~ I’ve known Mindy since I was a little girl. We used to attend church together and she is the mother of three beautiful daughters. I’ve shared several stories on International Adoption, but wanted to share another avenue of adoption: the foster-adoption journey. Take a moment and read Mindy’s story. She is honest. She is raw. But if you want an honest look at foster-adoption, you will find it. ~
JOURNEY TO A FOREVER FAMILY:
THE PATH FROM FOSTER CARE TO ADOPTION
I met my husband in High School. I was a sophomore and he was a senior. We were the traditional high school sweethearts and after 3 years of dating we married in May 1991. I found out I was expecting just 3 weeks after our first anniversary. The Lord blessed us with a premature little girl in January 1993. Three years later, we once again found out that we were to be blessed with another child. In September 1996, I gave birth once again to a premature little girl. Due to my pregnancy struggles and difficulties, my doctor advised against me ever having more children. I was only 25. This was a very bitter pill for me to swallow. I was young and otherwise healthy and wanted more children. However, my husband and I tried to accept this as God’s will and decided we would be content with our two lovely girls.
Content: such a little word that holds so much meaning. We honestly tried to be content. We loved our girls. We could not imagine life without them. We were a happy family. However, we always felt a void was there. That void would make us feel selfish and at times guilty. After all were two wonderful girls not enough? Were we questioning God’s plan for our family? After all we believed children were a gift from God and if He said two were enough shouldn’t we be satisfied with that? Why couldn’t we be content?
Then the day came when we decided maybe we were meant to raise more children. Perhaps, that is why we did not feel content. Our family of four was wonderful but we just knew we were destined to raise more children. Do you see the difference in our thought process? We were destined to RAISE more children; not necessarily HAVE more children. That revelation opened up a door. This door would lead us on a journey; a journey of heart ache, loss, tears and fear. This door would also lead us on a journey of faith, trust, obedience and dependence on a loving Father. This door would make us surrender all of our selves because in the journey from foster care to adoption you will find that 90% of the journey is out of your hands. You will often feel like a pawn in a heartbreaking game. However, if you can stand firm the reward may just be a child that will make you family a FOREVER FAMILY.
In the year 2005, my husband, Charlie and I, began to seriously think about adoption. I started on the many hours of research necessary to find out what domestic and international adoption entailed, the monetary factors involved and the risks involved. After a year of research, we felt that it would be best for us to enter the foster adoptive world through Department of Health and Human Resources. It was a way to help an American child that needed a home and the cost was minimal.
There are different roads to foster care adoption. You can opt to foster a child, love a child, and go through the process of having the biological parents rights terminated. However, the risk is that the biological rights may never be terminated and you may have the child removed from your home and sent back to the biological parents. There is also the avenue of straight foster care adoption. This is when the child has already had their parental right terminated and are legally in the custody of the state. These children are on state web sites. You can literally browse for children like you can a car. Then you apply for them. The good thing about this avenue is that there is no chance of the children going back to a biological family because parental rights have already been terminated before the foster parents get involved. The down side in that most of these children are older, in a sibling group, have physical or mental issues, have suffered severe forms of abuse including mental, physical and sexual. These children would carry baggage with them. After much talk we decided to take this avenue.
We were assigned a homefinder through the state. We went through the back ground checks and finger prints, the financial searches, the PRIDE training, the home study and paperwork that was endless. Finally, in the fall of 2006 we were licensed to take two children to foster. Yeah! We were sure we would get a child very soon. Wrong! Once thing with the state you must understand is that they are a government agency and they move slower than molasses in January. It wasn’t until Spring 2007, that we applied for a child on the website and heard back. He was in the northern part of the state and it entailed going back and forth to meet with his homefinder and the search committee. Finally, we were selected. In June 2007, an 11 year old boy came to live with us. It was a foster to adopt situation. All that was necessary was for us to show we were a stable loving family, bonding well and after 6 months we could apply for adoption. Easy peasy we thought. We wanted a child and he wanted parents so this would be a breeze. Wrong again? I cannot reveal much due to confidentiality but I can say our adoption failed. The child had many mental issues we were not told about and when this child left us had a diagnosis of at least 5 mental disorders.
Those 8 months with this child were agonizing both physically and emotionally. We wanted it to work so bad! We loved him but we couldn’t live with him due to the emotional baggage he carried. We thought we could love him enough to erase the hurt. We were wrong.
The day the boy left our home was one of the worst days of our life. It will always be one of the worst days of our life. Helping him to pack his clothes; having to tell him we just could not handle him was heart wrenching. It would continue to be a hard time in our life for many weeks. Not only because we had lost the dream of having a son but because we were so sure we were to adopt. Had we misunderstood God’s plan? Was the still,small voice we thought we heard really our imagination? Was this God’s way to punish us for not being content with the children we had been given? Trust me. If it could be thought and voiced we thought and voiced it. It was such a heart breaking, confusing time. We felt simply lost.
Finally, I decided to pray Hannah’s prayer from I Samuel. I prayed that prayer every night. I asked God to do the impossible. ‘Lord, the social workers say getting a newborn baby is impossible. It just does not happen. Well Lord, I am not testing You but I am asking you to provide me a fleece so I can know if this is truly Your plan for us. If adoption is what You want us to do, then do what the State says can not happen. Give me a baby.”
Now please be aware, I was not testing God. I was not challenging Him. I just need conformation. I asked for a fleece. My fleece in our case was a baby.
At the end of May, we received a call from our home finder. A 9 year old girl was in need of a safe home to stay in. Just for a couple weeks the worker says. Just until her parents could pull it together. After much talk, we decided to do it. We were so glad we did. She was wonderful. We loved her right away and she was a joy to care for. It turned out she would be with us for many months instead of a couple weeks. She did not return home until after the first of the year. We missed her when she went home. This was a time of healing for us.
Just 7 weeks after we accepted the 9 year old little girl we received another call. There was a baby for us! We would most likely be able to adopt this child. The mother had lost parental rights before and the father was unknown. We didn’t know if it was a boy or girl or black or white and we didn’t care. A baby! God had answered.
It turned out the baby was a very small, premature little caucasian girl. This baby was addicted to cocaine and alcohol. She would likely have problems all her life to some degree. It would take a lot of work and therapy to help her. Of course, we did not know this at the time. It was 6 weeks in to having the child before we knew all this information. The CPS worker and our home finder and the baby’s social case worker did not feel we needed to know that. We discovered it on our own when the withdrawals began and the feeding issue became severe. The pediatrician we chose told us. That was our first legal medical evidence we had to keep this child. I was going to us it to my advantage all the way.
You will be amazed to know that you will not have one person with the department to work with. You have a CPS worker who removes the child and gives the child to you. Then the homefindeer, who is supposed to be on your side, is the one who referes the CPS worker to you. The child has a case social worker once it is determined that the child will be in your care for any amount of time. Once the CPS worker places the child, they back out of the picture. If the child’s parental rights are terminated then the case is given to the adoption department you are assigned an adoption worker. Let us not forget the judges. We had two.
Now one thing you will notice about my story is that I am as honest as the day is long. I am telling you the good and the bad side of the story. So take this to the bank when I tell you that your homefinder, child’s social worker and CPS will absolutely withhold information from you, feel that you do not need to know everything when in fact you do need to know everything, will sugar coat the facts in hopes that you will say yes and to be honest will just out and out down right lie to you. That is a truth. That is a fact. Accept everything they tell you with a grain of salt. Do your own research. Insist your child go to a doctor of your choosing. That doctor will be your biggest help. That doctor will petition for all past medical records and will get them. Then you can ask all the questions you like because you need information to “be able to care for this child to the best of your ability”. You need to know “any past medcial and mental issues that may need to be brought to light so you can adequately care for this child.” Remember those phrases. They are your golden keys to unlocking a door of information. Information that you can use. Just like that positive drug and alcohol test I was able to get ahold of. That was the beginning. DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. Every phone call, appointment with a worker, piece of mail and doctor appointments.
The process was long. In our case, our child was in our home 27 months and 4 days before the adoption papers was signed. That is about average. Some cases our shorter, others are longer and we were average. However, it was an eternity to us. We had many scares along the way. They look for relatives. Possible fathers. Possible grandparents. Anyone to take the child. The judge ALWAYS give an improvement plan to the mother. Our case was 6 months improvement plan. Which was extended because of a jail sentence. Court delays come in to play because all of the team has to be at the court hearing and if one can not make then it is postponed. Make sure you know know who the child’s guardian ad lidem is. The GAL is the child’s lawyer. Try to build a positive relationship with this GAL. Their job is to look out for the child.
Once the adoption is final, I recommend changing all or at least part of the name. Always go to the social security office and get a new social security number. Keep a record of past doctors and go back and change the name of the child to the new adopted name. That prevents any biologocal family from being able to find them. It is a safety feature.
We surrendered our license after the adoption and were very happy. A year ago we were called out of retirement to take a baby. It had to come to us. Confidentiaility, prevents me from saying why. However, we were assured it was a sure thing. Two months later that child left. During the process, the safety steps we had taken to to protect our child was blown. We have since been contacted by a biological family member. We have convinced them to not bother us. Our little one has delays and is very immature and is not able at this time to understand adoption. We told them when we tell our child we will let them know. Until then, they have agreed to stay away. It is a constant worry that they will show up or call. However, we know God is in control.
Adoption through the foster care system is a difficult journey. It is riddled with lies and pit falls. If you can hang on and stay in the game, and be sure it is a game, then you may be able to adopt a child. If you can’t then perhaps you need to search other avenues. International adotion is very expensive but you will not have to worry about biological parents coming back. Private adoptions, as you have seen in the news, can leave a stone uncovered and a family member can come back and that could void your adoption. The foster care system, though a long scary journey, leaves no stone uncovered. Parental rights are terminated, not given up, and parents can not come back and try to petition to get them back. For all the issues, once done, the foster system is an iron clad secure adoption that is cost effetive. You will often get a month stipend to help raise the child and will often get a medical card for medical care until they are 18. You will also get the joy of knowing you helped an American child who desperately needs a home. Lastly, I recommend you get involved in a support group. You need other foster parents. You need people who can say I have been there and done that and I understand.
The road to adoption through foster care is long. It is truly a journey. I recommend a song that spoke to my heart “one Little Heart Beat” by Steven Curtis Chapman. Foster adoptive parents due change the world. It is a calling. If this is God’s plan for you then you will make it. I hope my story, though brutally honest, will help guide your choice is making your decision. If I can ever be of help I am happy to talk to anyone. I pray God’s will for you as you search for your FOREVER FAMILY.
Read more adoption stories here.
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