Sunday, June 23, 2013

Telling the LITTLES

Our kids have known for years that we would adopt if God wanted it for our family. Noah in particular has asked over and over that we adopt. He desperately wants a brother and he knows that pregnancy does not guarantee another boy in the house!  He didn't seem to understand that adoption, for us at least, didn't guarantee a boy either. We don't know what or who God has planned for our family, and while we're more confident each day that we will adopt at some point, we are not sure that that time will come in the next year. We definitely pray over the desires of our kids and know that God can speak to us through them as he can anyone, but we're learning quickly that adoption, any adoption, is a messy business. It is so important to us that our children to have reasonable expectations as we walk through this process.

Telling J was tricky, and it took a lot longer than I expected, but when J, Amos and I told the littles, it was JUST FUN!



Noah immediately started dreaming of bunk beds and super hero sidekicks. He wanted a boy. No, two. No, THREE! They would all love Star Wars, Legos, and Science, and they would all get along just like his BFF's at school.

Miriam squealed and declared that she wanted twin baby girls. She would share her room with them, but she wouldn't change their diapers. At night, when they pooped, she would come and wake me up.

A sibling group of TWELVE!
Another Noah!
A 12-year-old, 7-year-old, and 5-year old with matching genders.

The main thing that we impressed upon the two of them was that Mom and Dad were going to classes to LEARN about this type of adoption. 

We couldn't be certain that we'd adopt at the end of the class. 

Although it was exciting and fun to think about, there would be sacrifices along the way, and there would be some days that were no fun at all.

Did they have any questions?
Three hands in the air.
Can we name them?
How long will it take?
What if we don't like them? 
Can we send them back?
Can we please NOT adopt 12 kids?
What if we just get more girls?







Telling the TWEEN

This book I'm reading- Successful Foster Care Adoption- includes a list of heavy questions to ponder and take into consideration when getting into foster care adoption. Some of those questions I had already answered, but others I found worth exploring again.

If you are already a parent, have you presented your intention to adopt to your children?


Telling the TWEEN





Amos and I decided to tell Miss J alone first. At twelve years old, she's aware of the impact of adding to our family (through pregnancy OR adoption) and, quite frankly, had been less than thrilled with the idea of adopting most of the time. On a car ride, Amos and I told her that God was leading us to take classes to license us to adopt. She mostly nodded and listened as we explained the process of becoming licensed to adopt and that it wasn't guaranteed that we would adopt when it was over. 

That evening, I must have asked my sweet 12-year-old a dozen times how she felt. 
Tweens have A LOT of emotions!! 
J first felt like she didn't have a say in our family's future, and she was worried about the classes and meetings occurring when she was away with her dad for the summer. She didn't want to miss anything or feel left out. My heart hurt for her. I hadn't even thought about that aspect of the timing! I assured her that there wouldn't be much to see and that we'd keep her up to speed with everything that we could. 
She wasn't crazy about having more little siblings who get into her stuff, yell or cry and generally get in the way of her life.
She hated the idea of sharing her room.
Amos and I talked a lot about the reasons we felt God leading us to foster care adoption, and we visited about the sweet kids who needed a home like ours. I sat down with J and looked through Missouri's Heart Gallery, talking about each child. I think reading the profiles, some with interests much like hers, helped J to begin to understand that every kid deserves a safe home and unconditional love. 

I ask J nearly daily what she's thinking and how she's feeling about everything, and I will continue to ask.
I do my best to keep her informed of any new developments, and I try to have the fun "I wonder what child God has in store..." conversations as well. 
My goal with J is to keep the communication open and offer her a safe, no-judgement place to land with her thoughts. 
Meeting that goal will require lots of prayer, attention, sharing, and opportunities to have uninterrupted conversations. For us, those opportunities come in the form of movie nights, manicure appointments, Daddy-Daughter dates, teaming up on housework and visits on the bedroom floor after the littles go to sleep. My sweet girl has already made huge leaps forward, and I CANNOT wait to see more of the work that God is doing in her heart! 


Friday, June 21, 2013

Doubt

Today was the first rough parenting day I've had since we committed to our STARS classes. 

I set myself up for it, I admit. The kids had been without screens for a week, so I thought they would be content to watch a movie while I absorbed myself with research in the next room. What I didn't factor in were the three late nights in a row that the kids had, the early morning that Noah had in spite of the string of late nights, and the fact that Miriam was woken up instead of waking up naturally. 

She tried on his hat. Chaos ensued. Miriam was a simple fix. A minute in my room to brainstorm better ways to have handled the disagreement. Noah, on the other hand, was just a mess. Two hours later, we finished our power struggle, and he eventually laid down for the nap that I required before he could go to VBS again tonight. He woke up as my sweet, clever kid, praise God! 

In the midst of our chaos this morning, I found myself on my knees crying and asking God how in the world I was going to function with more of this. I wanted to throw in the towel, forget God's gentle nudges that I've so clearly been feeling and just go back to a predicable life where the occasional meltdown is the worst of it. Sometimes my Noah pushes me to the edge of my self control, and today I worried that another, higher maintenance kid might push me past that point. Doubt seeped into my faith and left a pit in my stomach for the large part of the afternoon. 

No matter what path we're walking, God doesn't make us go it alone! He restores my strength when it is weakened and gives me assurance when I need it the most. Tonight, for the first time, I watched Miss J get excited about sharing her room. This is huge for her as the potential of "her" space being lost has been her biggest complaint along the way. Tonight, she talked about having her little sister as a roommate with a smiling face and happy heart. The resentfulness and entitlement that I had watched and prayed about for months, years even, was gone, my doubt along with it. And I am at peace. 













Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Foster System Lesson #1 and First Licensing Class

Oh, the paperwork! The reading! The forms to fill out and submit! I think this might be the reason for the lack of written information on the topic of foster care adoption. Everyone is too busy reading the giant book from Child Services, and there is no time left for outside literature! I'm kidding of course, but what I am finding is that we are getting numerous forms to fill out, mentions of other forms to come, to-do's (like fingerprinting and physicals), and lots of reading and homework. All of this paperwork is assigned without a nice tidy check list to keep track of your tasks or even time to do much more than scrawl an abbreviated note onto a post-it. I like checklists. And organization. I'm learning that I'm on my own for that. Child Services is organized, but they have left it up to us to organize ourselves. That's not a bad thing. Honestly, if I can't keep up with a mound of paperwork, assigned tasks, and homework, how would I ever keep up with a child who needs special attention and likely appointments and paperwork of his/her own?

SO, Lesson #1 is to keep up with paperwork. I mean, fill it out the second it enters your hand, read it that very evening, make the appointment as soon as you have enough information to do so, and hand everything in to your social worker ASAP. 
Stay ahead or fall so far behind that you'll never catch up! 





We attended our first licensing class last night. It's STARS here in Missouri. There are 15 couples and 2 singles on our "team," plus the licensing officer and our "master foster parent". I LOVE that there is a seasoned foster parent leading the class, one that has adopted and also had many kids in his home as traditional foster children with the goal of reunification. I loved the diverse backgrounds and cultures that were represented. There were couples in the military, couples from Asia and Puerto Rico, those who had several kids, who were unable to conceive, who were empty nesters. There were accents and a variety of races. There were married and singles. It was really beautiful to see a universal love and compassion for hurting kids among such diversity.  

The class wasn't exciting, but it didn't seem like it was three hours long either. After introductions, we were given a broad overview of the foster system in a question-answer format. And there was a video highlighting the lives of two foster kids. 

What was impressed upon us was the purpose of this licensing process. It is essentially a huge, three month interview between Amos and I and Child Services. They are interviewing us to see if we are a safe place for their children, and we are interviewing them to decide if their children are a good fit for our family. The outcome can be one of four:

1- We and Child Services think that working with foster kids is a good fit for us. 
2- Neither we nor Child Services think that working with foster kids is a good fit for us.
3- They think we'd be great, but we don't think it's a good fit for our family.
4- We think we'd be great, but Child Services doesn't. 

Only options 1 ends in licensing. Option 4 is everyone's fear. Rejections is always a possibility in foster care. Child Services may reject us or foster children may reject us. REJECTION. 

A sweet and Godly cousin of mine told me recently that 
Rejection is God's Protection.

Listening for God, praying our way through and doing our best is all we can do. After that, we are placing our trust in Him, trusting that he will always protect us from harm and knowing that it will never be easy to follow the his will.






A Reason for Sharing

When the letter arrived inviting us to the summer session of STARS classes, one of the first things I did was dive into research. I scoured Amazon for books on foster care adoption, attachment, general adoption, and general foster care. I stopped by Barnes and Noble and weeded through the psychology and family sections. When my mind wouldn't' calm, I spent nights browsing blogs and Pinterest. I started my Foster Adoption Board.

Amazon offered one, ONE, book on foster adoption. 
Barnes and Noble had one, ONE, book on adoption. How does a giant store have only ONE book about adoption?? 
The internet was by far the most helpful research tool. I found a great post on adopt-only foster adoptions,
but I have yet to find a blog about foster adopt ONLY. Everyone fostered-to-adopt. And none of those couples had bio kids already. 

This week, I began to learn the value of sharing our personal stories with each other. What I wouldn't give to pick the brain of another mother who had walked her kids through the process of adopting from foster care! SO, I'm going to share this walk, however short or long it may be, whatever the outcome. There will be mistakes along the way as Amos and I fumble our way through the licencing process, but at the end of it all, there will be one more honest account of what it looks like to walk through foster care licensing and (possibly!) adoption. Arming another parent with information is a pretty great reason to share our story! 







Friday, June 14, 2013

Four Reasons Why Adopting from Foster Care is Right For Us


Of the 250,000 who enter the US foster system each year, 104,000 are waiting to be adopted. That number is tiny compared to other countries, but for the kids in foster care, it's enormous.  There is a desperate need in our own backyard, and it doesn't take passports and weeks out of the country to provide unconditional love to a child who is without it. I have a custody arrangement with my sweet J, and leaving the country for weeks just isn't an easy feat to accomplish. It's part patriotism and part knowing how logistically difficult it would be for me to be out of the country. Domestic adoption just "fit" our life, and we saw the real need for foster adoptions. Amos and I feel God leading us to "help out at home."

It's virtually FREE to adopt from foster care. Fingerprinting, home studies, lawyer fees. They're all covered. Of course, there will be expenses that come as with any addition to a family, but the typical fees associated with adoption are taken care of by the state.  You don't even have to adopt within your state for costs to be covered. We could adopt a child from here or one from Alaska. The paperwork would be greater, but the cost wouldn't change. While this isn't really a reason that we chose to follow this path, it sure is a nice perk and allows us to stay on track with our Dave Ramsey plans as well as giving us the ability to prepare our home for a new addition.

I'm honestly not familiar with the post-adoptive resources available in other types of adoption, but we're continually amazed at how much support is given to families post-adoption in foster care adoptions. Families have access to free counseling, medical coverage for the adopted child(ren) until age 18, a huge library of resources, and a list of other services that I haven't verified yet. I wasn't sure what I thought about all this "help" in the context of our family. I'm not thrilled about having three bio kids on our family insurance and adopted kids on a different one. I personally would like as little difference as possible between our three and any new ones that we are blessed with. But we are largely ignorant at this point, and opinions are likely to change along the way. As our social worker pointed out earlier this week, if it means getting a child into a loving family, the state is willing to spend some of the money that they would have spent on the kids anyway. That does make sense to me.

The most important reason we're pursuing foster adoption is because God has called us to do so!  I believe with all my heart that our lives will only feel complete if we rest in Jesus and do our best to follow God's will in our lives.
"You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you!"
St. Augustine








Thursday, June 13, 2013

Beginnings

Courageous, my sister called us... but I feel aimless right now. I know we are registered for classes that will lead to being approved for adoption from the foster care system. But there is so much unanswered right now.  I'm praying that we have clarity soon in regard to the purpose in this path that we're on. All we know confidently in this moment is that God is leading us to take these classes and we are committed to adoption if that is His will. Maybe we'll adopt at the end of the summer. Maybe we'll end up being respite caregivers for other foster parents. Maybe we'll adopt later in our lives. Maybe God has a plan that we cannot guess.

We have barely begun this journey. A string of emails between the social worker and I.  One phone call to register for classes. A background check agreed to. A planned home visit. A short conversation with my parents. A heads' up to my siblings.

We have barely begun this journey, but in many ways, we've been walking this path for years. It was such a subtle beginning that I hardly know where it started. When we made our marriage vows 8 years ago, Amos and I promised to accept children willingly and lovingly from God. We were keenly aware that those children could come through pregnancy OR adoption, but we didn't begin our marriage with the intention of adopting children. I brought my sweet daughter with me into our marriage, and three years and two surprise pregnancies later, we had become a five-some.

God began planting seeds in our lives around the time our  little Miriam was turning two. Amos and I were both introduced to adoption separately at first. I watched as a dear friend of mine journeyed to Africa to adopt her precious twin boys, Amos began to learn about coworkers who had adopted, and we both began to dream (literally) about adopting someday.

One night as I was praying my way through adoption research online, I came across the Jackson County, Missouri children's division's website with its photo listings of children in the foster care system who were adoptable. Something was different inside my heart at I prayed over the faces and names of the children on that website. It was different than the waiting child lists I'd viewed on international adoption sites. I sobbed, and my heart ached for these kids who were so brokenhearted and wanted nothing more than unconditional love. That night, I "met" a brother and sister who tugged especially hard at my heart, and I spent a lot of time praying for them and about them. I shared their profile with Amos, and we decided to inquire about them. Sending that inquiry email was our initial commitment to whatever plan God had for us. Although we did not adopt the little blondies smiling in that photo, I am confident that God carved out a part of my heart for them. I consider myself to be a prayer warrior on their behalf, and I pray for the two of them regularly now and trust that they are happy and healing in their new family.

For two more years, we prayed for guidance and that we would be able to hear God's call for our family.

And we waited.

In the fall of 2012, God moved a few mountains (a story in itself) and led us to an adoption event that would connect us to social workers as well as adoptable foster children. The event was terribly uncomfortable for Amos and I both, and we began to wonder what in the world was worth so much apparent effort to get us there. We finally started visiting with a social worker who answered many of our questions and took our contact information. More importantly, she made us feel comfortable and welcomed into the foster care community.

In January, we received a foster care adoption information packet and an invitation to begin STARS classes. We tried to arrange our lives to attend the 11 week class, but it just wasn't possible. I inquired about a summer session, but there hadn't been one in several years and was no plan for one.

We prayed and asked God to open a door if it was His will that we continue to walk this path.

In February, Amos accepted a new job and began working remotely for the first time in his career. He would be home virtually every night instead of being away 2-3 nights a week. He would be working from an office three miles from our home instead of a hundred. He would have a five minute commute instead of two hours.

Last week, God opened the door we had been praying about with a letter inviting us to register for summer classes. After praying and talking about it, we called the same social worker we'd met last fall and committed to the next leg of our journey...