Sunday, September 22, 2013

Open Adoption Following Foster Care

Yesterday afternoon we had a visit with MM's firstmom. I guess I should take a moment to explain what our arrangements are with her.

When she spoke with us in May about surrendering her rights and us adopting MM, she told us that she wanted to be able to call once per week, visit with him once per month and receive photos throughout the year. She had her final DFCS monitored (well, it was supposed to be DFCS monitored but no one actually monitored it) visit with him on August 2nd. She wanted to schedule another visit soon as she hadn't seen him since May (her choice), so we agreed to a visit on August 17th.

The first visit on August 2nd went very well. There was no real awkwardness to it and she brought us the remainder of MM's things she had, including his baby book (complete with ultrasound pics!). We felt blessed. We felt like the situation was going to work out okay for everyone involved. We tentatively agreed that MM would call her Mama (Firstmom's name), at least for a while.

The August 17th visit was a little more awkward. Because she was going to have her new fiancé (whom she got engaged to the day before she relinquished her rights to MM, then broke up with before the August 2nd visit, and got back together with before the August 17th visit) with her, we arranged the visit to be at McDonalds. I'll be the first to admit I was a little nervous about the possibility of her trying to snatch MM. While she did make the choice to relinquish her rights, it was more of a forced choice. The State was going to be seeking termination if she hadn't surrendered her rights, so that is the reason for my nervousness. And that was the reason for our planning the visit in a public place. The first thing that made it awkward was that the fiancé's daughters were with them and MM's firstmom proceeded to introduce MM to them as their little brother and told him to call them "Sissy". Mama (Firstmom's name) was dropped in favour of "Mama" or "Mommy" when she was referring to herself. We had adjacent tables and she grabbed MM from us and took him to the opposite end of their table. He was shouting across the room "Mommy! That's my Mommy!" and pointing at me. I could tell this irritated her a bit but she didn't comment on it. She just kept carrying him around and away from where we were. We allowed the visit to go on for about 3 hours before we finally called it to a close. Everything seemed okay. She asked for a visit again in 2 weeks but we had plans for that weekend and the weekend after that. So we planned for a possible visit on September 21st.

She continued to call during the weeks between visits as we had agreed she could. Two weeks following the August 17th visit when she called, MM cried on the phone because he was confused. She was calling herself "Mommy" to him and he wasn't understanding that she wasn't meaning me. So when she told him "Mommy has to go" he thought I was leaving him. When we were finishing the call, she said she'd call the next day. She called the following day and it was a repeat of the previous day's call. MM just finds it very confusing. Also, she has started calling 2 or 3 times per week as opposed to the once per week we agreed on.

Yesterday's visit arrived and it was being held at a park. I was still a little nervous because of the way she's been acting recently, but I want to uphold our end of the arrangement so we arrived as planned. MM's firstmom met us at the car and snatched him out of his carseat. She immediately started walking away when he started screaming to get away from her and yealling "Mommy! Mommy!". She told him "Mommy's right here!" to which he answered "No! My mommy there!" and pointed at me. This really, really upset her. It continued in this vein for a while and she finally walked over to her fiancé and his mom and started crying. She said "He doesn't call me Mommy anymore! Why doesn't he call me Mommy? I'm his Mommy!" She was getting more and more worked up and was acting rather hostile towards us. The visit carried on for 2 hours. At one point, the fiancé's mom was ready to leave when MM's firstmom said "No! I have another 30 minutes left until my 2 hours are up and I am getting my 2 hours!" We have never set a time limit on the visits. We've never said they were going to be 2 hours long or 1 hour long or 3 hours long or set any kind of timeframe. Two hours was her arbitrary setting.

So, that's the story so far. I feel so confused because I really want to do what is best for MM. I thought that was to definitely continue visits with his firstmom, but now I'm not entirely sure. I guess my question is, am I overreacting? Is how she's acting normal and to be expected? Is it acceptable? Am I being unreasonable or is this as not okay as I feel it is? We reiterated to her that she is to be called Mama (Firstmom's name), not Mommy or Mama, but she seems to be ignoring that. In fact, she got upset every time he called her that. I just don't know what to do and I'd like your opinions.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

ICLW -FIrst time for a year!

Welcome to anyone visiting me from ICLW, as well as anyone who just stumbled by (although, after all this time, I can't imagine that happening)! This is my first ICLW in a year! I'm really rather looking forward to it =D I guess it's time I get started back blogging regularly anyway.

Let's see. I think I'll start by giving you a bit of our history. The Hubs and I met online in August 2000. He's from England and I'm from the US, so for a couple of years we visited back and forth across the Atlantic. In June 2002, I went to England for what was supposed to be a 2 week visit and, while there, The Hubs asked me to marry him. I said yes and in November of that year, we were married in my hometown in Georgia. We chose to reside the first few years of our married life in England. In January 2006, following a year-long immigration journey, we moved to the USA to live. We've been here ever since.

On our first anniversary, we decided we were ready to be parents, so we stopped preventing a pregnancy. After about a year with no sign of pregnancy, I began temping and charting my cycle. That carried on for the next few years. We were convinced it would happen, but it never did. In September 2008, I carried my concerns to my OB/GYN. She diagnosed me with Type II Diabetes and started me on Metformin. After a few months of that and still no pregnancy, she prescribed Clomid for me. Four cycles of that and still nada, so she prescribed a round of Femara at my request. Still nothing. It was time to look at the next step. We were referred to a Reproductive Endocrinologist with our first visit in April 2010.

During the first few visits with our new RE, I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and Endometrial Hyperplasia. I was prescribed Synthroid, referred to a regular endocrinologist and had a D&C. I was also advised to lose weight. A year and a half of visits with the RE failed to produce a pregnancy - in fact, due to my failure to lose weight, the treatment we were given was minimal. By September 2011, we were ready to move forward with a different path to parenthood.

Earlier in our journey, we had two failed private adoption opportunities. I won't go on in length about those because they're still very painful (particularly the first one), but they are part of what led us to our decision to adopt through foster care. We sat down and looked at all the options available to us for adopting. We knew we didn't want to try private adoption again at this time, so our decision was between adopting through an agency or foster adoption. After discussing it at length, we decided the children in foster care had less of an opportunity to find an adoptive family than those through an agency, so that was the option we went with. We had viewed the "My Turn Now" list of children in Georgia who were available for adoption and we found a 14-year-old girl we were very interested in adopting. We called the State hotline to start the process of becoming foster/adoptive parents in October 2011.

In November 2011 we still had heard nothing back from our request for further information, so I called again and found there had been a glitch and we had not been added to the list. This phone call, we were added. A few days later, we received an invite to an orientation class, which we attended in late November 2011. We turned in consents for background checks at that meeting and then had to wait for a call back to start IMPACT training classes. By February 2012, we'd heard nothing more and several phone calls to our caseworker had not been answered so I called again directly to the local DFCS to find out what was going on. I was redirected to another caseworker as our original one was no longer employed at DFCS (hence the reason we'd had no further contact) and was told she didn't even have our names or our file. She went in search of said file, found it and sent our invites for IMPACT training. We had our first class at the end of February 2012. We attended 10 weeks of training classes and finished our last class on April 10, 2012. Our next step was to proceed through the home study process. We did this throughout the summer of 2012 and, in September 2012, our homestudy was submitted to the State of Georgia for approval. We received a call from our caseworker on September 26, 2012 saying that our homestudy had been approved and our home would open on October 1, 2012.

We were awaiting a call back from the caseworker of the girl we were hoping to adopt when, on October 9, 2012, we received a phone call from our caseworker with the words "Look, I know this isn't what you signed up for, but we have a 2-year-old little boy we need placement for. Is there any way you could keep him?" Those are the words that would change our lives forever. We told her we definitely could and 2 hours later, we picked up our Monkey Man (or MM). He has been with us ever since. In May 2013, his birthmom sat down with us and told us she was thinking of voluntarily relinquishing her rights if we would adopt him. We had hoped for the opportunity to adopt him anyway, so this was a complete blessing. We told her yes and agreed to an open adoption with her. We are now waiting for his birthdad's rights to terminate, which should happen in October. His birthdad actually spoke to MM's caseworker recently and requested for surrender papers to be sent to him as he no longer wished to be involved (which he basically hasn't been anyway). Once those rights are terminated, we just have to wait for all the legal time frames to be met and then we will finalize his adoption! We are so excited!

Additionally, on May 24, 2013, we had two more children come to live with us temporarily, a 4-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl. They are quite the handful, but we're making it with each other. Their mom voluntarily surrendered her rights in July and their dad's rights are set to be terminated in November. Their maternal grandmother has petitioned for custody, but we don't know if this will work out or not. In the meantime, DFCS is looking into other possible permanency solutions for them. We are not being considered a permanent placement at this time because of their more extensive needs, however, we are hoping whatever permanency they do have will allow us to maintain visitation with them.

As for the girl we originally hoped to adopt, we were informed she cannot be in a home with other children and we would not be considered a placement for her. This was heartbreaking news, but we only want the best for her and the other children in our care, so we will forge on. We do hope to adopt at least one more child, but we will see where our path takes us. For now, we are just enjoying life.

So, that gets you up-to-date with me. We actually have a visit planned with MM's birthmom for this afternoon, so I will be able to update you on that situation later on. I'm looking forward to blogging more regularly once again and I hope you'll join me!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Uh...Yeah...We're Still Here

Wow! It's literally been months since I posted! Can't believe I have neglected my blog this long. Where to begin to update you?

Okay, I'll just start by saying that our little Monster Man (or Monkey Man, if you prefer, MM for short) is still with us. In all honesty, unless something very unexpected happens, he will not be leaving us! Last month on May 14, I received a call from MM's caseworker who stated that his birthmom wanted to meet with The Hubs and I to discuss MM. We met with her on Wednesday, May 15 after her visit with MM. We met privately, just her and us in the DFCS conference room. Her side of the conversation? "I love my little boy very much and I would dearly love to take him home and give him everything he needs, but I know I can't give him what he needs, I can't give him what you guys can give him and I want the best for my little boy. You guys are the very best! You love him so much and you treat him as if he were your own. If I sign my rights over, would you please adopt him?"

Obviously our answer was a resounding YES!!! So she went that evening and voluntarily relinquished her rights. I didn't have to be with her, but she asked me to go and she held my hand while she signed. We are planning to have an open adoption. She will have the ability to see him once a month (I was going for twice a month, but she only wanted once a month and with The Hubs and I both there for the visits so she can get to know us better too), will be able to call at least once a week but not more than every other day to check on him and will receive photos of him throughout the year. As long as she wants to stay in the picture and doesn't bring anything that would be harmful to MM into the mix, we're more than willing to let her have these small concessions.

She had 10 days to change her mind, which actually turned into 12 days due to the 10th day being a Sunday and the 11th day being Memorial Day, but her time is up now and she did not retract her termination of rights. Now DFCS is in the process of hunting down the dad, who hasn't been in the picture since MM's 1st birthday, to attempt to get him to sign rights over. If they are unable to find him, they'll publish in the legal section of the newspapers around his last known address and will terminate in absentia. Then we simply have to complete things from our side and MM will officially be ours!! If everything goes exactly to plan, we should finalize in September. MM has been with us 8 months already, so there'll be no extra wait time from the placement end.

Right after this happened, on May 24th, MM's caseworker called and asked us if there was any way we could take two more children, a boy aged 4 and a girl aged 3. The boy has ADHD and some aggression issues, but we discussed it overnight (they were moving from another foster home so it wasn't an emergency situation) and decided we were going to give it a shot. So, they've been with us for nearly 3 weeks now. They are a handful, to say the least!! They are almost certainly only going to be a temporary placement as their mom has nearly completed her caseplan and they go back to court in July. If the caseplan has not been met at that time, DFCS will have to petition for termination of rights because the kids have been in care for 12 months now. The caseworker stated she was definitely going to be pushing mom to complete the caseplan. Should these two become available for adoption, I don't think we will be adopting them. Short-term, we can manage with them, but long-term they don't really feel like a good fit for our family. They need more individual attention than we are able to give them all the time. We still have to think about MM and they are a little too young to understand that he matters too. And their behavior most days is atrocious!! We're working with them, though, to see if we can help them any at all. Hopefully, their mom will be able to complete her caseplan. She actually seems to be an okay person, but when she was with their dad, there were a lot of issues such as inadequate supervision, substance abuse and domestic violence at play. She is now no longer with him, so fingers crossed she can make it work for her and them. At the end of the day, they need a stable, loving environment to go home to. They need someone who can devote the attention they deserve to them. For the short-term, we can do that, but long-term I just don't think we're the right fit for them.

So that's what we've been up to the last few months. Lots of things going on and very little time to spend blogging, not to mention my laptop crashed in February and I have to borrow The Hubs' computer to do anything at all online. I'm hopefully going to be able to afford to replace it in the next couple of months, but I think I'll do that with a Kindle Fire HD, as my Kindle is also attempting to die on me. I am electronically challenged, lol! I'm currently out of work for 2 weeks because I had to have my tonsils removed this past Monday. I'm in quite a bit of pain at the moment, but I know it's gonna get better. Still looking for a new job but no luck yet. Keeping fingers crossed something better will come along very soon.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 Parting Thoughts - What I've Learned......

....About Motherhood

  1. It is possible to love someone so much you would do absolutely anything for them.
  2. It doesn't matter if you share half of your child's DNA or none of it, they have your heart wrapped around their little finger and can do no wrong in your eyes.
  3. There will never, ever, ever be enough room in your home for you, your spouse, your child and the myriad of toys that Santa brings. Ever.
  4. Your borderline OCD compulsion for a neat and tidy home will never survive the first month of life with a child.
  5. Sippy cups should be made with wings, as they fly more often than any bird I've ever seen.
  6. Ditto baby spoons and plates.
  7. The food that your child adores today will not meet the standard of approval tomorrow.
  8. A cheeky baby smile can make a terrible day suddenly seem like one of your best.
  9. No matter how tired you are, you will find the energy to cook, clean, play, bathe, read, rock to sleep, get to bed at midnight, be up during the night and get up again at 6am to do it all over again with a smile on your face and a prayer of thanks in your heart for being given the amazing blessing of a child.
  10. A snuggle and a simple "Wub you!" is worth all the waiting you ever did.

....About Grief

  1. Despite the assurities that time heals the pain, it's still as acute now as it was the day my Daddy passed away.
  2. Fresh waves of grief can hit you at the oddest times - in the middle of a movie, during a commercial, watching your niece graduate from high school, during your own college graduation, the day your child comes to live with you, putting out Christmas decorations, helping Santa place gifts under the tree - moments you'd never expect to feel sad during.
  3. Even during the second Thanksgiving and Christmas without him, I still expect to see him laughing and asking for another piece of turkey.
  4. Despite my fears, the sound of his voice has yet to fade from my memory.
  5. Ditto his unique "Daddy" smell.
  6. He would have loved his little grandson.
  7. Proof that he sends me gifts - our certainty that no photos of our entire family (parents and all 4 kids) as adults existed was shattered mere days before my birthday when I discovered a photo taken two days after Christmas in 2004, the last time we were all home that wasn't because Daddy was sick.

....About a Decade of Marriage

  1. Even after 10 years of marriage, my husband is still a bed cover thief.
  2. Despite knowing it frustrates me, it is a certainty that when I'm feeling agitated, my husband will make silly comments.
  3. No matter how much Dr. Pepper I buy, it will disappear in a matter of a couple of days.
  4. Magic the Gathering trading cards are always the perfect go-to item when I'm stuck for a gift idea.
  5. Shoes will never last more than 6 months
  6. Dinner and a movie with my hubby is still the greatest night out ever.
  7. Years of waiting for it to happen have made my hubby a fantastic daddy, even if he was absolutely terrified he would screw it up.
  8. I married a great man.

....About Faith

  1. The bad actions of a few church members should not be allowed to discourage me from worshiping.
  2. Being in a place of worship always has the power of soothing me when I feel disheartened.
  3. The Lord (my belief) will always see me through any situation as long as I maintain faith in His omnipetence.
  4. Good things come when the time is right.
  5. Life has a way of working out for the best (cliche, but true).

....About Family

  1. My mom depends on me more than I ever thought possible.
  2. I can't seem to do things I want to do or that are in my best interest if my family needs me to do something else.
  3. My nieces reacted completely differently to the addition of Monster Man than I expected. The younger of the two, at age 11, has been excited, loving and generous to the point of spending her own money to buy him gifts. The older, at 19, has been incredibly jealous to the point of crying that more money was spent on him for Christmas than on her. While the first lightens my heart, the latter truly saddens me.
  4. Since my dad's death, I feel much more responsible for my family.
  5. I still hate talking on the phone, even to my family who take it personally. It's not meant that way.

....About The Shy Side of 35

  1. The older I get, the quicker the years pass.
  2. My body thinks it's older than my 34 years.
  3. Due to that phenomenon, I now understand why people have children in their 20's.
  4. My mind still wants to be a late night person, but my body is a 7am-at-the-latest waker.
  5. I'm allowed to find younger guys hot as long as they're famous and, therefore, completely out of reach.
  6. My current career makes me really unhappy.
  7. I'm far too willing to allow people to run over me to avoid conflict.
  8. I'm very judgmental about famous people.
  9. While I do feel there is much I can improve on, I generally like the person I am.

....About Patience

  1. I have a general lack of it.
  2. I've had to learn to have more of it. Homestudies take forever!
  3. My son has no patience either. He's even worse than me, if that's possible.
  4. Patience is a virtue, but virtues are sometimes overrated.
  5. I truly hope I can remain patient while the path of Monster Man's future with us plays out.

....About Meeting Goals

  1. Working my butt off to earn my Bachelors degree was totally worth it.
  2. Despite the length of time it took to complete our homestudy, we did what we needed to do and Monster Man is the reward. So worth it there aren't even words to describe it.
  3. If you set your mind to it, it really isn't that hard to read 50 books. And, hey, if you can arrange it so that the 50 Shades trilogy is 3 of those, then you've definitely had fun reaching the goal!

....About Friendship

  1. 12,000 miles plays havoc on a friendship.
  2. A friend with more desire to party than to be a good parent can also dampen a friendship.
  3. Even though I don't feel at fault for the diminishing of either of those 2 close friendships, I do still feel heartsick that things turned out the way they did.

....About Musical Expression

  1. 2012 was the year of the has-been comeback attempt - Mariah Carey, Britney Spears.
  2. If the guests on Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve are any indication - Brandy - 2013 will carry on that tradition.
  3. I am completely unopposed to the influx of folk and techno folk music that has taken over the charts in the last few months.
  4. After 34 years, I seem to have finally developed my own sense of what music I love without requiring someone else's approval that I've made a good choice.

....About Making Plans

  1. A great way to make sure your plans won't happen is to make them.
  2. It really seems as if buying a home is not in the cards for us, as everytime we get near the signing line, The Hubs' job comes to an end.
  3. While motherhood is fantastic, making plans just isn't something we can do easily because we don't know where he'll be in a few months.

....About The Future

  1. Everything could change in a few months. Monster Man will either go back to his birthmom or he'll legally become ours.
  2. Hopefully, new jobs are on the horizon for both The Hubs and I.
  3. My mom will probably be moving in with us soon. This, of course, means finding a larger home and, hopefully, purchasing it.
  4. We're hopeful the new jobs and move will be to a different - although not terrible distant - town.

Here's hoping your 2013 is full of nothing but good things!