Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Adoption Day

The day had finally come when the adoption of Brian and Faith would be finalized. I had told the kids the night before that they could sleep in because they would be skipping school. Both of them woke up early. I let them watch some cartoons for 1/2 hr. in their pajamas. I cooked up a special breakfast of maple sausage, fried eggs, and toasted english muffins with jelly.

When I got ready to go for my morning walk, Kirk decided to go with me, and the kids rode ahead of us, on their bikes. They were able to get to the park ahead of us, and had time to play on the playground, before we turned back for home. By the time we got back home, it was time to get dressed and head to the court house which would be about a 40 minute drive away.

Brian was a little nervous about going to the court house. He was afraid that bad memories would surface. The court house was the last place he had seen his birth mother. We did what we could to reassure him that we were going to the court house for a good reason. On the drive there, he kept giggling, which is his sign that he is having a hard time dealing with the emotions he is feeling.

When we got to the court house, we went through security and met our attorney, AASK case worker, CASA (court appointed special advocate), and DES case worker by the court room where our case would be held. The attorney went through the procedure of the case with Kirk and I and made sure the kids were comfortable with the procedings too.

When we were finally called, we went into a very small court room. We sat together at a table that faced the judge. The questions were asked and then the judge asked Faith and Brian if they were good with the adoption. Faith said, "yes". Brian said, "definitely!" The judge and recorders smiled. When the judge asked them their names, Brian introduced himself with his entire name, including new middle and last name. He is very proud of his new name, and introduces himself that way very often.

After the case was done, we had pictures taken with the judge and our case workers.
Faith and Brian's CASA, who had worked with them since being put into care, took our family out to lunch at the Olive Garden. At lunch, she gave the children and Kirk and I gifts. Faith opened her's first. She pulled out a printed paper that read: "Faith is going to Disneyland", and an admission ticket was attached to the lower right corner. She just stared at the piece of paper.
I said, "Faith, what does your paper say?"
"What else does it say?"
"Faith is going do Disneyland."
She continued to stare at the paper.
Brian pulled his out and looked around at everyone with a puzzled expression.
Faith started to smile.
Kirk and I opened our gift. The casa had framed a family picture, given us tickets to Disney and a 2 night stay in a hotel. When we showed Brian and Faith our tickets, they suddenly realized that they were really going to Disneyland. This was not just a trick.
Faith smiled and laughed. "This is the best day of my life."
Brian was excited too. It was hard for him to stay seated at the table. Fortunately we were in a quiet corner, so Brian was able to get up and walk around a little bit. On the way home, they could hardly contain themselves.

We made a quick stop at the library, and while we were there we got their library cards switched over to their new names. Both of them signed their cards and included the middle initial of their new middle names.

That night we had dinner at Aunt Lisa's. You could tell the kids were happy and relieved that this process was finally over. I was kind of out of it. I had underestimated the emotional energy that this day would take.
It was a good day. It was great that now we didn't just "feel" like a family, we were a family.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Before you adopt...

It is tempting to watch the story of a child that needs a home and get this idealized fantasy of what adopting is like. You may call the agency to find out about "Joey" that was just featured on your local news. It might be discouraging when you find out that you can't just go down and sign the kid out of the "orphanage".

When my husband and I were going through our training and background checks, which took the better part of a year, I would get asked questions like: "aren't there all kinds of kids waiting for homes?" "why do you have to jump through so many hoops when they need a family so bad?" "what takes so long?"

The time it takes to prepare for bringing these children into your home is worth it. While going through 10 weeks of training , Kirk and I were better able to understand our choice and solidify our decision to "foster to adopt". During training we got all kinds of ideas on handling various behaviors. We met other people with the same interests. We gained a better understanding of how the "system" works and how to use it to our advantage.

The state wants to do everything they can to make sure they are placing theses children into safe homes. Sometimes families get through the cracks. We learned in class that 25% of foster homes end up being abusive homes. That is one reason why it is so important that we take the time to go through the screening and training. 

In preparation for you decision to adopt:

Step back and get a realistic view of adoption.
Be patient. You don't want to hurry this decision.
Think about it. Do research.
Decide if you want to adopt an infant, an international infant, an older child. Find out what agencies are in your area.
Talk to people you know, who have adopted.

One thing that was hard for Kirk and I is that we didn't know anyone who had adopted older children. Most people we talked to were afraid of that, thinking that children are somehow stamped and sealed by the age of 3. Sometimes television and internet stories that tell worst case scenarios, stereotype older children "in the system". The thing that finally turned our opinion was meeting someone who had adopted an older child, and going to the agency that they had gone through.

Make sure your agency has a good support system. Prepare family members for the change and see if they can help out. You do not want to be alone! Adopting older children comes with its own unique issues. Most of your friends will not understand how special these kids are. You almost have to experience it to believe it. My husband grew up with 17 different foster kids in his home as he was growing up and we were still shocked at some of the things we experienced.

Adopt for the sake of the child, not to fill a hole in your heart. Become satisfied with who you are, without children. You will set yourself up for disappointment and exasperate the child if you expect the child to fill your own personal needs.

Prepare yourself for what I call "post placement depression". When you choose to invite these children into your life, nothing will be the same. Kirk and I had been alone for 16 years and then brought a brother and sister into our lives. Our personal space and everything else was suddenly invaded. Some the idealistic ideas I had in my mind went out the window pretty quick.

It is hard work. The children will be going through their own shock and grief cycle as they adjust to your family. It took our family about 8 months of hard work before we started enjoy being a family. I had an eye twitch most of those 8 months-I laugh about that now. It was totally worth the hard work. They gradually bond. Give them time. After all, you are all strangers when you meet.

Sure these kids have unique needs, but they are just kids. They want to be wanted and loved. They want a stable family. What better thing could you do with your life than to give a child unconditional love. 


Strange Conversations

When you adopt an older child, you have interesting conversations and questions. It is a unique family experience. Sometimes "precious", sometimes "heart breaking", they are conversations that tell me how far we have come as a family and how blessed I am to have these children as my own. Here are some of our conversations, most of which come from Faith:

First time we meet Brian and Faith-"What should we call you?" and "Are we going to live with you forever?"

"So is this your car or our car?" "Are these your cats, or our cats?"

A couple of hours after moving into our home-"Do you like having us live here?"

As we were signing up for library cards with the librarian-"Can I change my last name? I don't like my last name."

"Am I being good?"

"Would you ever hit me?"

1 week after they had been living with us, Faith asks- "How long are we going to live here?"
and "Are we going to be here at Christmas?"

When Christmas started to get close-"Are you going to buy our presents at the dollar store?" "If we get christmas money, are you going to take it?"

They went for a visit to their foster mom's one last time- "Are you tricking us and sending us back for good?"

"Are you my real mom?"

"Do you love me?"


Coming Home

On Saturday we attended a birthday party, put on by their foster mother. Brian and Faith's birthdays are 4 days apart so they were celebrating together. Now that the reality of what we were embarking on had hit us, and Kirk and I were scared. I felt like I was in a daze the day of the birthday party, and probably looked it too. We met their grandmother and her husband and their older half brother.

It was a strange day, and I can't imagine what was going through their little heads. Everyone was taking pictures of the new "family". Everyone was so happy for this happy ending. We were scared, and the kids barely understood what was really going on.

Saturday night, I again felt a panic attack coming on. I had to quiet myself by reading before I went to bed. I kept waking up. Faith and Brian were moving in tomorrow after church.
We were scheduled to pick the kids up a 1 pm at their foster mom's. We left early to stop by IKEA to purchase a dresser for Brian's room. Then we stopped at a coffee shop near the foster mom's to relax for a little bit.

I received a call soon after we got the the coffee shop from their foster mom. she said that the kids had gotten up early that morning and had been asking her every five minutes when "mom and dad" were coming by. They were making her crazy and she wanted to let us know if we were running early, it was fine with her if we came early.

We left right away. As soon as we pulled into their street the kids ran outside to give us hugs. Brian and Faith had gotten us special key chains. Kirk's chain was a cross and mine was an angel with the word "mom" on it. I realized then that it was going to be an up and down, up and down emotional experience.

They were very excited to arrive "home". Brian helped "dad" put his dresser together. He started calling Kirk "dad" immediately. I was "Tina". Faith avoided the terms by calling us indirectly "you" or something else. 

Faith spent a lot of time in her room arranging her "things". For being 9 and 10 years old, they had very little. Their clothes were kind of ragged and they didn't have any toys. It was a little overwhelming to think about all the things they needed. Over the next few weeks we would receive generous gifts from friends and family that enabled us to get clothes and basic needs.

After 2 hours of being in her new home, Faith asked us, "Do you like having me live here?"
Later she asked, "Are we going to live with you forever?"

We ended the day watching some tv. Brian snuggled up next to me. Faith sat right next to me on the opposite side. The whole time we were watching tv, she made constant gutteral, throat sounds that sounded almost like a whimper.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The lighter side

This list records the funny things that happen. Brian is the one that expresses himself loudly-he is all heart. Faith is the quiet, thoughtful one, so this list will be mostly Brian incidents.

I picked the kids up from school one day. Brian hops in the car and says, "mom drive like a maniac all the way home, I have to pee bad!"

I get a note from Brian one day on red construction paper with pasty white letters spelling out the words "I Love you mom". He tells me later that he couldn't find a marker so he used his deodorant instead.

Brian was attending a children's program at church and the pastor came to give the children a pep talk before a big performance in church. Pastor ended the talk by asking if anyone had a question. Brian's hand popped up right away. 
"Yes, Brian, you have a question?"
Brian looked shocked that he had been called on. "Ummm. Ummmmm. Ughhhh."  "YOU ROCK!" he shouted really loud.
Everyone laughed and the pastor said, "I knew I always liked you."   

One night I went to tuck Mason in bed. He held out his hand and said, "That will be $10 please."
I looked at him, and then bent down and kissed his cheek. "That kiss was worth $10."
He kissed my cheek, smiled and said, "That kiss was priceless."