We have a date

On June 11, A moves in with us. After 6 months of visits we are making the transition to being a family. PA agreed to take custody of her and now the states are figuring out the transfer of her insurance and other administrative things. She will finish school on June 8th and then have the weekend to pack up and say her goodbyes. We are waiting to hear back from the school district about registration. There are so many administrative parent things I need to do!

I feel nervous more than anything. I’m anxious about her feelings and ability to relax and care for herself amidst all this. Everyone talks about letting kids have their feelings and learn to move through disappointment or difficult times. I don’t know how to watch her struggle like I think she will. After several years in the same home and her entire life in the same community, this is going to be hard. Though she knows us we aren’t as predictable to her as her foster mother. I worry about my own emotions as we adjust to adding a member to our daily lives but I worry about her more.

There have been issues with her foster mother recently opening up visits with her first family. On Monday we attended a hearing where the judge issued a stay away order against all natural relatives. He was clear the foster mom will face repercussions if she continues this contact. I think she is trying to give A space to say goodbye or whatever before she moves but it has likely been what has caused her regressing with us. I’m really annoyed that this contact started so close to her moving in with us. We can never compete with the love for her family and we wouldn’t even try. But we do need to bond with her and help her feel secure in our family.

I am going to be a mother person but I bristle when someone calls me mom. Is that normal? I don’t ever expect A to call me mom so other people saying that is weird.

This photo was taken on a dog walk last weekend.

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10 days later

Sometimes life hands you hurricanes and you just brace yourself knowing that you will get through the storm. That’s where I’m at in life right now.

Things with A are getting more real and the closer we get to her moving in, she feels the changes coming. Some of her reactions are increasingly difficult to witness and process afterward. After we were given the news that we are one step closer with the adoption, we asked her team not to tell her so that we could ask her to adopt us. Knowing things she has said about adoption we knew we couldn’t do something like “will you be my daughter” so we approached it with ” will you adopt us, we’d like to join your family.”

That approach didn’t fly with her either. She read the card we left for her and said “what the hell is that” and then proceeded to get more and more upset about adoption. We explained that we know she has a lot of people she cares about and we would like to join that tribe. This conversation was really awkward and tense, I must confess. She asked questions and we asked questions and in the end she shrugged, said she was uncomfortable and said “okay, sure” before walking off to eat her feelings.

She, naturally, does not believe us and questions our intentions. She has had a lot of neglect and let downs by people she trusts and we are just more adults who say we will do right by her but actually we won’t. She can’t see beyond today and believes she has no chance at a future. She has said that she won’t be happy as the years go on and how annoyed she is when people tell her she will find happiness some day. We are reading up on and trying to focus on reflexive and empathetic listening/response rather than assurances that we aren’t the same as “those people.” It’s hard though.

A is really good at giving the cold shoulder and acting like a cool cucumber. I have learned it’s hard to be in a car for 2 hours with someone who is ignoring you. As a result of these tantrums and her increased stress, we told her team that we do not want to take her to Alabama. I don’t think she can make it in a car for 14hrs one way. Car rides are definitely not her thing and it is awful to deal with that level of negative energy for so long. I also worry about her being emotionally and socially exhausted by dad’s memorial, the car ride, and my relatives. Her adoption worker agrees that it is a lot of new things all at once and her foster worker says that we can’t back out now because we told her she was going with us. So they are not on the same page but we are positive that it’s not a good idea to pull her into that emotional time in our lives. I don’t want to add any strain on our budding relationship. Things are tough as it is and adding new layers is not going to make it easier.

I’ve been stuck in my own feelings for the past 24 hours, including a little hyperventilation after the visit was over. I was relieved and it was really hard to be okay with my feelings as they were at the moment. Today was a struggle as I have been feeling overwhelmed about her reactions and my reactions. Plus add in friends who are constantly judging my every move and I’m drowning. It really feels like I can’t do anything right and that’s hard for me. I need a win, just one little win.

Nobody tells you that you can survive it when you are at the hardest moment. They just say “this shit is hard.”

Good News from every direction

Friends, life has been great lately. No one says a great life is easy or relaxing, though. I am one tired woman!

First of all I am wait-listed for graduate school. The college gave me the option to wait and see if I got in or to enter in the fall as a non-matriculated student. Essentially they are giving me one semester to prove myself as a student and if I make the grades, I will be able to enroll as a traditional student in January. I am going to take their offer as the courses are what I would be taking in the first semester anyway and the grades will count towards the degree anyway. I can do this!! I am going to be a social worker one day. Ugh, I even hate typing that, but I think it’s something I will be good at and it’ll help me if I continue doing this job for years to come.

Secondly, the state of DE approved us to adopt A!! This was the hurdle we needed to get through so that the interstate paperwork could be initiated for her transfer to PA and our custody. Yesterday our social worker presented us to the DHS committee and they loved us and approved us within 5 minutes of the hearing ending. YAHOOO!!! We have visits with A every weekend but we aren’t going to tell her this week. Next weekend we are going to Ocean City, NJ and we are going to adoption propose to her. I’m away for work right now and need some time to create a cute card and a small gift or something. The DHS people expect the interstate paperwork to take a month and then she could move in with us. I think it’s going to depend on when the paperwork comes through to when she will be able to live with us and how it will affect her school transfer. We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves since everything depends on government paperwork.

We are hosting our own Adoption Shower on April 29th. Basically I’m creating a nacho bar and will talk to our friends about A and what the transition will look like. So many people in our life have no experience with foster care or with gentle parenting so we want to give folks a heads up on what our family is going to look/act like. A won’t be there at the party so no pressure for her and we can talk openly about our expectations of folks. I am working on getting my mom to stop telling jokes that involve physical actions “I’m going to whip your ass” type of comments are her go to with kids. I don’t know why but it causes A to react negatively so if she will stop saying things like that we can live a little more harmoniously. Our technique of listening to her  before reacting has gone a long way in our bonding and I know some people think we are nuts but whatever. She is 12 years old and at a point in life where people should hear her out when she’s being frustrated or needs something she can’t describe just yet.

She called us every night this week and told us she loved us and missed us. That was all on her own as we don’t initiate feelings talk with her. She’s got a lot going on in preparing herself for this transition. She is letting her friends and church know that she will be leaving and starting to think about what adoption means for her in relation to her siblings. We are definitely going to create a safe environment for the siblings to stay in touch when it’s appropriate.

Third and finally, we are going to Alabama in a few weeks to celebrate my dad’s life! This is both exciting and stressful as I have pushed dad to the back of my head and now I need to bring him forward again. It’s been easy to forget that he died because we didn’t talk that often so it feels like “old times” basically. I need to work on that and through my feelings about his death. I went back to therapy to get myself on the path of healing and working through feelings. Go me! I’m really looking forward to seeing my siblings again and my extended relatives. Plus A will get to meet everyone and we hope she won’t be too overwhelmed.

Life is good. We are insanely busy and I’ve been exhausted for months but I wouldn’t change any of it. This is mom life!

When the phobes descend on your family

This post contains a lot of info not previously disclosed. I’d appreciate it if you know us in real life – please do not share this on my facebook or refer to this information. 

We had our first overnight visit with A this weekend. Things are moving fast towards April 12th- the day we are presented to the adoption committee for approval.

On Thursday I was given the email address of A’s twin. Yes, our daughter is a solo twin. Her sister, S, was adopted in December by a family that can provide her with what she needs. The agency that works with the girls thought it would be a good idea that our family and theirs get to know one another as we near adoption. The other family has known the girls for at least a year, I think longer than that. I did a quick Facebook scan of the family and realize I HATE THEM! They boast about creating an “army for Jesus” with regards to adopting foster kids. They have a set of twins they adopted, S, and 2 biological children. They are very religious, VERY RELIGIOUS, and that’s just where they are coming from. I can’t do much about their beliefs but I guess I just have to love them through it. The dad posted an anti-trans joke and something along the lines of “kids today don’t know their gender and eat tidepods” which I didn’t think was particularly funny. Also so many videos posted publicly of aborted babies and pro-gun things. These are all things that I’m NOT comfortable with. These parents want to arm the school teachers to protect the kids.

So, I freak out (like you do) that these people are going to find out about us and tell S she can’t see A and cause a whole big barrier between the girls. After I freaked out, I emailed the mom. She responded pretty quickly with excitement about connecting with me and telling me a little about her experience with S and A. She throws in there that my kid triggers her kid and I get offended but through further emails with her I learn they have a really hard time with S. She was recently diagnosed with reactive attachmend disorder (RAD) and that she can be rather explosive. A had told us her sister could sometimes act out and that she had been in a child psych center at one point after running away. So I think when the twins are together they activate each others insecurities and their longing to be together- and then they are separated again and the devastation sets in. I cannot imagine what their daily situations are like knowing there is a person out there that they are so close to but who they can’t see regularly. It’s gotta be tough for a tween to have so many big feelings! Anyway, that family is weird but we are going to be tied to them for the rest of our lives so we are going to get our act together and have a coffee date with them soon and get the low down on the family history and info about the twins.

Meanwhile we had a visit with A Saturday night- Sunday afternoon. On the drive from her house to our house (1 hour) she told us she was worried we were too good to be true, that we have some fake side she hasn’t seen yet. We reassured her that we are just normal people and what she sees is what she gets. She shared that her foster grandmother told her to take precautions at our house because men will come into her room at night and do things she doesnt like. This was a WOAH moment for us as what adult says that to a kid?! We also assured her that Cole is not going into her room in the night. She asked if she could sleep in the livingroom instead of in her bedroom and I said sure, no need for her to be uncomfortable. In the end she did sleep in her own bedroom with Chewy. On Sunday she told me that her foster mom knows we are LGBT and she attributed it to her adoption worker telling her. She told me to talk to Mrs. Amy, her worker, to find out what really went down as she wasn’t really sure what was said between Mrs. Amy and her foster mom.

Today I email the visit update, like we have to do every time A visits. I mention the abuse questions and A’s nervousness. I also talked about some hygiene issues that we observed and discussed with her foster mom. The agency is REALLY concerned if someone is telling her to brace herself for abuse – and it really hinders her ability to bond with us. The immediate response was “we know we would all like a slow transition but maybe this needs to be faster” and I could read between the lines that they want to get her out of that house. I decide I need to call Mrs. Amy so we can discuss the fact that the foster mom knows our LGBT status and get some clarity on this “speed up transition” talk. We had a nice chat in which it was revealed that A outed us, I think in an attempt to convince foster mom that LGBT people can be good too. Anyway, her foster mom did not like what she heard and the conversation stopped immediately. Foster mom calls Mrs. Amy to the house to scream at her (literally) about how she doesn’t believe in that kind of thing. Mrs. Amy said it was BAD but that it doesn’t really matter because all of A’s team supports her transitioning to us as a permanent resource. That was reassuring but what the fuck do we do about the foster mom?! We had known that she was a homophobe even before we came out to A. We had a family plan not to tell the foster mom but A isn’t so good at keeping things to herself, she’s really honest about everything. (We reinforced that outing us isn’t always safe when we were talking yesterday but we will need to revisit that over and over again.) Mrs. Amy is concerned that her foster home is going to sabotage our bonding. With the abuse talk and the anti-LGBT stuff the foster family is going to make this transition way harder on her. In a time when she needs to be surrounded by love and people who support her, she’s being torn between really liking us and feeling like she has to deny us because her foster mom doesn’t approve. That isn’t healthy for a little kid. There is going to be a team meeting with us, Mrs. Amy, the attorney, the foster worker, and her therapist to discuss next steps. As we are the permanent resource we have more say than her foster mom. And given that right now foster mom might be detrimental to her mental health and attachment, I think they are going to move her soon.

I honestly hate this situation. As a parent figure, I feel like her foster mom is screwing her over royally but A really loves her anyway. She knows this mom more than any other person in her life, besides her twin. They’ve been together for years. As a gay person, I am really hurting about people who can’t accept us and I hurt for A who is bearing the brunt of this right now. As a social service worker, I feel like this kid has got to get out of there! I feel personally attacked and also like I have to protect her from these idiots. Not only do we now have to battle with super religious twin’s family but also with her foster family that loves her but who is trying to brainwash her that we are bad because we are queer. We are thinking that maybe they brought up the molestation thing because of that saying that transgender people are child molesters. It’s not a far jump from what A said and now knowing the full background, I have a better sense of things. That misrepresentation does NOT help us at all. We want to teach love and acceptance not hate and judgment.

Being a parent is hard even if your kid doesn’t live with you. Knowing that she’s in a home with an adult who is judging you is really hard. Knowing that the other parent is telling your kid you are bad for them, whether directly or indirectly, is fucked up. I am so upset by the adults in these situations but I’m trying to love them through it. Being angry won’t help A or help to grow these relationships with the important people in her life. Hopefully we find out soon when the team meeting is to discuss next steps and then, I imagine, we proceed with adoption and probably a move in sooner than June. Moving her before the end of school will really be a hassle but we will burn that bridge when we get to it. Ah, the life of a foster parent!

Preparing for adoption panel

You guys!!!! Things are happening!!

On Feb 9th we met with the team for A – her guardian ad litem, foster worker, adoption worker and by phone her permanency (Dept of Family & Children) worker and our matching coordinator. It was a really productive meeting from what I can remember. This was the day I learned my dad was on life support and we didn’t want to cancel the meeting so we went anyway but my memories are a little fuzzy.

We went with a list of questions, literally a written list, and were able to get answers for those things. The attorney and foster worker had questions for us as they didn’t know much about us before this meeting. Everyone seemed to like us and we really liked her attorney and foster worker. They are obviously folks that really care about A, have known her many years, and want to be sure she finds permanency with the right family. We are hopeful that we will be that family.

We are in the process of creating our profile book that will be presented to the Delaware adoption panel (I don’t know the official name for this group of people) in April. They haven’t told us which day yet but there are 2 days a month the panel hears family profiles. We are the only family being introduced to the panel for A. Though we are the only family, it doesn’t mean that they will approve us. They could determine we cannot meet her needs and go back to square one looking for a family. Considering we began bonding visits with her in December, I would hope that they would not discount all of that time we have spent together. That would be extremely hard for a 12 year old to get attached and then find out we weren’t approved to be her forever family. (Ugh, I hate the term forever family and I don’t know why.)

I am working with our matching coordinator and the DFS worker to get as much information as possible about A’s history as her adoption worker basically shut me down that I’m not entitled to anything outside of the profile we received when they began recruiting us for her. I have talked with other foster/adopt families in DE and they say this is not the case and I should receive a full family history, medical and psych info, and educational information. I am going to fight for that information as I know she is going to want to connect with her family as she gets older. Hell, she wants to connect with many of them now but all family visits were terminated last year. So, that’s an ongoing struggle for her.

We recently received the okay to bring her to Pennsylvania so we have been picking her up and spending about 12 hours together on Saturdays. It’s been a really great time. She has bonded with our dogs and with my mom. I think she feels comfortable in our home and likes our food selections. haha. We took her to the Liberty Bell last weekend and she was bored, which is typical, but she loved walked down the old cobblestone roads and jumping in puddles. She has ADHD and likes to get her energy out on the weekends. I have zero objections to that, whatever works for her. In our own home, we are most comfortable with her and she seems to be more free to share or ask questions that she has.

We came out to her last weekend and it was a real shock for her but I think she understood. She asked questions and I take that as a good step. She was worried about telling her foster mother who has made certain words “curse words” in the home and LGBT is one of those. So.. I advised her adoption worker to talk to her counselor so that she has someone to bounce this off of. I don’t want her to feel like she has to defend us to her foster mom or make that arrangement awkward. They have a really great relationship and our identities shouldn’t be something they struggle with over the coming months.

If we get approved by the adoption panel in April, then the interstate compact (ICPC) stuff gets started. Depending on who we ask, this process can takes weeks to 12 months! We cannot move her in until the ICPC is complete. Delaware wouldn’t let the paperwork get started until after the adoption panel makes a decision. So, we wait. I hope we get the sooner of the two April dates so we can start making plans for her move-in, school stuff, and summer break. Ideally she would move in over the summer break so we have time to bond before she has to go to her new school. Also, there are 2 schools in our neighborhood and you have to test into them. One is for average kids and the other is the honors middle school. Testing should be completed before the end of this school year so she can prepare for where she will be assigned. I really hate dealing with administrative crap and thinking through summer camps and school sign-ups really stressed me out. But it must be done. Ahh the life of a parent!

Wish us luck while we prepare for this panel – that we aren’t even present for! Our worker will present our book, answer questions about us, etc. We are not allowed to attend. Man, I hope our worker better really sell us. We should have an answer from the panel within a day or two so at least it won’t be a long wait. It’s mentally exhausting to create a photo book of why you are a good fit for a particular kid. It feels kind of fake and this whole process still seems surreal to me.

this kid loves dogs!

Chewy and A warming up
Emmy and A cuddling

To be..parents

Today we got an email from the adoption worker for the child we met last month. They want us to have an all day date in January 13 in the child’s home community. Then a visit in our community after that. After those day visits they want to move to overnights.

Sounds great, right? Well, it would be if things seemed more organized. I have reservations about having overnight visits with a child that we are not officially matched with. We should have some information about the history before we all get attached, right? It feels like the child’s agency is moving past the administrative stuff and treating us like we are a sure thing. I have asked for clarity and what the steps forward will be. I have no reason to think we won’t be a match for adoptive placement but want all the cards on the table. 

I hope we get some clarity next week and that we have a great visit. 

Ok I think we are getting closer!!

Last Sunday we finally met a kid we have been interested in since October-ish. Her worker found us on the national registry and reached out to see if we were interested in this kid. The kids parental rights were terminated over a year ago and the kid is in a safe foster home but they aren’t interested in adoption. So here they were.

We went bowling with the kid and the adoption recruiter. It was a really great time after we all relaxed. We had a hard time breaking the ice until we started to talk about our dogs. Dogs are a great ice breaker! Things went great from them on. The kid asked us about “if I come to live with you..”  but nothing that was too weird. We all agreed to hang out again in January. If this next meeting goes well, we will consider it a match I think. Due to some interstate compact requirements it will be a long time until the kid moves in with us, likely the end of the school year in June. If we are a match, we will get to visit regularly as we work on trust and bonding. I like this kid and can definitely see the addition to our family. 

Fingers crossed that 2018 is the year of family for so many of us! 

Random things

I’m sitting in a salon chair waiting for my hair to be purple and blue highlighted. I’m excited to add some fun to my appearance and hopefully my office doesn’t freak out. It’s highlights underneath so it shouldn’t be too bad.

The other day at the bank while opening an account with my mom, she tells the banker I can’t have kids. I was mortified! The banker had asked what big life events are happening and I mentioned we are trying to foster/adopt. The banker goes on to talk about her own infertile sister and how she wishes she could have kids. My mom says, and points at me, “that’s her, she can’t either.” Omg!! I said “thanks mom” as tried to push it away. I don’t generally discuss my family planning situation within 15 minutes of meeting someone. I’m not embarrassed of my fertility issues but I don’t want it publicized either. 

My mom was smoking on our enclosed back porch recently and that’s a huge no no. We can’t stand smoke and we have to be entirely smoke free for foster kids. I did not let the moment pass and told her how this affects us. Hopefully she doesn’t try that trick again!

Tomorrow we fly out to Florida for a week with family and friends. I’m really looking forward to it. I started seeing a therapist a few weeks ago and working through childhood stuff ain’t easy. Now I get to see my dad who caused a lot of my childhood stress and dysfunction. I’m trying to prepare for whatever feelings arise without being afraid of them. Feelings are often scary for me. 

Still no kids in the home but we are so close to matching with two different kids/siblings. I’m getting impatient but it’s worth the wait.

The matching process

So here we are working our way through the matching process. We’ve inquired about a few kids and siblings over the past 6 weeks and we finally struck some interest last week! Our worker contacted us when she received the full profile on a sibling set we are interested in. We feel like we could be good parents to these kids, ages 6 and 8. 

Today we were able to review their profile and are even more interested. Unfortunately so are “many” other families, including another family that our worker is pitching to the kids team. Yikes!! We were feeling good about matching with them until we found out about the stiff competition. Due to the amount of interest, the child worker is screening everyone by phone. That will happen this week sometime. If we pass the phone call screen, we will have an in person interview with the clinical team in October. The team is aiming for the kids to move in with their pre-adoptive parents over the Christmas school break. That’s so soon! 

Please send all the good vibes that these kids find the right parents (and hopefully that’ll be us) for their unique needs.