It has been suggested that I compile the 7-part series of our adoption story into one post. So, ta-da! Here it is.
If you plan on reading this all at once, be sure to have a big cup of coffee with you!
I have been wanting to write this for several months – tinkering with it a bit here, and a bit there. Parts of the story are emotionally rough, because it takes me back to some painful days. I will try to tell the story, and not take off on too many rabbit trails. I will break this up into several parts and try to publish them all this week. I pray that someone might be blessed by reading our story.
Part 1 – In the Beginning
It all started one morning – I don’t remember the exact date, but it was after September 2001 and before Hubby and I started our adoption journey in 2004. The day started like any other – at the time, I was working in Dallas, so I had to get up early to get to the office on time. My usual routine started by waking up with my coffee while watching 20 minutes of “Life Today” with James and Betty Robinson.
I remember James’ introduction of the guest that particular day. It was a Christian recording artist named Tammy Trent, he said that she lost her husband in a freak diving accident. She and her husband were in Jamaica on vacation, when he went diving and did not resurface. The search team found his body the next day, September 11, 2001. She had called her family and they were making travel arrangements to come to her aid when four planes crashed into buildings and fields in America. Then air travel was suspended in the States, so she was without family or friends for many days. There she was stuck in Jamaica without any of her loved ones, grieving the loss of her husband, the loss of innocent Americans, the lack of her family and friends. James said that through it all, Tammy kept on praising God. The hotel staff who were around her, commented on the fact they could hear her singing – singing praises to God. Her heart was broken, she was in a foreign land, she was all alone, and while she did not understand God’s plan – she knew that it was His plan, so through her sobs and tears she sang praises to Him.
That particular show made such an impact on me. I remember watching with complete and total awe, and thinking to myself, “I want to be like that. I want to be like her, and be able to praise Him not only when I’m on the mountain top, but also when I’m in the valley. I want to have that kind of trust and faith in God, during both the trials and the triumphs.”
End Part 1
You may be wondering how this ties in to our adoption journey – trust me – it does.
Part 2 – Selecting the Agency
“A long time ago, in a land far far away,” when Hubby and I first started dating – we discussed that due to medical history biological children would not be an option. And although I had always pictured my life with children I knew that this was the man God selected for me to marry. And if God said this was my guy, well, who am I to argue.
I can honestly say that during our courtship and the first year of our marriage, the thought of children never crossed my mind. Then – something happened – shortly after our first wedding anniversary, the urge for children was thrust upon me. Since we knew the “natural way” wasn’t an option, we started researching. We looked into donor insemination, embryo adoption through Snowflakes, foreign infant adoption, domestic infant adoption, and adoption through foster care. Through prayer and research, it didn’t take long for us to decide adoption through foster care was the option for us. So, we contacted our local CPS office to find out what we needed to do. We were told to attend an informational meeting at a CPS office, there would be one the first week of May.
We attended and learned a lot about foster care and the adoption process through foster care. We were told we would need to select an agency from the list CPS gave us. From the list of 15 we crossed off all that were not Christian based organizations – that narrowed the selection to 4. One of the agencies required that we be married 3 years, we had only been married a year. One purposely misspelled a word in their name, corner was spelled korner – and one of my pet peeves is purposeful misspellings. Why do people want to be thought of as less intelligent? Ah, I digress…
That left two agencies, we prayed over our decision, and selected Covenant Kids. As it turned out, their office was less than 5 miles from our house which was great, especially since we had to attend 40 hours of training to become licensed foster parents.
Our training started in July, finished in August, and we had our Home Study done the first week of September. At this time, we did not have our license, but we were allowed to provide “respite” for other foster families. Respite is when a foster family can leave their foster child/ren in the care of another foster parent. Because foster children are not allowed to stay with just anybody, respite allows them to stay with someone who is licensed, and has been “trained” for certain needs that some foster children can present.
Our agency called to ask if we would like to provide respite for two boys, aged 4 years, and 9 months. The agency told us the boys would need to move from their current foster home due to the biological child in the family having difficulty adjusting to having the foster children in the home. The agency said that if the weekend went well, the boys could move in the following weekend. Of course, we jumped on the chance. The boys came for the weekend, and we were absolutely thrilled. When they returned to their foster family for the week, we ran out and purchased a crib, high chair, and car seats. The next Friday, the day we actually became licensed foster parents, the boys moved in.
Part 3 – We have kids!
N, the oldest, was one of the smartest 4-year-olds you could ever know. He was very handsome. He had blonde hair and giant blue saucers for eyes. His cousin, J was also adorable. J had a shock of red hair, big blue eyes, and an adorable toothy smile that only a 9-month-old could have. They were removed from their family of origin because the little guy’s father was caught running a meth lab out of their home. Upon placement in our home, the state told us the plan was to go for termination of parental rights – meaning, they would stay with us forever!
The first six weeks or so were all about survival. Hubby and I figured out how to continue our life (i.e. jobs, keep home, go to church, etc.) while adding two little people to the mix. And here it is – my motherhood dirty little secret – I didn’t immediately fall in love with them. I’m sure I’ll be thrown out of all the Mommy clubs now, but really…the first four to six weeks were about figuring out how to make our new life work.
I don’t know when it happened, but one day I woke up and I was head over heels in love with them. J started walking, and babbling. He was such a cute baby. N was becoming smarter everyday, and he was so good with J – looked out for him. Our little family was thriving.
Watching Hubby become a father was a wonderful experience. I got to see him in a different light which was so neat. To watch him play legos with N, and feed J a bottle warmed my heart. I traded in my sporty red Mustang for a station wagon, and enjoyed becoming a mother. Toting little ones with me everywhere I went. Our families also fell in LOVE with them, and it seemed like N and J had always been there.
In October, our church group gave us a big party. It was like having a baby shower for a 4 year old and 9 month old. It was a special treat for me since I didn’t get to have a baby shower. The boys received lots of toys. I received some practical gifts from the moms in the group. It was really lots of fun.
Next came the holidays. Christmas was incredible. Because we were new parents, and they were foster children, we had soooooo many toys – too many in hindsight. There are groups who donate toys to foster children, so we had two huge bags of those – and of course we had to give them everything they wanted. They had a lot of fun opening the presents Christmas morning, but once it was all open, they were totally overwhelmed. Hubby and I learned a hugely valuable lesson – just because they want it and you have it – doesn’t mean they need to get it right away. Again, I digress… The boys finally calmed down and enjoyed playing with their haul of gifts.
We celebrated the New Year, and thanked God for the wonderful blessings he’d given us in 2004, and couldn’t wait to see what was in store for 2005!
Part 4 – We don’t have kids!
One Wednesday evening in January, the boys caseworker called. He said there would be a hearing the next day and wanted to know if we had anything to add to the court record. We shared with him they boys were doing wonderfully and let him know we were addressing behavior issues, but things were going well. He assured us at the end of the phone call the boys parental rights would be terminated very soon.
So the next day, I followed my usual routine. I headed home to change into “Mommy” clothes before picking up the boys from daycare. I noticed we had a voice mail from the caseworker. When I returned his call, I was expecting the best, but I received the worst of the worst. He said the state was no longer pursuing termination and the boys would be returning to their family the next day. The facts boiled down to – the person causing the problem was incarcerated, therefore the rest of the family is a-okay. Never mind the fact that they didn’t mind having the meth lab, they didn’t cause it, so let’s send the kids back.
As I stood in my kitchen, clutching the phone, trembling with grief and anger – I remembered that I had told God I wanted to praise him in times of joy and sorrow. At that moment, I dropped to my knees and started praying. With tears streaming down my face, I told God that I didn’t understand, but that I knew with all my heart that I was to fulfill HIS plan, not my plan. And, while I did NOT want to loose these precious children, I knew I was to put my faith in Him. I asked that He would somehow bring peace to this turbulent situation, and allow HIS LIGHT to shine through me.
The next hour we cried as we informed friends and family of our soon-to-be loss. We asked for their prayers, both for us as grieving parents, and for the children who would be returning to a home that we felt was not suitable for habitation.
We retrieved the boys from daycare and with happy faces, let N know he would be returning home. We wanted them to feel excited and happy, instead of worrying about us or that they had caused us to be sad. The next morning, we took them to day care as usual. This allowed us to take care of packing, and they got to say good bye to their friends. They were able to have a Farewell Celebration, which was very sweet of their teachers to do. I’ll spare you the boring logistics of what Hubby and I did- it all boils down to getting them packed up and ready to move.
When the boys left late Friday evening, Hubby and I stood on the driveway waving. We let them know we would always love them, and that we were glad they were happy to be going with their family.
Those hours truly changed my life. In my life of faith, this is where “the rubber met the road.” In those hours, I came to know, 100%, no-questions-asked, without-a-doubt, that God answers prayers. I came to know what it means to have the peace that passes understanding. While we did not understand why this happened, we were at peace and knew that God was fulfilling HIS plan. I could feel the prayers of our family and friends covering us. And as strange as it may sound, during this heart-wrenching time, I fell further in love with my God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I read a quote by a British writer named Malcolm Muggeridge the other day.
Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything that I have learned in my 75 years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my experience, has been through affliction and not through happiness.
It seems Mr. Muggeridge summed it up quite well.
Part 5 – Lonely and Longing
The house was so quiet without the boys and all of their toys – our footsteps seemed to echo. It was very strange. We went from a family of 2 to 4, back to 2 in just over 100 days.
The week after the boys left, we received a call from their family. They thanked us for taking such good care of the boys, and wanted to let us know we could call, write, or come by any time we would like. During that call, we let them know we still had several boxes of the boys stuff that would not fit in the caseworker’s car. We told them we could bring it to them if they like. They agreed and said we could come on Saturday.
Saturday morning, Hubby and I loaded up the boxes and drove to N and J’s home. The family welcomed us with open arms. N was excited to show Hubby where he got to ride his bike, and where he kept all of his toys. J was in a playpen when I walked in, his face lit up when he saw me and immediately lifted his arms for me to pick him up. For the next hour I hugged and kissed on him as we talked to the family. We brought them copies of all the pictures we had of the boys, so they would have a record to remember of their time in our home.
It was difficult for us to see how they lived. The mobile home was literally falling down as we were there. There was a huge hole in the wall next to the front door – an animal, or even a person could have fit through it. The house was dirty and filled with tons of stuff. There were paths through the filth and clutter to the bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen. The front yard was host to two vehicles which were broken, so they were used as storage closets packed to the seams with stuff. It was really a bittersweet time for us.
It was evident the family loved the children which we were very happy about. While the family might not raise them the way we would have chosen, they were with someone who loved them. And more importantly, they were where God wanted them to be.
On the ride home Hubby and I discussed that when and if we ever had the opportunity to visit another foster child’s home, we would probably skip it. It wasn’t that it was too painful to see them again, it was that now we knew what their living situation was. We knew they would feel the weather elements inside their home. We knew J would spend many hours in a playpen instead of someone interacting with him. We knew N would probably spend untold hours in front of a television or game system, instead of learning and enhancing his already genius IQ. Having that knowledge was almost harder than losing them. We now had full understanding of the saying, “Ignorance is bliss.”
Knowing what I do now about CPS regulations of Foster Homes, it angers me that N and J were allowed to return to that home – but the state doesn’t regulate biological families the way they regulate foster families…and I know on many levels, that’s a good thing. Just very frustrating in this case…
The next couple of months Hubby and I provided respite for a number of foster families over many of the weekends. During the week we went through our pre-children routine. We had a few phone calls for placements, but they were not situations that would have worked well for us. The one that stands out in my memory was an infant boy who was going to be discharged from the hospital so he needed a foster home. The reason the baby was in the hospital was because his father broke nearly every bone in his 6 week old body. The reason we could not take the placement is because the state’s goal was for family reunification, not termination of parental rights. Hubby said that if we cared for that child, and the child was returned to the abuser, Hubby would likely have to be incarcerated for assault, but probably 1st degree murder. I agreed that as much as my arms longed for a child and my heart ached for this infant, I would not be able to give him back to his abuser once the parent had completed the steps designated by CPS. So we waited, and waited, and waited for the call of a suitable placement.
One of our dear brothers-in-Christ reminded us during this time that:
God is never late, and He is never early.
His blessings always arrive right on time.
Part 6 – Right On Time
We still had the weekly reminder from our friend:
God is never late, and He is never early.
His blessings always arrive right on time.
Of course we knew it was true, and God absolutely proved his timing on this was beyond perfect.
Near the end of March, on our second wedding anniversary, God gave us two precious gifts – Woody and Tigger. Woody was 2 years-10 months, and Tigger was 10 months old. Immediately, Woody called us Mommy and Daddy and melted our hearts. Tigger took a few weeks to warm up, but he quickly learned how to snuggle with the best of them.
These pictures were taken on the day they arrived.
When they were placed with us we were told there was a chance they would be returning to their biological family, but due to the lack of progress by the parents it would be unlikely. We were their second foster home. The reason the boys were moved was that the state wanted to get them to a dual-license home, both foster and adopt, rather than the foster only home they were in. That way, if termination of parental rights did occur, they would already be in a home that could care for them permanently.
Woody was a doll, and after getting permission to cut Tigger’s hair, he looked like the cute boy he was. (I know it’s a strange rule that CPS has you can’t cut a foster child’s hair unless the bioparents give the okay. I think it’s totally ridiculous, I mean these folks had their children taken away for a reason, usually a very bad reason, so why should they have the power over hair, of all things!) Again, I digress…
At the end of April, Hubby and I asked the caseworker how things were going with the biofamily. She went on and on about how poorly the mother was doing on her plan (i.e. list of things she had to do in order to regain custody of her children.)
The first week of May, Hubby and I went to a PPT meeting for the boys. PPT stands for Permanency Planning Team, or something like that. The boys, and their two sisters, had been in foster care since August 2004.
Attendees of the PPT were: bio-mom and current boyfriend, bio-dad’s lawyer (bio-dad was in jail), bio-mom’s mother, case worker, CASA worker, CPS lawyer, my husband and I, and a whole slew of people from the county.
The meeting itself was pretty interesting. Essentially, the state wanted to know how the biofamily was progressing with their “plan”. If the family had been doing well, they would have made plans to return the children. If they were not, they would make plans to have TPR hearings, etc.
In our case the bio-mom was making little to no progress on her plan. She went to the parenting classes, but did not have a job, did not have a home, had not completed Drug and Alcohol classes, and rarely showed up to counseling, which was required weekly. When she spoke she gave a litany of excuses, and blamed it all on everyone else.
The boyfriend spoke and said he would “make sure she does the right thing.” However, he didn’t have a job, and was living with his parents at the age of 28, definitely not a “pillar of the community.”
The bio-mom’s mother spoke, and we were totally shocked at her statement. She told the state she did not want the children to be returned to their mother, that she had witnessed the mother’s poor behavior and promises of improvement for years. She said she would love to adopt the kids, but she felt she was too old to handle them, so she wanted the foster family (us) to adopt the boys. She chewed out the mother, up one side and down the other. And, she told the state that if they gave the kids back to the mother, they should be ashamed.
The boys had a CASA worker, she spoke and listed the many missed/skipped counseling sessions, and asked the bio-mom about her complete lack of ambition toward getting a job, or getting housing.
The caseworker gave a glowing report of the biomom, which completely contradicted what sh had told us the week before. She said that the bio-mom had attended the Parenting Classes, and said that bio-mom said she would improve, but didn’t have proof. We later found out this was â€œtypicalâ€ with caseworkers who were “fresh out of college”, they haven’t been around long enough to know when someone is lying to them “ they want to believe the good in everybody.”
One of the people from the state inquired about the drug testing. It was stated that bio-mom failed one – she gave the excuse that it was “in the room” where she was but she wasn’t smoking. The guy from the state almost laughed and said “yeah, right.”
At the end of the meeting they gave the bio-mom another six months to get her stuff together, but if she had not made significant progress, they would move forward with TPR.
Thank heavens, shortly after this meeting, the boys got a new caseworker. She was great, had been a caseworker for decades, not days. It made a huge difference as she didn’t believe all the baloney.
Initially, both boys were developmentally delayed in several areas. Woody was behind in language and speech. So we had 2 speech therapy appointments per week. Tigger had much more to deal with. He was delayed in language/speech, fine motor, and gross motor. So, he had a speech therapy appointment and an Intervention Specialist for early childhood appointment every week. And because termination of parental rights had not happened they had a weekly visit with the biological family.
Woody did his therapy sessions for 8 months. Tigger did his therapy sessions for 18 months. I am happy to report that they responded very well to the therapies and now both boys have completely caught up, in some speech/language areas have even advanced beyond what is expected for their ages. They are now happy, healthy, thriving children.
Why not add more?!?!
After Woody and Tigger had been with us for about 6 months, we had moved to a larger house, and felt that God was calling us to foster an additional child. So, we got “on the list”, and had a call in about 30 minutes. M was placed with us in August 2005. He had been removed from his family because his mother was non-compliant with her epilepsy medication. The plan was to get her back on track, and M would go home in about six weeks. Unfortunately, things did not turn out that way. M’s mother had a fatal seizure after he had been with us about a month. His father had some legal issues that had to be rectified before the state would return M to his custody.
M was exactly one week younger than Tigger. It was almost like having twins only these two were total opposites. M was definitely a change in the household. He didn’t think they way Woody and Tigger did , he was unique. He emptied the toy bin, so he could get in it. He emptied the book shelf, so he could lay on it. He had moments when he could be sweet, but he was an expert at throwing temper-tantrums which caused him great frustration with Hubby and I , because we were very firm in our discipline and did not give in to the whining, crying, and fit throwing.
M also had lots of developmental delays, but since Tigger was already set up for therapies, adding M was a breeze.
Finally in March 2006, M’s dad had completed his steps for reunification, and M was sent back home.
As the months went by, we fell more and more in love with the boys, and spent many hours biting our fingernails as we waited and waited and waited for the case to move forward.
Part 7 – Finally OUR Boys!
In January 2006, the state did an assessment on the progress, or rather lack of progress, by the biological parents, and determined the state would go for termination of parental rights. The Texas system requires that CPS and the biological family attempt Mediation prior to having a court hearing. The mediation session took place around the middle of January. The state was able to get the parents to agree to termination of parental rights with a few conditions. The conditions being agreement to accepting mail contact from the biological father, and allowing an intensive visitation schedule with biological mother. We were quite hesitant to agree to the visitation, but the state and the CASA thought it would be â€œjust enough ropeâ€ for the biological mother. In other words, she hardly ever came through on agreements, and it was very likely she would treat the visitation the same way. So, we agreed to the conditions, and the state was able to get the bioparents to sign the termination in February.
Just a Word About CASA
The boys had a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate). I believe she was instrumental in getting the rights termed. Her job was to look out for the best interest of the children – she’s not on bioparents side, she’s not on the foster parent’s side, she’s on the kid’s side. She was appointed by the Judge to be an Advocate for the boys.
She was present at almost every pre-termination visit, and at every hearing. She checked up on the mother constantly through the therapist, the doctor, and the caseworker that were involved with the case. Weekly, she would ask the mother if she had found a job yet, does she have a place to live in order to raise the kids, and did she go to counseling this week. She also checked up on the kids, and fought to have them removed from bad foster homes. (She won that fight which is why the boys were placed with us, and the girls went to another foster home.)
Truly, our CASA worker was a God-send. I know the county does not have the resources for caseworkers to follow up and be as thorough as she was – therefore, she had proof of the mother’s inconsistency, irresponsibility, and poor judgment calls. Her hard work contributed greatly toward the termination of parental rights.
I have often heard people ask about loving foster/foster-to-adopt children. They ask if they should hold themselves back and try to protect their feelings, or if they should love the child unconditionally with no strings attached.
For this point I am going to stand on my soapbox for a moment:
My thoughts are that you should Love them with all you’ve got. These kids deserve it.
If the child has to move or is placed elsewhere, it’s going to hurt. If you “hold back”, or if you wear your “heart on your sleeve” – no matter what, it will hurt.
If the child stays, you will have a head start and it will be that much more joyful, and the child will be that much more secure in their relationship with you.
One thing we’ve figured out in our nearly 3 years of fostering, is that even if a child stays with us for a short time, we do have an effect on them.
For some children, the love you give them may be the only time it is given without strings or expectations. It may be the only time they ever hear “I love you”.
For others they may not remember you in particular, but they remember that “mommy” loved them when they were little.
Give them all you can, it may be the only time they are loved like they are the center of the world – and every child deserves to have that.
I now step off my soap box.
September 29, 2006 the court finally recognized what Hubby and I felt in March 2005 – Woody and Tigger were officially members of the family. At that point, the boys had been with us for 19 months, so it was more of a finalization on paper. As they’ve been “ours” in our hearts for a long time. Even so, I still had a weight lifted from my shoulders – and I don’t know if I was projecting, but it really seemed like Woody was more relaxed after the court date, too.
We had a big celebration adoption party at the house on Sunday afternoon. We catered barbecue, and had a bounce house in the back yard for the kids. It was great to see them playing and having such a good time.
We are considering future foster-to-adopt placements, but for now we have decided to wait and just enjoy being a family. If we do accept future placements, the children will definitely be younger than the ones we have now. I think it’s important especially for them to maintain their birth order. If we challenge the stability by adding more children, I want to make sure it wouldn’t change their place in the mix.
More of God’s Perfect Timing
Shortly after their adoption, we received the new birth certificates in the mail. Now obviously, I knew the boys birth dates, but I didn’t know the exact time of day they were born. For Tigger, when I saw the date and the time of birth, something clicked and I remembered what we were doing at the time of his birth – You may remember back in Part 2, I mentioned attending an informational meeting with Hubby. As it turns out, as Tigger came into the world – we were sitting in the CPS office for that first informational meeting.
It amazes me how God orchestrated the timing for this. It was all part of God’s perfect plan!!!
It’s been nice to reminisce and recall our journey from beginning to end. Where our adoption journey ended our life as a forever family began. I hope you have enjoyed reading our adoption journey – it is certainly one I will forever be grateful for.