Our Imperfect Lives


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Information, Glorious Information

We went into this knowing that it wasn’t going to be easy and it wasn’t going to be a normal placement. A normal pre-adoptive placement would have included a disclosure (a sit down with social workers who would reveal every scrap of information the department knew about the children) and more preparation time. We had neither. As a result we’ve been a bit lacking on the information front.

Now, please don’t think that we’re second guessing our decision, because that line of reasoning couldn’t be more off the mark. We absolutely adore these kids, even when Sport is throwing a tantrum or Sunshine won’t let us sleep.

Unfortunately, the adoption social worker assigned to Sport and Sunshine is the lone adoption worker in her office and she has a pretty hefty work load. That work load includes a list of disclosures that she needs to conduct and we’re a few down the line, so we wait. And wait.

Until recently, most of the information we had about Sport and Sunshine’s biological parents, aka bio parents, came from clues we found in the children’s medical records, early intervention reports, and even the newspaper. It’s not that the adoption worker was withholding information, she just didn’t know much. She was relatively new to the case when we were selected as the pre-adoptive placement for the kids and she didn’t have the information to conduct a disclosure. She’s been slowly pulling together information on the case and the kids. On occasion she’s actually asked us for information such as the medical paperwork from Sunshine’s birth.

The ongoing case worker who organized and supervised the visits with the bio parents had more information about them and the circumstances that lead to the kids being in state custody. And while we have heard that many ongoing workers tend to share as much as they can with pre-adoptive families without breaking privacy rules, this ongoing worker was extremely cautious about not breaking, or even bending, privacy rules and shared next to nothing with us.

On the one hand we know that DCF workers are overworked and under a lot criticism due to some very upsetting and highly publicized cases, so we try to be sympathetic. However, on the other hand we have this nagging feeling, based in part on our lack of information, that this case has been mishandled along the way. The original social worker assigned to the case seems to be no longer employed by the department and some of the paperwork from when Sport was first brought into care appears to be incomplete or just missing. We’re hoping it turns up.

Thankfully the social workers are not the only individuals with information about the case. After having the kids in our care for over four months, we finally met their attorney. She was a fountain of information! Her role in court is to express what she thinks the kids would say they want – if they were able to communicate it themselves. She told us right away that she thinks the kids would say they want to stay with us.

She has been with the case since it began – making her the longest tenured person with the case that we’re in communication with. She was able to give us information about Sport’s many placements in his short life as well as some additional details about why the kids were so quickly moved from their previous foster home into ours. She also shared information about what’s to come.

We knew that there were court dates scheduled for March 5 and 6 but we were a bit cloudy on the details. We were under the impression that the proceedings on those days were to have Sport’s goal officially changed to adoption in the courts and for the state to get permanent custody of Sunshine. However, the cases were recently combined and the department is suggesting that the biological parents’ rights be terminated.

This means that later this week could be a big milestone in our adoption process. The judge could rule to terminate parental rights. Terminating the parental rights (or TPR) is a critical step in our adoption process, because without it there is no legal adoption. Of course the judge could decide not to terminate their rights, or even to give them a bit more time to get their act together. We’re trying to stay as optimistic as possible while preparing ourselves for the long road ahead, because even if the judge rules to terminate the parental rights they can still appeal.

Their attorney did give us the impression that she’s somewhat confident that the judge will rule to terminate rights. She’s familiar with the judge and informed us that the judge also presided over the case involving Sport and Sunshine’s half brothers. We’re also told that this judge has a reputation for not wanting to drag a case out.

Since this is a family court case, it’s a closed court room, which means we can’t attend. Both the attorney and the adoption worker have graciously offered to keep us updated through text messaging. It will be important for them to be in touch with us during the court dates not just to try and ease our nervous minds, but because we’ve informed them we’d be amenable to an open adoption agreement.

While there will be added stress involved if we agree to make the kids available a couple of times a year for supervised visits with the bio family, there are also several advantages. The most obvious is that it could move things along more quickly. The bio parents might sign the open adoption agreement rather than going to trial – or they might sign it after the trial rather than filing an appeal. If that happens their parental rights would be terminated and we’d be free to adopt Sport and Sunshine.

We also need to remember that adoption is not just a celebration for a child, but also a great loss. The child may be permanently separated from their biological family members. For better or for worse, Sport and Sunshine’s bio family will always be a part of them – in their genes, their ancestry, and obviously their appearance. While the parents have not always made the best choices, it is obvious that they do care about the children. Supervised visits would allow the parents to see that the children are cared for and also allow the children to see how their bio parents are doing.

We would keep our lives private and separate from the bio parents – nothing about our private lives would be revealed, not even the city we live in. In fact, we would have to select a proxy who would be a contact point for the bio parents if we were ever to fail to comply with the adoption agreement. To protect the children, the agreement will have what’s called a sunset clause. This clause would allow for the visits to be terminated if the bio parents didn’t comply with specific requirements or if the visits prove to be detrimental to the children.

With whatever happens on Thursday and Friday, we’re going to continue to do everything we can for Sport and Sunshine. The legal aspect of their futures is completely out of our hands. We’ll just think positively and do our best to be prepared for whatever is to come.

To help with our positive thoughts here are some fun photos that bring a smile to our faces, and hopefully yours too. We took Sport on his first snowshoeing adventure:

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Legal Risk

Being pre-adoptive foster parents puts us in a pretty conflicted state – we want Sport’s and Sunshine’s birth parents to do well but at the same time we don’t want to lose the children. We knew when we accepted this placement that it was a legal risk placement, meaning the birth parents have not lost all their legal rights to the children. However, we knew if we wanted to be placed with a young child or children our chances of being matched with a placement would increase exponentially if we opened ourselves up to legal risk, so we took the chance.  Of course knowing the risks and really truly understanding the possible implications of a legal risk placement are two different things.

Now that we’ve had the kids in our care, living under our roof, for over two months we’ve genuinely started to develop a bond and we’re really falling for these kids. Even when Sunshine’s fussing at 3 AM and her eyes are welling with tears because she’s starting to teethe or when Sport is shrieking at the top of his lungs because he wants to play baseball and not go to bed, we’re still head over heels for these little buggers. They have become a part of our family – our children. Yet, the fact is, they aren’t just “our children” they are also our “foster children.”

The reality of the situation is that we have little control over the future. Everything is in the hands of the birth parents, DCF, and the courts. As of about a month and a half ago both children had goals of adoption. However, even though their goals are adoption, DCF continues to work with the birth parents to turn their lives around and follow the path that DCF has set out for them to be reunited with their children. While we do know some information about the troubles the birth parents have faced and some of the things they must do to prove they are fit parents, we don’t know specifics or where they are in this journey. What we do know is their social worker, who we communicate with on a regular basis as she is responsible for organizing and overseeing the children’s visits with their birth parents, mentioned that the birth parents took a step in the right direction. In addition to taking this very unclear “step” we know the parents are showing up to all of their visits with the children.

The “step” and the consistent visits could mean nothing. It could mean they are slowly working their way towards being fit parents in the eyes of DCF and the courts. Or, it could mean that they are doing what they’ve done in the past, making a bit of progress only to stumble back down the rabbit hole. Regardless of what it means, it has forced us to contemplate what legal risk means. It means Sport and Sunshine may never legally be part of our family. It means Sport and Sunshine might be removed from our home. It means Sport and Sunshine might be reunified with their birth parents. It means we might be devastated.

If, down the road, DCF or the courts decide that the children should be reunified with their birth parents – DCF will contact us and a transition plan will be created. If this does happen we could have very little time to get the kids prepared for the move and for us to digest the heartbreak. Of course, none of this may happen, but it could. We need to try to “prepare ourselves.” Although there really is no preparation. It will be painful. It will be difficult. Equally as important as trying to prepare ourselves and remind ourselves of what could be, is doing the same for our friends and family. The children have become a large part of their lives too.

Well, enough of the seriousness, time for some photos of the cute little nuggets helping prep for Christmas:

Meg and Sunshine decorating the tree

Marcy and Sport decorating the tree

Sport decorating the tree

Meg and Sunshine putting the angel on the tree


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Adoption Carnival

It was a hell of an experience. And yes, it may be something we’ll experience again. The adoption carnival last weekend was our first “recruiting event” and we don’t think we could have ever really prepared ourselves. It was an emotional and overwhelming ride that also felt very, very strange.

The day’s activities were broken into two parts separated by lunch. The first part consisted of workshops. There were five different workshops and each person could attend two. We opted to get our feet wet together and attend the same workshop first – a workshop on legal risk.

The legal risk workshop was particularly interesting because it featured two unexpected speakers – a mother and her adopted 17 year old teenager. The two were actually attending the event as an adoptive family, looking to add a younger sibling to the family, but were asked to speak by the social worker who worked with them on the adoption five years ago. The other leaders of the workshop were the area supervisor for the southern region of our state and a lawyer who was also an adoptive mother, whose children are now grown.

The workshop was very revealing, we heard from a side of the adoption process that we hadn’t yet heard much from, that of the adoptive child. The teenager spoke about when her biological parents’ rights were terminated and when she was legally adopted by her mom. While the story was immensely informative it was equally as emotional.

We both successfully made it through the first workshop and were ready to take on the second workshop. This time we decided to divide and conquer. Meg went to a workshop about maintaining open relationships with biological families and Marcy headed off to a workshop about adopting sibling groups.

Meg’s workshop was lead by two adoptive fathers. The fathers, one black and one white, adopted two young boys together, also one white and one black. The two young boys came from separate biological families and were adopted two years apart. The fathers shared techniques for handling visits with biological parents – for example, the child was rarely told about the visit before the day of in order to avoid any anxiety about the visit or disappointment if the parent couldn’t make it. They never spoke negatively about the biological family, instead telling their sons that the reason they were adopted was because their birth parents needed to take care of themselves (and therefore could not also care for their children.) This explanation is not only true, but also a reminder of the importance of self-care for all of us. We cannot care for others if we don’t first care for ourselves.

They also shared fun stories from their lives like one about a visit to the dentist. The white father took his black son to the dentist one day and the young boy, while playing with another young (black) child, was asked who the man sitting in the waiting area was. The young boy simply answered saying that was his dad; however, the other child, confused by the answer, asked again – clarifying that he was talking about the white guy in the chair. The young boy again responded saying, “ He’s my Dad. I have a brown one at home too.” That gave everyone a chuckle. The fathers attributed much of their success to frequently checking in with their sons and reassuring them that no topic was “taboo” or would hurt their dads’ feelings.

Marcy’s workshop was lead by two social workers. One of the social workers was also a father of ten – two were biologically his and the other eight were adopted. This workshop produced some comforting facts, as we’re very interested in adopting a sibling group, such as the fact that siblings who are adopted together often act out less and can be more open to lettings other into their lives since they already have life long positive relationship with another person – their sibling.

Even though these tidbits are essential to us as potential adoptive parents to a sibling group, the most interesting parts of the workshop were the stories from the adoptive father/ social worker. One such story was about a lunch he had with his wife, his adoptive daughter and the daughter’s biological grandmother. The grandmother mentioned to the adoptive daughter that she had recently seen “Jessica,” and everyone else at the table responded with a quizzical look. They didn’t know who “Jessica” was. As it turns out “Jessica” was the adoptive daughter’s sister. The daughter found out for the first time at thirteen years old that she had a sister who was 3 years her junior.

Next up in the day’s agenda was lunch. Now this event was also attended by four other couples from our MAPP class so we sat and ate lunch with them and caught up. It was nice to see them and to hear how their adoption process was going so far. One of the couples, two gentlemen who live fairly close to us and are working with the same social worker as we are, recently finished their home study and have already started to receive phone calls about possible matches – we found this to be pretty promising for our own prospects.

After lunch was the toughest part. The children (about 100) had made their way to the event with their social workers and were given t-shirts and name tags that identified them as adoptive children. We, as adoptive parents, now had the opportunity to meet the children we were interested in, who we had already read about in the booklets we were provided at registration, and to chat with their social workers. 150 potential adoptive families had registered for the event, so it was very busy.

There were bounce houses, crafts, face painting and a DJ all set up for the kids. The adoptive parents could just walk around, observe the kids, and hunt down the social worker matched with the child you wanted to learn more about. We found this process to feel very strange, especially since most of the children were outside of our preferred age range.

We took a lap around the carnival, chatted with our social worker, who was attending the event representing our area, and left. It felt too strange and overwhelming. We didn’t feel ready to speak with anyone new at the event. While we saw a young sibling group of two little girls we thought seemed great, we didn’t make any effort to meet them or their social worker. We just weren’t feeling ready, confident, or outgoing enough. Plus, we aren’t yet even eligible to be placed with a child. Our home study is not quite ready.

Of course, now that we attended our first event we’ll be more prepared if we choose to attend another one.