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!