opinion that Molly was “home” and belonged with us even if that meant that her little brother would have to be placed somewhere else.

The next morning M. was excited to discover that her new “friends” were still at our house. She and Molly continued to have a good time playing, jabbering, and giggling with each other, but whenever Molly’s little brother would get close to my husband or I, M. would immediately jump up onto Jared’s lap, hug him tightly around his neck and possessively announce “MY Daddy!”

That afternoon Molly’s younger brother was able to take a long nap before we took them up to the DCFS office to visit their mom. My mom stayed home and watched M. while my husband accompanied me to the visit. (I don’t know how I would have been able to make it to the visit otherwise! I only have two hands and to get two toddlers and one baby buckled into my car and then unbuckled and carried into a building, while carrying at least one diaper bag in addition- would be quite the feat!)

After the visit I briefly met the new caseworker who would be taking over the case and I asked Molly’s mother about her kid’s routines: eating, napping, baths, bedtime, etc. I told her we’d take good care of her kids until Tuesday when everyone would know a little more about what was going on.

On our way home from the visit both kids fell asleep in the car. I stayed with them while Jared ran into the store to buy some clothes for Molly’s younger brother who only had a pair of pajamas and the clothes he was wearing when he was removed from the home. Molly and M. could share clothes for now since they were the same size.

A couple hours after the visit I got a call from the new caseworker. She informed me that she attended a meeting (It was actually a shelter hearing which was required 72 hours after children are removed from their home) where it was decided that the children should NOT have been split up and therefore needed to be brought back to The Christmas Box House. She told me she was sorry for putting me through this and asked if I could bring the kids back myself or if I would like her to come get them. I told her I could bring them back and then hung up the phone.

I was absolutely STUNNED. Although I was able to keep my composure and remain as "professional" and "objective" as possible on the phone with the caseworker I felt like Adam Sandler’s character in The Wedding Singer: Remember the scene the day after Robbie is jilted and his fiancĂ©e casually walks up to him and wants to give him an explanation? His reply to her is "That information... really would've been more useful to me YESTERDAY!" That's pretty much how I was feeling.

I immediately broke down as soon as I walked into M’s room and saw all three children happily playing together under my mom’s supervision. My mom was just as shocked and surprised as I was when I told her the news.

Less than 24 hours ago I picked these children up and took them into my home, only to be told that I had to take them back. Yes, it was inconvenient for me, but foster care isn't about ME and my needs (Lesson #10) it's about the children, right? So much for looking out for the child's best interest and reducing the amount of trauma and confusion they have to go through due to multiple placements!

I acted like a chicken running around with its head chopped off as I gathered up their few possessions and got the diaper bag ready. Molly became visibly upset and confused when my mom helped her get her coat on. It was obvious she didn’t want to go anywhere.

When I arrived at The Christmas Box House I could hardly talk between my sobs as I literally “handed them over” to the worker who opened the door for me. Molly’s little brother immediately started crying too and I told the worker I was worried he might have an earache or that he was teething. Molly just looked up at me with a blank stare as I kissed each of their little cheeks and told them good-bye. I returned the car seat I had borrowed and drove home. My husband didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye to Molly.

We would have to wait until after Tuesday’s hearing to know anything further.

MORE UNCERTAINTY and MORE WAITING:

Tuesday evening after waiting on pins and needles, we learned that the judge decided to extend the hearing one more week. Until then, he ordered that the children not be moved again and they remain at the Christmas Box House.

Lesson # 3 Revisited

This post was originally published in MEM's MEMOS on April 16, 2009.

LESSON #3- When doing foster care, EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED!

I first mentioned Lesson #3 in this post. After reading what we went through last week you'll understand the title for this post.

Last week I got a call from DCFS informing me that Molly was back in State Custody.


Remember LESSON #2 from this post?

LESSON #2- Whenever possible, all efforts are made to place foster children with a blood relative. Placement with relatives ALWAYS take precedence over strangers (provided they can pass a background check).

There didn’t seem to be any good possibilities for kinship placements for Molly and since Jared and I had cared for her for nine months and already have an established bond with her, we are given precedence over any other foster families for her placement. But the caseworker tells us there’s a catch: Molly’s baby brother (who was born while Molly's mom was serving a jail sentence- just a month before Molly left our care to be reunified with her parents) was removed from the home and needed to be placed with her as well.

Here’s an addendum to Lesson #2 worth mentioning:

LESSON #2B- DCFS makes every possible effort to keep siblings together after being removed from the home.

The caseworker also informs me that Molly had surgery about a month ago to have a tumor removed near her optic nerve. The GOOD news is that the tumor was benign. The BAD news is that as a result of the surgery, Molly has lost all of the sight in her right eye!

My husband and I talk things over and agree that if taking Molly's brother is the only way we can have Molly back we'll do it. The caseworker calls me back a couple hours after her first phone call with some additional information she’s learned: In addition to Molly's one-year old brother, Molly's five year old half-sister needs to be placed in a home as well. This is the third time Molly's half-sister (same mom as Molly, different dad) has entered the Foster Care System. Evidently she has been living with Molly’s family since her last stay in foster care.

My husband and I discuss the situation further and reluctantly say no to taking all three children. A 24 month old (Molly), a 19 month old (M.), and a 12 month old (Molly's brother) under one roof are going to be a handful. Our car only seats five and it will be crowded enough with three car seats crammed in the back. I'M NOT OCTOMOM and we just don’t have the room!

The caseworker tells us she will continue to look for a foster family who is willing to take all three children. She is eager to place them within 24 hours as they were removed from their home the previous night and had been staying at the Christmas Box House. The caseworker calls us 3 or 4 hours later with news that she's found a family willing to take all three children. "So that's that" we think . . . 45 minutes later the caseworker calls us back in exasperation. She informs us that the family who was going to take the children picked them up, drove a couple of blocks and then turned around to drop them back off after changing their minds about taking them. The caseworker asks if we are still willing to take Molly and her little brother. "Of course."

Wednesday night around dinnertime I head up to the Christmas Box House to pick up Molly and her little brother. When I see Molly I am happy to see her again but heartbroken at the way she looks: she's always been underweight but she seems very frail. Her hair is thin and straggly, like a chemotherapy patient, only she hasn't undergone chemo. She has a bright red vertical scar on one side of her head from the incision of the surgery and her right eye is recessed and droops about an inch lower than her left eye. She still has the same sweet smile and the caseworker is pleased when Molly comes to me after only a brief hesitation. It’s been a year since we've seen each other and I wonder if she remembers me.

I then meet Molly’s baby brother who is the spitting image of his father. I've actually seen him once before when he was a newborn. (The day after he was born my husband and I took Molly up to the hospital to visit with her birthparents and meet her new baby brother. That was about a month before Molly went home.)

There is a year's difference in age between Molly and her younger brother and I am informed that he is not yet walking, but on the verge- just as Molly was when she left our care. As I hoist his chunky body up into my arms I decide that he definitely weighs more than his older sister.

The caseworker tells me that the kids have a visit with their mother the next day. After being handed their scanty belongings, borrowing a car seat, and getting some help settling them into my car I head home. I have no idea how long these children will be in my care- it could be a week, a couple of months, or possibly forever.

The only thing I do know for certain is that there is going to be a hearing on Tuesday to determine if their removal was warranted and if they will be placed back with their parents, with family members, or in another foster home. It’s all up to the judge and the particular judge hearing the case is very lenient in restoring parental rights and prefers placing children with family members rather than placing them in foster homes.

Another Foster Placement?

This post was originally published in MEM's MEMOS on March 27, 2009.

About a month ago I had a very strong feeling that we should accept another placement from the Foster Care System. I didn’t WANT to pay attention to that prompting, but it would NOT leave my mind so I decided to stop ignoring it and take it seriously. I called my husband at work and told him about it. Over the next couple of days we discussed it some more and we prayed about it. We talked about the pros and cons of having another foster child in our home. I even made a long list on paper, and I’ll be quite honest when I say that the “cons” of taking another placement far outweighed the “pros”.

This idea couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time for reasons I‘ll explain below, but the bottom line is that we feel like it is something we are supposed to do. In fact, the feelings I was having were so strong that I fully expected our Resource Family Consultant (the social worker who is in charge of placing children in your home) to give us a call that day or the next asking if we could take a baby or child.

Yes, we would still like to adopt with LDS Family Services. . . And if we take a child from Foster Care then no birth mother will want to choose us (It was a miracle M’s birthmother did after learning we were caring for a 4 month old through foster care!) Our adoption home study & profile will probably be put on a temporary “hold” if we take a placement. Then again, it could take a couple of years for a birth mom to choose us anyway, so maybe we’re supposed to have a child in our home for a short time before our next child arrives.

Another reason we’re a little wary is because there has been a recent shift in DCFS Policy in terms of placing children. The steps to taking a child into your home for foster care are very similar to adopting a child: Like adoptive couples, foster parents can choose the age, gender, ethnicity, and medical backgrounds of the children they will care for, but obviously foster children are going to have some special needs, namely abuse, neglect, and exposure to drugs and alcohol. In that case, prospective foster parents can choose the severity of neglect, abuse, or drug exposure that the child has had- whatever they personally feel comfortable with.

When the Resource Family Consultant (RFC for short) calls a foster parent about a placement it is their job to tell the foster parents as much information about the child as possible including the reason they are coming into foster care. It’s the foster parent’s job to ask as many questions as needed so that they can make an informed decision about whether or not a placement would work well in their home. If the RFC doesn’t have all of the information about the child (which sometimes happens, because they don’t always know all the details at once) then the foster parent can talk to the Child Protective Services (CPS) Caseworker or the child’s assigned ongoing Caseworker for information. The CPS caseworker is the caseworker who is in charge of actually removing the child from home (with a judge’s approval) and the ongoing caseworker is the caseworker who interacts with the child, the child’s birthparent(s) and the foster parents.

Some people erroneously believe that they have to say “yes” every time that their RFC calls them about a placement. This is not the case.  We have said “no” to placements we haven’t felt right about. I felt a little guilty afterwards and we may have been afraid that we would never get another call again, but we were in fact called again. If a foster parent doesn’t feel right about a placement, then they should not take it- for their family’s sake but most importantly, FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHILD! We are dealing with children here, not animals. For example, say somebody sees a cute puppy at the Pet Store. They get all excited and want to buy it and take it home. So they do. But after a couple of months perhaps the puppy grows out of its “cute” stage and starts chewing everything up around the house and the family is sick of cleaning up every time it poops, etc. It’s an option to give the puppy away and find a different home that would be better suited for the dog. But that option does not exist with children because children are not animals.

I can’t even imagine how traumatic it would be for a young child to suddenly be removed from their home, separated from their mommy or daddy, and then sent to live with some strangers in a totally new environment. This is where the recent change in DCFS Policy comes into place. In the past the foster care system actually promoted the idea that foster children should be moved from home to home on a regular basis. This is probably one of the worst ideas if you want a child to have a sense of permanency and stability in their lives- which children desperately need! This is also very damaging to a child’s ability to form healthy attachments and develop a sense of trust.

Basically, the research has shown that the more placements a foster child has, then the more trauma they will experience. Because of these findings, DCFS- in conjunction with the Utah Foster Care Foundation- are trying to reduce the number of placements a child has to go through after removing the child from the home.

According to my understanding, after a child is removed from their home and taken into custody of the State, they usually stay at either The Christmas Box House (which is sort of a non-profit temporary shelter for abused and neglected children) or at a sheltered foster home (a home where people take foster children in at the last minute until a permanent home is found for them).  My husband and I have only had 2 placements since becoming licensed a couple of years ago- our first placement, whom I refer to as Justin, stayed at the Christmas Box House when he was first removed from his home. Then he stayed at another foster home for about six months. Unfortunately, his foster parents decided they were "sick of doing foster care" so they asked that he be moved to a different foster home. Hello, Confusion and Trauma! That's when we got a call asking if we would consider taking a 3 year old boy. We were a bit surprised that our RFC called us because we had requested to have babies only. But after meeting Justin for the first time at his current foster home, I knew that Justin was supposed to be with us.

Our second placement was a baby girl- a four month old, and she stayed at a sheltered foster home for three weeks before she was placed with us. DCFS doesn't generally like to place children under five or babies in the Christmas Box House which is why they usually stay at a sheltered foster placement. But now with this shift in policy, many shelter placements will be done away with because the goal is to move the child from one home environment to another permanent, rather than temporary home environment, as soon as possible instead of "institutionalized-like" care, such as The Christmas Box House.

So how does this effect us as foster parents? Well, it means that when the RFC calls she may have even less information for us about a potential placement. We may be taking an infant or child in our home in the middle of the night, if necessary, and we may not know the extent of abuse or neglect or medical concerns because investigations and health assessments won't even have been completed. This makes us nervous because when we took our previous placements we wanted to know as much as possible about the children. That way we would make an informed decision and be totally committed to the child in our care and prevent any additional trauma to the child through a disrupted placement and another traumatic move.

Although children in foster care are most often reunited with their parents, there is a slight chance that we could be adopting them, too so it's VERY UNPREDICTABLE!

You never know what to expect with foster care and that is perhaps the most frustrating thing about it! But if we're supposed to take another placement, then we will.

The Adoption Process

This post was first published in MEM's MEMOS on August 12, 2008

I must admit that when we first started the adoption process with LDS Family Services 3 or so years ago I was a little uneasy at the prospect of having to “sell ourselves” to birthmothers who could choose from an enormous amount of couples waiting to adopt. It was, quite frankly, competitive, and that really bugged me. Do other couples have to “compete” to get a child? Of course not! Then why do we have to? It’s not fair!”

When our daughter turns one next month we will be eligible to start the adoption process again with LDS Family Services and I have felt some of those old concerns creep back up again. Although my husband and I aren’t “old” we’re not in our 20’s anymore. Wouldn’t most birthmothers want to place their child with a couple in their 20’s rather than their 30’s? I am no longer skinny and my husband is going bald. This year I even discovered my first gray hairs- What‘s up with that?! Surely a birthmother would rather choose a couple that looks like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt than a chubby lady and her balding husband, right? Maybe I should lose fifty pounds before we start the adoption process again so that I can be a healthier, more confident mother to my children.

And then there’s the question of WHEN exactly to start the adoption process again: Since it is the Lord’s timing and not our timing we don’t know exactly what to expect, and waiting to adopt is so unpredictable anyway- it could take anywhere from a couple of months to two or three years from the time we are finally approved for adoption till we get that life-changing phone call that our child is HERE!

Other considerations: Maybe we should wait to start the adoption process again until after M. is potty-trained so that we don’t have two babies in diapers at the same time. Maybe we should wait till we have a little more money saved up for a new car (or mini-van). What happens if Molly or Justin come back into the foster care system after we turn in our papers? What if, by some miracle, I get pregnant?

After much consideration, we have decided to wait to start the adoption process again until M. is 18 months old- unless the Lord tells us otherwise, that is. Because one thing we‘ve both learned is that sometimes the Lord‘s plans are different from our own plans. In that case we need to humble ourselves and accept His will which is often easier said than done. It’s all in the Lord’s hands.

2008 FSA Conference

This post was originally published on MEM's MEMOS on August 12, 2008

Over the weekend I attended the 2008 FSA (Families Supporting Adoption) National Conference and it was WONDERFUL!

The theme for the Conference was “One Miracle at a Time” and I don’t think a more appropriate theme could have been chosen. I heard dozens of adoption stories at the conference and each circumstance was unique: some people adopted domestically, while others adopted internationally, some people had an open relationship with their child’s birthmother while others never met the birthmother, a few couples had waited nearly a decade to adopt while some couples were picked by a birthmother almost immediately after they had finished their paperwork and homestudy, some families adopted children who “just so happened” to bear a strong resemblance to them, while others adopted children who don’t look anything like their family as they are a different race or nationality. But the common thread through all of these stories, as varying as each circumstance was, was that every family who had adopted a child was firmly convinced that that particular child was MEANT TO BE in their family and was MEANT TO COME AT THE TIME THEY CAME. I have a very strong testimony of this and I almost get chills thinking about it. I know that M. was meant to be our child.

Many times at the conference when I would hear others recount their adoption stories there were “miracles” involved. I use the term “miracle” because sometimes there are events which take place which just can’t be dismissed as mere “coincidence“. Those events often make people recognize that God understands our wants and needs on such an individualized level, and He has a personal hand in our life- if we let him. That seemed to be another recurring theme in the stories: before these miracles could take place there was often a considerable amount of heartache involved and the individuals touched by these miracles had to humble themselves to the Lord’s will and let go of their own expectations of how their lives would turn out and/or let go of any sort of preconceived notions of what kind of family and children they would end up with. 

I’ve convinced my husband to come to the Conference with me next year and I wish I would have attended before- especially during the time we were just “waiting” for M. to join our family. It’s very frustrating to be expecting a baby and not know the due date. I HIGHLY recommend that any couple who is waiting to adopt-especially if they are losing hope that they will ever get their child- attend the National FSA Conference.

One more plug: I heard Krista Ralston Oakes speak at the Conference. She is the author of this book and the founder of this website. Both are great resources for anybody dealing with infertility and/or miscarriage, or anyone considering adoption.

Mother's Day

This post was originally posted on MEM's MEMOS on May 11, 2008

I have been married for almost eight years now, but today is the very first Mother's Day of my married life that I am actually a mother!! Over the past 5 or 6 years I have dreaded going to church on Mother's Day because invariably a member of the bishopbric or somebody asks all the mothers to stand and be recognized. Even though I wanted nothing more than to be a mother I would have to remain sitting with empty arms and a broken heart and I would feel so out of place. It can be hard to feel valued as a childless woman in a church that places such an emphasis on families. I'm sure single members of my church face similar feelings.

I have also thought about the many other reasons women may have a hard time whenever Mother's Day comes around: there must be some who have had a recent miscarriage or are remembering a child who has died. Perhaps some feel guilty because they have a child who has strayed, or maybe there is a single mother who is overwhelmed by having to take on dual roles of both mother and father to her children.

Today my husband was asked to speak in Church on the topic of motherhood. He did a great job of making the point that ALL women-regardless of whether they are married or have children- can develop mother-like qualities as they nurture, lead, or inspire children. He also quoted from two wonderful talks: M. Russell Ballard's Daughters of God from last month's General Conference and Because She is a Mother (1997) by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. I loved these talks because after reading them, I felt appreciated for the things I had done rather than feeling guilty for not being perfect.

Happy Mother's Day to ALL Women who have a positive influence on children!

Happy Mother's Day to M's birthmother, wherever she may be. It is because of her selflessness and love that I am able to be a mother to such a precious baby girl!

Saying Goodbye To Molly

This post was first published in MEM's MEMOS on April 21, 2008

"Molly" is our foster child who was placed with us last August when she was just 4 months old- just 2 weeks before our daughter, M. was born. M. is ours for keeps. I can’t even express in words how much that means to us. Molly, on the other hand, has to leave our lives. My husband and I have been preparing to say goodbye to Molly for some time now and that time has come. Here are some of my thoughts on seeing her go:

FM 100 and Two Baby Girls

One morning a couple of months ago both babies were up before 7:00, so I changed their diapers and made a bottle for each of them. I laid Molly down at my feet on a blanket since she can hold the bottle herself and I held M. in the rocker as I fed her. I decided to turn some soft music on in the hopes that at least one of the girls might go back to sleep after having a full tummy. I wanted to select something soothing, but I was getting tired of the lullaby CD and the Primary CD I usually play before bedtime, so I decided to turn on the radio to FM 100 in the hopes that there would be something soft enough to lull them to sleep.

After a couple of minutes a Chicago song came on: “If You Leave Me Now, You’ll Take Away the Biggest Part of Me . . . Woooh Oooh Oooh Oh No, Baby Please Don’t Go.” As I listened to the words and especially the phrase “Baby Please Don’t Go” I immediately likened the song to my own life and thought of Molly. After all, she is literally a “baby” and I knew that she had to “go” someday and it wouldn't be easy.The next song that came on was “I Knew I Loved You Before I Met You” (I don’t know the artist- some R&B group). I immediately thought of M. because it’s true- I knew I loved her even before I ever saw her or held her in my arms for the first time. Now I know all of this sounds extremely cheesy, but as I looked at those two baby girls that morning I almost burst out into tears of gratitude for having them both in my life. If somebody would have told me a year ago that I would be able to care for not just one but two babies I would have been giddy with excitement and overwhelmed with joy.

The Service Plan and Permanency Hearing

Molly was originally supposed to be in our care for 7 months- until the end of March. She had spent nearly a month in a sheltered foster home before she was placed with us. For babies, eight months is typically the amount of time that the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) and the judge assigned to the case set forth in what is called the “Child and Family Plan” which basically outlines what needs to be done in order for the birthparents to regain custody of their children, such as getting counseling, taking parenting classes, getting drug tested on a regular basis, and having secure employment and a place of their own. So, if the Permanency Hearing [The Court Hearing to determine whether the birthparents have done all that they need to in the Child and Family Plan to get back custody of their child] was last month in March and it is now April, why do we still have Molly in our care? Well, there is a piece of legislation which states
“According to the Federal Adoption Safe and Families Act (1997) and the Utah Code (Section 78-3a-312) the family has no more than 12 months [8 months if the youngest child is 36 months of age or younger] from date of initial removal to resolve the conditions leading to the out-of-home placement of children and achieve the goal of reunification. If this is not achieved, parent(s) may lose permanent custody of the child through a termination of parental rights or transfer of permanent legal and physical custody to a relative or guardian."
That seems easy enough to understand: If there is a child under 3 years of age and that child’s parents don’t resolve whatever needs resolving within 8 months, their parental rights may be terminated, thus leaving the child legally free for adoption. Right? Well, actually not. I talked to some other foster parents who told me from their past experiences that that particular piece of legislation was a “joke”. Evidently there are some amendments to this Code that a 90 day extension may be given to the parents. It’s all up to the almighty judge.

Last month at the Permanency Hearing, that is exactly what happened: The judge in charge of the case decided to grant a 90 day extension since Molly's parents hadn’t met all the requirements of their Service Plan. I was somewhat surprised that this particular judge decided to grant the extension as I recently found that he has been dealing with Molly's mother in his courtroom from the time she was 13 years old! My husband and I were relieved when we heard about the extension. We both understood that Molly could stay with us for up to three more months so we have been planning on having her in our care until sometime in June when the final Permanency Hearing is scheduled to take place.

I have mixed feelings about extending her time with us: I feel like the longer she’s with us the more attached we will become to each other and it will be all the more painful to say goodbye when she finally leaves. What could be more painful than saying goodbye to a baby you have been caring for over the past 8 months? Logically I know the answer: It has to be more painful for a mother to have her own child taken away from her and then see a complete stranger take over her role as mother to her child. But I don’t want to be unselfish or rational and think about things from someone else’s perspective. Right now I just want to be selfish and overly emotional and feel sorry for myself. Care to join me?

Welcome to My Pity Party

I know that foster care is not an adoption agency. It’s a service project and a gamble: Foster parents must be willing to care for a child in their home with the expectation that the child will most likely be returned to his or her parents. [At least in the state of Utah where child welfare policy leans towards reunification rather than adoption] HOWEVER, the foster parents must also be willing to adopt the child if things don’t work out with the parents. Talk about an emotional roller coaster!

Because of the stress and complications involved, it’s been way too easy and automatic for me to compare myself with Molly's mother and make this a contest of “me” versus “her” in “Who Would Make the Better Parent?”.

ME vs. HER:
  • First of all, who has been caring for Molly for the past eight months? Molly's mother had her for the first three months of her life (who knows how much of that time she was stoned) but I have been caring for her for the majority of her life thus far: two-thirds to be exact as I’ve had her in my care since she was four months old and she just turned one year old this month.
  • Who was it that was with Molly when she first learned to roll over, sit up, crawl, get her first teeth etc.? Was it her birthparents? No, it was us.
  • When Molly first learned to say “ma-ma" and "da-da” was she referring to her birthparents? Nope.
  • Has her mother been the one to get up in the middle of the night for feedings, change poopy diapers, or comfort a teething infant? Nope- me again.
  • Who would make a better parent?: A mother with a criminal record who has already had two of her children taken away from her, has two more children currently in the foster care system, and has recently given birth to another baby while she was in jail OR a mother who has had to get a background check, doctor’s notes, reference letters, and go through training, interviews and complete MOUNDS of paperwork, provide proof of financial stability, and pass a yearly home safety inspection in order to become licensed to care for a child?
  • Who would make a better mother: a woman who is a high school drop out OR a woman with two bachelors degrees, whom, I might add, has taken classes such as child development, parenting theories, and family policy for her degree in HUMAN DEVELOPMENT AND FAMILY STUDIES!
  • Who would make a better mother: An unmarried woman who finds herself pregnant as a teenager OR a married woman who has waited years to become a mother?
These are the kinds of questions that run through my head whenever I play a mental match of “Who Would Make The Better Mother.” I always come out the victor, (Of course!), but then my prideful satisfaction turns to shame and disgust when I realize just how self-righteous and judgmental I’ve been. If there’s one thing I really hate it is self-righteous and judgmental people.

Sometimes I rationalize and feel justified with my smug attitude when I hear family members or friends say something like, “ It should be so obvious who can provide a better life for Molly- Why can’t the Judge see that?” The answer is because it’s NOT a contest! We have no say or consideration in the matter. The only party who may be somewhat interested in J. and I is Molly’s Guardian Ad Liteum [the lawyer who represents the child and acts as an advocate for what is in the child’s best interest]. Tragically, in many cases such as this, the issue at hand is not always necessarily “What is in the child’s best interest?” but rather “Is it safe enough for the child to be reunited with the birthparent(s)? Not even “Will the child be well cared for and happy” but simply “safe enough”. As long as the child is being fed that’s good enough.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Over the past two or three months Molly’s supervised visits with her parents have evolved to unsupervised visits in their home. First they started out as four hours once a week rather than the regular one hour supervised visits at the DCFS building. I thought it was bad enough that Molly would smell like a mixture of her grandma’s cheap perfume mixed with everyone’s cigarette smoke after the supervised visits, but whenever we pick Molly up from her extended visits she totally reeks of smoke and we have to immediately give her a bath and change her into some clean clothes.

For the past couple of months Molly has been visiting her parents on the weekends- eight hours on Saturday and eight hours on Sundays. Two weeks ago Molly’s caseworker called to inform me that her birthparents were ready to start overnight “transitional” visits to prepare her to return home to them. Last weekend was the first transitional visit which went from Friday night to Sunday night. This weekend was her second overnight weekend visit, again from Friday night until Sunday night. Of course we had mixed feelings about extending these visits. On the one hand it means her parents are making enough progress to get her back and that means we have to let her go. On the other hand, it’s best for Molly’s sake to start preparing to be reunited with her parents and get used to her new environment.

Unexpected News

Two days ago Molly’s current caseworker came to our home for a monthly home visit. I say “current” caseworker because this case has been shuffled around between 3 different caseworkers over the past eight months. Ever since the Permanency Hearing in March the big question we’ve had is “When’s the date of the next Permanency Hearing?” I’ve asked this caseworker a couple of different times and she has always said. “I don’t have that information right now, but I’ll have to get back to you.” So I asked her yet again last week when she called to inform me that we would start the extended overnight visits and she said, “There’s a court hearing coming up at the last week of April and we'll know by then if the parents have done enough to start a trial home visit. [A "home trial visit" means that Molly's parents would have Molly returned to them and they will care for her in their home even though the State of Utah still technically has custody of Molly]. It's basically a trial run to see if the parents are ready and if the child adjusts well. I was surprised at this news as I didn't think Molly would be returned to them until the final Permanency Hearing in June. The caseworker went on to explain that although the final permanency hearing in June would determine if Molly's parents would regain custody of Molly, there were some “review hearings” before then to check the parent's progress.

When the caseworker came for the home visit last Friday one of the first things I did was ask her specifically for the date, time and courtroom of the next hearing. She told me the exact date and proceeded to give me the information about the time and courtroom. Then she was a little quiet and said, “But Molly is going to be returning to her parents before then.“ I’m sure she didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news but it’s her job. I felt a lump in my throat but tried to act casual and just said something like, “Yeah, we’ve been preparing for her to leave. It’s going to be hard.”

I'm still a little confused as to why Molly will be returned to her parents before the next hearing, but all the caseworker told me was, "It has been decided that the parents have made enough progress to start a home trial visit."

Friday will be our last day with Molly. That night we will drop her off to her parents. Only this time we won’t be able to pick her up again and bring her “home.”

M's Sealing

This post was originally published in MEM's MEMOS on March 30, 2008.

Earlier this month we went to court to finalize M’s adoption. Here is a picture of the little princess surrounded by her proud parents and grandparents and the judge in the background.

Then . . . Yesterday M. was sealed to us in the Bountiful Temple. My dad was able to officiate. Today my husband blessed her in church. What Joyous Occasions!

These pictures were taken in the Atrium of the Temple Entrance as it was TOO COLD to take pictures outside on the temple grounds.

Our family members who were able to join us on this special day:


She is OFFICIALLY OURS- Hooray!

Adoption Pet Peeves

This post was originally published in MEM's MEMOS on November 2, 2007

Here are three or four "Adoption Pet Peeves" I'd like to share in order to educate others about what NOT to say to anyone who has been adopted, placed a child for adoption, or who has gone through the adoption process.

#1) If you'll notice the terminology I used above, you'll see that I used the phrase "placed a child for adoption" rather than "gave up" for adoption. The reasoning behind this should be evident- if you were adopted would you want to believe that your birthparents "gave you up" like a piece of trash being thrown into the garbage can? Of course not. Furthermore, if you were a birthmother or birthfather who decided to unselflessly put the needs of your child above your own wants or needs by carrying the child to term and searching out for the best possible family for that child's future would you like people to describe your choice as "giving a child up"? God bless those wonderful birthmothers out there for their selflessness!

Even though someone may come to the realization that the term "gave up for" is not the best one to use, many people still use it out of habit. (I used to say it too, not because I was callous, but just because it's what everyone would say to describe adoption.) Here's a suggestion: The next time you happen to hear someone say "gave up" in reference to adoption just gently say, "You mean "placed"?" and it will make them a little more aware of the implications of what they're saying.

#2) Another term I hate people use is when they say of an infertile couple, "They had to adopt." (As if it's a terrible thing). This reminds me of when I hear Mormons say, "I can't drink/smoke/etc. because I'm a Mormon." Well, I happen to be L.D.S. and I can drink, smoke, or rob banks as much I want to. However, I choose not to. The same goes for adoption. My husband and I didn't have to adopt. We wanted to adopt- we chose to adopt!

#3) If a couple has decided to adopt because of infertility issues, please be aware that this is a very personal part of their life and they may not want to discuss it with complete strangers. Case in point: I met one of my husband's relatives for the first time a couple of years ago. As I was being introduced to her I smiled and stuck out my hand for her to shake. The first thing to come out of her mouth was "Alice [name has been changed] tells me you can't have children."

I was stunned and now that I look back on it I love to imagine all of the comments I could have said in reply i.e. "Well, nice to meet you, too!" "You must be head of the Weloming Committee!". "Yeah, ever since that sex change operation my body just hasn't been the same." "I'm sorry- I didn't get the memo that we were going to be discussing my breeding abilities today.". . . You get the picture. But in actuality, I was so taken by suprise that I just stood there with a blank look on my face and nothing would even come out of my mouth. Perhaps I was a little sensitive that day, but that comment felt like an unexpected slap in my face.

Something interesting to note as well, is that "Alice" did not know at that point in time if the cause of our infertility was actually because of me or my husband- [It turns out that the problem did lie with me- but we didn't know that until later]. It's just interesting to note how people always assume it's the woman.

So, what should you do if you want to talk about infertility issues with someone who may be going through them? (And I'm just assuming it would be someone close to you and not a compete stranger!) I have felt that the best thing to do is ask that person if it is something they are comfortable talking about. It's as simple as that. I have another relative who knew that my husband and I wanted to have children but were unsuccessful and she sensitively approached us and asked us if it was okay if she talked to us about some possible options of fertility treatments and specialists of which she had first-hand knowledge. Although we didn't end up pursuing any of those options, we appreciated her concern and her tact in approaching the subject.

#4) This one is not as big of a pet peeve of mine as it is of my husband. He reminded me the other day that I need to be a little more assertive about how I handle these situations when they come up. When talking about an adoptive couple's child's biological parent, please refer to them by using the term "birthmother" or " birthfather" instead of "mom" or "dad". Here is an example of what I mean: Someone was recently noticing our baby's beautiful eyes and they asked, "What color are her mom's eyes?" I immediately tried to remember what color of eyes our baby's birthmother had, but at the same time I was thinking. . . "Wait a minute-I'm this baby's mom. She didn't grow in my womb, but she is mine." I answered the question, but my husband says that the next time someone asks "What color hair does her mom have?" or "What's her mom like?", etc I should look directly at them and say, "You're looking at her."