Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Stuff people say

Since my last post, we brought a new kiddo into the house.  As of now, he's being fostered with the intention of adoption.  That's going to take a LOOOONG time.  J has been such a blessing.  Although he has special needs and requires a lot more time and supervision than what I'm used to giving as a parent, he's been great.  He's learning his new life just as I am.

Since J is black, his arrival into our white family has transformed us into a transracial family.  As much as our day to day life is pretty much like before, there's no blending in when we go places because it's pretty obvious that I'm not his biological mother.

Before he came to live with us I was fully prepared for strangers to do double takes when we were out and about.  It's certainly something that would make you curious and that's o.k.  I was even prepared for people to ask if he was adopted, although, I'd prefer if people would just stop at "what a cute little guy, how old is he?"  What I wasn't prepared for was the amount of really odd, uncomfortable, irrelevant comments I would get.  I know that people don't mean it in a rude way, but it definitely puts my other children (J doesn't understand yet) and I in an awkward spot where we just don't know how to respond. 

I feel like maybe this is going to be something that happens all the time and I should get used to it.  There's probably other families that deal with it too.

I've made a list of things that I prefer didn't happen anymore.  I can't run around and ask these requests of people before-hand, but maybe, those reading will keep it in mind when they see families like ours.  These are all from personal experience, in the past few months.  And they were all strangers.  In parking lots, in stores, in the library.  Please, don't do any of these things.  And I mean this in the nicest way possible.

1.  It's o.k. to tell me how beautiful my son is.  It's a little bit weird when you tell me that and ignore my other three kids.  I know you're trying to be nice, but my kids don't understand.

2. Your children are going to stare.  It's totally o.k. with me.  They're trying to figure out this unusual family.  It's not something they see everyday.  Please don't shout at them to "stop staring at that nice family.  They're just like us".  You don't know we're nice or just like you.  You may be lying to your child.  Also, it makes me uncomfortable when you're doing that in Walmart's vitamin aisle.

3. If your child asks you a question about us, answer them with something like "I don't know sweetie, maybe they're babysitting or maybe they adopt children".  If your child asks if "that is a brown baby with a white family", please DON'T SAY NO!  Why would you even do that?  Great, now we all feel weird and you're kid is totally confused! 

4. Once you asume he's adopted (without even asking), please don't take it a step further and assume his biological family did something to hurt him.  You don't know us.  You don't know his family didn't die in a fire.  You don't know that his parents chose to give him away in the hopes of a better life.  You don't know if perhaps I'm just babysitting for a friend.

5.  Please don't assume that I have set out to adopt a certain race.  I signed up to be a foster parent and they handed me a child that needed a home.  To imply that I'm part of "an adoption fad" is insulting. 

6. Please don't ask me if I love him as much as my other kids.  Remember, we're not friends, you're just the person that parked next to me at the store and is putting your groceries away at the same time.  No personal questions, please.

7.  Please don't ask me "what my husband thinks of him".  What does that even mean?  I don't ask you what your husband thinks of your kids or your haircut or anything......because it's not nice.....and also, too personal to ask the stranger at the library.  Don't do that.

8. Please don't ask me how much I'm getting paid.  If it was a reliable source of income, don't you think more people would do foster care than say, work at a restaurant?  I wouldn't ask you if you get paid for your kids......because again, I think it would be rude to ask a relative that, let alone, a stranger.

9.  Please, please don't try and say something positive about his race by saying something really weird like "I have a neighbor 'like him' and they're really nice people.  If you say this, or something like it, forgive me for getting red in the face and politely walking away.  I honestly have no idea how to handle that yet.

10. Please don't tell me I'm a great person for adopting.  You don't know that so you're pretty much lying.  Also, it's not true.  There is nothing great about me in any of this.  I'm just a Christian, who was blessed by God with extra beds and food that I'm compelled to share by His grace for His glory.  This ain't about me.

So I feel like I'm in this "class" now of.....I don't know what to call it really.  But it's for sure new and prickly.  I really don't hold anything against the people that say these "things", but it's something that, if can be avoided, would be awesome.  Please pass it on.  And please, don't stop staring.  It's a good way to make new friends!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

And waiting

It's been a loooong while since I posted.  Still waiting on a license.  It's taking much longer than normal because a) if you know my family, we don't do anything the usual way and b) we had all sorts of "adventures" in the past couple of months.

One of the biggest challenges we've had recently was moving.  Not only did we move but we had a lag in time between homes where we stayed in a hotel.  The agency could've licensed us before we move but they weren't too keen on their foster parents having such a splotchy living arrangement blurb in their file.  Then once we got into our new home, it was in bad condition.  Gene, our temporary social worker (we lost Angela she ran away screaming after dealing with us so long  moved to a different department within the agency), came for a visit and gave us a list of things that had to be handled.

I'm pleased to announce that my dear husband has been hard at work tearing up, throwing out, ripping apart,  cleaning up everything that needed to be done, including learning how to and replacing basement windows which he's never done before. So the house is ready and welcoming.  All I need to do is call the fire department for an inspection, which I'm planning on passing.  Our home study has already been processed and approved, they're just waiting on the fire inspection because of the move.

Also, in our adventures, my husband has been the sole handler of his mothers affairs, since she had a stroke and is now (possibly) in a nursing home permanently.  He spends a lot of hours that aren't working visiting her and dealing with all that that requires.  So he's home even less time than he was before and that required a little more getting used to, at least for me.

But now that we got a good feel for our new normal and our house is pretty much in order, it's time to get this done.  Next time I post to this blog, I may be a new "mom".

Thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to learn more about the Lake County Ohio foster care system.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Just Waiting Now.....

Our homestudy is complete!  What that means is the county has finished with every possible interview, investigation, paperwork, question, home inspection, and reference check.  All that's left is for Angela, our social worker, to draw up every last piece of information she got from us and to put it into a presentable form for her superiors to look over and approve.  Once they have approved everything, the county will give us a license, and we will be available to foster and/or adopt.

Wow, what a process.  From my first phone call to the agency all the way to now, it has been a whole year.  It doesn't always take that long.  Last April when I called, they were just finishing up their spring preservice classes.  There are no classes in the Summer (at least, for the county we reside in).  So we had to wait until the fall to begin our training.  Training is a little over a month and is a total of 36 hours. We started out pre-service training at the beginning of October.  While the training was happening, we had a social worker, Katie, come to the house for an initial walk through.  What Katie was looking for was to see if there was anything about our home that needed improvement in order to keep children safer.  Indeed there was. We needed to child proof out cabinets, buy a fire extinguisher, and remove locks from crawl spaces (the locked crawl spaces had potential not only to use as punish bad kids, but also, they could accidentally get trapped in them while playing and no one would know. So off with the locks).

Once the pre-service training was complete, we started to really get into the nitty-gritty.  We got a ton more paperwork.  We did a ton of paperwork when we started, but that was nothing compared to the next batch.  We had to fill out questions such as "What first attracted you to your spouse?" and "Who are your heroes?"  We filled out financial questionnaires and gave the names of friends that would be willing to fill our reference questionnaires. If that wasn't daunting enough, we then had to write an autobiography of our life, from birth to present day.  (For anyone thinking about going down the foster care road, this part of the process is frustration, please don't give up!)

When that was submitted, we had interviews to attend to.  Angela came to our home and questioned us about our life, from birth to present.  At least for me that took about 4 or 5 visits and since I worked fill time at that point, they were stretched out over a longer period of time because I had to be off of work and Angela had to be available.  This part of the process may be shorter for those who either don't work or work at night.  Meanwhile, my husband was also being interviewed, usually on different days though as they had to be separate.  Once the separate interviews were complete, we had a joint interview, which spanned a few hours over a couple different days.  After that was done, she then interviewed to kids.

While the interview process was still going on, we had forms that needed to be filled out by our doctors-basically just saying we are somewhat healthy, mentally and physically, to have children and we also had a form for the fire department, saying our home was safe.

When that was all said and done, Angela did one last "walk-through" of the house to make sure we improved everything that was questionable during the first inspection.  Then it was done.

As of now, we are just waiting to hear from the agency for our approval.  Lots of hoops to jump through, but I learned a lot and am pretty sure I'll continue to learn more as we go along.  And also maybe one day give someone a permanent home who would otherwise just keep waiting for someone who is willing to go through the frustrations and stress of "the system" and see the faces of the fatherless on the other side of the paperwork.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Well Thinking Mind

As we continue through our learning of foster children, social work agency, and children that need a new permanent home, we are starting to dig deeper into what we can handle, what we are willing to handle, and also learning about things that we don't ordinarily think of when planning to bring new kids into our home.

Recently, when our social worker, Angela was here, I was asked if I was good at having empathy. "Suuuuuure!" I said. What else would you say? "No"? I'd like to think this is one of my strong suits. I suppose everyone does. So I of course thought of how my "having empathy" for a child in my care would translate into a real life scenario. I think that it's obvious when you know of a child who has been through hell, your immediate response is to want to wrap your arms around that child and give them the biggest "oh poor, poor baby" you can muster. And this will likely continue and this child will just be a little sad sac looking for empathy all the time, right? "Replacement Mommy, may I please have a glass of water? I was beaten for the first 6 years of my life with a hammer." "Oh of course my little angel! I don't even care that it's 3 o'clock in the morning. Let me cut a lemon for your water and we will sit happily on the couch snuggling in safety."

That would be a really great situation! Of course that's assuming the child has really great communication skills, social skills, no post-traumatic stress syndrome, and you're not a basket case at 3 in the morning.

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking other people are capable of thinking just like we are. Almost as if our minds were made of the same batter. If we know how to be respectful, so should other people, darnit! Right?

Two days ago, my kids found a well in our backyard that no one knew was there. It may have been built a hundred years ago, I don't know. So they dug around it, opened it up bigger, threw stuff in it, made wishes, had a great time. I did not enjoy the discovery of the well like they did. In fact, to me, it was awful. I was a wreck for the rest the night. I had visions of Jessica McClure, the toddler from 25 years ago who fell down a well and almost died. I had visions of my kids falling in that well and dying. I had visions of awful things happening.

My kids didn't feel that way at all. Firstly, they weren't alive 25 years ago to remember that Baby Jessica was on every news station on every TV for days at a time. Her distraught parents clinging to the hope that she would somehow make it out alive. My children had only good visions of the well. In their mind, wells are the beautiful little building surrounded by flowers where throw a penny down the hole means wishes coming true.

So they looked at me like I was on glue when I covered the opening with bricks, big rocks, threw a giant tire on top and threatened them with punishment for going near it. Obviously, they had no empathy for me. We weren't thinking the same way. Nothing they could say would convince me that I was overreacting and I should not be so afraid of the well. In fact, their saying that would probably get me even more hot and bothered making me even more impassioned to state my case.

I recently read David Pelzer's "A Child Called 'It'", which tells the true story of his abuse at the hands of his mother. During one horrible situation, after burning her sons hand by hold it over the stove top burner, she demanded he climb up and lie of the stove. She apparently intended to burn his entire body. David, at age 7 or 8 knew that his mother acted "less bizarre when others were in the house, had decided that if he could just stall her into beating him for the next 10 minutes or so until his brothers came home , he could hold off on obeying her to get on the stove and prevent his death. This is a small boy who had to think of a way to not be murdered!

Have you ever had that thought? Have any of us ever had a situation at that age where we had to be so thoughtful in order not to die? Probably not. This is a boy who doesn't think like my 8 year old. Same age, same grade, same home, doesn't matter. These two kids will see the well 2 different ways.

And it won't be spoken about in perfect English either. Instead of sitting down and having a frank discussion about all the things your foster child will be thinking, the thoughts will come out more like this: Breaking in to your neighbor's house and stealing their food even though you feed them plenty because they've learned stealing food always gets them fed, but the people feeding them can't be trusted. No matter how patient, sweet, and safe you are, they will pee their beds every night for 10 years because they've learned even child molesters get grossed out by urine and will leave you alone that night. They will always talk about their next home, not because they don't love you, but because they know they will get past along to the next person as soon as they screw up. They don't think like me. We will see the well in two very different ways.

Will I have empathy for their view of the well? Even when I can't possibly see that different insane view? Because that's what having empathy is going to look like when you're dealing with kids that are in the system. And if I'm not a "well" thinking mind, I've got some work to do.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The elusive Somebody Else

Undoubtedly, most people know about the school shooting that took place in Chardon, Oh on February 27. As of this writing, there are grief couselors at the schools, prayer vigils everywhere, pastors driving from home to home supporting families during the most difficult time possible. It's all over the news, all over Facebook, everyone is wanting to "help".

We've been through this before. A news report of a school shooting. Several people shot dead. A community gathering together, asking questions, wondering what could have been done to prevent it, prayer vigils held, wearing special ribbons in honor of the dead, creating cute pictures on social media websites that say "we must never forget".

But what happens a week later? Maybe two weeks later? A month perhaps? We forget. We stop asking the questions, we stop posting messages, the news cameras go somewhere else, the grief couselors move on. We put an extra security guard at the schools and call it a day. We turn the television back on to our favorite sitcom and we act like it never happened.

That's who we are. We know the answer to our question means someone will have to act and we are so afraid that that someone might be us. Everyone begins their critiques with "someone should have" and not "I should have". You always hear "They didn't" but not "I didn't".

These things happen and we all nod our heads in agreement that more should have been done to prevent it, but by golly, we can't tell you how. We talk about how the suspect was weird and creepy and we knew all along he was bad news and yet, there we sat. In our perfect suburban lives with our perfect children and our perfect lawns and we did nothing. We waited for someone else to do something because certainly, someone should, right? It can't be us, can it? Can anyone seriously expect us to bring "imperfect, ugly, weird, loner" kids into our perfect homes? What would they do to our perfect kids? Our perfect homes? Our perfect lawns?

What will people say? No, certainly, it can't be us. SOMEBODY else simply must come forward and do what should be done for the kids that have been cast aside by others.

We live in a world where people spend thousands of dollars to own a small pig to put in their purse. That could one day become our nations motto. "America: We love pigs more than children".

So we stay away from the quiet kids whose parents are addicts and never home, whose grades are failing because they have nothing in their lives to care about, who run away from home because being on the street has got to be better. And we cross our fingers hoping they become a functional part of society. But boy, if they shoot up a school, there we are! With our pitchforks and torches demanding answers on why this happened. Looking for the "somebody" that should have done something.

What could have been done? Who could have done something? Could it have been prevented? No one knows when they are talking to a future school shooter, but you know when you're talking to kids. What are you saying? What are not saying? What are you saying without words? Are your words backed up by actions?

As a former child who was surrounded with lots of talk and no follow-up, I know that when someone starts a comment with "someone should have..." I know that's not the someone willing to go the mile.

Everybody wants action. Where is that somebody we're looking for? Is it you? Is it me? Everybody wants to be a somebody. I pray we start being that "somebody".

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Honesty is always the best policy

As foster/adoptive parents, we will be required to adhere to the agencies rules. Since we both have the same goal; keeping the children healthy and safe, I don't see this being a problem. Most of the time, I don't see this being a problem. I do, however know from the get-go, there will be disagreements in values, judgements, and decisions.

This won't be on purpose. It's just natural that we wouldn't all be on the same page about everything. So far, we've been coming along swimmingly. The agency by now is very aware of where we are at, religiously, financially, mentally, physically. And so far, they haven't made any beefs with it.

We did get our first "red flag" (for lack of a better phrase) the other day during my last interview. Angela, our social worker was concerned with our Christmas traditions. Specifically, our not raising our kids to believe in Santa Claus. (I know, I know. Most people are now screaming to themselves "what kind of monsters don't let their kids believe in Santa Claus?") Out of four kids, we "did Santa" with the oldest one. She now refers to that time in her life as "the only lie my parents ever told me".

Although no one wants to think they lie to their kids, the fact is telling your kids there is a Santa that comes into your house to bring gifts is not true. As much as I didn't like being rebuked by my own kid, I had decided that I didn't want anymore kids telling me I'm a liar.....especially since in our house lying is a punishable offense.

My kids are very aware that others do celebrate with Santa and although people have told me "they better not ruin it for other kids", my children are very graceful about it and politely say only "santa doesn't come to our house".

Since the agency promotes a Secret Santa program at Christmas time and they do encourage the kids to believe in Santa, they were very anxious to know how we would handle a "Santa fan" if they were placed in our house. I don't like the idea of intentionally letting them think something I know isn't true but I'm also the last person to tell a child, who has spent most of their life in chaos that they are being lied to.

I told Angela that we would not have Santa in our house. If we have a believer, I will tell them that Santa doesn't come to our house and that we buy gifts for each other because we love to give. The agency will have gifts for them "from Santa". Any questions of the validity of a Santa will be directed to the agency.

Angela seemed alright with my response. I assume that it won't jeopardize our chances of having kids that believe in it placed with us. But I also recognize that they may feel a child would be better off in a place that promotes Santa. If it came down to them saying "this child has no place else to go, but we need you to say there's a Santa", we will absolutely not agree. We will always do what's best for the kids, we will sacrifice anything for them. But we will not sacrifice our values. We cannot be dishonest even if it seems to be "for a good reason". We've drawn our line in the sand, have been completely open about everything we stand for and believe in, and have left the rest in the hands of the agency. We pray that everything will happen God's way, in His time, and for His glory......not Santa's.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Please fill out these forms

When we first started our pre-service training, we were given lots of papers to fill out. When we finished our training, we were given the mother load of papers to fill out! I answered questions from "what is your mother's maiden name?" to "What do you like most about your husband?" It spanned several pages and was exausting. As if that wasn't enough, once that was complete, I had to write a several pages long autobiography about my whole life; from birth to now.

To give you an idea of how welcoming I was to this portion of the process, as of this writing, three of my kids have diarrhea and are throwing up. I prefer that to the paperwork.

I know these things are necessary and that's why I screamed and ranted the whole time I had to do the stupid thing happily complied with what was asked of me. The agency has a hard job to do. They have custody of kids that were taken away from their parents under awful circumstances. Their futures are in jeopardy. Their job is to choose their new parents. That's a tall order. I don't want that job. Ewwwww. So the best way for them to do an impossible job is to get as much information as they possibly can about the people that show up claiming to be good moms and dads.

So I still think it's annoying totally understand the reason for the countless hours of reading, writing, answering, and references. In the end, it's one more evidence to our future children that we worked hard for them. And they're worth something....and it's more than about a forest full of paper and an octopus full of ink.