Sunday, January 29, 2012

I have a secret...

Well our domestic home study should be finalized any day now. I was told that our agency had to put aside their work to complete paperwork for an audit and that it would be done last week. So now we are hoping for this week!  While one part of me thought, "Oh well, we've waited this long, what's another week or two?" the other part of me thought, "Wait a minute!  We've waited all this time, and now another week or two!"

But knowing it will be any day now is suddenly making it so REAL. Even though we are open to a broad age range (infant to age 14), we are really feeling like it will be an older girl, possibly even a 14 year old. If you're reading this, especially if you're part of our everyday lives, we hope you are as excited about this possibility as we are!  I say this because so many people I have discussed this with are not.

I know that everyone is trying to be helpful, but this is such an exciting time in our lives, and the negativity hurts.  If it helps to ease your fears, know that we have not jumped into this blind. In fact, I can confidently say we most likely know more about this than you do.  And yes, I know you have heard from a friend [of a friend] that supposedly had his/her child taken away by the birth parent even though this friend [of a friend] wanted to adopt the child. And  I know you know of a friend [of a friend] that fostered a child or adopted a child from foster care and he/she was "bad."   And I am sure you truly believe all of this and truly believe you are helping us... but this isn't helpful.  I'm sorry.  I feel like I finally need to say that because I generally just smile and nod whenever someone tells me this for the hundredth time.

But I have a secret to share with you... Ready? No child is perfect, and all children are "bad." But when a child is neglected, abused, unwanted and abandoned he/she may act out even more.  We know this and we are not expecting a fairy tale.  I have read so many books my head is swimming with true tales that are sometimes too horrific to believe, but they don't deter me, they simply remind me of why we are on this journey.  These children need us as much as we need them.

So please, if we announce the adoption of our 10, 12 or even 14 year old girl, don't tell us we're "crazy," that we don't know what we're getting ourselves into, and please don't jokingly say, "I have a teenager - you can borrow her for a few days."  If you're not sure what to say, think of what you would say to a woman who was pregnant: "Congratulations!" or "How exciting!" Because I guarantee we feel the same as a pregnant woman. We too are expectant parents.

If we're so passionate about an older child, you may wonder why we're even keeping ourselves open to a private infant adoption. And the answer is... only God knows who our child is. Although it is true that there are way too many children in foster care, that doesn't mean they are all matches for us. Just because we are fully open to an older child doesn't mean it will work out that way. There are certain needs to consider for the child, in addition to location, race, religion and simple wants and desires. But I do want everyone to know this is a definite possibility for us, and we hope you can share our joy.

Before I go, I'd love to share a beautiful analogy written by Gay Courter in "I Speak for This Child," which chronicles her life as a Guardian Ad Litem (a volunteer speaking out for the best interests of foster children). Gay Courter is also the adoptive mother of Ashley Rhodes-Courter, the author of "Three Little Words" (see my last post for more info about this amazing memoir):

"Stability. I thought about a recent lecture I heard on the importance of permanence that compared children's emotional security to a bucket. If a child's needs are met, if she receives the love and attention she craves, the sturdy bucket does not leak. But as soon as she is abused or neglected, tiny holes begin to puncture the bucket, and the vital fluids that maintain a child's stability start oozing out. If a child who enters the social service system isn't maintained with transfusions, the essential elements slowly drain away. Even worse, the system itself is capable of widening the holes, or even punching fresh ones. Moving children from place to place, treating them unfairly, not meeting their needs in a timely manner-all contribute to the leakage. Eventually it will not matter how fast you try to replenish the pail; like a sieve it empties itself instantly."

Saturday, January 7, 2012

three little words [that aren't i love you]

Still waiting. 

We've been doing a lot of that during the last couple of years, but there is one perk:


I LOVE reading adoption books, and the wait certainly gives us ample time to do so. I've recently read some really great books regarding Ethiopian adoption, including No Biking in the House Without a Helmet (Melissa Fay Greene), From Ashes to Africa (Josh Bottomly and Amy Bottomly ) and I'm in the middle of There is No Me Without You (Melissa Fay Greene).

Books on adoption in Africa haven't been hard to find, but I hadn't come across any memoirs from the perspective of a U.S. foster child... until we went to our agency meeting over Christmas break. One of our agency's directors recommended the book Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter.  After beginning this book one evening, I stayed up until 2 a.m. to finish it.  

Wow. This girl is only a few years younger than me and her story of strength and survival is inspiring, informative and heartbreaking.  There were times I wanted to walk away from the words on the page because her story was so emotionally draining and I couldn't face it anymore.

She writes her story with the naivety of a child, allowing us to view the world through her adolescent eyes.  Her thoughts are raw and uncensored and honest.  There are heroes and villains along the way, but unlike a fairy tale, this story is true and close to home. Although we often like to believe our system serves the youth far better than any orphanage or other country's system, there are flaws and far too many of them. As I mentioned, the author is only a few years younger than me, so we are talking about a time in our very recent history that failed to help this struggling child and her younger brother.

Regardless of your interest in adoption, this book is a must-read, if only to open your eyes about our foster care system. Because I am desperately urging you to read this book, I don't want to give too much away, but I cannot help but share some of her words...

Her mother's words to her as a young child being put into foster care: "Sunshine, you're my baby and I'm your only mother. You must mind the one taking care of you, but she's not your mama."

A statement about her birth mother when she was a young child: "Naive and trusting, I always believed her, and in some way - even now - I still do."

After being placed in a new foster home, without her brother: "What had I done that was so terrible that I had to be taken away from my mother? I had no idea why she hand't been able to get me back. You think someone would have explained it in words a child could understand. Yet nobody did. I believed they were keeping secrets from me- but supposedly, they thought they were protecting me."

Upon leaving yet another foster home, and yet again without her brother: "I felt as worthless as the junk in my trash bag. Once again, I was the one being tossed out and thrown away."

A reflection about her mother's parental rights being terminated: "Until the court papers were finalized, there had been a chance that the tides would reverse, the world would stop spinning, and I would be my mother's Sunshine again. Until the judge signed the documents, everything else had been temporary. Once the judge ruled, I was an orphan. I had no parents, and no possibilities were in sight."

Upon entering a group home: "During the entrance tests, they gave me some sentences to complete. After I am afraid..., I wrote: I will never see my mother again; and after My mother..., I added: is on drugs. After My Father..., I answered: I really don't know my father. Finally, beside I need my parents..., I finished with: when I'm alone, feeling blue, and need someone."

Quoting a speech she gave in which she quoted french playwright Molière: "It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable."

Looking back at her years in foster care: "There was a time I didn't think I needed anyone; now I wondered how could I need these people so much." 
I'll let you read the book to discover "these people."

Another reflection: "Broken promises crippled me for many years. As the Courters kept their pledges to me, my faith in others expanded. Day after day, they were there for me; until one day, I not only felt safe, I did not want to leave. Maybe that is the definition of love."

From a Note to the Reader: "I represent thousands, probably tens of thousands of children who have been lost in the system. We are a chorus of voices that need to be heard."

Read the book to follow her heroic tale and discover what those three little words are [which aren't I love you].

Links and resources related to this courageous woman: