Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Safe Haven Miracle & Hope For Abandoned Babies

A few months ago I was deeply disturbed to read a local news story of a woman who had {allegedly} killed six of her newborn babies and then hidden their remains in her garage.   (A seventh baby was found but was a stillborn.)   “WHAT IN THE WORLD was going through this woman’s mind to do something so heinous?”  I wondered. 

The emotions in my mind as I read that story were similar to what I felt when I came across the account I wrote about previously of a “discarded” (but living) baby in China- only this local case seemed much more bizarre and tragic considering there were multiple casualties, including the mother herself.  (Because let’s face it- nobody in their right mind could possibly do something like that.  And although mental illness, deep personal issues, and a lack of support never excuse someone from taking innocent lives, God is the only one who truly knows what drove this woman to take such a horrific path not just once but several times.)
Stories of child and infant abandonment, abortion, or child abuse and neglect in general always strike a particularly sensitive chord within me as an infertile woman and an adoptive and foster mother.  I’m aware of so many families who would give anything- and some who have given everything- to have a child or bring another child into their family.  Doubtless others who heard the disturbing news story also thought, as did I “Why couldn’t this woman have handed the babies over to the care of someone else or anonymously taken them to a hospital or fire station?”  Enter Safe Haven Laws.
Q:  What exactly is a Safe Haven Law? 
I like this definition from the Child Welfare Information Gateway:
A:  “Baby Moses laws” or infant safe haven laws have been enacted as an incentive for mothers in crisis to safely relinquish their babies to designated locations where the babies are protected and provided with medical care until a permanent home is found. Safe haven laws generally allow the parent, or an agent of the parent, to remain anonymous and to be shielded from prosecution for abandonment or neglect in exchange for surrendering the baby to a safe haven.”
The first safe haven law in the U.S. was enacted in Texas in 1999.  Currently, all 50 states, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have Safe Haven Laws which protect babies from abandonment and infanticide.   For specific state statutes refer here:
Brenda Horrocks is an adoption/foster care buddy of mine who recently shared her story of how their little boy, Spencer, came to be a part of their family.  Spencer was a Safe Haven baby and I thought Brenda’s words in this recent radio interview about the women, including her son’s birthmother, who use Safe Haven Laws to save their babies were very wise, especially considering the fact that all too often people (myself included) are quick to pre-judge women who may be faced with such a desperate situation.
Of her son’s birthmother’s decision to use the Safe Haven Law Brenda says:
“We know how much she loved him and just so thankful that she was able to make that hard decision for him because she was not at that time or currently in a place where she could be a parent.
There would have been no way for her to really make an adoption plan because she probably didn’t even know where to go for that ‘cause she was on her own.  This is a situation where she could give him what she felt like he needed and there in the hospital she had support- there were people there who could help her whereas outside in the world there wasn’t anybody.”
Of women faced with crisis pregnancies:
“Making this choice doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom.  Making this choice to keep your child safe and healthy and get them a happy life in this way is good parenting and that’s being a loving mother.  I think too often there’s too many voices out there saying how awful these women and girls are who hand their babies over or place their babies for adoption in the traditional sense. They look at them as bad people and they’re not- they are making the hardest decision anybody would ever have to make.”  -Brenda Horrocks
Click HERE to see a video clip of the Horrocks advocating for Safe Haven laws (and to see what a darling boy Spencer is).
In light of the gloom of the horrific story I recounted at the beginning of this post, I would like to share three short and inspirational clips, which, like the Horrocks family’s story of their last adopted child, focus on the HOPE that can come from what could have been tragic circumstances and beginnings for babies.
 Grab some Kleenexes.

 This last clip is the longest of the three but well worth seven minutes of your time.  Although it is technically a commercial it is based on a true story.

 *TO FIND OUT WHAT THE SAFE HAVEN LAWS ARE IN YOUR STATE, (including who can relinquish a child, at which locations, and up to what age), CLICK HERE *

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thinking About Adopting Though Foster Care?

At the close of National Foster Care Month I thought it would be appropriate to share this infographic, courtesy of

You gotta be crazy to adopt from foster care

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Permanency in T Minus Three Months

Exactly three months from today I will be sitting in a courtroom (undoubtedly with butterflies in my stomach) waiting to hear what the future holds for our foster children: specifically whether or not they will be returning to the permanent care of one or both of their parents.
A kinship placement or adoption by relatives is out of the picture, so the alternative to reunification with their parents would be adoption by us as their foster parents. Unless, of course, the judge decides to give our foster children’s parents an extension [after they will have had almost a year to complete everything required of them in their Service Plans.] If that is the case, I’m not gonna lie when I say I’ll be really bugged- isn’t a year long enough? These children need permanency in their lives.
As for our own family, (not that what we think matters to a judge or that we have any say in things) it would be nice to have some stability one way or another rather than constantly living in limbo all the time and wondering if or how long our foster children will remain a part of our family.
Recently when friends and family members ask me if there’s anything new with our foster children’s case, which essentially translates into “How are their parents doing?” I can basically sum up my response with two words: It’s complicated.
I won’t go into details but it seems like there is literally some new development in the case every. single. week. My heart always races when I see their caseworker’s number on my caller I.D. or when she walks out of their visits with a distressed look on her face to tell me the latest news. “What now?” I think. “How can their situation possibly get any more complicated?” These new developments lead me to be more inclined to think their case will end in adoption rather than reunification. However, if the case does end in reunification these latest developments with their parents make me even more concerned for Jack and Jill’s welfare than I was a couple of months ago. I know that their caseworker and guardian ad liteum share my concerns.
I have no doubt that Jack and Jill’s parents love their children very much. I can only imagine the range of emotions that must be going through their minds at this critical point in time. I felt so bad for Jack and Jill’s mother, in particular, a few weeks ago when we all sat around a table together at a  Family/Team Meeting and I had a clear view of her face. She looked defeated. Although she didn’t say anything, her lips were trembling and tears flowed freely down her cheeks. I could only speculate if her tears were caused by regret and guilt or from feeling overwhelmed by the realization of all she needs to change but has been putting off. Perhaps her tears were mingled with jealousy since her own little boy preferred to sit on my lap rather than on her own (though I purposely sat him down next to her at the beginning of the meeting) and her baby girl, whom she was holding, kept looking up from across the table to playfully coo or smile at me.
Now that we’re down to the last few months I think the very real threat of TPR is motivating Jack and Jill’s parents to complete everything they need to do to get their kids back in their care. Sometimes that is exactly what is needed for people to get their lives back together- because when you hit rock bottom there is nowhere else to go but up.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day & The Wide Spectrum of Motherhood

 Last year I came across these words of compassion written by a non-mom to pastors on Mother's Day:

"To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you.
To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you.
To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you.
To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you.
To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.
To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you.
To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you.
To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you.
To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you.
To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience.
To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst.
To those who have aborted children – we remember them and you on this day.
To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be.
To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths.
To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you.
To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you.
To those who placed children up for adoption — we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart.
And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you.
This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you."

As one who has personally dreaded going to church on Mother's Day in the past- especially if all of the mothers were asked to stand and be recognized, I greatly appreciated the sensitivity and inclusiveness of Amy Young's words.

Yesterday I expressed thanks for my daughter's birthmother and her tremendous selflessness which has given my husband and I the chance to be parents. 

Today I am typing on my laptop with one hand while the other hand is holding a little boy snuggled up to me and I know for a fact that this Mother's Day is going to be particularly painful for this little boy's mother who lost custody of her children last year and who has had to watch me take over her role of mother to them as their foster mom.  

Regardless of the fact that the reason our foster son and daughter were placed in our care is a direct result of their parent's choices, I still acknowledge and respect the role they have in their children's lives and I recognize that they have experienced and will continue to experience the loss of their children. 

I am ever mindful of the fact that the children in our home belonged/belong to other parents.  The difference is that in the case of our daughter's birthmother she chose to place her daughter with us whereas our foster children were removed from their parent's care by court order and sent to live with strangers obviously without the consent of their parents.

I think the best way to honor both our daughter's birthmother and our foster children's birthparents is to not only recognize their loss but to love and treat the children in our care with the same tenderness they hold these children in their hearts.

This Mother's Day I'm also thinking of the {former foster} children I once held in my arms but continue to hold in my heart.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Foster Care System & Crime

I was recently contacted by someone who works for The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (TACT), which is the largest charity providing fostering and adoption services across the United Kingdom.  I was asked to share an infographic on my blog based on joint research conducted by TACT and the University of East Anglia which seeks to address the fact that foster children are overrepresented as offenders in the criminal justice system when compared to their young counterparts in the general population.  Incidentally, this has been the most extensive study into the criminal and foster care systems ever conducted in the UK.
The social scientist in me willingly obliged with sharing the findings of this research and as I looked over the data I recalled a few cultural differences/semantics between the U.K. and U.S. which I first learned when I read one of Cathy Glass's books:
U.K.= foster carers    U.S.= foster parents/resource parents
U.K= children in care  U.S.= foster children
U.K.= care system       U.S.= foster care system
(I think I prefer the term the U.K. uses to refer to children who are placed in foster care- they are first and foremost children who happen to be in foster care, rather than their label of "foster child" which, unfortunately, can have negative connotations.)
TACT fostering and adoption charity present this infographic on crime and the care systemBrought to you by TACT Fostering and Adoption Charity
I was pleased with the results of this research as shown in this infographic.  While it is true that children in foster care are twice as likely to offend than the general population, TACT and University of East Anglia's research have helped to dispel the misconception that entry into the foster care system is the reason that children in care offend.  Rather, their research points out that children coming into care already face many risk factors and obstacles before coming into care, including poverty, abuse and neglect, and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. 
And, of course, the foster parent in me was happy to learn that perhaps the most significant finding of this research is that when children in care have access to a loving, stable placement, it serves as a protective factor against criminal activity.