Friday, May 27, 2011

Versatile Blogger Award

I recently received a Versatile Blogger Award.

I was flattered and somewhat surprised seeing as how I only write about more or less two different topics on this blog, as opposed to my regular blog (which is full of random thoughts consists of a smorgasboard of varying topics.)

The official "rules" of accepting this award are as follows:

1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them.

Thank you William and Alicia- What a fun surprise!  Incidentally, William and Alicia are hoping to adopt, so take a look at their adoption blog, grab their button, and help spread the word.

2. Tell 7 things about yourself.

1. I served a mission for my church in three Southwestern States: Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

2. Although I am a native Utahn I've only been skiing once (and I hated it).

3.  I am a great aunt- literally.  I have one grandniece and two grandnephews [and over 40 nieces and nephews].

4.  My favorite job was working in a library. While I worked there I often had dreams of alphabetizing and sorting books. Even now I have to resist the urge to Dewey Decimalize or alphabetize all of the books in my home.

5. I am not afraid to leave the house without wearing make-up.

6.  If I were rich I would hire a personal chef because I hate deciding what to make for dinner every night.

7.  I would love to go back to school and get a Master's Degree in Social Work or Marriage and Family Therapy.

3. Pay it forward and award the Versatile Blogger to 15 recently discovered new bloggers.

Fifteen?  So many blogs-so little time!  I'm going to tweak the rules on this one (for the sake of time) and I am just going to bestow the honor on five blogs.  After all, I did pay it forward when I received the Sunshine Award.

ver·sa·tile   adj.
1. Capable of doing many things competently.
2. Having varied uses or serving many functions:

And the award goes to (drumroll) . . . 
Perhaps I'll do a future post on why I chose these blogs, but for now this will suffice.
Congratulations, Ladies!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Considerations for Foster and Adoptive Placements

A question every prospective adoptive parent or foster family should ask themselves is this:

“What are our personal preferences for the children who come into our home?" 
In other words, what do you feel comfortable with in terms of the gender, age, race, and medical conditions of the children who could join your family?  Just as important to consider is what aspects and conditions of a child's background you don't feel comfortable with.
If you're a single parent then the question can be revised to "What preferences and criteria are important to ME?" However, in healthy marriages such important family decisions will be joint decisions; therefore "us" and "our" overrides the "me" and "my".  For instance, perhaps a medical condition or the issue of race really isn't a big deal to one spouse, but if it is of concern to the other spouse, then by all means don't agree to something unless you both unanimously feel good about it!
Another vitally important consideration to take into account when adding more children into your family through foster care or adoption is “How will this child effect the other children in my family?”
For example, I happen to know a wonderful woman who has considered doing foster care and I’m confident she would make a wonderful foster mother. However, she has weighed that decision carefully against the fact that her young son has autism and requires special attention. It’s great to want to care for other people’s children, but ultimately (in my humble opinion) one’s own children should be your first responsibility and priority.  Otherwise your  children, who need you the most, can run the risk of becoming overlooked.
On a personal level, perhaps the biggest "criteria" for our family right now in considering which children to adopt or foster is AGE of the child.  Gender isn't a deciding factor for us because we would be thrilled with a boy or girl.  But at this point in time we’ve come to the agreement (there's that important word again!) that we would like to maintain the age order of the children already in our family.  In other words, we feel that a child (or children) who is younger than our daughter would be the best fit for our family.  Obviously other foster and adoptive families don’t feel the same and choose to adopt out of birth order- it’s a very personal decision for each family based on their individual dynamics. 
Herein lies our dilemma: Our daughter is only three and a half years old.  Couple that with the fact that HEALTH OF A CHILD is another paramount factor in considering which children to foster or adopt and that greatly reduces the number of children available for us to adopt domestically. 
Many if not all of the babies and toddlers available for adoption from foster care are medically fragile and require specialized life-long care.  In our relatively limited experiences fostering and adopting, my husband and I have cared for drug-exposed children, a premature baby, children with speech and developmental delays requiring therapy, a child with a moderate attachment disorder and even an infant with a heart murmur.  Although we're more capable than we initially thought we were, we both still have a lot of fears and concerns which keep us from saying "yes" to two specific conditions which are very common among babies available for adoption from the foster care system: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and brain injuries resulting from Shaken Baby Syndrome.  As a prospective caregiver and parent I find both conditions extremely intimidating.  But perhaps the most disturbing and tragic part about these conditions is that they are ENTIRELY preventable. 
I’m all too aware that people can be judgmental- especially when you choose to write about such personal decisions in a public forum.  Doubtless there are some individuals who look down on me for not adopting the first baby or toddler available for adoption.  In fact, sometimes I even ask myself, “Is it selfish of me not to adopt a child with severe special needs?”  I’ve come to two conclusions:
1)     My family will adopt the child that is right for us and that child may or may not end up having special needs.  In other words, we’re adopting a child not a checklist of criteria.  But by the same token, we need to carefully consider the amount of work and dedication involved in caring for possible placements, as well as what impact it would have on the other children in our home.

2)     Because people are judgmental you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t*.  In other words, adoptive couples may be judged for not considering children who have special needs but people may also question their motives for wanting to adopt a child with special needs in the first place (including any child older than a newborn).

*Similar judgments can be applied to adoptive parents regarding the race of their child.  If a prosepective adoptive couple chooses not to adopt a child of a different race they may be labeled "racist."  However, if a family does adopt a child of a different race they may be unjustly accused of  removing the child from his or her heritage or "people".

Consider the perspective expressed by Mary Hopkins-Best in her book Toddler Adoption.  Hopkins-Best spoke of an adoptive couple who adopted a toddler "because it made them feel self-righteous, not because they were committed to their children's needs."  Hopkins-Best spoke harshly of  adopted parents who are motivated to adopt by “pity or a sense of duty, neither which is healthy for the child or the parents."
Hopkins-Best went on to say:

“During my many years preparing teachers of children with special needs, I have had to redirect a number of prospective candidates who were motivated by a similar pity for children with disabilities.  Pity devalues the object of the pity and allows the perpetrator to maintain a sense of superiority and self-righteousness.”

I’m still trying to decide how I feel about that statement.  On the one hand, I agree that self-righteousness is a poor motive for any decision, but on the other hand, sometimes compassion and pity are exactly what are needed in order for us to step outside of ourselves and reach out to others. 

As far as adoptive or prospective adoptive couples seeking out a child with a specific medical condition or special needs is concerned, there are instances where it makes perfect sense to me.  For example, I know of one foster mother who requests to have diabetic children placed in her home because she is experienced in measuring glucose levels, giving insulin shots, and making sure that children follow a low-sugar diet.  I know of a prospective adoptive couple who are considering adopting a child with a cleft lip or palate since it runs in the husband’s family.  Such instances arise from a sense of practicality rather than self-righteous pity.  It's as if the family's life experiences and associations have prepared them to be the best fit for their child and I don't believe that is something that happens by accident.

Inquiring About Waiting Children

As a prospective adoptive parent I've certainly looked over profiles of Waiting Children before in search of a child.  However, it wasn't until recently that I took the next step in the process and actually filled out and submitted the necessary forms with the intent of becoming a permanent family for a child.  After all, that's a HUGE decision which carries tremendous responsibility and as such it should not be taken lightly!

So what is it that has stopped me from seriously inquiring about Waiting Children in the past?  I think a lot of it has to do with the same fears and concerns I had to face when deciding to do foster care in the first place. A litany of doubts fill my mind, and at the forefront is this one: 

"Children who are placed in the foster care system have been through SO MUCH already.  What makes me and my home the best place for them? Wouldn’t they be better off with someone who has a formal training in grief and loss counseling, attachment theories, behavior modification, etc. to meet their special needs?"

Then I have to remind myself What parent to any child has all the experience they need in nursing, parenting, psychology, discipline, etc. when they become a parent for the first time?

You can try to prepare all you want, but there are some things in life that you just have to learn by doing.  
So I'm proud of myself for getting out of my comfort zone and and finally  {a couple of months ago} inquiring about a Waiting Child- Two waiting children to be exact- a sibling group!  Incidentally, when two friends from the adoption community saw the same profile of the children they each separately sent me the link with virtually the same message of “I thought of your family when I saw these children.”

Although nothing came from my inquiry (otherwise I would have a heck of a lot more to be writing about right now) I was contacted by our caseworker with DCFS within a week of inquiring about the children since I listed her name on the form. She was contacted by the children’s caseworker and had some additional information to share with me about the children’s case and their backgrounds, the most pertinent information being that the children would most likely not be placed with our family because the Guardian Ad Liteum assigned to the case was concerned that they be placed in a family where they were the youngest or only children and could have plenty of individualized attention paid to them. I initially thought that the older sibling of the two was younger than our daughter but upon closer look I discovered that he was actually just three days older- talk about “artificial twinning”!

Although there was a gender difference which would greatly reduce any competition between twins and siblings close in age- artificial or not- this child and his younger sibling were still so relatively close in age to our daughter that the powers that be didn’t think our family would be a good fit for them. Although I was somewhat disappointed I was also very relieved that the screening process to find which families can best meet the needs of the children was given such high consideration. Our Resource Family Consultant went on to explain that finding permanency is the ultimate goal for these children. It would be too risky and unfair to them to be placed with a family if it didn’t work out. I wholeheartedly agree. 

SO . . . My questions for you, Dear Readers, are these:

*Have you ever inquired about a Waiting Child?  If so, what hopes or frustrations have you encountered during the process?

*Has anyone out there ever adopted as a result of inquiring about a Waiting Child?

I'd love to hear some success stories!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Might Be . . .

I’m starting to feel like a bit of a blogger slacker since I haven’t posted anything in over 3 weeks but I can assure you it’s NOT because I haven’t had any adoption or foster care issues at the forefront of my mind- I just haven’t sat down to write about them (at least publicly) and/or I am hesitant to disclose too much about what’s going on in this personal area of my life because things are so uncertain at this point in time. 

The truth is that my family and I have been spending a lot of time bonding and attaching with a specific child over the past couple of months. Not with a new foster placement, not with a baby or child placed with us through our adoption agency, but with a child who we “might” be able to adopt through a private adoption. That’s the precise reason why I haven’t written about it yet- because “might” is only “maybe”- it’s no guarantee.

My mind keeps going back to the analogy of a woman who “might” be pregnant. The problem again with that uncertain word- “might” is that a woman either is or isn’t pregnant- there’s no in between. And even when a woman does finally take a pregnancy test and gets the needed confirmation that she is, in fact, pregnant, it’s probably too risky to announce the pregnancy to others- as excited as she may be at the prospect- until she is past her first trimester or so because what if she has a miscarriage?

This is exactly where we’re at right now- not with a “real” pregnancy of course, but in our journey of expecting a child to join our family nonetheless. Part of me is so excited about the possibility that I want to shout it from the rooftops, but the voice of reason (and to some degree, pessimism) fills me with caution and restraint. What if it doesn’t end up working out? Might is a hopeful word but it can also be very frustrating- especially when you want things to move along but circumstances are totally out of your control. Sounds a lot like foster care, eh?

I do in fact feel like we’re at that point with a foster placement where you ultimately want what’s best for your foster child, but at the same time you are convinced that given the particulars of the situation,  YOU are what’s best for the child when you consider all of the alternatives for their future and yet you can’t do anything about it so you just have to wait for the next court date or to see how visits go or what progress their parents make.  We're also feeling like the more time we spend with this child the more attached we are becoming to each other and the harder it will be to have to say goodbye if it comes to that.  Again, it's very reminisent of foster care.

I know this post is awfully vague, but hopefully I’ll be able to give some more details in the near future. In the meantime I’m studying these books:

Stay tuned.