adoption, family

The Other Shoe Drops: Aging Out of Foster Care

I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Ever since Marcus left our house, at 17, I’ve been waiting. For awhile he seemed to soldier on as a foster kid in the custody of the Department of Children and Families.  He was almost 18. Would he voluntarily sign himself in to DCF care at 18? Would he stay in his foster home and finish high school? Would he drop out and leave? Would he finally stabilize emotionally and make good decisions?

In the world of DCF teenagers are often on the “independent living” track. And it sucks. Sorry, but this is true. Without a family, navigating in the world is difficult. Period. After the termination of parental rights, a teen can get adopted, enter into a guardianship arrangement, or enter into this track.

The independent track even comes with a brochure. It promises to help teens work on things like getting a driver’s license, getting a job, and maintaining health insurance. The brochure never clearly states who will be helping the teen do all of these things. Is it the social worker? The foster parent? A mentor? Sometimes these promises just fall through the cracks.

For Marcus, none of this was happening when we met him. In fact, due to overburdened caseworkers, his health insurance wasn’t in place for almost a year. We spent the next 2 years trying to catch up. We got him his driver’s permit and taught him to drive. I taught him all about his rights in school and what his IEP meant. Luke practiced his interview skills and got him job applications. We opened up his first bank account and taught him how to deposit and withdraw money. In short, we tried to do all of the things that the state would not or could not do for him.

And then we tried to adopt him. Getting too close was our mistake.

In October he turned 18. We had only heard from him sporadically since he had left our home. His foster mother reported that he was still in school. He got into a few fist fights, but he was getting good grades. He had a girlfriend. No arrests so far. November came and went. Then December and then January. I still waited for the other shoe to drop.

After his biological mother rejected his attempts at contact last month, he began calling us frequently. He said he knew we would always be there for him. He mailed us a beautiful letter about much we meant to him. He explained that getting too close to me made it feel like he had to give up on that first mom. Marcus struggled with conflicting loyalty. He couldn’t reconcile himself to loving more than one mom. No matter what he did or said, we still love him. Of course we do.

I got a call at work from Marcus this week. The secretary told me that I had a call from “my son.” I almost cried. He explained that he had already dis-enrolled from school and signed out of DCF care. He had packed his bags and was setting out to move away with his girlfriend. He didn’t yet have a place to live or a plan about enrolling in a high school. He wasn’t sure about a job yet. He promised to keep in touch. He texted me a picture of his report card (all Bs! Wow!) and he let me say, “I love you kid.”

Now I’m left staring at the pair of shoes he left behind. I just hope he knows that we will always be here to catch him if he falls. I’m honestly proud of what he’s accomplished so far. I wish he’d never had to do it all on his own. Now, he is out of our care. He is out of the state’s care. He must truly stand on his own two feet.

NoBohnsAboutIt

<a href=”http://www.nobohnsaboutit.com&#8221; target=”_self”><img src=”http://www.nobohnsaboutit.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/AdoptionTalkButton2016-e1452013232524.jpg&#8221; alt=”NoBohnsAboutIt” width=”225″ height=”225″ /></a>

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

*If you have ever considered foster or adoptive care, I encourage you to start your own adventure or to mentor a teen in care.

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adoption, family

Filling My Cup 

I awoke on my own to the sound of quiet and the smell of fresh coffee. It took me a minute to realize I wasn’t dreaming. As I sat up and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes I registered two things. Number one, Luke was still tucked in next to me. Number two, there was a piping hot cup of mocha-toffee flavored coffee on my nightstand. 

It was Mary. She has mastered the art of the Keurig. That’s not the only thing she had mastered, though. In this particular instance she had made a cup of coffee, just for me, because she knows I love coffee. She didn’t wake me up to show me she had made it. She didn’t bring coffee and ask for anything. She simply left it for me to enjoy. This means she has mastered the art of selfless acts. To put it simply, she really and truly loves me. 

Later that same day I sat curled up in a big comfy chair with Carl. We both had mystery books. we just sat by the fire in the late afternoon sun and read together. Outside the window I could see the bleak New England winter with it’s brownish grey snow piles and skeletal tree limbs. Inside was warm and bright and snuggly. Carl didn’t need anything from me except physical closeness. As he snuggled deeper into my side I was warmed by his little limbs and by his love for me. He wasn’t asking for anything. To put it simply he was just loving me. 

These are the moments that fill me up as a mother. This is how I always imagined parenthood would be. I hold these moments dear in my memory because love hasn’t always come easily for my children. We are so often fighting a war against their past trauma. In order for them to learn to express love they needed to feel safe. 

Trauma is very similar to the harsh New England winter wind that rattles the windows and batters our house. Past trauma and attachment difficulties attack our fragile relationships with these children. It isn’t often that we find relief from the storm of their emotions. 

On the days like this I can ignore the storm outside. I must remember to be grateful for the love I’ve fought so hard for. These are the moments we are safe and happy. These are the moments that shelter us from the storm. 

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved. 

*If you’ve ever though about fostering or adopting, I encourage you to get started on your own adventure!

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adoption, family

Our Daughter Needed a Daddy: Adventures in A Father’s Role in Adoption

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My daughter needs her Daddy. Not having much experience in this area, she was quite confused in the beginning. When we went places she would sit as far away from him as she could. When he put his paramedic uniform on she would cower and shake. The sound of his boots on the steps made her jump, although she would always offer him up a timid smile.

Last week I watched her huddled up on the couch. She was wearing an over-sized Red Sox baseball cap and an enormous Paramedic jacket. A stethoscope was wrapped around her neck and a laminated first-responder badge hung from her lapel.

“Who are you supposed to be?” I asked.

“I’m the BEST daddy!” She joyfully shouted. She is clearly dressed up as my husband.

This makes me think of those early days. Those days when Mary was 7-years-old and completely flummoxed by Luke’s constant presence. She would often ask, “Why is he still here? How long is he staying?”

Sometimes she would tell me that I did things “all wrong.” When I asked her what she met she said, “You know, you’re supposed to have your kids first and then if you want a man or a boyfriend or whatever, you just get one. But you married Daddy first and you don’t have any other boyfriends. He’s our only Daddy.”

At times it was like having children who were exchange students from a foreign place. Carl would often comment how it was really weird that my husband and I never hit each other. He actually thought we never got mad at each other because there were no punches thrown. Despite the vigilant watch our kids kept, they never did catch me with my “other boyfriends!”

As time went on the children began to change their concept of who a daddy is and what a daddy is supposed to do. In the beginning, Luke worked a lot of hours. We had just added a large sibling group to our family and we needed the extra cash. He was often in uniform and it took a long time to realize that Mary’s fear stemmed from her fear of police officers. His medic uniform was similar. Mary was the only one of the siblings who had been home during the drug raid when their first mom was arrested and they were taken into DCF care.

Lucky for us, Luke is a giant goofball. He will dance around the kitchen with us, shaking his booty and singing along to old New Kids on the Block songs. He does an amazing “girl voice” and a bunch of silly faces. My husband is also the king of puns. He is hardly ever serious and he takes most things in stride. He will play barbies and dress-up and board games. He will allow his hair to be done in ribbons. In short, he is the ULTIMATE playmate for any child.

As time went on and the children needed more intensive therapies, psychiatric in-patient stays, evaluations, and scores of appointments. We had to make hard choices. Our children needed us and they were really struggling. I couldn’t handle the violent outbursts and tantrums alone. There were many nights where dinner didn’t get made for hours because Mary was screaming and clawing at my face or trying to break the windows in the house. The emergency crisis team would come and eventually the ambulance, and her brothers just had to wait. There was only one of me and she was frequently in danger of hurting herself or them or all of us. As we battled uphill for her mental health we knew we needed to do something differently.

Luke decided to work part time, on a per-diem basis in order to be around for all of the counseling and doctor’s appointments. Finances were tighter than they had ever been. Our income dwindled and our bills started to pile up. Something else was accumulating, though. The days of Mary’s intense rages were long gone. With the right medication, therapy, and with her father’s presence she was making huge strides.

The healing our children experienced this past year far outweighs anything we lost in income. Luke put the children on the bus each day and was there as soon as they got off. He made dinner, handled school functions and bonded with our children. If someone was having a violent meltdown, he didn’t go to work. He managed his schedule around our children’s emotional lives. Their healing and mental health came first. I honestly think that Luke was the key in helping out attachment challenged children to heal.

Mary’s journey into a relationship with her father has been the most rewarding to see. She began by avoiding him completely, as she did with all male figures. Now she is glued to his side. She’s picked up his way of speaking, his walk, and his food tastes. She began to wear a stethoscope around the house all the time.

Luke attended every trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy appointment with Mary. It took a long time for her to open up in therapy and she flat out refused to talk about her past unless Luke stayed in the room. Her therapist called it “unconventional” and just went with it. In this way, Mary was able to create and describe drawings about the traumatic memories of her past. She was finally facing her trauma.With Daddy by her side, she could do anything!

Mary has recently started to say that if she ever dates a boy, he will have to be “like Daddy.” When I asked her what that meant she replied, “well he has to treat me like a princess, of course!” At her annual father-daughter dance she was a princess. I got a picture of my beaming girl gripping my husband in a huge hug.

The time for Luke to return to regular work hours has come. As he journeys back into the world of saving lives on a regular basis, I find myself reflecting. Luke always saves. It’s what he does.  After all, he saved this little girl’s idea of what men are like. He saved this family. And one little princess will never forget that. Neither will her mom!

dance

 

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

*If you have ever considered foster or adoptive care, I encourage you to start your own adventure today!

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family

The Versatile Blogger Award

versatile-blogger-award

I’d like to thank Laura over at Riddle From the Middle for nominating me. She has a great blog over at riddlefromthemiddle.com

I have such a little blog over here at wordpress that it’s very flattering to be nominated!

If you are nominated, you’ve been awarded the Versatile Blogger Award!

  • Thank the person who nominated you and be sure to share a link to that person’s blog.
  • Then select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly who you consider versatile and excellent in their writing.  Nominate them for the Versatile Blogger Award and notify them on their About page.
  • Finally, share 7 things about yourself.

Here are my 7 things:

 

  1. I was scared to start blogging. I was worried to share so many personal details about our kids. Some of the things I discuss are highly personal and very sensitive.
  2. I was scared not to write this blog. I was scared that there would be other trauma parents out there feeling alone. I was afraid those parents would feel hopeless and give up on the kids who need love most.
  3. I started this blog to tell the truth. The good, the bad, the scary and the amazing parts of adoption. I beg to differ with the Hallmark version.
  4. My husband was my first follower (big surprise!)
  5. I follow up with all of the adoptive families who have reached out to me for help. No one should have to trauma-parent alone!
  6. I’m obsessed with coffee.
  7. I super-love zombies and/or anything zombie-themed.

 

Here are the bloggers I nominate:

  1. http://www.adoptmomof6.wordpress.com
  2. http://www.fostergoodwins.wordpress.com
  3. http://www.talesfromourhouse.blogspot.com
  4. http://www.Minuit262.wordpress.com
  5. http://www.mommameesh.wordpress.com
  6. http://www.musingsofabirthmom.com
  7. http://www.talkinrealhere.wordpress.com
  8. http://www.keepingcalmwhiledaddyisgone.com
  9. http://www.survivorsbloghere.wordpress.com
  10. http://www.musingsofaradmom.wordpress.com
  11. http://www.aopinionatedman.com
  12. http://www.breakingsarah.wordpress.com
  13. http://www.lastmom.com
  14. http://www.droppinganchorsblog.com
  15. http://www.fortherestofmylight.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

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family

The “Other Mother” in Adoption

“Will she see what I made her? Can we mail it to her?” My 8-year-old daughter is looking at me with wide, hopeful eyes. How can I possibly explain this to her?

“Well sweetie, we can hold onto it for her. If we get an address or if she contacts anyone, then we can let her know we have this.” Mary looks crushed.

She has spent the better part of an hour making a “memory box” for her other mother. We decorated it with glitter and hearts and stickers. She has lined it with a soft felt lining. We have all of her school pictures and her sports pictures gathered to put inside. Mary has written her a letter.

I had the idea that making this memory box would be helpful for our children. They have a lot to say to her. That other mother. The mother who had them first. She had Mary until age 3 and Carl until age 5. In the years after they came into care the siblings were separated, their first mom came and went, tried at times and not at others. So much has happened.

In those first years, their years with her, bad things happened. Our children still carry the psychological and physical scars of their first home. There was severe neglect, physical abuse, and intermittent abandonment. Scary things happened to them. Painful things happened to them at the hands of this other mother.

Still. Love must have happened, too. No matter what, a child loves their parent. According to the older siblings there were some good times, too.  It was her voice they heard in utero. They took their first steps with her and said their first words. It was in her house that they played together. That first home is the last place all six children lived together (the 7th baby came later.) She was the one who spent those first years with them good or bad. I am amazed at my daughter’s capacity to hold so much love in her heart. Beautiful Mary sees the good in people despite their struggles. I hope she knows that this first mother loved her. I believe this wholeheartedly.

I don’t have much to go on about their other mother. I have the DCF file, of course, and I have what our children and their siblings have told me.  I’ve only met her once. She refused further visits and contact. In our adoption agreement my husband and I offered to send pictures and updates. She is entitled to three supervised visits per year.She refused. I imagine it’s too painful but I hope someday she will want to see how these beautiful children grew.

I don’t know her story. At least, I only know the parts that the children have told me. DCF has shared things with us but when it comes down to it, I believe my kids. I try not to judge her because her choices were influenced by mental health issues and narcotics. I believe the older siblings about what they remember from that first family. Adoption is hard. It all starts from a loss. Everyone with the exception of my husband and myself, has lost so much in this process.

My husband and I get the report cards and sports games. We will go to recitals and play dates and birthday parties. We get the hugs and kisses and cuddles. But we also get the trauma. We spend a huge chunk of our lives cleaning up the emotional mess left over from addiction, mental health concerns, and injuries from this other mother. They couldn’t fight back when they were little. They couldn’t fend for themselves and couldn’t defend themselves. Now that they are in a safe place they can let their anger out sometimes. We take the brunt of that anger from time to time. It’s OK because we are strong enough for all of their emotions.

They still hoard food sometimes just in case my husband and I stop providing. They still worry that I might get drunk and leave them because that’s what they think “moms do.” Things are getting better for them, though. They are safe now. They are healing.

Our kids will be OK because they have us to help them through. Who will help the older “aged out” siblings? Who will help her, the “other mother” through it? I hope she has someone.

We heard from Marcus the other day. He’s 18 now and just beginning to process the effects of growing up in care without a family there for him. He had been ranting and raging at her for never returning his calls or answering his Facebook posts or text messages. In 5 years of foster care, he has never stopped trying with her. Despite his struggles, he has a lot of love in him. Last month he managed to make contact. According to Marcus she told him she has a new man and another family now. She doesn’t want to look back on the life she had here. She is in Puerto Rico and won’t be coming back. He couldn’t understand how she just didn’t ask about the younger siblings. He couldn’t understand why she didn’t ask about how he was doing. He couldn’t understand why she just couldn’t give up the drugs.

I may never understand her choices but I understand the damage they caused. I see the wreckage every day. All I can do is save a box for her. A box filled with the childhoods she is missing. Maybe one day she will want to see. Maybe it’s too hard for her. Who knows?

What I do know is that I can help my children hold these memories for her. I can keep the lines open just in case she is ready someday. No, I won’t let her endanger my children again. They won’t be physically hurt anymore. Could we manage a phone call or a supervised visit? I believe we could. I believe the kids could handle it, but it would be hard. She can’t handle it.  I will respect the distance she keeps by choice, but I will also respect my children’s feelings about what is and what once was.

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

*If you’ve ever thought about foster care or adoption, I encourage you to consider an older child or sibling group.

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