Friday, January 28, 2011

Preparing to Say Goodbye to George

This week I took George to his first transitional visit to meet his relatives who will become his new foster family, (and most likely his permanent family through adoption.) If it’s not confusing enough to try and explain to a two-year old “Meet your new mommy and daddy” this visit took place shortly after he had a visit at the DCFS office with his “other” mommy and daddy. The judge still insists that George have visits with his first caregivers despite the fact that he will not be returning to their care.

I was very anxious to finally meet George’s new parents and they seem very nice, a little nervous (who wouldn’t be!), but eager to embark on this new adventure of welcoming a little boy into their family. Incidentally, they don’t even know George’s birthmother personally, but can easily track how they are related. George’s new parents are fairly young and have no children and both work during the day, so it looks like George will be spending a lot of time in day care. Fortunately, they are both going to be able to take off a week off of work to help bond with George which will hopefully give him a better sense of permanency.

I brought a detailed list to the visit of George’s routines and likes and dislikes and a couple of concerns they should be aware of in the hopes that the transition can go as smoothly as possible for everyone. The caseworker is planning on having one more visit next week before moving him into his caregiver’s care for good over the weekend. There was the option of having them take him for the weekend for a “trial run” and seeing how things went from there, but it would probably be far too confusing for George to spend a weekend or overnight with them and then get shuffled back to us.

Besides his adjustment to his new home, my other biggest concern about George leaving has been how our daughter will react. I was extremely relieved that she seemed to be okay with the prospect of her foster brother going “home” sooner than we expected when I first mentioned it to her. We originally told her that we would be babysitting him until the summer, so when I told her that he would be leaving soon and asked how she felt about it she candidly answered, “That’s okay because then he won’t step on my toes or push me.” Most of the time they’ve gotten along well but they’ve definitely had their squabbles, too- just like “regular” siblings. Squabbles or not, she's going to miss him because a couple of days ago when I brought it up again, but put a time frame on his deaprture- that he would be leaving next week- I think it made it more real to her and in between sobs she would say, "But I don't want him to go to his parents!" 

I think this placement has been a lot harder on our little girl than our previous placement because she’s had to compete more for attention and toys, etc. Maybe at this point in time a baby would be a better fit for our family. We’ve fostered a pre-schooler before, but then again we didn’t have any other children at the time so we were able to focus all of our attention solely on his needs.

Speaking of which, I hope that the fact that George’s relatives don’t have any other children will be a big asset in terms of being able to spend one-on-one time with him and showering him with all of the love and attention he needs. Let the bonding begin!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Scamming Birthmothers versus Legitimate Birthmothers

My husband has compared me to a giddy teenager whenever we get contacted by a birthmother. As much as I’d like to think he’s exaggerating, and that I’m much more calm and collected than he gives me credit for, his assessment is pretty accurate. Whenever a birthmother takes the time to contact us it’s like I’m momentarily transformed back to high school. I’m suddenly sixteen years old again and I just heard that someone wants to know if I’ve been asked to the prom yet. I squeal in excitement and my first instinct is to rush to the phone to call up my best friends and share the news [because when I was a teenager it was in the days before texting or e-mailing & we actually used phones to “talk” to each other]. Maybe I haven’t been asked to the prom yet as this melodramatic scenario plays out in my mind, but that’s not the point. The point is that someone out there is wondering if I’ve been asked yet and the anticipation of being asked and the speculating about who the interested party is and the daydreaming about what dress I’ll wear and how I’ll do my hair is half the fun. Because other than high school graduation, what single event is more important in a teenage girl’s life than her Junior Prom, right?

Similarly, what single event is more exciting to a hopeful adoptive couple than being contacted by a birthmother?

Unfortunately, one scam is all it takes to replace any feelings of excitement on the part of a hopeful adoptive couple with mistrust towards any potential birthmothers. I know this because my husband and I have been scammed- more than once. Many other times we’ve been contacted by birthmothers and didn’t even bother responding back because there were just too many “red flags” about the situation, such as:

-Using a different name than their e-mail address contains

-Sharing information that seems just too good to be true, such as:
  • Reporting to be pregnant with twins (Two for one!)
  • Finding out the sex of the baby next week or next month (What adoptive couple wouldn’t want to stay in contact to find out?)
  • The due date being around Christmastime (How exciting!)
-Giving inconsistent information

(Stating different due dates, or conflicting facts about the pregnancy or birthfather)

-Tales of financial hardship: “I can’t afford to raise this baby”

-Tales of emotional hardship: “My parents kicked me out when they found out I was pregnant and I have nobody to turn to for support.”, etc.

-Unwillingness to come into an adoption agency or work through a lawyer

-Contacting adoptive couples by way of a generic form letter

I’d like to write about the last four red flags in a little more detail, because they are the ones I’ve most commonly encountered. Sometimes it can be hard to find the balance between giving someone the benefit of the doubt and detecting dishonesty, especially if you happen to be sympathetic and caring by nature. Unfortunately, my compassion or concern have slowly been chipped away to the point that each time we are now contacted by a birthmother I have to ask myself “Is this a legitimate birthmother who is contacting us because she is truly interested in placing her child with us?” OR “Is this just another scam?”


“I am due on such and such date. If you’re interested in learning more call me or e-mail me.”

Granted, I can’t begin to understand what a daunting task it must be to choose a family to be the parents for my child when there are so many capable possibilities to choose from. However, one thing that turns me off is when I’m contacted by a birthparent- legit or not- through an impersonal and vague form letter. Perhaps the situation is, in fact, real, but as with our first adoption, I would much prefer to have a birthmother entrust us with the sacred responsibility of raising her child AFTER she has done some serious and most likely heart-wrenching soul-searching & decision making. It would be nice to know that as part of that decision-making process a birthmother has contacted us because she’s actually looked over our profile and found something about us that gives her a reason to consider us as adoptive parents in the first place as opposed to contacting all possible prospective adoptive parents from a list and then waiting for the first one to respond or give her some attention

One thing our caseworker suggested to us in dealing with such contacts is to respond back with the following question:

What is it about our family or our profile that stood out to you?

It may seem kind of self-centered, but if the birthmother doesn’t respond back then we know that she isn’t necessarily interested in our family, but is probably just looking for any prospective adoptive family to respond. I may be slightly disappointed if I don’t get a response back, but not when I consider the fact that I would much rather that any birthmother who is truly considering placing a child with us does so because she believes we could be the right family for her child.


“I can’t afford to raise this baby”

When I hear of a birthmother wanting to place a child because she can’t “provide financially” for the needs of her child I am torn between what to think. My first reaction is “Wow- that’s really sad." Yet the cynical part of me thinks “This person probably isn’t even pregnant if the first thing they mention is not having enough money. They’re just trying to make a buck by playing off of the emotions of a couple who would give anything for a child.”

Poverty can definitely be a factor in not being able to raise a child, but if it is the only reason for placing a child for adoption, then I think the birthparents need to be aware of resources available to them, such as WIC, food stamps, subsidized day care, government housing, etc.

I think the most frustrating thing about birthmother scammers is that for every scammer out there who makes a mockery of an adoptive couple’s highest hopes, there’s an honest girl or woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy who is trying to make the hardest decision she’ll ever have to make and if she does get up the courage to contact a prospective adoptive couple they may not take her story seriously. . . Especially if her situation happens to resemble any of the “red flags” of birthmother scammers.

It is very possible that a woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy has some TALES OF EMOTIONAL HARDSHIP to share: (Doesn’t everyone go through hard times at some point in their life?)

“My parents kicked me out when they found out I was pregnant and I have nobody to turn to for support.”

“My boyfriend/husband just walked out on me.”

“I was raped.”

To ensure that any birthmother contacts aren’t just “emotional scammers” but are legitimately looking to make an adoption plan for their child I ask the following question:

Where (or whom) are you turning to for support- family, friends, clergy, adoption agency, etc.?

I ask this question because I think it’s VITAL to ask any woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy about her support system, regardless of if she decides to place or parent. If she is serious about making an adoption plan for her child then hopefully she’ll have the maturity and courage to seek help from reputable adoption professionals. Even if she doesn’t end up placing her child- or if she ends up placing with an entirely different family- she can seek help and support from a caseworker or counselor during what surely must be a difficult time.


If a prospective birthmother contact becomes hesitant about working with an adoption agency or handling an adoption through the proper legal authorities, then I can’t help but figure she’s just in it for money or attention.

Legitimate birthmothers, on the other hand, realize that making an adoption plan isn’t solely about them, nor is it about pleasing or disappointing an adoptive couple, or doing what’s most popular or easiest. Such birthmothers seriously consider all of their options and are willing to do anything- no matter how difficult- out of pure love for their child.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ten Days Notice

It’s been two weeks since we got our “Ten Day Notice” that George will be removed from our home. Still no word about when he can start his transitional visits with his new foster family and, likewise, still no word about WHEN he will be leaving our home.

On the one hand I guess I can’t take it personally that our questions aren’t being answered, because I know we’re not the only foster family out there and George is currently in a safe place so perhaps DCFS is thinking his case isn’t a priority compared to the gazillion other cases they have. On the other hand, it sure would be nice if my family would be considered more than just a “glorified babysitter” for the state. {Glorified babysitter is a term I read on Mama Foster’s blog that resonated with me.}

Most importantly, each day that George remains with us is another day that he will become increasingly attached to us while he could be attaching to his new caregivers. Who knows what his new family is thinking while having to wait to meet him- their background checks have passed (and that can take up to a couple of months), their training is completed and their home study has been approved. Patience is a virtue- or rather a necessity so you don’t lose your mind- when doing foster care!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

FAQ about Foster Care

Fellow adoptive mother Marianne has asked me to guest post HERE today.
I answered some Frequently Asked Questions about Foster Care.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A New Mommy and Daddy

George is getting a new mommy and daddy. Not the mommy and daddy who have been raising him since he was a baby. Not the strangers he was placed with 10 short weeks ago (us) whom he now refers to as mommy and daddy- and not his birthmother, but some relatives of his birthmother who have passed their background check and home study and are interested in fostering and most likely adopting him.

We learned this yesterday from his caseworker during a home visit. From the beginning of George’s placement she had mentioned that there was a distant cousin of his birthmother’s who might be interested in pursuing a kinship placement. Yesterday she informed us that after meeting with George’s birthmother (in jail) she wants him to be placed with her cousin rather than her friends who have been caring for him most of his life due to their criminal backgrounds and other reasons. However, the judge over the case is still adamant that George have visits twice a week with his previous caregivers even though he will not be returning to their care as kin always have legal precedence for placement and adoption of foster children.

The biggest question on my mind about this change of events was “WHEN will George be leaving? How much longer do we have with him?” Our caseworker informed us that she must officially give foster parents ten days notice before a child is moved to another home. (Which is nice considering we only have a few hours to a few days notice before child is placed with us.)

However, George’s caseworker wisely wants to set up some transitional visits with his soon-to-be caregivers, including overnight visits, for at least a couple of weeks before whisking him away to a totally new environment (AGAIN). Having to spend the night in a totally new environment is my biggest concern for George. Is it going to be a repeat of what he went through his first couple of weeks with us: Crying out for this mommy and daddy? Is he going to think that we’ve totally abandoned him?

I’m just crossing my fingers and praying that his new mommy and daddy are full of patience and love. And I’m glad that his relatives were able to come forward so early in the case, too.