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.


Kasey Attianese said...

I know nothing about adoption, but as an outsider looking in I have a few observations. It sounds like she is still thinking of herself as MM's Mommy, when infact she relinquished those rights- you are in fact MM's Mommy now and she will always be his Mother. It sounds like she is having difficulty with this and she may need some counseling to help with this. Im sure MM is confused and it may only get worse. Im sure how she s feeling is normal, but she sounds like she needs help with this and maybe you can go as well with MM? Wishing you the best! Saying a prayer for you all!

Jamie said...

I am not comfortable with how this woman is acting at all. I've worked with parents who fostered and adopted in the past and this is not suitable behavior, especially for a woman whose rights are relinquished/terminated. What does your caseworker have to say about the situation? If the birth mother is getting hysterical at these meetings it's best to take MM away from her. She is not helping him at all.

Wistfulgirl said...

Thanks for your comments!

Jamie - Our caseworker hasn't had a lot to say. Since birthmom's rights are terminated, at least as far as DFCS is concerned, she is no longer a part of the case. I've spoken with the caseworker about her reactions and what the caseworker has said to me is just to be sure both us and MM are safe. Otherwise, she says it is our choice what we allow as far as visitation, but that we are under no obligation to continue the visits. At this time, I think we're still just a little wary of what could happen between now and finalization. Birthdad's rights have not yet terminated, so there is still the possibility of him changing his mind and becoming involved again. Also, knowing birthmom's mental health concerns, I wouldn't put it past her to make up something in order to try to derail the adoption.

We are just trying to make it through the next few months til his finalization and then see if her attitude changes any. If not, we'll have to look at whether continuing visitation is the best thing for all involved. In all honesty, if she's getting this upset at visits, I'm not sure visiting is the best thing for her or MM. I'll keep you updated with what happens with it. I know there aren't a lot of blogs out there that follow adoption after foster care, so I think it's important for us to share our experience.

Kelly Garrett said...

Stopping by from ICLW. I'm so sorry to hear about this struggle. It definitely sounds like this woman is doing more harm than good. I hope you can pacify her until everything is finalized and then can work on getting her out of your life. Poor MM. It's not a great situation for him at all.

PNG said...

I am not an adoption specialist either, but I can say that her behavior is not normal nor acceptable and you are definitely not being unreasonable. I hope things will turn better soon!

Kasey A said...

I wanted to let you know I nominated you for a sunshine award! Don't feel obligated to respond-

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