Our Imperfect Lives


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Legal Rigmarole

So far there have been a lot of legal steps that have gone into Sport’s and Sunshine’s DCF case and we’re certainly not anywhere close to being done with the courts and the lawyers and the motions and arguments and all the fun legal rigmarole. However, up until this point, none of them had really involved us – but that all changed about two weeks ago.

We received a phone call from our adoption worker who informed us that we needed to speak with the DCF attorney regarding a motion involving the release of our home study. The attorney told us that bio Dad’s attorney wanted to present another adoption option and in order to do so needed to see what other adoption option (us) they would be competing with. We were also told that the other adoption option was to be Sport and Sunshine’s grandmother, so we assumed this was Dad’s Mom and there was a new player in the game. As it turned out, the grandmother referenced in relation to the motion was bio Mom’s mother, who had already been denied by DCF as an appropriate placement. Of course that was little comfort.

After speaking with a few other adoptive parents we learned that it’s pretty common for birth parents to present last minute adoption options either as an attempt to stall the court proceedings or as a hail mary to keep the child or children close and/or in the family.

What was apparently uncommon was the request to have our home study released. No one we’ve talked to about the situation – adoptive parents, foster parents and even our adoption social worker – had any experience with such a request.

Both the DCF attorney and the children’s attorney expressed to us that they would argue against the release of our home study. We don’t know the details of all their arguments, but the children’s attorney argued that any adoption placement proceedings, including the release of our home study, is irrelevant until the termination of the parental rights (TPR).

The TPR arguments were scheduled for the following week.

Now, if the home study was to be released it would be redacted and supposedly never make it into the hands of the bio parents – only their attorneys. Nevertheless the bio parents would find out some of what it says, including that we’re a same sex couple, which we don’t think they knew about prior. And even redacted – it’s a very personal document. The dad’s attorney may not get to see our names, the city we live in or our places of employment but the whole document, all 15 pages of it, is about us. It tells about our coming out stories, our relationships with our families and each other, our decision to start a family through DCF, our thoughts on parenting and more. It’s a pretty deep delve into our lives.

The document is so personal that a couple of the experienced foster/adoptive parents that we asked about this situation were not only surprised, they actually worried that if prospective foster parents knew that their home studies could get released they might reconsider fostering.

The impending release of our home study didn’t change anything for us and while we were far from overjoyed with the idea, we weren’t so distressed that we’d head into court to try and fight it, which was an option. We had nothing to hide. Yes, they would find out we’re a same sex couple, but in our great liberal state of Massachusetts where we lesbians have all the same rights as heterosexuals and legally cannot be discriminated against solely on the premise that we’re lesbians, we’re not too concerned about our “big secret” being let out of the bag. Our only concern with being revealed as a same sex couple was that dad would be distracted by it when visiting with the children or look for petty reasons to complain about the kids’ care simply because he didn’t like us.

A week later the date rolled around for the motion to be heard in front of the judge and the dad’s attorney won. DCF handed over a redacted version of our home study.

The next trip to the court room for the attorneys was on the docket for the following week – at least it was, but the court dates were pushed forward for reasons unknown to us.

We’re not holding our breath for any good news on the legal front. New court dates have been scheduled for Tuesday, June 2Friday, June 19, and Monday, July 8, but time will tell what actually happens on these days. Since it’s in family court the courtroom is closed and we cannot be present. Nor will the kids be present at any time.

We’ll hear about the hearings in the abstract, if we’re lucky. However, if the bio parents agree to relinquish their rights and sign an open adoption agreement, then we’ll be contacted.

As always, we’re trying to keep this from putting too much of a damper on our days. Right now we’re a couple of lucky ladies with two beautiful kiddos living under our roof and while they both drive us a little batty from time to time we love having them in our lives. We’re continuing to show these two nuggets, Sport and Sunshine, what family, love and fun is all about.

The kids joined us for our annual pilgrimage to the cape for Memorial Day weekend and they had a blast! And just in case you don’t believe us, here are a few photos from the beach to give you a glimpse at how awesome the weekend was:

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Legal family or not – boy are we lucky!


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The Home Study is Complete!

We took a few days away from the craziness of our home repairs and the home study process for a quick vacation to the west coast. Some like to call the trip a ‘baby-moon’ since any time this summer or after we could get a placement through DCF, but really it was an early celebration of our wedding anniversary.

It was nice to be away from the smell of saw dust and to take a break from compulsively checking off tasks from our list towards becoming foster parents. It was a brief stay in sunny San Francisco and it was great. We meandered around the city, drove across the Golden Gate Bridge, visited the sea lions at Pier 39, took the ferry to explore Alcatraz, strolled among the giant redwood trees in the Muir Forest and puttered around wine country. We were busy, but we loved it, and as soon as we returned home we scheduled our final home study visit.

Meg during a winery tour at the Beringer Vineyards.

Meg during a winery tour at the Beringer Vineyards.

Meg and Marcy outside the well-known Castro Theatre in the Castro District of San Francisco

Meg and Marcy outside the well-known Castro Theatre in the Castro District of San Francisco

The final home study was primarily to discuss the checklist of possible disabilities or behavior problems a potential child could have and to do a final walk through of our home to test all of our smoke detectors. We hadn’t looked at the checklist since we went through it a few weeks ago following our very first home study visit, so we actually had forgotten what some of the items were that we checked off. We did of course remember the majority of the items we marked as “least acceptable,” because they weren’t many.

The disabilities we did mark as “least acceptable” were primarily because our home is not equipped to handle a child in a wheel chair or other mobility problems that would make living in a bedroom on the second floor very difficult. We also are very hesitant to take on the needs of a child who requires around the clock care as we both have full time jobs. Although we intend to take maternity leave when we’re first placed with a child or children we both intend to return back to work after maternity leave.

We want to keep our options open and not immediately rule out a child just because we marked off a certain box on a checklist. We know that we have certain limitations and may not be equipped to handle the needs of every child in DCF’s care but we wouldn’t want to miss out on the child or children that might be perfect for our little family.

Since we marked that we were open to discussing most disabilities or problems it was a relatively quick chat about the checklist. Then we moved on to our next steps. Our social worker would write up our home study, which is what will be presented to the social worker for a child/children to help that social worker determine if we might be a good fit, and then we would be eligible to be placed with a child. Unfortunately, our social worker can’t complete the home study until she receives all of our references back. Thankfully our family, personal, and medical references were all very quickly returned, but our employer references are a bit behind schedule. This coming week we both will be contacting our employers to hopefully light a fire under them to return the paperwork.

This is a really exciting time because we’re almost there! Our flooring projects are in the home stretch and we’re almost ready to become foster/adoptive parents. We had the wood floors on our first floor refinished this week and this week we’re hopefully going to be putting down the last layer of polyurethane on the newly installed wood floors on the second floor of the house. If all goes as planned by next week we’ll be able to start moving some furniture into what will be the bedrooms of our foster child/children and we’ll be eligible to be placed with a child or children!

There’s no knowing how much longer we’ll have to wait for our family but boy are we excited!


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One Down Two to Go

Last Thursday we had our long awaited first home study visit.  It was more or less what we expected. We were asked to answer a lot of personal questions about our relationship, how we interact, how we deal with conflict as well as questions about what we foresee our parenting style to be and more.  Many of the questions were difficult to put our answers into words, but we trudged through the hypotheticals and self-examinations.

While we discussed our perspective on our relationship the social worker probably came to many of the same conclusions on her own by simply observing how we answered the questions and interacted – Meg answered most of the questions and I filled in anything that I thought was left out or simply confirmed what she said. It was likely pretty clear that Meg is more of the talker in the relationship while Marcy tends to listen more; Meg is more of a type A take control person while Marcy is more laid back and willing to follow if she doesn’t disagree with the situation.

We discussed that we envision our parenting styles to reflect how our parents raised the two of us. We both had mothers who were the disciplinarians and developed more of a structured life while our fathers were more laid back. Marcy tends to reflect our fathers’ attitudes while Meg’s personality is more indicative of how our mothers acted.  We were both fortunate enough to have two parents who cared for us and were involved in our lives and we absolutely intend to be the same way with our children.

In addition to answering a number of very personal questions we were given a bit of homework to do – a Family Preference Checklist. The check list is essentially a list of potential physical and behavioral problems a child might face and our task was to go through the five page list and try to decide if each of the items were something we’d consider accepting in a child or not. The list included everything from a heart murmur, to a paraplegic, to down syndrome or a child that lies from time to time.

We checked off the majority off the items as “willing to discuss” but left off the more serious items as “least acceptable.” We don’t want to get in over our heads with a child/children’s needs but we also want to keep our options open. We don’t want a social worker to not consider us for a child/children simply because we didn’t check off a certain box on a sheet.

We’re making a lot of progress in this process towards becoming eligible foster parents. Tomorrow we have our second visit of the home study which will include each of us having a one on one meeting with the social worker. Then we’re really in the home stretch.

We’re also making progress in our process of preparing our house for a new addition to the family. We’ve started putting down our new floors. Right now it’s like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle as we’re laying out all of the pieces. Hopefully tomorrow after our home study appointment we’ll be able to start nailing down the floors in the first room we’re tackling.

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We’re moving ahead at full speed now!


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Seems We’re Taking the Scenic Route on this Journey

We’ve had a bit of a lull in the process, which is why we’ve been MIA in the blogosphere for the past week. Well, also because Meg has been a whirlwind of educational fun with lesson planning, tutoring and the like; plus Marcy has been coaching and fawning over her flora, willing the grass seed she planted to grow with all her might. So, even though we haven’t been doing anything with our home study we’ve still been doing a lot.

Because it had been a while since we first reached out to our social worker, we decided it was time to drop her another line – boy are we glad we did! As it turns out our MAPP trainer never sent our paperwork to our social worker and who knows how long we would have been waiting if we hadn’t followed up.

After we reached out to our social worker and MAPP trainer, and discovered what happened, we got our paperwork to our worker. So, we might be getting a slow start on our home study, but the child, or children, that is meant to be part of our family will find a way to our home regardless of when we’re eligible foster parents. Our worker has since reviewed our paperwork and now we’re on the calendar for our first home study appointment. We’re making our way to becoming eligible foster parents – wahoo!

While we wait out the next couple of weeks until our first home study visit we’ve decided to take a stab at our one page family profile. This will be a document we can use like a business card. We can hand it out to social workers at events as a quick way that they can get to know us and decide if we might be a good match for a child in need.

Naturally we’ve been trying to keep an eye on our own interests and growing our family by doing all we can to be prepared, but we also have loved ones who are close to the DCF system looking out for us too. This is particularly exciting because what we’ve learned about the placement process is that it has a lot to do with who you know, well more accurately who knows you. A child’s social worker needs to ‘know’ us, or at least get a really vivid picture painted of who we are to make the decision that our family is right for the child. This is where our loved ones, a friend that Marcy grew up with who’s a social worker in another region of the state and Meg’s aunt, who works in the juvenile court system, can be very beneficial. They both have already offered to share our story with their coworkers and help us network and find the match we’re hoping is out there.

While our path may have been the scenic route up to this point we’re enjoying the ride and the immeasurable amount of support that we’re getting from our friends and family.

 


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And the Wait Goes On…

Well we should probably get used to waiting, as we’re likely going to have to do a lot of it during this whole process. Right now we’re still waiting to hear from DCF about when our home study will begin. However, as we wait it is comforting to know we aren’t the only ones from our MAPP Class still waiting. Out of the nearly twenty people in our class (9 couples and one lovely single woman) only two or three couples that we know of have heard from their social workers.

For those of you who don’t keep up with the local news, there is a lot of hubbub going on at DCF. Recently, over the last year or so, three children have died that were involved with DCF and a lot of what goes on in the department has been brought into question. The negative attention is so significant that the DCF Commissioner resigned this week. A new commissioner has been appointed, but who knows what that will mean for us.

In fact, all of the changes going on at the top of DCF could have absolutely nothing to do with why we’re still waiting to be contacted. Of course it could also mean that everyone is moving a little slower and a little more cautiously – we just don’t know. What we do know is that many social workers are over worked, so we want to walk the fine line between being a bothersome nuisance and attentively following up. If we don’t hear back by early next week we’ll send another follow up email.

We’ll continue to keep in touch with some of our classmates from MAPP so we’ll have an idea if we really are falling behind in this certification process, or if everyone is moving along at the same pace. At least at this point there are several others in the same boat – so we have no reason to be concerned.

For now, it’s business as usual; we’re living our lives and moving forward. We’re continuing to tackle projects around the house and we even booked an anniversary trip for June.

We’ve also started to collect photos to use in creating a “Welcome Book”. The Welcome Book will be a way to introduce a child to our home and our lives. It will include photos of our house, our neighborhood, our cars and more. Friday was a beautiful spring day, so after we finished work, and  we were ready to kick off our weekend, we took our very rambunctious dogs – even our almost 10 year old beagle was playing like a young pup –  for a walk to our local park; there we took a few photos of the playground, the basketball court and the path by the river. The neighborhood children and teens were even nice enough to be out and about to make playful (unknowing) cameos in our photos. (Photos coming to the blog soon!)

We also took a photo of our cars in the driveway, but now we have to take a new photo because – we bought a new (used) car! And… we’re officially old – you know just in case there was ever any question. The car we bought is a “family car.” It seats 6 and has sliding doors. Sometimes it is classified as a station wagon. Marcy insists that it is “not a minivan.” Meg is thrilled to have a working a/c for the first time in years. In case you are a “car person” and would like to see for yourself, it’s a 2012 Mazda5 Touring Edition.

The New Ride

We had been researching cars and were planning to buy a new one soon, as Meg’s car was on it’s last legs (it was a 2001). Our salesman was a super sweet guy and a graduate of the high school Meg teaches at, but he graduated before she started teaching. We’re happy that we made the decision to buy and that he’s the one who got the commission.

It may still be a while before we have children to cart around in our family car but we’ll be riding in comfort with a moon roof, Bluetooth, and heated seats(!) Meg’s old car and Marcy’s car have manual everything, including the transmission. We’re also doing all that we can to not focus on waiting for the next step in the adoption process.


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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?!