Tag Archives: adoption

Adoption – almost three years

Finally, we’re a normal family.

I’m working on a guest post about our adoption for another site, trying to condense three years of intensity and insanity into a few concise, feel-good paragraphs. Holy crap, it can’t be done. I can’t make the process look pretty. But I can point to the results and say, Hey! Look! It worked! 

We had a normal start of the new school year, with #1 Cherub heading into his sophomore year like the budding soccer star that he is, and #2 Cherub beginning 7th grade with confidence that she can conquer math AND make the school musical.

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We were thankful at Thanksgiving, celebratory at Christmas, and tired of all that time together by the end of Christmas break. It was all delightfully mundane.

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If you’d told me two years ago that we’d be this normal today, back when we’d just met The Cherubs and they kind of hated us…I would have burst into tears, smiled at you politely, then fled home to drown my sorrows in Cabernet Sauvignon (it’s like Gatorade for adoptive parents – it’s what keeps you going).  And yet, here we are. At a point where I don’t even have wine in the house.  Miracles happening all around.

In the midst of this, I didn’t dare blog. I’m not superstitious, but it has felt way to dangerous to come here and say, our family is working! I guess that’s an indication of how precarious this has felt, because I can write about almost anything.

I’ve been thinking a lot about learning. Progressing, becoming better than you were before. I want that. But I hate how hard it is to recognize when you’re in the middle of it. I have friends writing books, taking on new roles at work, starting new businesses and relationships and families. From the outside, I can cheer them on and see how they’re growing – succeeding, flopping, getting back up, starting again and applying what they’ve learned. It’s so cool from the outside, and so not-cool from the inside, when it’s you. And yet…when it’s you, there are these moments that happen, where you feel like a little kid on a new bike, brave enough to yell out for the first time, “Hey Mom, Look! I’m doing it!”

The First Days of Adoption

Friends of ours just met their kids for the first time!!! They’re adopting older siblings from foster care. For obvious reasons, this makes my eyes fog up. I am so excited for this new family. And aware of how vulnerable it feels to attempt this. As much as we all want to imagine these moments as beautiful scenes where orphaned children run into the arms of their new parents with bright smiles, grateful hearts, and the sun shining down on us all, that’s not exactly what it looks like.  At least that’s not what it looked like for us.

For us, it looked like equal parts wonder, awe, and terror.

I’d forgotten about this until our friends sent out a picture from the night they met their cherubs. They were on a couch together, arms around one another, looking for all the world like a ready-made family. It was GORGEOUS. It reminded me of sitting on a similar couch, taking a similar picture. And the surrealness of the whole, “Hi, so nice to meet you, I’m your new mom/dad/kid.”

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Don’t we look happy? But #1 is CLUTCHING that conversation ball for dear life. It might be the best present we brought that night. 

After that night, we started the visits and the process of getting to know each other. Our kids liked us okay. We were white, which wasn’t their favorite. But we said we’d get him a basketball hoop for the driveway, and that she could paint her room any color she wanted, and we had a dog. So that all worked in our favor.

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Steve & #1 assembling the basketball hoop. This took approximately 5 hours, at which point we could see in both kids’ eyes, “Wow, this guy might be serious about being our Dad…”

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Paint swatches on #2’s bedroom wall. She had hundreds of these, and was so excited when she found the perfect shade of lavender.  

We spent the next day with them. We shot baskets at court near their foster home, then went out for lunch. We went bowling, and for frozen yogurt. On the way home, #2 Cherub commented, “Wow, you guys spent A LOT of money on us today.” We didn’t know how to respond. She was right (who knew fro-yo could cost almost $30?). We hadn’t realized how soon we’d be navigating real parenting questions. How should we convey to them the truth – You guys are worth so much to us, of course we want to spend money on things like this, and the other truth – No, this does not mean we’ll buy you every single thing you ask for, like real Uggs or $200 sneakers – when we barely knew them? I think we said something about how we try to be frugal about some things so we’d have extra to splurge on things that really mattered.

Sometimes you just punt.

The next time we saw them was Wednesday.  I drove the 45 minutes to pick them up after school, then we came back to Cambridge to wait for Steve to get out of work so we could have dinner together. There was a weird rule I don’t quite understand that we weren’t supposed to take them to our house until we’d had a couple weeks of visits, so we ended up doing a lot of driving around and activities. I’m not good at planning activities, so this was super stressful for me.

Okay, let me get honest: this part was just awful.

I already loved these kids. But they were so unhappy to have their lives disrupted. They loved their foster mom, and her family. That was the best life they’d ever known, and they were ANGRY that they had to leave it. They hated the music I played in the car (all we could agree on were a few songs from the Jackson 5. Shake Your Body Down To The Ground will forever remind me of being stuck on 95 North in Friday traffic). They hated missing out on time with their friends and foster cousins.  On some trips, they’d both cover their heads with the blankets we kept in the backseat, just to get away from me.

This gave me lots of time to figure out activities for us, what with all the not talking.

This went on for two months.

Most transitions go WAY faster. (We have one set of friends that met their daughter on a Saturday, then she moved in The following weekend.) Often this isn’t based on what’s best for the kids or the new parents, but a more practical need: there aren’t enough foster homes available in Massachusetts, so if DCF can move two kids into a pre-adoptive placement and free up those beds for other kids? That’s the top priority. Fortunately for us, our kids’ foster mom was retiring, so there was no rush. We were able to spend two months transitioning. This let the kids finish off their school year where they were, and allowed them to process some of their feelings of loss, fear, and anger along the way, which made a little room for some excitement to creep in there.

That first Wednesday, we painted ceramics.

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Then we picked up Steve at work, ate dinner out, then drove them home. They were clearly relieved to get back.

I share all this to let you know: this takes time. It didn’t stay this hard forever. It’s been more than a year since either kid hid under a blanket on a car ride (I mentioned this to #2 last week, and she’d forgotten all about it.) But it was rather rocky for what felt like forever, as it ticked by, one minute at a time.

What helped us turn the corner? There were a bunch of things. Their foster mom did an incredible job helping them wrap their minds around the concept of adoption. We showed up on time for every visit and seemed glad to see them, which counted for more than we ever would have guessed. But the unexpected factor was THIS DOG.  The kids loved her, and she loved them. They agreed that she was awesome, even though the jury was  still out on us. And so they let her nudge them along those first few steps of becoming a family.

A pivotal moment was the night we brought Bergie with us to drive the kids back to their foster home. They got out of the car, hugged us and her, and then headed in. Bergie looked out the car window as they went up the steps and in the door, and then began to howl.

She’s part Great Pyrenees (you can read about our best guess at her genetic heritage here), bred to protect sheep. From Day One of meeting them, The Cherubs have been her sheep,  and she takes her job seriously. She was MOST UNHAPPY that night when we drove away without them.

This was, I suspect, the thing that helped the kids consider the possibility that our house might be an okay home, and we might be okay family.

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Waiting for #1 to come home. She has subdued an invading bear and has things on lockdown. 

Every family has its own unique story. Our friends’ experience transitioning will be different than ours. They’ll have their own ups & downs. Life might look long sometimes. They might wonder if they’ve ruined all their lives with this crazy idea. (Okay, I’m sure THEY’LL never wonder that. Surely that was just us…) But you do what you do in any challenge in life: you hang on, pray, and watch for small signs as things get better.

Over time, we’ve seen a cycle, where what used to feel like miracle moments of unexpected closeness become the new normal. Then we climb up on that new level and reach for the next step. This is my hope for our friends.

And for YOU when you adopt your cherubs from foster care :)

 

Middle School Musicals & Blending Families: A Praise Report

This weekend we watched #2 Cherub sing and dance in Oompa Loompa splendor in her middle school musical. It was SPLENDID. The show was hilarious and fun (thankfully less creepy than the Tim Burton movie) and there were some astonishingly good moments for us as a family that I want to capture and remember.

Willy Wonka 1 Willy Wonka 2First, different members of the Cherubs’ original family came for all three performances. Friday, Saturday & Sunday, they each drove long distances to a school they were unfamiliar with. They brought hugs and flowers and loud cheers for #2, and bought #1 more candy than he could possibly scoff down during intermission. They are so for the kids.

It’s not easy, what they’re doing. I don’t think this always how it goes in these situations (this was not at all our experience when we had Princess Peach) – and so I’m astonished and grateful that it’s possible. It’s good for the kids (and for us) to have so many people on their team.

Lest I paint TOO romantic a picture here, let me also say that the kids have no idea what to do with all of this familial blending – first they were terrified that we wouldn’t like each other, now they’re like, “Wait, you guys LIKE each other?” They find it awkward. But as one of their uncles pointed out, when you’re 14 & 12, EVERYTHING is awkward. If this is our awkward, we’ll take it.

Second, as we drove home after opening night, I heard #1 say to his sister in a low voice, “You did a good job.

I was like, “WAIT! was that a sweet moment between my children???”

They laughed and said, “Yeah, it was…”

For all the truth about how much #1 & #2 have helped each other through difficult times, they are also just like every other set of sibling kids I know: they bicker constantly, the one-upsmanship is endless, and they agree on nothing if they can possibly help it. It gets so bad some mornings I’ve threatened to make them walk to school if they don’t cut it out. (This was highly effective the week it was 9 degrees. I think it will lose its power as the temps warm up.)  There aren’t many moments when they say something genuinely nice to one another that isn’t prompted by a grown up.  But this was unprompted and genuine. #1 was right – she did do a good job. He knew how hard she’d worked, and (I think) how much his big brother praise would mean to her. It was precious.

Then we got home and she tripped over something and he made fun of her, so we were back to normal. But still, I think it’s the “good job” she’ll remember.

By the end of the weekend, we were all EXHAUSTED. It’s noon on a snow day right now, and we’re all still in our pajamas. I think big events take a bit more out of you when you’re a new family, because you’re not sure how things will go and there are so many emotions and hopes and relationships at play. But when it all works out? You need to WRITE IT DOWN and remember it, and let it set the new standard for how things can be.

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Dinner, both nights of the show. I would have been such a good 1970s parent!

What If My Kids Never Love Me?

Today’s adoption question is from Beth:  How do you deal with the fear and/or reality of the kids not loving/attaching to you, and you to them?

***

Before The Cherubs moved in with us, when we were in the transition phase with visits on Wednesday nights & weekends, our kids declared that they were not going to call us Mom & Dad until the adoption was finalized.

That was fine at first.

But after six months or so,  I was tired of being called Trish & Steve. It didn’t bother me much at home. But when we were out in the world, and people were trying to make sense of who we were to each other because we don’t look alike? It would have been so much easier for the kids to call out across the grocery aisle, “Hey Mom, X is on sale!” than “Hey Trish….”  Plus, when you’re doing all the work of a Mom & Dad, it’s nice to be acknowledged as such. Having them call us Trish & Steve felt way too much like we were just sub-contractors employed to fulfill their parenting needs.

And yet, #2 Cherub asked me almost daily in the weeks prior to our adoption finalization, “Are you SO excited that we’ll call you Mom & Dad after that???” I said that indeed, I surely was.

The day came. It was wonderful.

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When we arrived home, #1 immediately ran across the street to his friend’s house to tell them he’d been adopted. Then asked if we could hang the certificates on the wall in the kitchen, “so everyone can see them.”  (Cue  tears as I hand Steve a hammer and two nails.)

But the kids still called us Trish & Steve for two more months.

It wasn’t until we went to a conference in Syracuse, where our family unit was a distinct entity in a sea of people they didn’t yet know. That’s when called us Mom & Dad for real. It was 15 months from when we first met. Not a long time as I look back at it now. But during those days? It felt like forever.  And it was really hard.

***

One of the big things the Cherubs said when I told them about this blog series was, “Make sure you tell people who might adopt not to be offended if the kids don’t want to call them Mom & Dad right away. It’s not personal. It just takes time.”

That’s the overarching theme of adoption: it just takes time. Human attachment doesn’t happen instantly. Some circumstances (romantic love, childbirth) give you a surge of hormones to kick things off. But adoption is really much more like meeting a new roommate: You hope you’ll get along well and even enjoy hanging out. But there’s no way to tell how long that might take.

Even though I knew this, it doesn’t mean I KNEW it. The picture you create in your mind of our future family is about being a family, right?  Whatever that means at any given moment, it’s always about more than being roommates.

Here’s what I learned about attachment: it’s not about what I thought it was about. I thought it would be about affection, attention, positive interactions and new memories we created together.  I thought that if we did enough of that, love would just bloom and grown in a neat, orderly (rapid) way.

Nope.

Attachment is about reliability.

Attachment is when you become the people your kids look to for answers, approval, and assistance. Attachment is when they trust – not with their minds, but with their instincts – that you will see and meet their needs.

There is very little reciprocity in the early days of adoption, and what there is is probably your kids faking it, trying to guess at who and how you want them to be. It’s all YOU, pouring out everything, meeting all the needs as they come up, and trying not to get discouraged as your kids don’t seem to care.

They totally care. But they are terrified this will go away, or that the other shoe will drop and you’ll turn out to be mean, or a loser, or both. And so they don’t have enough energy to reward your awesome parenting with gold stars of Cherubic appreciation. They’re just trying to get through the day without losing their sh*t.

When you adopt, get over the idea that anything in the first six months will be rewarding.  This isn’t about rewards. This is about building, and building is WORK.

Consider this:

Adoption is a bit like getting your family from IKEA: you start with component parts and vague instructions, along with a vision of what you hope to have at the end. You don’t expect your IKEA building experience to be fun or rewarding. You just hope it won’t wreck your relationship or drain your sanity beyond what you can replenish. These are reasonable, appropriate goals.

Practically speaking, “building” meant in every area of our new family dynamic, we went first. We loved the Cherubs first, in word and action, without any response from them.  We affirmed them over and over again, for all manner of successes (“You made the soccer team? GREAT!” “You cuddled with the dog? WOW!” “Your hangnail healed? WAY TO GO!”) We made school lunches, cooked dinners they didn’t want to eat, kept to a daily routine, and arrived every single place we went at least fifteen minutes early (they HATE being late).  As I shared at the start of this series, love isn’t affection at this point – it’s consistency. That’s what our kids needed most when they first arrived.

So how did we deal with the fear that they might never attach to us? Or the moments when we weren’t sure we could keep up this level of unreciprocated enthusiasm?

We took advantage of small escapes. You have to build in the pressure release valves early in the process, because all that steam needs a way out. I had a weekly night out with a friend that I did not stop when the kids moved in. They HATED this – they were sure I was out doing something shady, and had no trouble expressing their disapproval. Whatever, out I went. (Steve did have a talk with them about how & why he trusted me, which helped a lot.) Now, if I miss a night, it throws them off that I’m not gone.

Steve kept playing hockey twice a week before work, even though we were beyond sleep deprived, and it made our morning routine a little more complicated.

And we gave the kids early bedtimes so we could have some time alone together in the evenings, during which drank more wine & beer than is probably recommended. Don’t get me wrong – we were always sober. But I think we needed a finish line to the day – a reward! And it had to be something where the Cherubs couldn’t say, “Can we have some of that?” Because they had everything else. (Here’s the stark truth:  when you’re in the thick of  pre-attachment parenting, there’s a good chance that the guys at your local beer & wine store will know your adoption story.  BLESS IT.)

Here’s the thing though (and if you’re about to adopt, you should copy, paste & print this paragraph):

This doesn’t last forever. This weird roommate-esque, non-reciprocal relationship? This is not your permanent relationship. Your family will not always be a crooked wonky shelf from IKEA. You have all the parts you need. But the attachment part of adoption? Turns out it’s grown, not built.

Our kids are still not fully attached to us. But we are light years away from where we were even 6 months ago. We function like a family now. We have inside jokes and longstanding debates. We hug and say “I love you,” and they look us in the eye when we talk to them.  They look to us for help, answers, and approval. They watch when they think we can’t see them to see if we notice them, if we know where they are, if we’re paying attention.

And none of this progress comes in an orderly way. Growth shoots up out of nowhere. Like this:

On Saturday night, I was up in our bedroom working on a sermon for Sunday morning. For the first year we knew them, the kids would never come upstairs, and were convinced I was doing something nefarious if I was up here anytime other than to go to sleep. But that’s been changing lately, and now they’ll come up to ask me a question or pet the dog. But Saturday, they both came up, and we all just sort of hung out, laughing about silly things. #2 demonstrated her pushup technique. #1 hid across the room, texting me to see when his sister would notice he was there (too bad I’d left my phone downstairs). Then Steve came up and we all petted THIS DOG, who was lying in the center of the bed, soaking up the love and clearly thinking, “FINALLY you people get this pack thing!”

It was good. And let me tell you, it felt totally beyond us until the moment it happened.

DO NOT GIVE UP, new adoptive parents! Today is not forever in this relationship. Keep building, hang in there, find some (preferably healthier and less causing of weight gain) ways to let out some pressure. You can do this! And it’s worth it.

 

 

Road to Adoption 13

(I’m blogging about our experience adopting old children from foster care here in Massachusetts, in the hopes that it might inspire you to consider adoption, too. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m adjusting the names & details about our children and their birth family to protect everyone’s privacy.  All of the details are true, drawn from a wide assortment of adoption experiences. They’re just not our kids’ personal stories.

You can find the first post in the series here. The most recent post is here. 

Warning: this part of the process is intense. It’s intense to live, and intense to read about. It’s one of those things you dive into trusting that it will lead THROUGH. Stick with it. It’s worth it.)

***

You leave a message for Janna, trying to sound casual. “Hi Janna, we were at the event in Lawrence last night, and we met Emily from your office. She had a flyer about Jason & Jasmina, and we’re wondering if they’re the kids you told us about in MAPP class? We’d love to hear more about them…”

She calls you back 27 minutes later. (Not that you were counting.)

“I’d be happy to tell you about these kiddos,” she says.

You scribble notes furiously as she talks, trying to get it all down.

The kids are 12 and 10. Jason is athletic and loves basketball, Jasmina loves all things girly and colorful and artistic. They’re smart, both doing well in school. One of them has an IEP in math due to missing a lot of school early on.

They’ve been “in care” for about two-and-a-half years. Their dad has had some involvement with them during this time, but their goal was changed from reunification to adoption after he missed several scheduled visits and then was arrested and sent to jail on an outstanding warrant. He’s currently awaiting trial. “I can’t tell you what the charges are for privacy reasons,” Janna says, “but I can say that in THIS particular case, there was no violence involved.” You read between the lines and scribble possible history of violence w/bio-dad.

“What about their mom?” you ask.

“We believe their mom is living at a local homeless shelter – that’s the last address we have on file. But she has not responded to her as we’ve reached out and has not appeared in court.”

“What is the legal status of the case?”

“It’s legal risk,” Janna says. “The parents’ rights have not yet been terminated, but that’s definitely the direction things are going. Trial is currently set for three months from now, but something pretty dramatic would have to happen to turn things around at this point.”

“Like what?” You’ve been down this road before with Princess Peach. You don’t want to go there again.

“Honestly, looking at this file, I can’t imagine what would put this back together again. But we have to acknowledge that it could happen, because the final decision is with the court and they don’t always do what we hope or expect. That said, though, this is one of those cases that seems pretty straightforward.”

“What’s their current foster home like?”

“Right now they’re together in a fantastic home in Newton,” Janna says. “Their foster mom, Chris, is a professional – she’s been doing this for over twenty years. She runs a tight ship, and the kids are doing really well there.

“This is Jason’s third foster home. He was with a Spanish speaking family in Dorchester for his first three weeks in care, and then…”

“He speaks Spanish?” You interrupt to ask.

“No,” Janna says, as sad tone in her voice. “That’s probably just where they had an available bed. So for the first three weeks after he was removed from his family, he was in a place where he didn’t speak the language. What a resilient kiddo.”

There’s a pause in the conversation while you try to imagine that.

“After that,” Janna continues, “it looks like he was moved to another home out near Springfield. I don’t have any information on that second placement. Six months later, he was taken to Chris’ house.

“This is Jasmina’s seventh placement,” she continued. “The poor girl has been bounced around quite a bit. It looks like she was hotlined for several weeks when they first came it – that means she was in a different home every night. A social worker would pick her up at school, drop her at a new place for the night, and then come back to get her in the morning.  Then she had three placements that lasted a few months each, after which she was in a group home up in Methuen.”

“What does that mean?”

“It could mean a lot of things. Ideally, group home placements are for kids who are struggling to handle a family setting. It provides more structure, clearer routines and expectations, and the kids have access to more programming options to help them.  They also don’t have the pressure of the intimacy that comes with family life. In a group home, if you don’t like one particular worker, they’re gone in eight hours when the shift changes, and someone else takes their place. Some kids do better with the lower relational expectations.

“That said,” she continued, “we have so many kids in care right now and not even close to enough foster homes. So a lot of kids are ending up in group home placements who don’t need to be there.”

“Which is the case here?” You ask.

“I think it’s the latter. Jasmina is doing really well at Chris’ house, and seems very comfortable with family life. I think she just got a bum deal being bounced around at a time when there weren’t enough available foster homes. Both kids are doing better now that they’re living together at Chris’ house.”

Your head is spinning.  You have more questions…so many questions. But you’re not sure where to begin. You need to process what you’ve learned so far to figure out what else you need to know.

“I know it’s a lot to take in,” Janna says. “I’m out of the office all morning, but I’m back in around 2:00 if you want to give me a call.”

You hang up the phone and look over your scribbled notes. Good in school. Newton. Possibly violent bio-dad/mom homeless. LEGAL RISK (you wrote that one in caps to make yourself remember it). Multiple placements. Hotline. Group home. 

You go out for a run, cranking up the music on your iPod to try and take your mind off of what you’ve learned. Your heart is already starting to attach a little bit to these kids who have been through so much. Living three weeks with in a house where you don’t speak their language, right after you’re removed from he only home you’ve ever known? That’s insane.

This is all insane, you realize. It’s a system of broken pieces, trying to reassemble component parts into working families.

Your head hurts. Your heart hurts. And yet you wonder – could these be the kids God has for you?

You spend the rest of the day jotting down more questions.

Then, just before 5:00, the phone rings. It’s one of the social workers you left a message with weeks ago, calling you back with information about a different set of siblings. “Are you still interested?” she asks.

Adoption & Money, pt. 2

I received a great question in response to yesterday’s post on what it costs to adopt from foster care: How much money are you expected to have as a potential foster care/adoptive parent?

Answer: Not much.

I say that glibly, but it’s the truth. All the expectations you might have about how they’ll be looking at your ability to provide the very best for the child(ren)? Throw those out the window. That’s not the standard at all.

Organic food? Not a thing.

Impressive job? Not a thing.

Big house? Not a thing.

Dedication to Montessori style learning? Not a thing.

Here’s the reality:

You need steady enough employment that you can…

  • Provide some version of macaroni & cheese, hot dogs, and store-brand bread 3x/day.
  • Pay the rent (or mortgage) on a living space that has at least 50 square feet of available room for the child to sleep.
  • Arrange for transportation to get your child(ren) to school, the doctor, the dentist, etc. You won’t have to pay for those visits – they’re covered by Mass Health. But you need to be able to get them there.

Sounds like I’m exaggerating, right? I’m not.

The #1 thing you bring to the table as a foster/adoptive parent is STABILITY. If you earn a small amount of money, but know how to get out of bed every morning, do your work, buy food to have in the house, pay the bills, and function in a predictable, loving way? That’s the stuff. All of the luxurious extras we’ve decided are necessary to parent our children are just not part of the conversation when you’re talking about kids who don’t have a family or a home to grow up in. I’m not against the luxurious extras. But I think it’s important to lower the burden on yourself and create some room for children’s actual needs. 

The funny thing about adoption from foster care: Kids are kids.

Even if you can afford organic food, your new kids probably won’t eat it. Kids like sugar. It’s a universal thing, and some of us were just super blessed to have grown up in the 1970s before anyone realized that a glass of Tang “breakfast drink” wasn’t the same thing as giving your child an orange.

If you have an impressive job, your new kids probably won’t care. Kids like to have their parents around (even though they say the opposite).

If you have a big house, start planning NOW for how you’re going to handle your new kids disappearing with their friends into all those rooms with no supervision. Because eventually, all kids become teenagers.

And whatever style of education you believe is best, your child(ren) may need something very different, and you just won’t know until you’re in it.

All that to say…it takes a lot to become a foster/adoptive parent. But it doesn’t take a lot of extra money.

Have other questions about foster care/adoption? Let me know & I’ll try to answer here on the blog. Even if you’re just curious but don’t think it’s for you, you never know…your question might help someone else decide it is for them.

 

Win a mansion in heaven! (well, maybe…sort of)

This is the post where I make a plea for you to do something huge that will, in all likelihood, ruin your life. But you’ll do in order to rescue others, which means you’ll be guaranteed a blinged-out mansion in heaven! (Okay, I’m not entirely sure about the mansion. It’s just a working theory…)

Steve & I didn’t realize it at first, but The Cherubs have had the most miraculous foster care experience of possibly any children in state history. They lived in one foster home – together. It was an excellent foster home that was high-structure, loving, and taught them an array of life skills. They are being adopted – together. They have experienced incredible loss. But they have each other, every day. This is rare.

Last week, as I was looking through the Children Awaiting Adoption book at church, I realized that ALL the other sibling groups Steve and I inquired about before we learned of The Cherubs have been separated. They were each in different foster homes or residential settings to begin with. But now, in each case, this separation is permanent: one child has a forever family while the other does not.

I have a hard time breathing when I think about that.

When kids come into foster care, it is almost impossible to keep siblings together. They unromantic way foster care works, especially now that so many more kids are in danger because of the opioid crisis, is based on the question, “Where is there an approved bed?” So if there’s one bed in Dorchester, and another out in Sudbury, that’s where the kids are put. They won’t stay there, probably; they’ll get bounced around (because, shockingly, kids who have lived in absolute chaos and are then pulled from their homes with no warning and placed with absolute strangers tend to exhibit some, well, signs of stress. They’re not grateful and lovely; they’re terrified.) Add to this the number of homes that won’t take tweens or teens, and you have precious few options to place these kids anywhere, let alone together.  Many end up in group homes, even though they’d be fine in family settings. There just aren’t any families to take them.

(Here’s a surprising tidbit: If three or more siblings come into foster care, or two kids where of them is over the age of 8, they are automatically classified as “special needs.”)

I’m telling you, The Cherubs are BLESSED.

So I was on the phone the other day with Susan, one of the managers at Cambridge Family & Child Services, discussing possible ways Greenhouse Mission can help these older kids. We talked about practical things like clothes and paying for school field trips, and more soft-touch things like creating mentor homes where these kids can learn to be part of a family and broaden their social networks. (Imagine how small your network would be if you aged out of foster care at 18 having only lived in group homes – you’d have no uncle or kind neighbor to recommend you for a job, no cousin to stay with while you find your own place. Why do so many teens in foster care say they want to be social workers when they grow up? It’s the only job they’ve seen. But I digress…)

We talked through a bunch of ideas, and even considered an Indie Go-Go campaign to fund them…it was all very inspiring. But the #1 thing Susan kept coming back to was this:

They need foster homes. 

I’ll piggy back on this and say that WE need foster homes that focus on keeping siblings together.

This is where you come in. Not to put too fine a point on it, but you can do this.

You can be single or married. Older (the Cherubs’ foster mom is in her early 70s) or younger (the age requirement is 25). It doesn’t matter if you rent or own your home. You’ll need running water, a support system of a couple of friends and family, and (my recommendation) some sort of faith in God. It can even be starter faith, like newly planted seeds. Trust me, it will grow.

This will absolutely wreck your life. I’m not even kidding. It’s the hardest thing. But it’s a Gospel thing.  Have you ever looked at that footage of the waves of Syrian refuges and thought, “That’s inhuman…someone HAS to take them in…”? Right now we have waves of children needing refuge, right here in our state.

You can’t save all the kids. But you can pull a couple of them up out of the water, give them a safe warm place to be, and infinitely bless both them and their future adoptive family. That’s not a bad use of part of your life.

Go here to learn more. You could be the solution to this problem.

And remember…mansion in heaven! ;)