Our Imperfect Lives


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Lots to be Done, so Let’s do Something

Well unfortunately bureaucracy moves slowly, so we’re still waiting to make the move to the next step of the process towards becoming eligible foster/ pre-adoptive parents.   We reached out to our area DCF Office but they were still waiting to receive our MAPP Profiles from MSPCC (Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) – the organization we took our MAPP training through. Our social worker will not be able to begin the home study until after she has received and reviewed our MAPP Profiles.

So now we wait…. and do work around the house and anything else we can think of doing in preparation.

We’re making progress on our many projects at home. We’ve had a new light put in our small bedroom and a light in the hallway – with two light switches! Our hallway is so fancy (and well lit) now! Marcy also stepped back into the closet (literally) and painted the last bit of wall space with original paint.

And of course we’re trying to make ourselves completely finish projects we’ve already started since we’re terrible at that. Sometimes we when we go the “it looks so much better stage” we get distracted by the next project. Here are a couple of examples of almost finished projects we’ve done over the last year or so that we’re now working to finish:

Our dining room is so very close to being done! The ceiling still needs one more coat of paint, we need to finish the trim and refinish the floors. But it looks so much better.

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Our upstairs hallway is slowing making progress. While we did love the floor to almost ceiling paneling we were pretty happy to say “goodbye” to that and the drop ceiling. We still have a couple more small tasks in the hall, but the big step is putting down new floors and although we’ve started planning out how we’re going to go about doing it – it’s going to be awhile.

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In addition to being very handy women we took some time to work on our house rules. House rules are recommended for foster homes not only to help keep our home running (relatively) the way we’d like it to. But, more importantly they can be helpful for the child – to give structure and an understanding of where and how the child fits in to the home.

Our rules are very general and very simple. They’re also a work in progress and I imagine we’ll seek feedback from our social worker. They are as follows:

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While we may not have made much headway in starting our family, it was probably for the best that we weren’t visited by a social worker this week since we had two very rambunctious house guests – a pit bull/jack russell mix and a puggle. We were dog sitting for friends which made our house a little hectic for visitors; anyone who stepped into our home was instantly greeted by four very excited dogs – which could be overwhelming.

We’re hopeful that this week, after we clean up all the dog hair and little paw prints, we’ll hear from our social worker and schedule the first meeting for our home study. Until then we’ll continue crossing off items, and probably adding a few, to our to-do list.

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Officially MAPP Graduates

Last week we finished our very last MAPP Class – Wahoo! The MAPP Certification is good for 5 years, so let’s hope we get placed with a kid or three before then!

Our last class was one of the more emotional classes, not necessarily because the discussion topics pulled at our heartstrings more than others, but because we weren’t just discussing hypotheticals and ifs and maybes. We had the opportunity to watch several short video clips of youth discussing their experiences growing up in foster care. Real teenagers telling their very real stories. One of these stories was a girl who attended 13 or so high schools before making the decision to just drop out and get her GED; “the straw that broke the camel’s back” was when she transferred to her thirteenth school and was told she would be a ninth grader because not all of her transcripts and credits followed her to this last school – when she should have nearly been finished. This girl’s story was sad, but at the same time inspiring, because after all of that she was attending community college. She signed herself back into the foster care system after aging out so she was still receiving state help, but she was working to make something of herself after persevering through difficult times.

Another story came from a young man who lost his parents in a car accident. He was placed in what was thought to be a loving and nurturing home. However, after several years in the home the father, a preacher, decided that the young boy was teaching his biological son his “Mexican ways” ( he was Venezuelan) and had him removed from the home.

Some of the other stories were more positive. A young girl who was placed with a family who she stayed with for many years and gave her the love and support a child needs and deserves. All of the stories were heart wrenching – and inspiring at the same time. The story of the child or children we are placed with may share some of these stories and they may not, we won’t know until the time comes.

While the class was eye opening in ways we also know that we have a lot to learn about the process and the experiences and troubles children may have. For now though we’re focusing on our next step, which is to have a home study done.

The home study can take two to three months. Our understanding is that the inch thick packet of questions we had to complete as part of the MAPP class will be nothing compared to this process – lots of personal questions, self reflection and evaluation by DCF. In addition to all of that, this process will include an inspection of our house to make sure it’s safe and adequate for a small child to call home. So naturally, we’re viewing this impending process as motivation to cross a couple of items off our relentlessly expanding list of home repairs/improvement projects.

We love our home and we think it will be a perfect place for children to live and grow. It’s large, but not huge, it’s cute and comfy  – and it’s over a hundred years old – so it has some quirks and is in need of a few updates. Some of our electrical work hasn’t been updated since before disco was cool so that has been our first plan of attack. Thankfully, this is actually the easiest task because it’s going to be done by someone else: a licensed electrician.

We do have a myriad of other tasks that we’ll be doing ourselves, some of which are already underway. The important thing for us to remember when we start home improvement projects is to actually finish the project. We’re great at getting projects about 90% done and then getting distracted. A great example of this is when we tore down some ghastly retro paneling and a drop ceiling in our hallway and added a chair rail in the hall and staircase.  We’re so close to finishing – we just need to fill in some gaps and touch up some paint, but it’s been at the nearly finished stage for months. We’re hoping to fix that soon. (We can pretend that we haven’t finished because we’ve been waiting to get an electrician in to install a hall light but that would be a lie – anyway we’ll have a light by the end of the week!).

We’re hoping to hear from our area DCF office to schedule our first visit of the home study and while we wait we’re making our list, checking it twice and diving in. It may still be months until we are eligible to be placed with a child and we’re going to be as productive as we can in that time. Who knows how much (or little) time we’re going to have once we do get placed with a child – or children?!


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Lots to Do, Lots to Take In

It has been a busy week! We had our third MAPP class on Saturday, visited DCF to get fingerprinted on Monday evening, and attended the one evening MAPP class (a panel presentation) on Wednesday. We are looking forward to finishing our training this coming Saturday and moving on to the next phase of the process.

Last week’s MAPP class covered the adoption and fostering of children of different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, among other topics. During the class discussion participants shared their expectations of race/backgrounds/etc. and whether they’ve shared these expectations with their friends and family. One couple in the class, the two gay men we’ve decided to befriend, shared their story with the class: While discussing the subject with one of their mothers, she said (and we’re paraphrasing here), “You plan on adopting a healthy white child, right?”

This of course, is not the most likely outcome. This couple appears to be pretty much on the same page as us and have pretty similar expectations to ours.

Now, we’re guessing that you’re probably wondering what those expectations are, because we’ve realized we haven’t touched on who we’re hoping to adopt…

As you’ve perhaps already deduced we’re not necessarily looking to adopt a white child, in fact we have no requirements or desires in regards to race or ethnicity. With that being said, since we live in a city where we’re in the minority as whites and the vast majority of the city’s population is Hispanic, we have imagined (correctly or not) that we will likely be placed with a Hispanic child or children.

Did you catch that – children? It was a hint towards another one of our adoption requirements, or really lack thereof. We are open to adopting a sibling group. We both have two siblings and can’t ever imagine being separated – even as much as we may have bickered as children – so we want to do as much as we can to help keep siblings together. We live in a 4 bedroom home (that’s including our master bedroom) so we have the room plus we want more than one child, so there wasn’t a need for much debate. The only unanswered question is how many children we will open ourselves to; three appears to be the current cap.

We do admit that we’re not completely restriction free. We do have an age range that we’re shooting for; we prefer to foster a child/children aged four or under but we have some wiggle room. Additionally, we understand that the majority of children in the foster care system will have some type of health/emotional problem which could range from being born addicted to drugs, to learning disabilities, to post traumatic stress disorder, and beyond. As a result, we’re trying to prepare ourselves for a child with mild to moderate needs.

We want to be as open as possible to different situations to help increase our likelihood of being placed with a child or sibling group, but at the same time we want to be realistic regarding what we can handle as a couple and as parents. The further we go down the path towards fostering to adopt the more we’re able to evaluate what we think we can handle.

Last night we attended a panel as part of our MAPP class with a DCF attorney, social workers and adoptive parents. This was an experience that provided us with a lot to learn – it was almost overwhelming the amount of information we got at times.
However, what we heard was  thought provoking and it helped us to further reflect on ourselves and what we’re ready to take on.

One of the more fascinating discussions of the panel was the “matching process.” It was jokingly compared to online dating and shopping – and from what we understand these are fairly accurate comparisons. Generally speaking, when a child is identified that needs an adoptive family, the child’s social worker distributes information about the child to other social workers in the state. Potential adoptive parents also have social workers, who follow up by contacting them, sharing information about the child, and following up if the child seems like a good fit. A group including the child’s social worker then sits down to review the candidates and select the family that would be the most appropriate.

Adoptive families also have opportunities to attend ‘adoption parties.’ An adoption party is where adoptive parents can get to know social workers and learn more about children who are available for adoption, typically older children, around five and up.  We’re told that adoptive parents barely even see the children during these parties as they’re running around playing with the other children while the adults mingle and chat.

All in all it was a great night. We especially enjoyed hearing from the adoption supervisor for the Boston area as she has nearly 20 years of experience and was full of stories and helpful information. Equally interesting were the accounts from the two adoptive mothers. It sounded as though they had ideal experiences and we can only hope for things to go as smoothly and end up with as happy of a family picture as they painted last night.

It is hard to believe but after last night we only have one more Saturday class and we’ll be done with our MAPP classes and moving on to the next step in this process. Thankfully none of the scary situations and thought provoking questions that have arisen in class have caused us to second guess any of this and we’re excited to move onto the next step of the process after the completion of the class which will be a “home study.” We are hard at work finishing as many of our home improvement projects as possible before then!


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Now Begins the Hard Part

Well, Saturday’s MAPP class should have been the hard part. We discussed some of the traumas that potential foster children could experience; we specifically spoke in great lengths about emotional trauma and sexual trauma. Now to think about and discuss these horrific experiences being perpetrated on a child is sickening, but its easier to handle when one, you’ve done some research and know ahead of time this is a reality for many children in the care of DCF, and two, because generalities and theoretical are always easier to stomach than the real thing.

In reality – if we are placed with a child that has experienced anything like what we discussed in class it will be a grisly truth to face. We can’t say for sure how any child will act after living through such traumas or how we as foster parents/adoptive parents will fare in helping the child to cope and live in a safe home. But, we imagine at least dealing with the generalized and theoretical in class will leave us better prepared.

Of course, we won’t have all the knowledge needed to handle the hurt and damage of a child who has suffered through the unthinkable, but part of the foundation we are trying to lay through taking part in these MAPP classes is learning more about where we can turn to for help. We have great support systems in our family and friends but for these particular situations we’ll have to go beyond our normal reinforcements (although we are fortunate to have an experienced social worker in our group of friend).

While we did find our last class to be challenging, the truth is we’re finding our homework to be a bit more difficult. The assignment seems simple enough – complete a packet (about an inch thick) answering questions about yourself, your family, your home and your expectations of fostering/adopting. Simple, right? Not so much.

What years of your childhood were your favorite? How about your least favorite? Not sure? Neither are we! We were both lucky enough to have pretty happy childhoods. We are fortunate to have loving and caring families. We even both have happily married parents who have been together for decades.

So, we racked our brains, took a stroll down memory lane, and answered these questions plus a myriad of others. We chronicled our work experiences and our relationship.

Next it was onto questions about parenting…. what childhood age do you imagine you will enjoy parenting the most? The least? What do you think is an effective discipline tactic? When do you think it’s OK to spank or physically discipline a child? Really, is that a trick question? What person in their right mind would think of raising a hand to a child who has already gone through so much?

We’re not really sure how many questions we’ve answered or how many hours we’ve  collectively put into this homework assignment but we’re certainly going to be glad once we hand it in! We’ve joked that if all parents had to complete this kind of survey before starting a family, we would have a lot fewer pregnancies. In all seriousness though, this survey (as we’re sure it was intended) has made us think a bit more about what our childhoods were really like and what changes we’ll have to make when we bring a child/children into our home.

But if we’re being really honest, this process is probably only going to get harder… but anything worth having in life isn’t going to be easy.