It Will Take A Lot

I often wonder if I will ever run out of things related to adoption to write about here but everyday I seem to find something and so, until I can’t seem to do that anymore, I suppose I’ll persist. Today’s inspiration comes from this admission from an adoptive mother –

After adopting our daughter and experiencing some pretty clear effects of her being separated from her mom, I have changed my mindset on adoption. While I know realistically that there will always be a need of some sort for a program to care for relinquished children, I don’t believe in the current system and think it needs a complete overhaul.

She admits – I did not do enough research before we went through the process and relied too heavily on the agency to provide me information. Now I realize their bias, pursuit of financial gain, etc. I did everything wrong – did a gender reveal, had a baby shower, did a GoFundMe, ick ick ick. After placement, I could just FEEL that my baby needed more than I was giving.

I also know that a woman who is struggling with fertility issues that desperately wants to start a family is going to be mighty difficult to dissuade – the flood of savior stories and toxic positivity that is shoved in hopeful adoptive parents’ faces is overwhelming. And despite all of the very valid points that have been made by those who know repeatedly, it will take a lot of education and dedication to overcome the propaganda and the emotional response a woman experiences in order to make a decision that is best for the child and not for her own desires.

So what to share with a woman who is struggling with fertility issues, who desperately wants to start a family ? I often see the very first suggestion is therapy to reconcile her infertility issues and realize that adoption is never a replacement for a natural born child.

Read The Primal Wound by Nancy Newton Verrier. I have read it myself and I still see it turn up recommended as the very best possible perspective into adoption trauma from a woman who is both an adoptive and a biological mother as well as a therapist to adoptees and their families. She has tons of insight about all of it.

It is very important to listen to adoptee voices. Here is an analogy – We would never do open heart surgery without an expert surgeon who performs that surgery every day. While a patient (adoptive parent) is part of that process, they are not the ones (adoptees) who know what it feels like to walk in those shoes. A hopeful adoptive parent is inherently biased against hearing any truth about the pitfalls of adoption. They often only listen to the voices of other adoptive parents who have benefitted from adopting. You will rarely hear these discussing the risks, only the positive aspects of adopting a child into their life.

It is important to explain what a for profit enterprise adoption is. The coercion of birth mothers, our society’s lack of focus on family preservation, the option of being a foster parent who strives for family reunification over fostering simply to adopt, explain the guardianship option, share the loss of identity and anything else that a mature adoptee knows about it all.

Remaining connected to those genetic mirrors that the child’s original family is of vital importance. There is occasionally a need for long term care, when the parents could not or would not parent their child(ren), and the extended family members were unwilling or unable to be a placement resource for those children. Adoption is much more nuanced than most people realize and many adoptees feel negatively about their adoptions. Many who choose to be foster parents are actually trying to help and actively trying to support families in crisis to reunify. That said, the training and support is abysmal. 

A Different Perspective

I found this perspective thoughtful . . .

I’m a Christian foster carer though I am not actively fostering as I have a long term child and he is my priority. To me the call from God to Foster was nothing to do with an inability to have children (and I am NOT infertile) and I don’t think it was even a calling to be honest.

We are called to stand in the gap for these children. To be a safe and loving place where they can start to unpack their trauma with help from people like me who actively want to help. Not people that want to adopt these kids and pretend that they don’t have any issues.

The goal of foster care is to get the kids out of it and back home. Unfortunately there are a lot of foster carers who actively choose to ignore that. I would love to see my country move to a model where families are supported first and children are only removed due to the absolute worst case possible, end of the line option.

Unfortunately the system is completely broken and nobody in our government wants to fix it or knows how to. Which is why focusing on finding, training and keeping excellent foster carers is so important in the meantime. There should not just be a volunteering position that anyone can do. I am so sick of the advertisements on the radio and TV saying if you have a spare bed you could save a child’s life, when it is so much deeper than that.

These kids need more than just a bit of love and to be on their way. Unfortunately that seems to be what a lot of people think they need. Trauma is so complex and the whole idea of fostering at all, really should be taken so much more seriously.

That Pesky Uncertainty Thing

Many hopeful adoptive parents experience the uncertainty of whether that unwed young mother they have matched up with to take her newborn after birth will back out. And some do experience that outcome after spending tons of money on baby stuff in anticipation. Many of these are angry. Why are your family’s hopes so high that another family must fail to satisfy their hopes ? Me. Me. Me. My family. My family.

Because newborns are a scarce commodity bringing in huge profits for adoption agencies and lawyers, the field is competitive and the effort expensive. Here’s one example of the perspective of a whole family of hopeful adopters.

First comment on the above – Your family needs to change their expectations, and their expectations are not your responsibility. Its NOT your baby. Even if you get the placement. If Dad steps up that would be the BEST thing for that baby ♡ if dad can’t and you get the placement then that’s great that you are so well prepared and your heart and your families hearts are so open for that baby! ♡

It should be the reality that the father has to be PROVEN UNFIT before that child is taken into care. The father should NOT have to prove he is FIT to get his own child back! The child shouldn’t be with the woman complaining AT ALL, if there is a dad coming forward. I don’t care what his legal record is, as long as he isn’t a child abuser.

The hopeful adoptive mother is already feeling this way, before she has the baby ? What about the father ? He has to get a lawyer to even get this child back-during FORMATIVE BONDING MOMENTS that no amount of money can bring back. She gets those moments – but why? WHY!?

If there are concerns the father can’t parent, then society should support him with the resources they would have sent the foster parents – parenting classes, therapy, any assistance for supplies/etc. There should be no need for him to have to fight for HIS baby, the fact this is even a thing is appalling, and sadly, this is not a one off circumstance.

One adoptee shared this sad story – My poor sister had her 3rd child stolen out of her arms in the hospital and had to go to court postpartum (like that is on any woman’s to do list after delivering a baby and should be bonding) to get her baby back. The effects of this on her mental and emotional health was awful to watch-and triggering (cuz you know, she didn’t have the support she needed already). I was an adult by this time and had been removed/adopted into another states system and seeing them steal my nieces and nephew and have our family have to deal with all the lies of the courts again, well it just sent many of us into dark holes for many years.

Another comment – Personally, I don’t believe that anybody should get into fostering with the sole intention of potentially adopting a child. From everything that I learned in my classes and have read, the goal should always be to have a child return to their biological family if possible. In the event that is not a reality, then bringing a child into your life is the most beautiful thing that you can do for them. I’m a little concerned that this person may have been one of those people who is only interested in fostering newborns/babies…because they hope to adopt one.

Sharing the attitudes, language and culture surrounding the adoption industry are a primary purpose of my own in conveying information like this.

Adding More Misery To The Suffering

Daisy Hohman’s 3 children spent 20 months in foster care.
When she was reunited with her children,
she received a bill of nearly $20,000 for her children’s foster care.

An NPR investigation found that it’s common in every state for parents to get a bill for the cost of foster care. Case in point –

Just before Christmas in 2017, Daisy Hohman, desperate for a place to live, moved into the trailer of a friend who had an extra room to rent. After Hohman separated from her husband, she and her three kids had moved from place to place, staying with family and friends.

Two weeks after living at this new address, police raided the trailer. They found drugs and drug paraphernalia, according to court records. Others were the target. Hohman was at work at the time. No drugs were found on her, and police did not charge her.

Even so, child protective services in Wright County MN placed her two daughters, then 15 and 10, and a son, 9 in foster care. County officials argued she had left the children in an unsafe place. After 20 months in foster care, her three children were able to come back home. Then, Hohman got a bill from Wright County to reimburse it for some of the cost of that foster care. She owed: $19,530.07

Two federal laws contradict each other: One recent law directs child-welfare agencies to prioritize reuniting families. The other law, almost 40 years old, tells states to charge parents for the cost of child care, which makes it harder for families to reunite.

The NPR investigation also found that: The fees are charged almost exclusively to the poorest families; when parents get billed, children spend added time in foster care and the extra debt follows families for years, making it hard for them to climb out of poverty and the government raises little money, or even loses money, when it tries to collect.

Foster care is meant to be a temporary arrangement for children, provided by state and county child welfare agencies when families are in crisis or when parents are thought to be unable to care for their children. It’s long been recognized that the best thing for most children in foster care is to be reunited with their family. While in foster care, children live with foster families, with relatives or in group settings. More than half will eventually return home. There were 407,493 children in foster care on the day the federal government counted in 2020 to get a snapshot of the population, according to a report from the Administration on Children, Youth and Families.

In 2018, Congress reformed funding for child welfare when it passed the Family First Preservation Services Act. That law tells state child welfare agencies to make it their focus to preserve families and help struggling parents get their lives back on track so that they can be safely reunited with their children. But a 1984 federal law still stands, as do additional state laws, that call for making many parents pay for some of the cost of foster care. Among the costs the federal funding pays for: shelter, food and clothing; case planning; and the training of foster parents.

Of parents who get billed for foster care: A disproportionate number are people of color. Many are homeless. Many have mental health or substance abuse problems. And almost all are poor — really poor. 80% of the families in a data analysis had incomes less than $10,000 annually. Try living off $10,000 a year. You’re in deep poverty, if you’re living off that kind of money.

Hohman followed the case plan set out by county caseworkers in 2018 and completed the steps required to get her children back. She went to family therapy sessions and submitted to random drug testing. She saved up enough money to rent an apartment in order to provide the children with safe and suitable housing. The $19,530 bill was just a few thousand dollars less than Hohman’s entire paycheck in 2019, for her seasonal work at a landscaping company. The debt went on her credit report, which made it hard to find an apartment big enough for her family or to buy a dependable car to get to work. When Hohman filed her income tax, instead of getting the large refund she expected it was garnished.

To charge poor families for the cost of foster care sets them up for failure. Mothers, often single, work overtime or take on a second job to pay off the debt forcing them to leave the kids alone and unattended. While it might not seem like that much to have to pay fifty or a hundred or two hundred dollars a month in foster care child support, if you are a very low-income, low-earnings mom, that can be the difference in being able to save money for first and last month’s rent on a decent apartment or not. The mom is at risk of losing her child again because of poverty. That doesn’t make sense from a child well-being, family well-being standpoint, or from a taxpayer standpoint.

Even a small bill delayed reunification by almost seven months. That extra time in foster care matters. It increases the cost to taxpayers since daily foster care is expensive. And it inflates the bill to parents. It matters because the clock ticking for the parents. They are given a set amount of time to prove they should be allowed to get their child(ren) back. Once a child spends 15 out of 22 months in foster care, it is federal law that the child-welfare agency must begin procedures to terminate a parent’s rights to the child with a goal of placing the child for adoption in order to find them a permanent home.

Today’s child welfare system also struggles with conflicting incentives. Laws meant to hold parents accountable can end up keeping families apart. When parents don’t pay, states garnish wages, take tax refunds and stimulus checks and report parents to credit bureaus. In the overwhelming majority of the people in the child welfare program, a significant contributor to the reason they’re in that situation is poverty. Abuse is an issue in only 16% of cases when kids go to foster care. Mostly, the issue is the parent’s neglect. Maybe there’s no food in the refrigerator or the parent is homeless or addicted. These are issues of poverty.

States don’t actually have to go after this money. There’s some leeway in the 1984 federal law. It says parents should be charged to reimburse some of the cost of foster care – when it’s appropriate but it does not define the term appropriate.

Why Foster ? Not to Adopt.

Recently, a woman contacted me through private message on my Facebook page for this blog. She wanted to know what my group (which it actually isn’t) was about and I explained it to her, as I have often, both of my parents were adopted and both of my sisters surrendered babies to adoption. The blog is about all things adoption but along the way, I also learned about foster care and I shared with her the book I read – Foster Girl by Georgette Todd. She is interested in becoming a foster parent and I suggested the Facebook group I belong to because there are a lot of former foster care youth and current foster parents there who can share with her the reality.

As luck would have it, I spotted this guest essay in Huffington Post and thought I would make this the basis of today’s blog. Here’s Why We Became Foster Parents, Even Though We Aren’t Looking To Adopt by Stephanie Kaloi. She adds “For us, foster care is a kind of community service; it’s a gift that we can give.” It is a reprint of the original written in just after Christmas in 2019.

Our journey toward becoming foster parents began about five years ago, when we realized two truths: Having a second biological child would be nearly impossible and was not necessary for our family’s happiness, and there was a way to experience parenting many children (and for our son to have many siblings) while also doing our part in our community.

Enter foster care.

So we did what every potential foster parent does first: searched “What is foster parenting really like???” online. Unhappy with the results, which were largely a grab bag of blog posts from people who foster to minister religion to unsuspecting children and their families and people who are hoping to adopt their foster children from Day 1 of placement, I started sending a flurry of texts to a friend who also happens to be a longtime foster parent.

Her advice essentially boiled down to three things: One, the relationship you have with the biological parent(s) of your foster children is sacred and should be nurtured as much as the relationship you have with the kids. Two, foster care is unpredictable and there’s no point making plans for how it will go. And three, if you really want to do it … stop taking up my time and sign up for a class already.

My husband and I signed up for around eight weeks of PATH classes, which are the classes that all foster parents take before becoming certified. It’s meant to be all-inclusive, but the reality is that you are in class for two to four hours each Saturday covering huge topics, like ethnic diversity and poverty and child abuse.

The path to becoming a foster parent seems bizarre in retrospect: You take the classes, complete the home study process and boom! You’re now qualified to raise someone else’s child in your home for an indeterminate amount of time.

Still, the training felt like one of the most intense, personal experiences we had shared together. We went into classes knowing we were hoping to foster children, but left classes knowing we wanted to foster children and foster their families — we wanted to support the birth parents of any children we might foster as much as we support their children.

We knew going into it that we could handle the babies and toddlers and school-aged kids of the world (we’ll get to teens … one day), but we left class feeling reasonably certain that we could extend ourselves and support their parents, too.

Approaching foster care as fostering the entire family was a turning point for both of us. The idea gave us a phrase we could use whenever someone asked what our plans were. While the Department of Child Services and PATH leaders constantly remind you that the first goal of foster care is reunification with a child’s family, just about everyone in our classes was transparent about their desire to build their family through adoption.

As someone who wrestled with not being able to conceive a second child the easy way for years, I understood … but as our classmates became more focused on their adoption goals and learning how to work the system in their favor, we became more focused on reunification goals, and learning how the system works against parents who lose custody of their children.

The more we learned, the more it became clear: Just as many in our society will call the cops the second there is even a hint of a perceived threat anywhere nearby, many in our society assume that having your children placed in state custody means you are a predator, a child abuser, an addict ― that are you the worst of the worst, the lowest of the low.

And to be fair, there are plenty of people who are one of those things (or all of those things), and sometimes children are better off with foster and adoptive families. But in our experience … there are just as many people who are simply poor, or uneducated, or who have no perceived alternatives to whatever struggle they are facing.

This is the idea that fed our goal to approach this experience as fostering families: If you don’t grow up with someone teaching you how to successfully pull off what many consider basic life feats, it can feel impossible to figure out how to get a job, pay rent, pay your bills, pay for childcare, provide food consistently, read to your children, play with your children, kick your addiction, etc. Without consistent, healthy support, just attempting to do so is often an insurmountable challenge.

If no one in your family has ever done those things, the odds are stacked against you. When you think about it, a lot of Americans are probably closer than they think to one mistake that could land their own children in DCS custody. (I know that when my sons were very young, I worried that our un-orthodox parenting choices such as unschooling our children or when they acted up in public and required some kind of immediate response from us, not later but in that very moment, we could lose our children due to the interference of do-good, well-meaning people.)

I am not saying that every parent who loses custody is an angel who just needs a leg up. I’m also not saying that every parent who adopts from foster care didn’t try to do exactly what we do. I think one truth all foster parents can agree on is that there is a lot of gray area in foster care.

We didn’t find out we were actually certified until we received a phone call asking if we would be willing to take a sibling set of two into our home. Let me tell you this straight out: I don’t know how anyone, especially first-time foster parents, says no to those calls. Our plan was to foster one child, up to age 8, and we ended up with two babies under 2 because I literally could not imagine saying no.

So what do we do, then, if we aren’t answering a higher religious calling to foster, we aren’t related to the children we foster, and we aren’t planning or secretly hoping to adopt any children? I mean, I suppose I am ministering, kind of: These kids have been introduced to a wide berth of music that we hold dear, and the youngest really enjoyed watching ”Homecoming” when it came out.

But to be real, we begin by nurturing their families, their parents, from Day 1. We offer phone numbers, email addresses, Facebook Messenger access. We start the conversation by telling them our names, describing what our home is like, asking what foods their children like to eat, and telling them we aren’t trying to adopt their babies. We tell them to message us anytime, and that if they don’t hear from us within five hours or so, to message again.

We ask when we can supervise visits, when we can meet up at playgrounds and parks, way before social workers are talking about us doing so. We talk about their goals, their plans, and what they need to get from where they are to reunification of their family.

The “TL; DR” version is this: We begin each placement by treating the parents like they are human beings, like they are people who we might want to know, instead of like they are a scary Other who is standing in our way. Sometimes it doesn’t work, we don’t form a relationship and things go sour. Other times, it works but requires ongoing attention and support, and that’s an exhausting thing to give someone you have met a handful of times.

None of this is easy, and it often feels like foster care is a second full-time job. We are perpetually exhausted by the sheer emotional weight of this journey that we entered into willfully, and that’s not even including the lived reality of nurturing additional children, of loving them, holding them, waking up in the middle of the night with them, feeding them, reading to them, guiding them. Teaching them all the things we taught our son: the ABCs and 123s, who Elmo is and why we love him, the names of The Beatles because it might come in handy someday, how to sit up and how to use a fork. You know, the parenting part of foster parenting.

We have been lucky so far: We have worked with excellent social workers who are very patient, helpful, and kind. The parents we have co-parented with have been easy to talk to, love their children a lot, and a lot of the time, they just need someone in their corner. And this need is the crux of why we are fostering children and their families: For us, foster care is a kind of community service; it’s a gift that we can give.

Sure, it’s a lot more involved than donating books or cleaning a classroom on a Saturday, but it’s something that makes sense for us right now, in this season of our lives. We won’t do it forever, but we are doing it right now. One of the most important ideas our family tries to follow is that while we may not be able to effect meaningful growth and change in areas of the world that are far away, we can do work in our own community that will help people we live and work with grow.

And that alone makes this entire wild ride worth it.

The End of Roe v Wade and it’s potential effect on Adoption

Pro-Adoption advocates are likely to cheer the increased availability of newborn infants for adoption if the Supreme Court does basically, at least in effect, overturn Roe v Wade. Adult adoptees will mostly mourn the likelihood.

On this day, I found an interesting blog titled – Christians: We’re NOT READY to Abolish Roe v Wade. The author admits – “I am a man. I am an adopting father. I am a minister. I am Christian. These are my inherent biases right at the top.” He also writes – “as I’ve observed pro-life culture throughout my adult life, I’ve noticed a problem – We’re not ready for it. We’re not ready for all the babies.  Literally.”

He adds this thought – If Roe v Wade is overturned, many of these new babies could eventually end up in the foster care system or be put up for private adoption. And not just once, but every single year. The foster care system as it stands today is already stressed – 400,000 + children are already in a system that is underfunded, understaffed, and suffers from a lack of certified families available to foster and adopt. An additional 600,000-1 million children every year will overwhelm the foster care system in every possible way.

He asks – Are you willing to put your feelings aside and sacrifice space in your heart and home for children who need stability while their family situation is sorted out, knowing they could be reunified with their birth families? Are you prepared to give up several weekends to undergo the education necessary to foster? He also asks – Are you prepared to spend thousands of dollars to adopt privately? 

One of the problems I have had with the whole Pro-Life movement is that it is NOT about quality of life. It is only about getting babies born – and then, who cares what kind of life they or their mother have after that?

These babies that result from ending Roe v Wade may not be white infants; and if coming through foster care, these will likely be children with a host of behavioral, mental, emotional, and spiritual problems. When these children age out of foster care at the age of 18, they will likely end up incarcerated and having babies of their own who will then also end up in the foster care system.  Imagine having nowhere to go during Christmas. Imagine having no family to celebrate your birthday with you. That’s what it’s like for children who age out of foster care. Foster care children (in the literal and legal sense) are refugees in their own country. 

This one could get some Conservatives’ attention – To be ready for all these post-Roe v Wade babies, we’re going to have to pay more in taxes, mostly on the state level.  Many conservatives want abortion to end, but also want to cut the government programs that help mothers and families who decide to keep their babies to survive financially. This would also include stipends from the state that go to foster families to help them cover the additional costs of caring for these children. Are you willing to say that the babies need to live, but need to do it without the aid that sustains them? I believe that this question actually repeats the primary goal of the Pro-Life movement – birth but no financial aid for families.

He then asks – Christians, are you willing to accept that comprehensive sex education beyond abstinence must happen to reduce pregnancies?

Reality bites, doesn’t it ? In conclusion – If you are NOT prepared to do more than vote and post on Facebook concerning abortion, then stop calling yourself pro-life.  You are pro-birth.  You want the children to be born, but you’re not willing to do anything for them after they are born, and thus you condemn them to a life where they’re much more likely to be mired in poverty, crime, incarceration, and a continuing cycle of giving birth to unplanned children. 

You Don’t Have To Age Out to Qualify

Today’s Story –

I was in foster care from the age of 5 until 9. I was adopted at 9. But I moved back in with my biological family and mom when I was about 10 or 11. Then, I was back in foster care from age 16 to18. Even if I had only been in foster care that once from 5-9, I would consider myself to be a former foster care youth. I remember my social worker clearly. I remember being moved from house to house because my older siblings fought to keep us all together, even though my brothers were “trouble makers”.

I remember one home making us shower outside with the water house instead of using the bathrooms inside to shower. Then, eventually being separated from my brothers, while my older sister and I stayed together, until they found another placement that would take all of us.

All of that happened to me in the first year of foster care.

Then, when they found the placement that would eventually adopt me. But one of my brothers was molested by a grown up, the family had adopted as a child. That led me to want to move back in with my biological family – after the adoption was finalized.

I don’t think it takes aging out to be considered a former foster care youth. I get how being adopted as an infant doesn’t really give you the voice to speak as a former foster care youth, mainly because while it involves trauma, these aren’t experiences you can describe first hand because you don’t actually remember them.

I’m not going to tell someone how to identify themselves. If foster care was some part of your own story, it’s just a part of it. I’m not going to say you are wrong for identifying however you identify.

Sometimes It Works Beautifully

Today was Baby A’s birthday. After our celebration at home we picked up her mom in Branson and took her to dinner. We wanted her to be able to be with her beautiful daughter on her birthday. Baby A wasn’t the only one celebrating today. Her mom was celebrating 1 year of sobriety! (She gave permission to post this story so that she can inspire others that they too can overcome adversity.)

We were so honored that B invited us to her meeting to get her one year coin. We got to hear her tell the story of her journey, and I was so proud that she was able to hold Baby A while accepting her coin and announcing to those attending that Baby A would be moving home next Saturday.

Our girls enjoyed getting to know B, and I think there will definitely be a continued friendship between all of us. Through our foster care journey we have had parents look at us as the enemy instead of part of the team. Foster care shouldn’t have to be foster parents vs biological parents. We chose this path for the children to have a safe place to land until the parents are in a better place, or to offer a permanent home for those that need it. We want the parents to succeed. We want to be their support, to be there when they need us, and to celebrate their successes.

Fortunately B accepted us and realized that as much as we love Baby A, and as much as we will miss her, we are on B’s side. She is a wonderful mom, and it’s obvious that Baby A is her princess. I cried tears of joy and pride for B tonight. There will be plenty of tears shed in the future as we adjust to life with one less child in our home, but Baby A will be where she needs to be – with her mommy who loves her so much. We want to always be that support system for them, and hope to always have them in our lives. We love you, B, and will always be here for both of you.

Fostering Babies Is Difficult

One of the hardest things to do was to let them go home to their natural parents but that’s what we as foster parents have signed up for. It’s what foster families are suppose to do. But the urge to parent and fall in love with babies is a strong one, even if you didn’t birth them.

A foster parent writes – Today’s the day I realized I can’t do this. Most of the 20+ foster kids we have had were teens who stayed with us until they decided otherwise. This is the first time we have fostered babies and today I realized this will be the placement that breaks me.

I went to the hospital and picked the twins up 2 weeks after they were born, my home was their first home. They have had 3 visitations from their biological parents, who are trying to get them back. I have had them for 4 months now and my family is the family they know.

Today the twins had a doctor’s appointment and their biological parents showed up. No one knew they were coming, so it was just me with the parents and the babies. During the appointment the babies cried and reached for me but the biological parent wasn’t having it and would try to soothe them. It was like watching a stranger try to comfort my own child.

Today, I wanted nothing more than to hold these babies and tell them it would all be ok and today I was told I couldn’t. Today was the day it really set it that they won’t stay with me. Today’s the day my heart shattered. Today is the day that being a foster parent sucks.

First things first. This foster parent was immediately given a reality check.

What got to me was her saying “they were reaching for me!” Babies don’t reach at 16 weeks…my daughter can barely control her arm movements yet. It’s so delusional!!

My daughter is 6 months and I didn’t even catch that but yes! She didn’t start reaching for her dad and I until this month.

I was thinking that too! That’s so little to be reaching!

Babies at 16 weeks know who mom is instinctively and recognize caregivers but they don’t even show a preference.

The only one who was ‘reaching’ was the delusional foster parent.

And well . . . I’m sure it must have been a painful experience for their birth mother too. Let’s hope that whatever agency is handling the return of the twins to their parents will help you and the parents to work out a transitioning period during which they can come back to feeling “at home” with their parents again. It takes lots of generosity of spirit by all the adults concerned, but it is possible–and possible to do well, for the twins’ benefit. (Said from experience.)

Our infant fosterlove was crying and crying in her mom’s arms at a social services meeting. So instead of just letting the baby scream I asked the mom if I could help. I showed her how her daughter liked being held like a football and bounced. Then I handed the baby back and had her comfort her. I reminded her that she will figure that all out once she goes home. She thanked me and it led to us having a good relationship while her daughter was with us. We had her until she was 14 months.

Review – I Am Sam

I learned about this movie from my all things adoption group and I wrote an initial blog on July 19th titled I Am Sam. I promised to come back with a review and last night I actually watched the movie on dvd from Netflix. Sean Penn and Dakota Fanning are both remarkable in their performances for this movie.

It is easy to understand the attraction of this movie to the all things adoption and foster care group because the core story is the lived experience of many members of that group. Not so much having a mentally challenged (ie as the movie says explicitly more than once – retarded) parent but as in the Division of Family and Child Welfare taking a child or children from the parents. In fact, when my sons were young, I did worry that our parenting might be adversely challenged by so do-gooder. Thankfully, my sons are now almost grown (one is already 20 and the other one is 17) and beyond such concerns in our own family. It is also true to the lived experience of so many that foster parents often do eventually want to adopt a child placed in their care. However, the movie is enlightened to the trends now occurring in adoptionland that family reunification and in the case of this movie, an eventual recognition on the part of the parent that he is lacking something (a mother – the child’s mother abandoned the child to the father shortly after birth) brings into the resolution a kind of co-parenting solution that is satisfying to watch (I don’t think that saying this is a spoiler for this movie as the ending leaves as many questions as it answers).

The movie was very progressive for its time in the portrayal of people with a variety of cognitive disabilities. In fact, I recognized that I do know one woman who has effectively lost her children due to just such a challenge. The take-away message for me was how incredibly hard it is parent a child regardless of the circumstances. This is clearly portrayed in the contrasting and yet similar parenting challenges of the main character and his lawyer. Every parent needs support of some kind at some time or other.

In an LA Times review, the writer shares this story – “I’m smart enough to know when I need help, I ask for it,” a 46-year-old mother with a learning disability told me recently. She receives support from a parents-with-special-needs program. If she needs help with parenting skills of any kind, a parent counselor is just a call away. If she feels frustrated, she attends the program’s parents support group.

Also from that LA Times review, In one critical scene of the movie, Sam is questioned by state agency officials about why he thinks he has the ability to be a father. He responds, “It’s about constancy and it’s about patience. And it’s about listening and it’s about pretending to listen when you can’t listen any more, and it’s about love.” In the case of parents with special needs, we must provide the kind of support services that will offer practical help and an ear to listen. Parents with special needs benefit from help with tutoring, after-school activities, transportation, budgeting money and, like every parent in the universe, a little baby-sitting now and then.

The movie helps everyone who watches it to understand “that persons with disabilities have needs and desires just like everyone else,” as the parent with a disability mentioned above explained. “They need to take care of someone and love someone else.”