Letter from a Foster Child

The following essay was written by D., a young woman who entered the home of her closest friend two years ago.  In September, the family whom she lives with petitioned for permanent guardianship.  It was granted.

As D. continues to heal from neglect she experienced as a child in an alcoholic family, she has found her wings: a straight-A student, she is active in a number of different extra-curricular activities.  But she has deepened her roots too: with the support of her foster/guardian family, she has been able to build a stronger relationship with her adult sisters and nieces and nephews, as well as her mother, whom she was able to visit over Thanksgiving.

Constantly I am asked if am embarrassed that I live with my friend as a foster child, but honestly, I am proud. Telling myself that I could do better in life, I took myself out of a bad situation and started a new chapter in my life.

Personally, I believed my mother when she said that I wouldn’t be able to become anyone. Before [I made the decision to call out for help], I felt like a doll; I didn’t get to choose my actions or who I wanted to be — that was all done for me. Now I have an opportunity to become whatever I could dream of; I have the ability to be myself and create my own story.

Having five sisters and a little brother, I imagined leaving them to live 1000 miles away. Thinking they were irate with me, I couldn’t [bring] myself to call them.  Miserable with the thought that my siblings hated me, didn’t even want to hear my name, I started to shut down. I wouldn’t talk to anyone and I cried a lot.

Thinking I was selfish, ignorant, the first couple of months I couldn’t do it, I wasn’t strong enough, I had the perfect support system. Embarrassed yes, I was for a while, but [finally] I thought, ‘how can I even think about being embarrassed?’  I had to be strong enough to tell my mom I didn’t want to live with her.

I told her I needed better; I left.

Am I proud of my choices, yes, of course; I did the right thing.  I am proud I am a foster child.

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Thanksgiving Adoption

by Debbie Maley

Do you remember Nov. 24th, 2009? The Maley family does. It is a day that we will never forget.

Wait, I am getting ahead of myself. Maybe I should start from the beginning.

In 2006, it just got to be too hard for me to work full-time, so we turned our business over to our daughter.

I remember thinking, “I have worked since I was 12 years old. What was I going to do without a job?” Then I thought about my husband telling me about all the kids in the foster care system, and how more and more youngsters were entering because of abuse, and it really upset him.

I sat down with him and asked him if he still thought about being foster parents and he said, “Yes!”

We sat down with our daughter and told her what we wanted to do and she supported us 100%.

We started out with two young siblings. They were with us for five months and they went up for adoption. It was a very hard decision to make, but we had to let them go. We just couldn’t handle two young children. They ended up going to a wonderful family and we were very they had found a great family.

The week they were gone was very hard. With those two children gone, our house once again was pretty empty.

A few days later, we received a phone call from our caseworker. She told us that she was aware we were having a difficult time with the two kids being gone, but she said had an emergency placement for a six-month-old baby boy. We said, “Yes, bring him.”

There sat this scared little boy. I immediately picked him up, and talked to him to try and ease his fears. That is until our daughter showed up. She immediately grabbed him out of my arms and the instant chemistry was there.

We had Kobi for 15 months when one Tuesday morning our caseworker called and said. “You are going to have a Thanksgiving baby.” I couldn’t believe my ears. I will admit I cried. I immediately called my husband and daughter who happened to be together and told them the good news. Nov. 24th we would be adopting Kobi and he would be part of our family.

Has it been easy? Sometimes no, but it is so worth it. Kobi has gone through two surgeries and the death of a someone who was very close to the family whom he adored. He has spent a lot of time at doctors and now a therapist is helping him deal with death at the young age of four.

Kobi is a typical boy. Yes, he gets in to trouble, but his smiles, the love he has for you, the way he cares for you, the way the room lights up when he walks in is incredible!

Kobi is so much like all of us and fits in this family perfectly. You can have a bad day and that little boy will brighten it for you. He has brought so much enthusiasm in to this family.

He is like our daughter was when she was little: very easily excited and thrilled about doing new things.

Our daughter is all grown up now and she totally understands why we adopted Kobi. She is very protective over him and helps us care for him, if needed. She was born in 1980 and has waited a long time to get a brother.

If you are wondering if this is possible for you to do this? Well, the answer is yes. Please, take a chance. These kids are so worth it. Is it hard work? Yes, sometimes it is but again so worth it.

You see, my husband and I were 50 when we adopted Kobi, so we are basically starting over and it has been worth every minute. The joy, the excitement, the thrill. We thank God for bringing this boy in to our lives!

Bringing home a princess

by Brigette Kutschma

December 1, 2006

The floor in the lobby of the Guatemala City Marriott began to show the tracks, a path virtually worn from two sets of feet that paced round and round. In reality, there were many feet pacing the Marriott lobby that day and the years prior—all marching the nervous pacing circuit, awaiting the moment that would change lives forever.

On December 1st, we were only cognizant of the two feet under our own nose. Funny how we could even sense our feet, given the nervous booms coming from our hearts, and the fluttering of a million “mariposas” in our stomach. We paced the lobby circuit, probably still in disbelief that the months and years of waiting, wondering, praying, and longing, would soon be coming to fruition. At any moment, we would meet our three-month old daughter in the Marriott Lobby. The pacing, in whatever small way, helped quash the urge to burst out of the Marriott’s front doors and into the city streets in a frantic “I-can’t-wait-one-single-second-more-to-hold-my–daughter” proclamation.  Thankfully, had that happened, few would have understood my crazed English anyways!

I paused from my own circuit, near the main lobby entrance, the nerves and excitement catching up with me instantaneously. Apparently, they had been chasing me the whole time.  As I paused, I scanned. I scanned the crowd for any stitch of familiarity, in this land of beautiful, foreign faces. I was looking for the baby girl that we had come to love through pictures and a promise.

The sliding glass doors opened, as they had done one million times that morning, but on this occasion, the Princesita had arrived.

She arrived fast asleep, bundled like a pink burrito. When the foster mother gently–and a bit hesitantly–handed the pink burrito to me, the world stopped. Yes, it is true that you can literally hold your hopes and dreams in the palm of your hand. I gazed, in disbelief and awe. And just like that, the “Sleeping Pink Burrito Princesita” popped open her sweet little eyes, and met her parents for the very first time.

April 2007

The four-month span from December to April was agonizing and heart-wrenching, as our magical moment on December 1st only represented our ‘visit trip’ to Guatemala. We had to return home, without our precious daughter, and wait for the final approval to take her home forever and ever.

At the time, four months seemed like an eternity to wait after our visit trip; but in retrospect, we now understand that four months was a breeze compared to so many others who traverse their own difficult adoption journeys.

Once finally home with our Princesita in April, we found ourselves very much on a circuit –a different circuit–than the one we paced in the Guatemalan Marriott lobby. Instead of doing the waiting dance, we were now in full new-parent mode, elated and cruising around our home in absolutely no definitive pattern, just trying to find the fastest route to the changing table, the crib, the refrigerator, the toys . . . high on life and baby wipes. Our daughter, Marcella (pronounced Mar-say-a) lit up our home in Lake Geneva with her effervescent smile, happy eyes, and bubbly personality.

 

A few weeks after we came home with Marcella, I stumbled upon some literature from our adoption agency. It was something that I had read a long time ago, while we were in the waiting process. At the time, I had circled and highlighted the information about a local group called “Latin American Adoptive Families of Wisconsin” (LAAF). I was a new mom–an adoptive new mom at that–and the quick research that I did on the group looked promising and resourceful.

Some decisions we make have profound impact in our lives, which we do not fully realize until later. Thankfully, I was able to see the instant gratification of getting involved with LAAF, but I know that I will still be reaping the LAAF benefit for our lifetimes and then some. My decision to attend a LAAF playgroup with my eight-month old daughter opened many doors, and kindled invaluable friendships and connections. One playgroup led to another, which led to social, educational & cultural events galore, mom’s nights out, online adoption support from other similarly situated families, fun-filled Fiestas—everything an adoptive family could dream of.

We have been involved with LAAF for over five years. The non-profit organization was started in 2003 by caring families that had adopted from Latin American countries. It continues to provide fun and engaging activities for children and their families, while deeming charitable “Giving Back” work as a priority. 2013 is ripe with new events, such as a Three Kings Day event in January, Bowling in February, and the annual Fiesta in late Spring. [http://www.laafwi.org/]

Our family is so grateful for the opportunity to bond with other families that share in this awesome adoption adventure. When our children get together and partake in LAAF activities, it is not just about the ‘fun factor’ (although that is a BIG part of it). There is an underlying thread—far beyond their beautiful dark eyes and hair—that binds the children and their parents together.

Her future’s so bright, she’s gotta wear shades!

October 31, 2012

These days we aren’t pacing with nerves, nor are we chasing around the house looking for baby bottles. Our ‘circuit’ this past week was one of a Halloween march through friendly neighborhoods. One that I painstakingly dreamt about, some six years ago, while we waited for our daughter. And one that makes for sweet dreams these nights…

Halloween Night 2012–Marcella AKA “Senorita Cleopatra” with her forever friends, “Dorothy” and the “Swamp Monster.”

This Halloween, we marched (or ran, or skipped) along the sidewalk with some of our very best “amigos”, who we met through LAAF five years ago. Dorothy, Cleopatra, and the Swamp Monster, were busy canvassing and collecting candy like nobody’s business. The mamas, also friends united through adoption, both keenly high-on-life as we watched our children grab trick-or-treating by the reins. These same mamas–also intuitively aware of the blessings bestowed upon us through adoption.

Marcella, our Princesita. Six years old.
She loves gymnastics, horses, 1st grade, reading chapter books, the color pink, and her family.

About the Blog Author:

Brigette is a former attorney, turned full-time Mamacita to Marcella (six—Guatemala), and Pedro (two—biological). She is married to George, who was born in Peru. The family is eternally grateful for adoption, and for the connection to Latin American Adoptive Families of Wisconsin (LAAF). Brigette currently serves as President of LAAF, and encourages anyone interested in becoming involved with the organization to contact her at president@laafwi.org, or for more information, http://www.laafwi.org.

Having ‘The Talk’: Bringing the Possibility of Adoption Home

by Megan M.

What could possibly be more awkward than talking about the birds and the bees? For many, it’s bringing up the possibility of adoption or foster care at home.

There’s nothing so uncomfortable as having to look at ourselves squarely and not only acknowledging our prejudices, preferences, and fears, but having to set out and articulate them to another person. And let’s face it–there’s a lot of cultural history that informs how adoption and foster care are viewed world wide . . . and that history comes with some seriously heavy baggage.

Last night as we drove home, my husband and I were talking about social policy when he stopped in the middle of a sentence and turned to me.

“You really pushed me beyond what I would have ever expected for my life, Megan. Adoption seemed like a nice idea . . . something really good people do. You crystalized it.”

Touched as I was to hear the appreciation in his voice, I know from a lifetime of experience that there is no way anyone can force a person’s heart to open to the possibility of adoption.

“You don’t give yourself enough credit,” I replied softly. “I might have started the conversation, but in embracing the possibility of adoption, you chose to affirm certain values that you yourself held.”

It was true; all my life I have been able to locate my desire to adopt within an ethic of care I was raised with as a Roman Catholic; my husband not only didn’t have the same cultural framework to draw strength (and language) from, he didn’t come from a culture where adoption was something a couple did unless they absolutely had to.

“They might not have been fully articulated, they might have conflicted with other deeply held values or customs,” I continued, “but you chose to honor them in the end.”

Thinking about our life, I couldn’t help but giggle a little. “With all my powers of persuasion, I could never have dragged you this far.”

“This far,” is eleven years of building an inter-faith home that has sported two careers, two children (one biological, one adopted), two suicidal fish and a soon-to-be adopted Dauschund named Pudding Feet, several live-in relatives, as well as an amazing group of young adults from around the world from whom we have had the wonderful honor of being called Mom and Dad.

It’s often less than graceful, and we have often been all too human . . . but since first having ‘the talk’ on the possibility of adoption, our life has been lived in dialogue with our deepest held values . . . often while we were in the process of discovering them.

In the last several weeks, a couple of married friends have confided to me that they feel the call to foster or adopt, but don’t know how to approach their spouses to talk about it.

For couples who have never explored fostering or adoption as a possibility, the prospect of talking about it may seem daunting; it really doesn’t have to be as long as we begin from the space of our own vulnerability, and honor others’ vulnerability. The fact is, some people hear the calling to enlarge their home and respond instinctively. Some people are drawn to adoption or foster care by making a connection to a special child whom they encounter; many of us require a more cerebral process of discernment, involving research, contemplation, and dialogue.

Whatever it entails, the key is to frame it as a journey to be taken together.

“Have you ever thought about enlarging our home through foster care or adoption?” you might ask.

“Even if you aren’t interested in exploring those routes right now, would you be interested in exploring ways we could support a child in need of a safe and loving home?”

You might just be surprised with delight by the ‘yes’ that follows from the first question. But even if you don’t get an enthusiastic go ahead just off the bat, there are significant ways you can heed the call and foster a child’s well-being and development in a way that enlarges your home and heart. Some of them are:

  • Serving as a Big Brother or Big Sister
  • Becoming a respite foster care provider
  • Joining CASA as a court appointed special advocate
  • Becoming trained as a child advocate through
  • Mentoring an individual who has aged out of the foster care system
  • Seeking out relationships with adoptive and foster families

Opportunities such as these not only provide a person with the means to heed his or her own sense of calling — they also will further the process of a family’s discernment as foster or adoptive parents.

So go ahead . . . start ‘the Talk’.  Adoption Resources is here to provide your family with information and referrals, wherever this most important conversation takes you.

Perseverance

Great thanks to our guest blogger, A, for sharing her thoughts.

per·se·ver·ance

noun

1.steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

Foster parents need a lot of perseverance. It’s especially difficult, full of obstacles and often can leave you feeling discouraged. As a foster parent and adoptive resource, I’ve felt like my heart has been ripped out of my chest and put into a blender on several occasions. I felt the sting of “the system” when it comes to the lack of help in supporting these children.

I believe that being a foster parent is a special calling. For me, it wasn’t in my plans to become a foster parent until I realized that I could not have my own biological children. I thought infertility was my obstacle and difficulty.Truth is, foster parenting just came with its own set of difficulties and obstacles.

My foster children will be with me three years this November. Yet, we are still waiting for the judge to make a decision regarding permanency. Our three years have led to six different ongoing caseworkers within two different agencies. We have had two different judges for the CHIPS (Child in Need of Protective Services) and another judge to hear our TPR hearings. We have had our licensing worker, two different adoption workers, a caregiver support worker and more than a few liaison workers, plus countless supervisors and visitation workers… Then add in assistant district attorneys, guardian ad litems and therapists, and you can quickly see how many people have a say in my every day life. All of these people have some sort of say about how things run in my household.

For instance, how many of you have a fire evacuation plan posted in your house?  How many of you need to be concerned with a bathroom to people ratio in your home? Do you have to plan your life around weekly medical appointments? If thought filling out the beginning of the year school paperwork was cumbersome, try filling out foster parent paperwork. Do you have to have routine TB tests and physicals just to have your children in your home? Do you have to allow for 10 – 20 hours of training per year into your schedule? Unless you are a foster parent, you probably don’t have these concerns. They can be a heavy burden at times.

Despite all of your perfect planning, foster parenting doesn’t go according to ANY plan. Sure, that court hearing is supposed to accomplish X, Y and Z… but in the end, you didn’t accomplish any of it because it has now been pushed back another three months. Even visitations when scheduled don’t happen according to plan. Sometimes the visitation workers show up early or late. Sometimes the visits get cancelled. Sometimes people forgot to tell you there is a visit and suddenly there is a “surprise to foster parent visit.”

It is easy to give up hope. It is easy to question why you became a foster parent. It’s sometimes even easy to wish that things were back to the way it was before the children came.

If you are that foster parent, just know this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

We need to persevere for these special children. They are worth it. In fact, they are more than worth it. They need someone in their life that won’t give up on them. Caseworkers may keep changing, but we don’t have to. Judges may rotate out of the system, but we don’t have to go anywhere. We can be someone dependable and consistent for them.

Two things have helped me to persevere during this three-year journey:

  • Not comparing my story to others – As a foster parent that would love to adopt my kiddos, I have witnessed many families’ stories happen on a much more rapid time frame than ours. It’s hard to remember that each story is so unique. When I compare myself to others, I lose focus (and lots of energy) on what is important – the awesome children that I share my life with.
  • The children – There are those moments when they understand what you have done for them. Those moments where they appreciate what it meant to open your home and hearts to them. Those moments reaffirm to me that it is worth waiting this out.

In particular, one moment really stands out to me. My daughter loves to babble on end before bedtime. She hopes that she can stay up later that way. One night, out of the blue, she says to me, “Mom, thank you for saving my life.”  I looked at her, just stunned by her words. She continued with, “Well, yeah. You give us a safe place to sleep every night.” As my eyes swelled with tears, and I forgot about all the drama of another useless court hearing. She said, “Mom? You’re not going to cry, are you?” So I took her and just hugged her.

If you are that foster parent who is still waiting to adopt, I hope that we can stand together and not lose the hope. I haven’t reached the end of this journey yet. I know that even if these children would be reunited with their family, they have changed me. If my journey turns out with the reality of adoption, I will be beyond thrilled. However it turns out, I’m going to keep on giving it all for them, because they are beyond worthy and hold my heart.