Thursday, July 31, 2008

Blind Faith Bonding & Attachment

The blog-buzz question this week is about bonding in the first year with your new child. Is this really going to happen? We had two very different experiences at the same time. We were adopting sibling brothers from the state.

I have given birth to a child, so I did not give a second thought to bonding. I really did not see attachment as anything other than a synonym for bonding. We were living under the microscope of the state as foster parents. I had not read any books (hind sight is 20/20).

I would say the majority of the problems we had were mine due to lack of knowledge.

Our son's were 6 months and 19 months when placed in our home. Our middle son had lived with his biological mom on/off for this entire 19 months. He was taken from her the day he was placed with us. The very next day he was given a visit with her and then brought back to us. To say the least he was STRESSED.

Our youngest had never lived with his biological parents, but we were the third foster home. He was an empty vessel. God is his mighty wisdom gave us our son's two weeks apart. When the youngest was placed, I did not put him down for anything but sleep. I did not know this was the right thing. I was filling my need for a baby in my arms. We had an amazing time bonding. One of us held him at all times. We still have a very strong bond.

Our middle son did not have an easy time bonding with me. I could barely touch him for two months. Daddy was the primary caregiver. He did not want me around. I was hurt and turned to the youngest child and used him to comfort me. We were so overwhelmed with two babies at once that we did not really realize what we were doing to the long term bonding between mom and son.

We lived in survival mode for the first year. Any bonding that happened was by the Grace of God. I look back and see so many mistakes that we made and really regret many actions I chose. God in His infinite grace, protected both boys and allowed the traditional attachment to happen in our third year with my middle son. Our youngest was attending pre-school for children with disabilities and I was home alone with our middle child. I know today we have a relationship that is unbreakable. He has attachment scars from life before us but we are learning and praying daily that God will use this to His Glory.


When we started taking foster children into our home just for the sake of protecting a child. I had read books, attended classes, talked to others and had a much better grasp on what attachment looked like and how important it is for a child to attach to an adult in the first year of life.

So, at the end of my ramble, I would say that the most important things to do to attach to a new child would be to hold them as much as they will allow, take naps together daily, spend time having fun together, gaze into their eyes as often as possible. Playing cooperative games is a biggie. Building puzzles, blocks, driving hot wheels, taking walks. I think time together is a HUGE help.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

God wants us to do WHAT?

I am a huge proponent of adoption from foster care, so please do not read this post and misunderstand my mildly negative comments about Tx Dept of Family & Prot. Svc. The majority of workers are doing the best they can with limited resources and time.

Our son's had multiple placements in less than 6 months. The foster homes their were placed in were not the best and their first year of life was not what it should have been. I am not even sure that they were in a better place than with their bio parents. At least, they would have received love and affection in the mist of the turmoil.

The old saying that one bad apple ruins the barrel is true in regard to foster homes. Not all adults should be foster parents. You have to be very patient and deal with a bunch of craziness. The kids come to you with issues and you have to roll with the punches and you have to change, not expecting the child to change. I believe the training we received helped us have a true sense of the worst case scenario. But you still are blind sided with your placements and the new things that come up with each placement.

When our adoption was finalized I felt a stirring in my heart. God was leading us to continue to be foster parents. WHAT? He wanted me to take in babies and then give them away? God showed me that I needed to give future mommies and daddies what I did not get with my son's: a happy, attached, developmentally on target child.

We called our worker and discussed what we wanted to do. She was so happy that we wanted to continue. We hoped that adding one more baby to the family was not sheer insanity. I would be home alone with three under 3 yrs.

Our first placement was a trial by fire. This poor little boy would not let me put him down. I had to carry him around all day long. My husband could not even look at him much less walk close. This short placement was only two weeks long but it should me I could do it. Over the next six months, we had 4 newborns. All eventually went to a relative or with a sibling in another foster home. Our first long placement was for 6 months, before he was adopted. Once again he was removed from a foster home and needed a temporary placement while his adoption was completed. This broke my heart. He only had 6 or 7 pages of pictures in his lifebook. I was fortunate to meet his new mom, and share with her his life in my home. As a stay at home mom, I was able to provide transportation to visits and got to participate in the visits at his new moms invitation. This is what I wanted: a connection.

Our next long term placement lasted 20 months and was exactly what I wanted. We made a difference in this child's life and his new parents were given a wonderful little boy. His lifebook was huge, the disk of digital pictures were too numerous to count. I had a journal that I wrote in, and recorded all his firsts. Because he attached to our family, the transition to his new family was smooth and he had no trouble attaching to his new parents.

In four years we fostered around 12 children including our own. 9 were less than 2 weeks old when they came to us. I hope and pray that we made a difference in every life. We choose in 2007 to close our foster home and me go back to work. I really am struggling with this decision right now and I am unsure where we will land.

I keep praying for direction and peace.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Show me the money!

God has led me to adopt, where do I get the money? This is the general adoption question on RLC this week. An orphan is defined as a child who does not have a mother or father. What is our responsibility to care for the orphan?

Step one is always the decision to adopt. Step two is deciding where to adopt from. When I started to research adoption, I looked at all three avenues: Domestic, International, and Foster Care. I was shocked at the prices of adoption. We knew the cost of fertility treatments, but I was not prepared to see the cost of adoption. I went into a funk for a day with the thought that we would not have a second child because we did not want to go into debt, or me go back to work with a newborn at home.

God led us to adopt from the Texas Foster Care system. In 2007, there were 33,000 children in foster care. The majority are looking for forever families. These children are Orphans. This is just one state, how many in the entire US????? The risk of a disrupted adoption of a child in the US is the same as international. Once rights are terminated, the bio parents will NOT take their children back. This is the biggest fear I hear from others that I talk to. RESEARCH is the key to understanding the US Foster Care System.

The cost for us to become licensed as a foster care/adoptive family was less than $200. This was mostly child safety locks, photocopies and inspection fees. In our county we needed to obtain a few inspections of our AC and plumbing before we could get the fire inspector to approve our home. Some counties also have to pay for health inspections. Depending on the agency you may need safety ladders, metal trash cans, and other specific safety objects. In general the cost is minimal to obtain your license.

In our county, attorney fees run about $1,000. The State of Texas wants to help families and you could possibly receive financial help to pay these fees. There are also other monetary incentives to adopt. Depending on the age of the child, a family could receive multiple benefits. Because we adopted a sibling set we received all the available benefits. We were given $1,500 to pay for attorney fees, both boys keep their Medicade insurance, both boys will receive free tuition to any State University, and we were able to use the Federal tax credit of $10,000 per child. Because we received benefits from Texas, our children are classified as special needs in the tax sense and we can utilize the full credit even though we did not spend that much money.

I strongly encourage anyone reading this to consider Foster Care Adoption. If the child is eligible for adoption when they are placed there is not a risk of the child being given back to their bio parents. Choosing a reputable agency with a long history of child placement will give you all the information you need to help make your decision. Attending several information meetings will give you a good starting point.

Children is US Foster Care are orphans, and need Forever Families.

Monday, June 30, 2008

15 Month Roller Coaster Ride

Our son's were in our home as foster children for 15 months. Life as a foster parent is never dull and we learned to accept each day as an adventure.

The first rule you learn as a foster parent is that your door is always open and CPS can and will walk in at any time. You are always looking over your shoulder and worried that you will do something wrong. That being said, I would not trade those 15 months for anything. It was a test in faith. By adopting from foster care, the cost to adopt was not in dollars but in sweat and tears. We did not have the financial resources to pursue international adoption, nor the information to purse financial help. We did not feel led by God to purse this type of adoption.

God calls all families to care for the orphans on our planet and he guides each family that asks how to accomplish this task. Now that we are past our foster care days, who knows we may have another adoption in our life from another country.

Because our children were scheduled to be reunited with their biological parents, we would take them to visit their biological parents each week. You learn to listen very carefully to the workers and hope they will reveal any new information about the case. I had to keep a notebook at home with all the twist and turns our case took. The biological parents would work on their objectives for a few weeks and then stop attending classes and calling to check in. As time went by, the CPS workers started to get tired of all the starts and stops and began to lose patience with the biological parents. The parents lawyers were trying to keep the case moving forward and started to turn the biological parents against each other. The fact that they were not married helped this tactic. This threw the case into a tail spin. The mother started doing better once she was on her own and things were looking up for her. We were very worried, but had faith that God would pull us through.

While you understand the goal of reunification, your heart tells you that these children are yours. You are the one to kiss their boo boos, kiss them goodnight, and clean their dirty noses. The biological parents are only there an hour each week. I cried out to God on many occasions asking why this was taking so long.

Given enough time, all problems will boil over and people who do not want to give up destructive habits will choose their selfish path over children they do not have a bond with. With almost 14 months gone by, any attachment they had with their children was starting to fail. I do not like to think of the pitfalls of the foster care system from a biological parents perspective. I have not been able to get to that point yet. I have empathy for people who have addiction problems, but do not quite understand it from a personal perspective.

During the summer of 2004, we were getting ready for the termination hearing. We had been given a date in September and the biological parents were not putting up a fight. They had stopped coming to visits and were not showing up to the mediation meetings.

We were thrown a curve ball when my husband was diagnosed with skin cancer. We were afraid this would hurt us with the children. We chose to withhold the information from CPS and hope we could juggle all the balls. This was hard as the surgery did not turn out well and he was at home for three months. God is gracious and we kept our family intact and managed to keep a positive outlook.

The day of court was nerve wracking. We sat in the court room and listened to the entire trial, and learned some new facts about our children's background that CPS had not informed us about. This is normal for CPS to not give foster parents the whole story. The biological parents did not show up for the trial and the judge made her ruling very quickly. The judge guessed during the trial that we were the foster parents and asked to meet us after the trial. We were overjoyed that she had read about us in the CPS reports and was pleased that we wanted to adopt the boys. Now we just had to wait for the appeal time limit to pass and we could adopt our precious boys.

January 2005 could not come soon enough. We went before the same judge and finalized our adoption.

We were done, but GOD was not!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

And babies make 5

Although we had taken the PRIDE class for 10 weeks, and attended several Foster Parent Training Meetings we had no idea what we were doing.

Both of our son's were developmentally delayed and our pediatrician had no experience with children who had come from a neglectful background. We were relying on the new found friend who had helped us get involved in Foster to Adopt life.

Without betraying my children's privacy, I can give some minor details of their experience in foster care before being placed in my home. The foster care system in our part of Texas is horribly understaffed. We need Christian foster homes desperately. You cannot make a living just doing foster care. The myth that you do it for the money is not true for the majority of homes. Homes who have children with no mental or physical illness are only being reimbursed $20 a day.

My middle son A was in foster care for about 4 months when he was accidentally burned. He pulled a cup of boiling water down. This was not the first accident in the home to a foster child and the home was closed. For families with children under three, you realize that you cannot turn your back for more than 15 seconds.

My youngest son Z was placed in foster care at birth. He was a preemie so he went to a home about 4 weeks after he was born. This home was closed when he was about 5 months old. The parent was not being giving him the attention a newborn needed. She was leaving the home with no adult supervision for hours at a time. He was moved to a new home for 3 weeks before that home was closed due to having unauthorized long term guest in the home.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Z who is the youngest was placed with us first. When A needed a new home, CPS decided to place him back with his biological mother to start the transition for both boys to be returned. Although I did not know Z had an older brother I was told up front that he was going to be reunited with his biological mother.

You have no idea what God has in store for your family. God's peace had given us the courage to allow the chips to fall where they would. Once a child is placed in your arms, you fall in love. You have an emotional interest in the outcome. You are being the day in, day out caregiver. The longer this child is in your life the harder it will be for them to leave.

For the first three months the boys were with us we were in survival mode. Everything took forever to accomplish. We were not sleeping, not getting homework done, the house was a disaster area. Dad was in the process of looking for a new company to join, so he took a break, left his current job to be a daddy full time. I left every day to keep up my business and pay the bills. Daddy had never thought about being Mr. Mom but he gave it a shot and did the best he could. I still took time off for doctor, therapy, and CPS appts, but he was the primary caregiver from 9-5.

Taking advice from seasoned foster parents we chose to use private therapy for our children. ECI was understaffed and we would not receive weekly visits that we felt was necessary.

I would easily say that therapy is a must for all infant, toddler foster children and newly placed international children. We used home based therapy. This helped us establish a routine. A routine is a MUST. These kids are spinning from change. They need to have structure and know what is going to happen next. I knew this from my biological son, but with foster children this is magnified by 100. We were blessed with two therapist who had experience with children who were neglected. They had a huge heart for my family and blessed us with a loving helping hand.

Little Z was seeing an Occupational therapist to help with his tight muscles and learn how to hold his head up, and rolling over. He was seeing a speech therapist for his oral aversion. He wanted to suck a bottle but had trouble keeping it in. He was on a feeding tube at birth and developed this aversion to a nipple. Little A was seeing the speech therapist to help with his language development. This was a preventative measure since he was only 19 months old.

I cannot say again how important this therapy was for our children. With the boys being in foster care, it was mandatory for them to be evaluated to determine if they had any delays. I would encourage all parents of children from foster care or from another country to check into therapy.

Monday, June 23, 2008

What's the difference: Adoption of a Foster child vs. Foster to Adopt

I am not an expert on this topic. My knowledge is from personal experience and listening to many different experts on the subject.

Straight Adoption:
The child who is available for immediate adoption is in foster care. The biological parents rights have been terminated. The child is in a foster home that does not want to adopt. Now that the parental rights have been terminated the state will look for an adoptive home. The majority of children eligible for straight adoption will be between 2 - 17 yrs of age.

Foster to Adopt:
A child is placed in a foster home due to a bad situation at the family home. The state will work with the family to reunite the children with their biological parents. The parents have one year to work toward reunification. At the year mark, the judge in the case can extend their time 6 months if they are showing progress. If the biological parents are unable to be reunited with the children, the state will proceed to legally terminate their rights. Some parents choose to voluntarily terminate their rights if they feel they are going to loose in court. During this 12 -18 month time frame, the state will try to find blood relatives to take the children. The state of Texas wants children to be placed with birth parents or blood relatives before non related foster families. Once these rights are terminated the foster family will be asked if they wish to adopt the child. They get the first chance to adopt.

It is hard to decide which route to take. There are many agencies to choose to work with. By using an experienced agency you can go the foster to adopt route and only be placed with children who look like adoption will happen. The case workers are experienced in knowing how to read between the lines and have relationships with CPS to know the probable outcome of the case. Foster to adopt is the best and quickest way to get a newborn!

Do not allow yourself to tell God no, I can't. Do not allow yourself to make up your mind that foster care is not for you. God is not about fear!!!!! God calls us each to seek His face and His heart. If you do not say no before asking God, you may be surprised with the result. Yes foster to adopt has a risk of heartbreak. Who has healed your heart so many times in you life? PLEASE seek God before you automatically say it is not right for you. Only God knows what is next for you, and unless you seek Him you could be missing out on a Miracle. And yes, your miracle could be on the straight adoption path.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The path to Foster Care Adoption

From February to May was a bleak time. I was depressed and had no idea what to do with my time. I would jump every time the phone rang hoping it was the agency. I was worried that we were too old, did not look nice enough, did not have enough money. The thought that another women held my future in her hands was more than I could handle most days.

Our oldest son was involved in a group at school called Destination Imagination. It was an improvisational group that had their final show on a Saturday in April. I ended up carpooling with a family that I did not know. As we were driving along, we got to talking and when she asked about other children I mentioned that we were waiting to adopt. She prodded me a little and my whole story came flooding out with plenty of tears. I guess I was at a breaking point and gushing to a stranger was easy.

She went on to tell me that she had adopted three of her children from foster care. I told her that we wanted a baby and CPS had already told me they do not have babies for adoption. They had basically told me if you want a baby, leave the meeting. She laughed and told me all three of her children came to her under 4 weeks of age. I was very interested and she went on to give me a brief overview of adoption from foster care.

I went home and told my husband the whole conversation. He was sceptical but did not want to burst my bubble. On Monday I called our local office and was told they did not have any classes starting soon, and we would have to wait. I pushed a little harder and she told me we could go to a larger county for the classes but they did not usually allow outsiders in their class. I was on a mission! I called that county and bugged them daily until they agreed for us to attend the next class in two weeks. PRAISE GOD.

We had no idea what the next 10 weeks were going to be like! We walked into the first night and sat next to a couple from our county that did exactly what I did, pestered themselves into the class. It was a great group of people. I would guess that the majority of the class were Christians. We had a pastor, several deceans and the instructor had a PhD in Theology.

For the next 10 weeks we sat and listened to the worst case scenarios. The most horrible stories about abuse, neglect, and how the kids behaved after coming out of these families. It was definitely a scare tactic to weed out the weak.

At the end you had to decide if you wanted to only adopt or if you wanted to be foster parents and adopt a foster child placed in your home if they became available. I will explain the difference in my next post.

This is where we started praying very hard about God's plan. It turned out we had time because our paperwork went on vacation on multiple workers desks. By the time I found the live person who had our file we felt God was telling us to go the Foster Care route. This was scary. We would be taking a HUGE risk but we felt peace that God was calling us down this path. If we can survive two failed placements we could survive a lost placement. His grace is sufficient and He will heal all wounds.

Back in 2003, the placement process was not computerized or organized. We waited from Aug - October for our first placement. Our worker would watch her e-mail for a "broadcast" of a child needing placement in foster care. She had an idea what we wanted, and what she wanted to give us. She did not feel inter-racial placements were right and would not put a child in our home that was not caucasion. We did not know this was the case, so we could not object to her theory.

I was working for myself at the time and was at a clients office when she called and told me about a 6 month old boy who needed foster care only. This case was not going toward adoption. I felt forwarned and decided I wanted to get my feet wet and learn what foster care was all about. Our youngest son, is this child! I raced home, called my best friend to come over and help get the house ready. We cleaned, moved, stored, and nested for many hours. I was so nervous I did not know what to do. My husband was oblivious to all this. He did not have his cell phone charged and did not know I was calling him every five minutes. He pulled up into the driveway and I pounced on him with the good news. He was so overwhelmed he did not have enough time to catch his breath. The worker pulled into the drive less than 15 minutes after him.

It is the strangest feeling to have a women ring your doorbell and hand you a baby.

Our little boy, was very developmentally and physically delayed. Unfortunatly, he had been in foster care but was in a home that had to be closed due to neglect of their foster children. Little Z was so tiny and had met none of his milestones. My heart broke for this child. I started calling doctors and other foster parents to find out what I needed to do. We got him an evaluation for private therapy the next week.

About four weeks later, we received another call from our worker explaining to us that Z's older brother needed to be placed in foster care again and would we take him? What a question. We were very overwhelmed with the first child. He was work. He did not sleep, did not eat, and we had no idea what we were doing. We had exactly 30 minutes to make a decision. How could we say no and split up the brothers. They had never lived in the same home but we knew they needed to. We prayed quick and said Yes. Our middle son is this little boy!

The next 15 months were a roller coaster! (but worth every heart stopping drop)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Failed Placement Two

Two weeks after our first birthmother disappeared, the agency called about a new birthmother who needed a family for her baby. The mother was Hep C positive and we would need to decide if we would accept the placement. I called hospitals and researched the internet.

I learned that the risk of the baby being born Hep C+ was low, and if it did happen, drug therapy would almost 100% wipe it out. We prayed and decided to go forward.

This child was scheduled to be born in the middle of February 2003. The weeks crawled by. By the beginning of February I was so excited. We had decided on the nursery theme and were just waiting to get the decorations started.

The agency called and told us the birthmother was having second thoughts. She kept going back and forth in her decision. She wanted the agency to look for other families. We were never told why she was questioning us, but I had to have faith in God that she would keep us.

God's plan was not my plan. This mother did choose another family and followed thru on her plan for adoption. I later got to meet the family and after hearing their story I felt peace from God that this was just a step in my journey and this baby was never meant to be in our family.

Since hindsight is so perfect I did not understand God's plan at the time. About a week after learning this placement failed I felt God telling me to be patient. I had more of a journey to my child. My child had not been born and I needed to have complete faith in the timeline God had set for our family.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Following the path set before us

As I am sitting on the couch one morning the phone rang. An adoption agency I had contacted about information and costs was curious if we were still pursuing adoption. This had me very curious. This agency was a local christian agency that friends from church had used. They asked us to come in this week to talk.

We rearranged our schedules and went to talk to this agency director. She explained that she had a birth-mother who was delivering in a week and they did not have a family for her daughter. This gave us one week to get all the paperwork and requirements complete. What a week it was, filling out papers, cleaning the house for the homestudy, finding a CPR/First Aid class.

When the day arrived for this birthmother to have her C-section, the doctor decided to wait another week. I was crushed. I had no idea I would experience the emotions I did. I had been reading her profile all week over and over, falling more and more in love with this baby. I had restrained myself not to shop, so I still had more to look forward to. By the end of the week, the agency was having trouble locating the birth mom. She evidently changed her mind and did not inform the agency of her decision. She was gone, as was my heart.

This experience helped push me off the cliff and I was full into adoption. The pregnancy issue was gone. Looking back now I see the path more clearly. God had planted seeds in our life for years. As a couple we had read If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat - John Ortberg. We had discussed adoption while we were dating. We both wanted children and would adopt a child and be single parents if we had never been married.

Wow, what a journey this first failed placement would lead us to.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Step 1: Make a Decision

Not wanting to give up hope of getting pregnant the old fashion way, we kept up with basic drugs and watched the calender.

We went on a weekend retreat with other families from our church. Our son became fast friends with another fireball. As his mother and I started spending time together, I learned that this new friend & his cutie pie sister were both adopted. As she related her life story I realized that this would be an option I should check into. The money would be about the same, but with adoption the chances were greater to get a baby.

When I get excited about a project, I go after it full force. I started calling agencies to request information. I learned a bunch but it did not push me over the edge into adoption full force. I still wanted a pregnancy. I kinda told God that he could give me a baby now, I looked into adoption. Yea know the myth that you always get pregnant as soon as you start to adopt!!!!!

There were four or five agencies that I felt I wanted to look into further. I wanted a local agency for a domestic placement. We went to a few information meetings to fulfill the first step into choosing an agency.

We settled into an agency due to their sliding scale fee. I started the paperwork, still with the pregancy option in the back of my head. I REALLY wanted to get pregnant!

God started me down the path, He just needed to guide me a little more than I expected.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Our Family

We are a family of five. Our oldest son is 12, our middle son is 6, and our youngest son is 5.

Our oldest was a bundle of energy and we honestly did not think we had the energy to have another child. Once he started 1st grade we had a change of heart and started trying to conceive. Because he came so easily, we were not concerned for a few months.

Six months into the waiting, we started to think about talking to our doctor. Due to our ages he started us on Clomid to get things moving. Six more months and we were talking to a specialist. Once we saw the price tag, we started to have real fear of not having another child. We did the basic tests with no answers.

This is the point where our lives turned a corner we never expected.