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.


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:


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."

Our First Foster Placement

Originally published on MEM's MEMOS, November 17, 2007

Not only is today National Adoption Day, but it was also a year ago this week that my husband and I took our first foster placement, a cute and charming 3 year old boy who I will refer to as Justin.

Justin was with us for less than three months. He originally spent some time at The Christmas Box House when he was first taken into state custody and then he spent about six months in a different foster home before being placed with us.

Justin was reunited with his parents at the beginning of last year and they seem to be doing all right. Fortunately, Justin's parents were very easy birthparents to work with- wouldn't it be nice if that were always the case! They have even allowed us to keep in contact with Justin which has eased the pain of not having him in our home anymore.

This is a picture of Justin when he was in our care. I wish I didn't have to black out his eyes, but I will respect confidentiality issues. Like most three-year-old boys, Justin was obsessed with superheroes- especially Superman. We couldn't resist buying him these Superman Pajamas. Then, when my husband and I took him to Build-A-Bear Workshop to design his own stuffed animal all three of us broke out in grins when we saw there was a Superman outfit & cape as one of the options. So, this is Justin with Superbear.

National Adoption Day

This post was originally published in MEM's MEMOS on November 17, 2007

Today is National Adoption Day! What exactly does that mean? It means that today courts and judges from all over the U.S. will be devoting the entire day to finalizing thousands of adoptions! How nice for lawyers and judges involved in Family Law cases to bring families together as part of their job rather than having to see families torn apart through divorce and custody hearings, etc.

Only 3 ½ more months till we can go to court and get M’s adoption finalized! [In the state of Utah couples adopting domestically must wait six months before an adoption is legal. The couple has guardianship of the child as soon as the birthparents relinquish their parental rights, but the child is technically in custody of the adoption agency for the first six months.]

For more information on National Adoption Day, see

Lessons Learned from Foster Care, Part 3

This post was originally published in MEM's MEMOS on April 6, 2009.

Okay, I know you're going to think my husband and I are totally insane, but despite our first experiences with the child welfare sytem, we still decided that we needed to be foster parents. (After all, I'm a glutton for punishment, remember?)

We’ve only had two placements with the Foster Care System so we’re still “newbies.” However, we’ve learned A LOT during our brief time fostering. Here are a few MORE lessons I’ve learned as a foster parent- Things I wish I would have known before our first placement!

Our main concerns about fostering had to do with the children themselves, but now we have come to the conclusion that the “children” were the relatively easy part.

LESSON #5- It’s dealing with birthparents or caseworkers that can be difficult.

Justin was our first placement. His birthparents were very easy to work with. They would always show up to their weekly visitation appointments and expressed gratitude to us for caring for their little boy. They even invited us to keep in contact with him after he was returned to their care. They also invited us to their wedding and to Justin’s Fourth Birthday Party. Justin’s caseworker, however, was a different story.

I know most caseworkers are overworked and underpaid and carry a large caseload. How do I know this? Because shortly after graduating from college I actually interviewed for a casework position with DCFS despite these facts and warnings I had received about the burn-out rate for child welfare workers. (See “A” and “B” from this post). Although I did well on the preliminary required written test and felt good about the two subsequent interviews I had to go through I didn’t end up getting the position. I was kindly told that they were looking for somebody who had some experience. I had a head full of theories and statistics and a desire to rescue children from bad situations, but I had no experience whatsoever. So, yes, I am aware that social work can be very stressful. But in ANY profession isn’t it common courtesy to return a phone call?

LESSON #6- If your caseworker doesn’t feel the need to return your phone calls, then contact his or her supervisor. If the caseworker’s supervisor doesn’t feel the need to return your phone calls, call the supervisor’s supervisor. And so on and so forth. Who knew I could be so assertive!

I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad though- Justin’s birthparents told us that his caseworker never returned their phone calls, either. I guess he thought it only fair to treat birthparents and foster parents with an equal amount of disrespect.

Our second placement, Molly, had three different caseworkers during the time we had her. I really loved one of those caseworkers in particular and I was so bummed when I heard the case had been transferred. Molly’s birthparents, on the other hand, could find NO GOOD in us. They were polite to our faces but then Molly’s caseworker would pull us aside after each weekly visitation and inform us of a complaint they had against us. One week they would complain that her diaper was on too loose, the next week they would complain that her diaper was too tight, etc.

“This case is most likely headed towards adoption after parental rights have been terminated…”

My husband and I have heard this twice before only to get our hearts broken afterwards. The second time we heard it was from Justin’s caseworker. He went on to tell us “Since it looks like you’ll be adopting him, you can look through some of Justin’s medical and family history as well as some files about his parents.” So during one of Justin’s weekly visits at the DCFS building Justin was in one room visiting with his parents while I was in another room taking thorough notes as I looked through files of information about his parents, including their criminal records and mug shots.

LESSON #7- If somebody other than a judge tells you that a child is adoptable DON’T BELIEVE THEM!

LESSON #8- Family and Team Meetings are supposed to happen. And foster parents have every right to be there- You can even call one if you want!

Although Justin’s caseworker would visit our home once a month as required, we only had one Family and Team Meeting during his stay with us. Well, quite technically it was on the day of his Permanency Hearing AFTER he had been returned to his parent’s care.

LESSON #9- Birthparents are not “THE ENEMY” Foster parenting is not a battle of “Birth Parent” vs. “Foster Parents”

I’m hoping I will be a little more sensitive to the feelings of the birthparents involved in our next placement (Even if they do hate us for having their child.) As easy as it is to do I don’t want to make it a contest of “US” versus “THEM”. Nobody is perfect. PERIOD.

LESSON #10 Foster care is not about “US” and our needs- it’s about the children!

In the past I have gotten my hopes up high about possibly adding to our family through adoption or I have whined about how hard it is to see a child leave our home. But foster care isn’t about me- giving me a sense of fulfillment, protecting my feelings, etc.- IT'S ABOUT THE CHILDREN!

Although it was heartbreaking for us (and our families) to see Molly and Justin leave I can honestly say that I wouldn't change having them be a part of of our lives. I learned MUCH, grew tremendously, and "perfected my faith" by learning to be less selfish and accept the will of the Lord.

Lessons Learned from Foster Care- Part 2

This post was originally published in MEM's MEMOS on April 4, 2009

The night that we met with Wendy & Jack in their home we stopped at a store on the way home and bought a crib.  My husband was able to take some time off of work to set it up in the nursery.

A day or two later we were contacted by yet another caseworker who wanted to come to our house, interview us, and do a walk-through inspection of our home so that we could be given a temporary license and have Baby Jack placed with us. She explained that although she wasn't the original caseworker assigned to the case, she was helping out since this was an "emergency" placement of a baby and she had more experience than the newer caseworker assigned to the case. It was nice to finally meet with somebody in person and it made things seem more real.

When we met with this middle-aged and seemingly experienced caseworker we filled out many of the forms we had already filled out for our training (and which I had ALREADY faxed to the Salt Lake DCFS Office & Office of Licensing). She told me to "hang on" to some of the paperwork when I informed her that I had already faxed the information. We also had copies of our driver's licenses, marriage license, and my husband's paycheck stub on hand. We wanted to be prepared with anything we might possibly need so that all of the bureaucratic "red tape" could move along as quickly as possible.

After the interview and inspection we asked the caseworker the BIG Question: "WHEN will Baby Jack be placed in our home?"

Her answer was "Depending on what the judge decides in a hearing scheduled for tomorrow- it could be as soon as tomorrow night." J. and I both exchanged excited looks.

The next day we were just WAITING and WAITING for the phone to ring.

We weren't the only ones either- by this time our family had become engrossed in the drama as well. We finally got a hold of the latest caseworker and she apologized for misinforming us- it turns out that the hearing that was held that day was not to determine when Jack would be placed, but rather to determine whether his removal was warranted or not (and it was.) She didn't know too much more than that.

A couple more days passed and the big question remained "When is Baby Jack going to be placed with us?" Through more phone calls I learned that there were a couple of Child and Family Team Meetings coming up to discuss the placement. When I called Wendy to ask her if she would be going to the meeting her response was "What's a Team Meeting?" She hadn't even been informed about it! She also told me that every time she or Jack would call to get more information they would be given the run-around and nobody seemed to have any definite answers. That sure sounded familiar!

The next couple of days stretched out so that a week had passed. And finally two weeks had passed from the day my sister called me. Over that two week period my husband and I WAITED. Jack & Wendy WAITED. Everybody was WAITING.

Despite all of the phone calls that were made, nobody had any information for us. One day I finally decided to call the Licensor whom I had originally met with in person shortly after I got the call from my sister. She had been courteous to me, and I was hoping she might be willing to shed some light on the subject.

I asked her if she had heard anything from any of the other offices regarding Baby Jack's case or our licensing. She paused- the kind of pause that let me know that something was wrong.

"Have they not told you?" she asked.

I didn't know if "they" referred to DCFS or to the Utah Foster Care Foundation, but I voiced a drawn out "N-o-o-o". Nobody had told me anything. "They" hadn't called.

She sighed and continued sympathetically, "Oh, Mary- I'm not sure if I'm the one who is supposed to be telling you this- but I know how much you've invested in this case. . . Baby Jack has been placed with the family that adopted his half-brother."

I think she went on to tell me something about the rules regarding kinship placements but I wasn't really listening- I was stunned.

"Oh" I replied. I thanked her for telling me and hung up the phone.

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

J. and I hadn't heard from Jack or Wendy for a couple of days. Had they known about this and just not wanted to call and break the news to us? No, that wasn't like them- Maybe Wendy was sick. I finally decided to call them and it turns out that they hadn't even been informed about the placement either! As soon as they found out they apologized for "dragging us into this mess". They expressed their frustrations with DCFS and they became very worried that they would lose all contact with their grandson because of his placement.

My husband and I were heartbroken to say the least. We were also very disappointed in "The System". To be told that a child would be placed in our home only to be left hanging with no additional information seemed so cruel and calloused. In the least it was extremely unprofessional, which is why we decided to at least make our voices heard.

We quickly learned about DCFS Hierarchy so that we could speak to someone as "high up" as possible. We talked with the Deputy Ombudsman for the Salt Lake Office. Although she was sympathetic to our cause, she informed us that if we wanted to file a formal complaint with DCFS their office caseload was such that they wouldn't be allowed to look into it for 6 months (because of the number of complaints they had). Imagine that! The Deputy Ombudsman then forwarded our information on to the State Office Constituent, whom we met with in person at her office.

In addition to the State Office Constituent we met with some of the caseworkers we had interacted with (including the caseworker who came to our home to interview us and inspect our home, via Conference Call). They heard us out and offered their apologies in how the case was handled. The caseworker who came to our home was genuinely sorry. She said she was just "following orders" from her supervisor and wasn't even aware that other families were being considered as placement options.

"It's not so much that the child wasn't placed with US" we both tried to emphasize, "But it's the misinformation and lack of follow-up communication which we feel was so unprofessional. We just want to make sure that this type of thing doesn't happen again- We don't want another couple to have to go through what we did."

A short time later a representative from the Utah Foster Care Foundation (A woman who used to do casework for DCFS but now works recruiting Foster Parents) came to our home. We had met with this woman once before when we originally contacted the Utah Foster Care Foundation for more information about fostering. This woman expressed her disgust for how the case was handled and she apologized PROFUSELY for the actions of DCFS.

LESSON #4- I have found that DCFS is there to advocate for the child first, then the birthparents. The rights and feelings of foster parents, however, don't receive much attention.

The Utah Foster Care Foundation, on the other hand, is a great advocate for foster parents. After all, they are the ones who try to find families who are willing to provide foster care and they are the ones who are in charge of training foster parents. They are the also the ones who help run The Christmas Box House.

Is it just a coincidence that a government bureaucracy treats its clients much more impersonally than a non-profit organization? (Just something to think about).

SO. . . Whatever happened to Baby Jack, his birthmother, and Jack & Wendy?

Baby Jack was adopted by the foster family that adopted his half-brother. Fortunately, Jack & Wendy are able to keep in contact with Baby Jack and his half-brother on a regular basis. They are enjoying retirement and grandkids and Wendy's breast cancer is in remission and she's doing great!

Wendy's earlier prediction about her daughter came to fruition: Tragically, Baby Jack's birthmother died of a heroin overdose.

Lessons Learned from Foster Care- Part 1

This post was originally published in MEM's MEMOS on April 4, 2009

I'll be the first to admit that throughout most of my life when I’ve heard the term “foster child” an image would pop into my mind of an out-of-control teenager with a bunch of behavioral problems or of an unkempt child with a perpetually snotty nose and lice. I know that’s judgmental of me- but it’s the truth. I discovered that my husband had similar prejudices and perceptions the first time I mentioned to him that I felt like we were supposed to do foster care. He looked at me like I had lost my mind.

It wasn't until October of 2005 that we finally put our fears aside and got started on the paperwork, background checks, medical & reference letters, and 32 hours of classes to become licensed foster care providers.

“Are we supposed to do foster care so that we end up adopting a child?” my husband eagerly asked me.

I wished that I could look into a crystal ball like a fortune teller and see a clear picture of our future, but I couldn't give him a definite answer. Sure, it would be nice if we could adopt a child through foster care, but I honestly didn’t know what the outcome would be.

“I don’t know,” was all I could tell him. “I just know we’re supposed to do it.”

One morning when we were a couple of weeks away from finishing up all of the training and having our background checks cleared I got a phone call from my sister. She had just gotten off of the phone with our cousin who wanted to know if she knew of anybody who would be willing to take a five month old baby boy into their home. I’ll give you the circumstances and background surrounding that phone call, but the names have been changed.
BACKGROUND: My sweet cousin Hannah and her husband Jack were happily married and had three kids. Then Hannah died from complications of lupus when she was in her 40's. Everyone was crushed, especially Jack and his three children. However, Jack eventually remarried a woman named Wendy and they continued to stay close to Hannah's family.

Wendy had some grown children of her own, including a 32 year old daughter I'll call "Kristin". Kristin had been a drug addict since the time she was 16 and had given birth to three children. Kristin chose to place her first child for adoption. Her second child, a baby boy, was taken away from her and put into foster care because of her drug use. This baby was eventually adopted by his foster family.

Kristin and her boyfriend, who was also a heroin addict, had recently had a child together- another baby boy whom they named "Jack" after his step-grandfather. Kristin claimed that she was able to stay clean during her pregnancy (she admitted later that she was using during the pregnancy) and Baby Jack was a beautiful and happy blonde-haired blue-eyed boy who appeared to be very healthy.

Tragically, when Baby Jack was five months old his father died of a heroin overdose. This, of course, upset Kristin and she started using even more. 
Jack and Wendy opened their home to Kristin and Baby Jack, but Wendy had enough experience as Kristin's parent to know that she could not enable her daughter's addiction by letting her stay with them while she was using. As hard as it must have been, Jack and Wendy were firm in not letting Kristin stay in their home while she used. On the other hand, they were also worried that Kristin would start living on the streets and take baby Jack with her. It eventually got to the point that Jack and Wendy had to call the cops on Kristin- and when the cops got involved and heard the story, they called DCFS.
So why was DCFS called if baby Jack was being cared for in a safe home by his grandparents? Well, there are a couple of other facts that come into play- namely, that Jack and Wendy were both in their 50s and although they had been the temporary primary caregivers to their grandson, they thought that in the long run it would be best for Baby Jack to be raised by a younger family rather than by them. To complicate things further, Wendy had been undergoing treatments for breast cancer and she would have to return to work soon in order to continue receiving medical benefits.

DCFS consequently removed Jack from his grandparent's home and he was placed in the Salt Lake Christmas Box House. By this point Wendy and Jack were desperate to find a family they trusted who would be willing to care for Baby Jack and possibly adopt him if it came to that.

As my sister heard this information she immediately thought of J. and I: We had been married for five years and although we had wanted to add to our family, we still had no children. We had also just bought our first home earlier that year. My sister mentioned our names to my cousin, who gave another piece of crucial information: "There's a catch- DCFS is trying to find a home for baby Jack in 30 days or less and he needs to go to a family that is licensed to do foster care."
My sister excitedly informed my cousin that J. and I were in the process of getting our foster care license even though we didn't know the reason why we were supposed to do so. She then called me immediately after getting off of the phone with our cousin and as the details unfolded, everything suddenly seemed to just make sense to me and fall into place. "This has to be the reason we're supposed to do foster care!" I thought.

The next couple of days were HECTIC to say the least. Unfortunately, I can't remember all of the details because 15 pages of my journal from that time were LOST after our computer crashed. AARRGGGH!

Here's what I DO remember, though:
  • Calling my husband immediately after my sister called me to tell him the news
  • Talking to Wendy on the phone to get more information about her daughter, Baby Jack, and the caseworkers involved in the case. Wendy was very straightforward with me when she told me that if her daughter didn't get the help that she needed she would most likely die very soon- either from living on the streets or directly from the drugs themselves.
  • Making MANY MANY phone calls to anyone and everyone at DCFS who had any information whatsoever on the case (I'm sure they were SO sick of my incessant pestering!) The CPS Worker I talked to on the phone was very helpful in giving me information. She told me that Baby Jack was (understandably) having a hard adjustment at the Christmas Box House. That broke my heart. Other caseworkers I talked with would give me the run-around or couldn't/wouldn't give me much information
  • Being in such a hurry to drive down to the nearest Licensing Office to submit all of our paperwork that I scraped the right rear-view mirror of our car against our garage (I still have a big scratch on my car to this day!)
  • Eagerly explaining my situation in person to a Licensor only to be told that the information needed to come directly from a caseworker involved directly with the case, and in turn
  • Faxing our forms to Baby Jack's caseworker who informed me that our paperwork needed to be sent to the licensing office nearest them rather than our licensing office. Foster parents care for children in their geographic region; We were in the "Northern" Region but Baby Jack's case originated in Salt Lake so things were a little complicated
  • Making more phone calls, more faxes, more e-mails, etc.
  • Meeting with Jack & Wendy in their home where we discussed the situation further. They were eager for their baby grandson to be in a loving home as soon as possible, where they could keep in contact with him. My husband and I were more than willing to take baby Jack into our home whether it was on a temporary or permanent basis. It seemed like a no-brainer, but since Baby Jack was in State Custody it was their policies and procedures which determined where he would end up rather than our own wishes.
Here are the first couple of lessons that I quickly learned about "The System" during those few days:

LESSON #1- The Utah Foster Care Foundation (a non-profit, private foundation), The Office of Licensing (State-run), and The Division of Child and Family Services (State-run) are three separate agencies which work together to find homes for children in State Custody. Although these agencies have a united purpose, communication between each of the agencies isn't always the most effective or expeditious, nor are each of these agencies always on the "same page" concerning the same case.

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).

Although Baby Jack's Stepgrandfather was my cousin-in-law we weren't related by blood, so J. and I weren't at the "top" of the list of possible placements. There were two other options for homes for Jack: the birthfather's family or the foster family who had adopted Baby Jack's half-brother. Although it was decided in a Team Meeting that Baby Jack's father's family wouldn't be a good option for caring for him, Baby Jack's paternal grandparents wanted to see him go to a good home. The other option didn't look likely either as the family that adopted Baby Jack's half-brother had just had a baby.

One thing sounded pretty certain, however: a few of the caseworkers we had talked with told us "based on the birthmother's history, this case will probably turn out in an adoption rather than reunification."

It turns out the case did end up in adoption- but we were not meant to be the adoptive family.


Why I Do Foster Care

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

I have felt an urge to write about Foster Care- it's been on my mind a lot lately. I would like to briefly answer the question of “Why I Decided to Become a Foster Parent in the First Place.” Any guesses? I’ll make this multiple choice for you:


A) I have a bleeding heart.
B) I’ve always been interested in Child Welfare
C) I haven’t had much success in producing my own children so I figured I might as well care for other people’s children.
D) I’m a glutton for punishment
E) I just “felt” like I was “supposed” to

The answer is all of the above. (I guess it was a trick question).

I would eventually like to write about “C” and “E” in more detail which is challenging because
1) I don’t have the time right now and
2) There’s SO MUCH TO COVER that I’m afraid my posts would turn into a novel.
We’ll see what happens. In the meantime I have a few more posts on the topic of foster care.


After realizing that I have over 30 posts on my "regular blog" on the topics of foster care and adoption I've decided to start a separate blog specifically about my experiences with foster care, adoption, and infertility.