N to the O to the P…Catching Up #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter NI’m behind this week on the challenge.  A sick kiddo home from school for three days, a hubby out of town for two days, and a Mount Everest sized pile of laundry to fold will do that to you in no time flat.  Oh, add to that overnight guests on Saturday night, which means extra cleaning (and yes, I’ve enlisted my husband to help).  As it turns out, N is for No #AtoZChallenge Post, so I’m playing catch up today.

A to Z Letter OO is for Open Adoption…

…which is what we have.  Over the five(ish) years since we started, we have had consistent counsel and read consistently that an open adoption is the best and most healthy choice for everyone involved.  Generally speaking, of course.  There are certain situations where a closed adoption is advisable…severe mental mental health issues, violence, or a birth mom who not only doesn’t want the baby, but doesn’t care what happens to him/her.  Believe it or not, there are birth moms like that, and we were presented with two or three.

I can’t imagine having to deal with any of those issues, and thankfully we don’t.  We have enough dysfunction to deal with already, and we have a very easy, congenial relationship with our birth mom.  She is unstable – no job, no home, on-again/off-again drug habit, on-again/off-again boyfriend, dysfunctional family – but she doesn’t have mental health problems, and she is a sweet girl who has shown that she loves our baby. We could not ask for anything better, and both social workers involved with our case have confirmed this.  We have it good.

open adoptionIn our case, open adoption means that we have met both birth parents, and have a continuing relationship with them that consists of four written communications per year (with pictures included), and up to three visits per year, at a neutral location, and at the request of the birth parent.  We are obligated to the written communication per a written agreement with our birth mom, and she is entitled to (but not obligated to) the visits.  This is not how all open adoptions work, but it is how ours does.  The most important component of it is that we know each other, and that we have access to each other.

open_adoption_3The visitation stops at age three, and that is written into the contract.  This is for our child’s protection.  Our social worker explained that studies have indicated that between ages 3 and 12, visitation with the birth parents can be counter-productive to the parent/child relationship within the adoptive family, and they can create a lot of confusion.  One of the biggest issues we all want to ensure is that our child feels secure and loved, and that he understands that his birth parents did not give him up because they didn’t want him, but because they loved him and wanted a better life for him than they could provide.  This is the truth, and it will always be a regular part of our discussion of his adoption.

After age 12, if he desires contact with his birth parents, we can request visits.  They have both indicated they are open to it.  We will facilitate that as needed, and always with his well-being and best interests at heart.

With that we move on to…

A to Z Letter P P is for Paperwork

As you have probably gathered from my previous posts, there are reams and reams of paperwork.  Everything, and I mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g is documented…sometimes in duplicate or triplicate.  You have to stay on top of it, or it will consume you.

And if you’ve reached this point in the adoptions posts, you know that the paperwork doesn’t end when the adoption is final, especially if you have an open adoption.

Gavel_paperworkWhat we have facing us for the next 18 years is four letters per year, with accompanying pictures, because though the visits stop at age three, the letters do not.  Our birth parents wanted to have a continuing written record of our son’s development, and I totally understand that, and desire that for them.  I am grateful that they want it, because it demonstrates that they do love him, and explaining that they surrendered him out of love is much easier than trying to explain why they didn’t love him.

letterThat being said, all of our written communication goes through our agency, and they forward it on to their respective addresses.  Unfortunately, that is not always easy, as they do not always stay put or stay in touch.  Such is the case with our birth mom right now…we (the agency, our social worker, and the two of us) do not know where she is, or how to contact her other than by phone (which may or may not be functioning).  We are fortunate that the agency has an address for her grandmother, who (sadly) is the only person in her family with a stable address.  So that is where our letters are sent, and we hope that she gets them.

UPDATE!!  I just got word yesterday (Good Friday) that our birth mom is living with her grandmother, and she has a job.  She contacted her social worker to ask about pictures of our baby, which are en route already.  I am thrilled to hear this…to know that she is ok, and that she has found some stability.  I am praying that she stays the course, and praising God for his infinite care and mercy.  It was a Good Friday indeed!

As far as the legal paperwork goes, it is complete.  His birth certificate is now available in Vital Records for our county, and all we need to do is go pick it up.  Next week…so here’s praying that baby and mommy don’t come down with the crud that kept big brother home from school.

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G is for God #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter GI don’t know how anyone goes through the adoptive process – as adoptive parents OR birth parents – without God.  I know that adoption is not limited to believers, but I honestly don’t know how those who don’t find their strength in God are able to do it.  Adoption is hard.  Really hard.  Yes, the blessings do far outweigh the difficulties, and it really is worth it, but it is not for the faint of heart.

When we started five plus years ago (with a Christian agency that had a great reputation), I was excited and nervous…and scared.  I had heard the horror stories of changed minds and children being ripped from adoptive parents’ arms months or years after the fact.  But I also knew that there were red flags present in those situations, and that making sure we chose a good agency, one that made sure all the details were done right, and was a believing agency to boot, would protect us.

great is thy faithfulness musicWhat I didn’t foresee at that time, and couldn’t articulate until much later, was that just having the Christian tag on the agency doesn’t make it the right agency for us.  I was confident when we went through our first home study, with a wonderful case worker with whom we connected instantly, that we had chosen the right agency.  A few months into our initial year, I began to have doubts.  Our profile was not being presented often…in fact, perhaps 3-4 times over the course of a year.  Our social worker was also the director of the agency, and as I had more interactions with her, I became more and more in doubt of her enthusiasm for our family.  I began to feel we did not have an advocate, and I began to doubt our suitability to be adoptive parents.  I wondered what was wrong with us.  With me.  What was making us a family that no one wanted?

lamentations 3 22In retrospect, I see now that it was not that no one wanted us, but it was that few birth parents saw us.  The reasons given were that we didn’t fit the profile desired by the birth families.  I was really, really discouraged.  What’s more, I didn’t have the words (ironic as that is) to articulate that to my husband…not until we moved away.

I am so grateful that we had (have) friends who are vigilant prayer warriors.  I know that there were many, many prayers spoken on our behalf, and I know that were it not for that, I would have felt completely alone, and completely marginalized by our agency.  I also see now that God was present throughout that entire, discouraging year, and rather than barring us from having our hearts’ desire, he was working diligently on my heart.

After our cross-country move, it took me over a year to gear up and be ready to try again.  We were starting again from scratch.  This time, when we underwent our home study, my heart was (finally) where it should have been all along.  I finally prayed, without reservation:  “Lord, I will take and love whatever child you have chosen for me.  Period.”  My heart was not there before.  True, our (Christian) agency didn’t care for us in the way I would have liked.  The director didn’t have the enthusiasm for us (or in my opinion, for her job in general) that I thought she should.  She did disappoint me desperately, and I came to believe that if she had lost her enthusiasm and joy for this job, perhaps it was no longer the job for her.

strength for today

But, my heart wasn’t prepared in the way it should have been, and God used that year to show me that.  As soon as I let go of my fears and doubts about WHO I could parent, God opened up the door that brought our beautiful son into our home.

We had decided to pursue adoption through foster care.  We had not made any limitations with regard to race or ethnicity, we were flexible in what special needs we would consider, and we were open to more than one child, of any age up to our biological son’s age.

all I have neededWe got a call from our agency, requesting us…appealing to us…to consider joining the domestic adoption program.  They had more birth moms than they had adoptive families to present.  They desperately needed more adoptive families in the program.  I saw God all over that.  How could we say no?  We couldn’t. and in that moment we set the wheels in motion that brought our son home to us.

If I wasn’t convinced in God’s providence before (I was), I have seen it firsthand now.  God wants to give us the desires of our hearts, but He also wants us to trust Him completely, and trust that He loves us and has our very best interests at heart.  I had to trust Him completely, and stop trying to engineer the outcome I wanted, and as soon as I did that, he gave me the best possible outcome, one that I could neither have engineered nor foreseen.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

 

F is for Finalization #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter FWe finalized our adoption on March 6, 2014, exactly seven days before our home study expired.  Three matches, two disruption, and one baby boy in eighteen months (less one week)…it seemed to fly by some days, and other days it seemed like an eternity.

We brought him home on September 28, 2013.  He was four days old, and we were out of practice with all things baby.  Never mind that…it really is like riding a bike…you don’t forget how to pedal, but you do forget how tired it makes you when  you’re pedaling 24/7.

Our post-placement visit happened on October 24, 2012, on his one month birthday…also the day we requested the finalization application from our local juvenile court office.  We got it, filled it out, sent it in (along with our identification documentation), and waited.  The paralegal assigned to our case called fairly shortly thereafter to schedule an appointment to sign the documents and present (yet again) our certified identification information.

name againSeriously, making sure we are who we say we are is a multi-faceted endeavor.

Once everything was signed, the juvenile court office could start requesting the documents from our agency.  Since our entire file had been previously presented to CPS, it puzzles me why it could not be then passed to juvenile court, but I don’t work in government (Thank God!), and I clearly don’t understand the convoluted, complicated way that government works.  But I digress…  The day we signed our application was also the day that our paralegal submitted a motion to expedite our paperwork, since our home study expiration date was looming…in four(ish) months…which in government time, is basically tomorrow.

We also got the sheaf of paperwork from our agency to fill out (again).  Here again I wonder why, as they had all the information already, and CPS had received it once already, and the process could have been expedited by eliminating this repetition.  But I digress…

In the midst of this, we went out of town, forgot to take the paperwork with us, so came home to 1) a notice that our court date was set for March 6, 2014, and 2) our paperwork needed to be filled out and returned to our agency YESTERDAY.  It was also at this point (less than three weeks prior to our court date) that the agency told us that CPS must approve us again.  I thought that was behind us, but no.  So I scrambled, got the paperwork completed that day, and it was hand delivered by a sweet, sweet friend that evening.

When I called our agency the next day, I spoke with the president/director.  If there is anything you might not want to leave a lasting impression with clients, it is a snippy attitude from the big boss, but that is exactly what happened.  She confirmed receipt of the paperwork, but stated that it was unlikely that we would make our court date, that we would probably have a continuance, because it was not probable that CPS would rubber stamp our paperwork in time for our hearing.  This ticked me off.

Just a note…good customer service needs to start at the top.
Giving clients – in particular, paying adoptive parent clients – attitude,
right at the end of your otherwise good relationship with them, does not
bode well for a recommendation from us to other potential adoptive parents.  

world-kindnessI asked her if there was a contact person at CPS that she, or we, could call to try and rush the paperwork through so we would not end up with a continuance, which would force us to renew our home study (and potentially cost us a lot of additional money).  No, she did not have a contact person.  What about a phone number?  No, CPS doesn’t have a phone.  Yes, those words were actually uttered to me.  I know she meant that they did not have access by phone to CPS, but seriously…some basic kindness would have been nice.

angelHere is where the angel of a paralegal (whom I previous mentioned) came into play.  She did have a contact number.  She could call and try to push the file to the top of the pile and get our rubber stamp.  She could and she did. Within a couple of days.

Our hearing went without a hitch.  Our parents were able to attend, along with our birth mom’s social worker, with whom we had become friends by this time.  It was quick, and fun, and our (now two) sons got to sit in the judge’s chair for pictures.  We are finished, and this month we will get a new birth certificate with his new name and my husband and me listed as his parents.

There are many, many, many things our agency did right.  This last detail, the one that would make our final memory of them a positive one, was not one of those things they did right.  I hope this is not the case for any other adoptive family.  Ultimately it doesn’t matter, because the outcome was perfect, but it is part of our story.

gotcha day

 

B is for Birth Mom #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter BDay 2 of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2014.  I’m hoping to get a chunk of time to write several posts at once, but since I only (finally) decided to jump in again yesterday morning, I haven’t planned ahead.  So…I’m racing to complete this before the 45 minutes I expect the darling son to sleep expires.

Perhaps the main reason adoption is ever an option is the BIRTH MOM…and in our case, BIRTH PARENTS.  So often the birth father is not in the picture, either by his own choice or because he is not known.  We were fortunate to have two birth parents who agreed that adoption was the best option for their baby.  We would not have our second child if not for that choice, and it very nearly did not happen.

In almost every case, birth parents who are choosing to surrender a child are doing so out of love, and out of a deep desire to give the child a chance at a better life…one that they can’t provide.  Their lives are almost always severely dysfunctional…drug abuse, alcohol abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, prostitution, disease, homelessness, joblessness, anger problems, deadbeat partners.  Our birth mom has dysfunction around her in spades, and yet, she is an intelligent, sweet girl who (almost) managed for (almost) nine months to care for our baby.  More on the “almost” later.  She was diligent about making her doctor appointments, she did what the doctor asked of her, and she stayed in touch with her wonderful, amazing, irreplaceable social worker and, by extension, with me.  It makes the fact that she started out at Planned Parenthood, seeking to abort this precious boy, startling at first…and after that sharp intake of shocked breath, I realized then (and am so grateful for now) that God intervened.

Her on-again, off-again boyfriend wanted her to abort, but he couldn’t come up with the money.  She didn’t have the money, so it didn’t happen.  She wound up at our local Crisis Pregnancy Center, where the doctor who became her OB/GYN for this pregnancy volunteered his time…and who invited her to come to his practice, where he would personally see her through.  They put her in touch with the adoption agency, and more importantly, with her social worker, a Christian woman with a passion for, and a mother’s heart for, these devastated women.  And she selected us.

The boyfriend?  He was initially resistant…initially preferring to kill this baby over giving him a better home than he (they) could provide.  But God worked in his heart too, and he (along with both of their families) agreed that this was the best choice for our baby.  He is all of ours…theirs and ours…and God’s…and without all of us, he wouldn’t be here.  Our baby was given life, and a devastating choice was averted, because God intervened.