Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Learning to Sit Still

A month ago I touched briefly on the topic of acting upon impressions we receive in our minds or our hearts.  One thing I shared is "When we do act upon those impressions we are often given further light and knowledge, and if we're lucky enough, some clarity."

I’ve had some experiences over the past few weeks since initially posting about Moving Forward with Faith to Build our Family, which have been accompanied by some very specific realizations, namely:

Sometimes moving forward with faith actually means learning to sit still and to wait for God’s timing.  

Sometimes we’re led down one road solely to discover that there’s another road much better suited for us. This four minute clip is a great example of that principle.

Even if something is a basically good desire, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the timing is right at the moment.  Timing is everything.

I’m going to elaborate on each of these discoveries because, well- this is my blog and writing is one way I sort out my thoughts when I’m feeling overly analytical!  But in addition, I feel like although these lessons are tailor-made for me at this point in my life and they have provided me with some additional clarity and a deepened understanding of which direction my family should take, I also believe that in a general sense many can relate to these observations and apply them to their life’s circumstances- whatever those may be.

Now for some elaboration:

Sometimes moving forward with faith actually means learning to sit still and to wait for God’s timing
I know, that sounds like an oxymoron- how can sitting still equate with moving forward?  They’re basically opposites.  This is an especially hard concept to accept if you are a planner by nature.  Trying to “let go” of how you think things should turn out and handing it over to God takes a lot of trust and humility.  It seems so much more predictable and comfortable to try and plan things out yourself.  Not to mention so much more convenient when it’s on your personal timetable!

Sometimes we’re led down one road solely to discover that there’s another road much better suited for us.  I’m not gonna beat around the bush with what I mean by this in terms of our fostering/adopting journey except to say that for so long our family has focused on having a baby (or very young child) placed in our home.  And you know what?  That’s a good desire, but I am more inclined to think that the next child we welcome into our home- whether temporarily via foster care or permanently through adoption- will be just that- a child rather than a baby.  In addition, there are other very practical reasons why adopting a newborn through a private adoption may not be the best fit for our family at this point in time.

Although it’s sad to think that we may not be welcoming any more babies into our home I am also extremely grateful that over the past six years I’ve had the amazing opportunity to care for seven babies (“baby” meaning 1 year or younger) in my home.  Seven babies in six years is pretty miraculous for an infertile woman.  Talk about beauty for ashes.  Infertility has definitely been a beautiful heartbreak for me.

I can see how my thinking has evolved from when we first started the adoption process-nearly a decade ago- and how now we are more apt to take ourselves out of the center of the equation and put the focus on the child.  In other words, it’s not so much about finding the right baby or child for our family and fulfilling our needs but about being the right family for a child.

I just can’t ignore the fact that there are so many children in my own country who are waiting for permanent homes.  Everybody needs to belong to a family whether they’re four or forty so it boggles my mind when I try to imagine what it would be like to not belong to a family. 

Although it would be easiest right now to just sit back and enjoy the time I have with the children in my home I am also filled with a sense of responsibility (I might even go so far as to call it “guilt”) that there are children who need homes and we have room for one more.   If you’re a foster parent or have felt the need to respond you can’t just sit back because once you know the need is there it’s not something you can so easily ignore.

Take, for example, my friend Julie, who is the mother of five small children and who could easily say “I’ve done my part in fostering- and I have my hands full.”  But because the shortage of foster homes in her state of Arizona is so crucial that children have to sleep on the floors of child welfare offices- she and her husband have decided to reopen their home to foster children in order to meet that need.

Even if something is a basically good desire, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the timing is right at the moment. 

I know that our family has room for another child and that fostering and adopting are good things.  My problem is that some days I get so obsessive about looking through profiles of Waiting Children that I am overcome with a sense of urgency and I feel like if things are going to happen they should happen NOW.  However, things take time and should most certainly not be rushed- especially when it comes to something as crucial as finding the right family for a child. 

Who knows- maybe we won’t end up adopting another child till our children are older (I am aware of the need to adopt older children and yet adopting out of birth order happens to be another big concern for our family) or maybe we won’t end up adopting again at all but just continue to provide a temporary refuge for foster children while their families work things out.

Like I mentioned at the beginning of my post, sometimes the greatest display of self-control is turning things over to God and realizing, “Hey- it may not happen for a while.  It may not ever happen.  So just chill out and enjoy where you’re at right now.”

Sound Advice From Design Mom

Sunday, May 24, 2015

400 Facebook Fans and A GIVEAWAY

ADOPTION & FOSTER CARE: MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCES recently reached 400 Facebook Fans so I thought it would be fun to celebrate with A GIVEAWAY!

Over the years I've reviewed or made mention of over a dozen books on this blog having to do with the subjects of adoption, foster care, trauma, parenting, and even infertility.  The winner of this Giveaway will win any TWO of the following books I've reviewed of THEIR CHOICE.


1) Look over the names of the books I've reviewed on this blog (see the list at the bottom of this post or browse the collage above) and in the comments tell me which two books you would like to own.   

That's it!


1) Become a Fan of Adoption & Foster Care My Personal Experiences on Facebook & let me know in the comments.  If you're already a fan that counts, too- just let me know in the comments as well.

2) Spread the Word about this giveaway on Facebook, your blog, etc.  Please include where you shared in the comments.

Giveaway Begins Monday, May 25, 2015 and ends on Monday, June 1st at midnight, MST.
Winner will be announced on June 2, 2015.


-Another Forgotten Child
-Another Place at the Table
-The Connected Child
-Ezra & Haddassah
-God Found Us You
-Infertility: Hope and Healing
-I Wished For You
-Orphans of the Living
-Out of Many, One Family
-Over The Moon
-Tell Me Again About The Night I Was Born
-The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog
-Too Hurt To Stay
-From Both Sides,
          and coming soon . . .
-What Led Me To You  (I recently read it but have not yet gotten around to finishing my review).

Monday, May 11, 2015

Unconditional Love: A Foster Adoption Documentary

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over 20,000 children age out of the U.S. foster care system each year, putting them at an increased risk for homelessness, unemployment, pregnancy, prostitution and incarceration.  This 2012 infographic courtesy of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption illustrates some of these risks:

The production of a public television documentary which tells the stories of five teens who were adopted by loving families is underway.  In addition, this documentary, appropriately titled Unconditional Love,  will also be highlighting organizations which have found successful strategies in finding adoptive parents for youth in foster care.

To make a tax deductible donation to the crowdfunding campaign to fund the filming of Unconditional Love and/or to help spread the word about the film please refer to the following links:

How Much Do Foster Families Get Paid?

I've shared my feelings about doing foster care for the money in the post In It For the Money but I recently came across two articles which are MUST-READS for anyone who has honestly ever wondered "How Much Do Foster Families Get Paid?" and especially for anyone who might erroneously believe that foster parents take children into their home solely for the money.

A shout out to Megan for this well-written article she recently wrote for, How Much Do Foster Parents Get Paid?

I Foster For The Money by Jill Rippy of The Foster Life had me chuckling at the beginning and quickly sobered me into silence the next moment.

The bottom line is that foster parents do not get "paid".  They are reimbursed for the costs it takes to care for the children placed in their homes which may or may not cover the actual costs.

To view reimbursement rates by U.S. state click here.

It does take money to care for children, but TIME and LOVE are other equally important sacrifices a family should take into account when considering what it takes to welcome a foster child into their home.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day Thoughts 2015

My Facebook Status for today:

"I'm very mindful this day (and always) of the women who gave my beautiful children life. It is truly humbling to share the sacred gift of motherhood with two women who gave my children what I could not give them myself. From this and other mothering experiences I have learned that love is not meant to be divided up or confined but is most beautiful when it is shared among many."

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Positive Adoption Language Infographic

I came across this infographic today courtesy of United Methodist Communications and I couldn't help but share as I've certainly been frustrated in the past by certain terms people use when talking about adoption. 

The thing is- not everybody knows that a certain term might be hurtful- and that is why I liked this infographic so much- these are simply suggestions of what terms to use- "instead of this, say this" in order to avoid miscommunication with a brief explanation of WHY a specific term might send an unintended message.

In addition to the infographic, adoptive mother and pastor Angela Flanagan, shared more helpful hints about asking questions, making assumptions, and even touched on some of the challenges unique to adoptive families, and transracial adoptive families in particular, where adoption is obvious, including the following:

Asking appropriate questions with healthy language of friends is very different from asking questions of perfect strangers. Before you ask or comment, consider what it might feel like to have your family questioned everywhere you go by people who you don’t know and what effect that has on the children. 
If you aren’t sure if a question is appropriate or if you are using appropriate
language, please refrain, or at the very least, refrain while in front of
the children."
On a related note of shielding questions about an adopted child's history- especially when asked in front of the child, sometimes it's not just those who ask the questions that need to take a step back, but those who answer and provide information (because adoptive parents are human, too)!

This is something which I'm learning to find a balance with.  On the one hand I love educating people about foster care or how the adoption process works, and I'm glad to be able to share my experiences with them.  But on the other hand I realize "Just because I want to educate others and am happy to talk about my experiences doesn't necessarily mean I have to share every detail about my children's backgrounds with everyone who asks- especially when they ask in front of the children- because although my child's story is definitely a part of my story- it is ultimately their story to tell."

Want to Become A Foster Parent?

Recently I shared some info about the legal requirements to becoming a foster parent, such as age considerations.  In the past I've written about health and safety requirements to foster- which will vary from state to state (and country).

Although getting your house ready, filling out all of the required paperwork and completing training hours are all vital and necessary parts of preparing to welcoming a foster child into your home, I have found that the hardest part of fostering for me has been the emotional aspects which begs the question, How does one prepare for the roller coaster of feelings that come with fostering that can really take a toll on your emotions?

I guess my answer is that I think there are some things you just have to experience to truly understand. However, I recently came across a blog post from a very seasoned foster and adoptive mother which contained such good advice that I wish I had had these concepts firmly etched in my mind when we first considered and started fostering. Even if someone hasn't yet experienced something, having some sort of idea or outlook of what to expect could at least help them make an easier adjustment to the situation.   Therefore, I am going to refer anyone interested in becoming a foster parent to these pieces of advice Felicia shared by clicking HERE.

"So you get the kids settled in and the journey begins.  This could be short term or years.  They could tell you it is short term but that doesn't always mean anything.  The thing to remember at this stage is that your job is to foster the children.  Do not start talking about how much you want to adopt the child at this stage.  Do not try to sabotage the parents.  At this point you should be working with the parents, reunification is the plan.  You should develop a relationship with the parents.  I still have relationships with some of my foster children who went home and their parents."

Absolutely!  I've been a little slow to learn that fostering is not just about providing a refuge for a child, but giving families another chance to stay together- which includes respecting and working with bio families.  This, of course, is not always easy.  

Although I knew in my mind when we first began fostering that reunification was the intention, that purpose would compete or become overshadowed with the desires of my heart to adopt a child.  Which leads to the next bit of sound advice Felicia shares:

"If you are doing foster parent because of a burning desire to adopt be aware that adoption may not happen for years.  You may have many kids in your home before a case goes to adoption.  Or your first case may.  Be prepared to support reunification because that is what foster care is.  Be prepared to be heartbroken, because all foster parents are at one time or another."

Another important thing I've come to learn is that you may not necessarily fall in love with every single child that is placed in your home- and do you know what?  That's okay!  It doesn't mean you're a terrible person- it means you're human.  Felicia goes on to say, 

"Foster parenting can be a challenge but it can also be a joy.  Some kids will steal your heart and others you will be glad to see them go home.  You never know what to expect and should be prepared for anything."

In connection with that thought, if you happen to be someone who feels the call and responsibility to help children through fostering, don't feel guilty if you can't "save" them all!  It's okay to say "no" to a placement if the timing isn't right or for whatever reason you don't feel good about it.  Similarly, It's okay to take a break.  I would even add, it is sometimes necessary to take a break so that you don't risk becoming burnt out.

One other critical piece of advice Felicia shares is:

"It is always good to have some support from your local foster parents or others who have fostered.  Others really won't understand all that you are dealing with."  Amen to that!

It is such a relief when I come across something that another foster parent has shared and I end up thinking- "Yes- they get it.  They really understand!"  or "I'm not the only one who's been through this before."

Monday, May 4, 2015

#NotJust A Birthmom

For those women who choose to celebrate Birthmother's Day- here is a video put together by Jessalyn Bills Speight to let you know that you are not forgotten or alone.

Check out my mug shot at 2:40!

(In my defense, I really do know how to smile but pondering the sacrifice and pain of relinquishment is such a sensitive subject!) 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Age Requirements to Foster and Adopt

In my last post in conjunction with National Foster Care Month I listed links to information about requirements for fostering and adopting (Just in case somebody thinks, "I can't foster because I'm single/I don't own my own home/I'm gay, etc.)  

Good foster parents come from a variety of backgrounds but I believe the most important requirement or common denominator that effective foster parents share is that of love and concern for the well-being of children.

At the finalization of our recent adoption of our foster children I was reminded of a few legal requirements to adopt, having to do with age.  I mention these in case there is someone out there who thinks, "I'm too old to adopt." but also because I thought they were interesting.

Although things will vary by state, I think the general requirement is that you must be 21 years of age or older to foster or adopt.  This rule is sort of a no-brainer but I thought it was funny when the guardian ad litem at our children's adoption finalization turned to my husband and I and asked, "Both of you are 21 years of age or older, correct?"  We both answered in the affirmative and the GAL even admitted to being a little embarrassed to have to ask such an obvious question.  (Maybe 10 years ago I could have passed for 21 but now- not so much.)  She then asked another required question:  And are you both at least 10 years older than the children you're adopting?  (Which means we'd have to be at least 12 years old).  "Yes", we unequivocally responded.

I thought that was interesting because I've had people ask me more than once what the age limit is to adopt and the answer is "As long as you're in good health- there is NOT an age limit" provided you are at least 10 years older than the child you are adopting.  Therefore, a 25 year old could adopt a 15 year old but a 25 year old could not adopt a 16 year old.  

Another question which the judge asked both my husband and I separately at the adoption finalization is: 

"Do you give your consent to this adoption?" which is a necessary question but was also hard for me to fathom how two spouses could get to the point of being in a courtroom together for an adoption finalization in the first place when one of them does not actually consent to the adoption.  Perhaps this requirement stems from issues with step-parent adoptions.

I was also reminded that older children who are adopted must consent to the adoption. What an extremely important piece of legislation!  According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, nearly all states requires that older children give their consent to be adopted with the requirements varying by state.

Although it didn't apply to our case, if the child(ren) we were adopting were 12 years of age or older they would have had to have given their verbal consent to the judge before being adopted by us.  In some states children as young as 10 years old must give their consent and in some states the age is 14 years old.  I have heard of sibling groups from the same family in foster care where some of the siblings chose to be adopted while other siblings preferred not to be adopted and technically "age out" of the system.

National Foster Care Month 2015

It's May- which means it's also National Foster Care Month!

AdoptUSKids has some great information on fostering and adopting, as well as an extensive photolisting of Waiting Children.

If you are reading this and would like to learn more about foster care, click on any of the following:

And check out this inspirational guest post- "You Have the Power to Change a Life Just the Way You Are" written for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption by Madeleine Melcher.

Post Foster-Adoption Paperwork & New Names

It's been a month since we were able to adopt our foster children and I've discovered that the paperwork doesn't end when the adoption is finalized.  In fact, in some cases that's when the paperwork just gets STARTED!

The good news is that is took less than a month for us to get Jack and Jill's amended birth certificates with their new names* mailed to us.  I had heard it could take several weeks so that was a nice surprise.

The bad news is that we recently got a letter from their insurance informing us that their benefits would be cut since they didn't have the correct social security numbers attached to their names.  The reason they didn't have the right social security numbers attached to their names is because a post-adoption specialist who came to our home prior to their adoption strongly suggested that we not only notify the Social Security Administration of their new names right away but that we actually request new numbers to be reassigned to them because, in the worker's experience, it is not uncommon for bio parents or families of foster children to sell their children's information for quick cash- specifically in the cases where the bio families have a history of drug addiction and/or poverty.  Very sad. 

I had heard of cases of adoptive parents claiming their adopted/former foster children as dependents on their taxes only to be held up from receiving any refunds or deductions because their child's bio family also claimed the children- even after parental rights had been terminated, but being desperate enough to actually sell your child's social security info was disheartening for me to hear.  

Nevertheless, better safe than sorry, right?  We followed the advice of the post-adoption specialist and requested new numbers for our children.  We showed the SSA our children's updated birth certificates but must now wait for the new Social Security Cards to be processed with their new names and numbers before we can notify their insurance in order for their benefits to continue.

*New Names- Renaming a child at adoption can be a very controversial issue.  It's also a very personal issue.  With our recent adoption we decided to keep Jack's first name but change his middle name.  Although his first name is not one we would have necessarily chosen ourselves, it fits him well and it has grown on us.  Plus, he's 2 and a half years old and it's what he's used to.

As for Jill, (Jack and Jill are pseudonyms), I'll just come right out and say it: We were honestly never fans of her first name to begin with.  Not that it should matter what other people think either, but whenever someone asked us what her name was and we'd tell them they would either ask us to repeat it because they'd never heard it before or they would pause a little more than necessary and diplomatically explain, "Well . . . that's an interesting name" with extra emphasis on the word interesting.

However, it wasn't our right to name Jill when she was first placed with us so we continued to call her by the name her birthparents chose for her ever since we brought her home from the hospital at just three days old until the months prior to adopting her.  We decided to change her name to a similar-sounding name to her birth name and she is able to say it in her toddler babble as well as she was able to say her birth name.  There really hasn't been much confusion.  Occasionally Jack or our oldest daughter will lapse into calling Jill by her previous name but she'll answer to either- it's kind of like having a nickname that you also go by.  No big deal.  Our biggest concern has been How do we tell her birthmom we changed her name?  Honesty is the best policy and if Jill's birthmom wants to call her by her birth name that's her choice.

I have made it a point to keep any identification with my children's birth names- as well as other important documents with info about their birth family- set aside for them if they wish to see it or have it in the future. 

As for our oldest daughter, we never had to change her name after we adopted her because we and her birthmother picked her first and middle names out together after she was born.  That's one advantage of adopting a newborn through a private adoption with their birth parent's wishes as opposed to adopting foster children who have had a longer history with their biological families.  Neither is "right" or "wrong" of course- they're just different paths with pros and cons to both.