How Elijah Came Into My Life – Part Two

In honor of May being National Foster Care Month, Strengthening Families, Changing Lives is running a special series designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of foster care and adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences. 

How Elijah Came Into My Life
by Melissa Probst, Wisconsin foster-adoptive mom

Read How Elijah Came Into My Life – Part One

Day two and beyond

The next day happened to be Mother’s Day, and we had a family function to go to. I was nervous; the event was about an hour and a half away and there would be a good amount of people there. Would Elijah be okay? Would he be scared? It was a lot of change for him all at once.

We got there and a family friend read books to him; he was in heaven! He also played ball (throwing it up and down the stairs) with the guys. He was amazingly fine. I’ve since learned that he just adjusts well. Now, don’t get me wrong, not ALL kids in the system adjust this well. They have been through so much that the change either doesn’t bother them or sets them right over the edge.

That next week, he started a new daycare. Again, I was the one who was nervous about it! Elijah did great. I think I called three or four times that first day to check on him. When I picked him up, he came running to me and gave me a hug.

Things continued to go well; we had a routine down and Elijah was thriving. He was talking more and more and his speech was improving. Three months after having him, his case was moved over to the TPR (Termination of Parental Rights) stage. But before the courts would terminate Elijah’s birth parents’ rights, they needed to have an “adoption resource” ready for him. Bottom line: they needed someone to adopt him. I panicked. I knew that I just wanted to foster. Could I do this on my own? Could I raise him right without a dad in his life? This was a forever decision . . . I had to think about it. I asked his caseworker to put things on hold for a few weeks to give me time to think.

Some members of my family were all for it. Some were only concerned that it would be too much for me. They all loved Elijah, but were just concerned about what all of this would mean for me. After a lot of prayers, thoughts, and sleepless nights, I called his caseworker and said that I wanted to adopt him.

The wheels of the machine started to turn again and the TPR process went through easily for me. My adoption court date was December 22, 2009. That would be the day when Elijah would officially become my son, even though, in my eyes, he was already my son. I had shopping to do! I went out and bought him a five-piece suit and he was ready to go!

The day of his adoption, I cried all the way down the hall to the courtroom. I was trying to explain to Elijah that they were happy tears. Everyone knew it was adoption day by the way he was dressed. Everyone was saying congratulations and the women were melting over him (which was nothing new!).

I got to the end of the hall and there was a man there. He asked if I was okay and I said, “Yes, I just have to find the courtroom,” and kept walking with tears rolling down my face. He called after me to come back, I was at the courtroom. He opened the door, and there was all my family. When we got into the actual courtroom, there was that man, now in a black robe. I was so embarrassed. He just smiled. I cried most of the time in court, too. I was just so happy and relieved that this little boy was now my son and his name would officially be Elijah.

After court was done, Judge Murray came down, gave all of us a hug, and gave Elijah a toy. We took pictures and then went out to lunch with some family members. It was a great day . . . even if I cried through most of it!

How Elijah Came Into My Life – Part One

In honor of May being National Foster Care Month, Strengthening Families, Changing Lives is running a special series designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of foster care and adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences. 

How Elijah Came Into My Life
by Melissa Probst, Wisconsin foster-adoptive mom
When I decided that I wanted to do foster care, I was adamant that I was only going to foster in order to give kids a safe place to live until the courts figure out what to do with their cases. So, I started the process: got more information, went to all of my classes, and was licensed. I met with a placement specialist and went over what age child I wanted, what I was willing to deal with, any illnesses I thought I could handle, etc. Only one day later, I was called about a little boy who was going to be put into my care. I went and got him a few days later for a pre-placement visit. Everything went well. Then, a few days after that, I was told his parents had done everything they were supposed to do and he was going home. Well, there I sat, confused and nervous.

Meeting Elijah

The next day, I received a call that there was a little boy, Elijah, who had been in temporary foster care, and who needed somewhere to go. I was on my way back from a business trip in Indianapolis and my coworker was in the car with me. I was so nervous and ended up going on and on about the situation the rest of the way home.

When the day arrived for Elijah to come for a pre-placement visit, I was nervous and excited all at once. The doorbell rang, and my heart dropped to my feet. I opened the door and in walked this handsome little two-year-old boy and his caseworker. He didn’t say anything. He just looked around and took everything in.

We played for a little bit and I did manage to get a smile from him, but that was about it. I was in love. I could not wait to see him again! The next day I called his foster mom and we made plans for Elijah’s transition to my home.

Then I started preparing: I called the daycare to let them know of his start date, requested copies of all of the legal papers, got “kid food” in the house, bought diapers, etc. I was as ready as I would ever be! On Saturday morning, I went and picked him up. I walked up to the door and Elijah was standing at the screen door smiling at me. When I opened the door, he put his arms out for me to pick him up. I did, and he rested his head on my shoulder. (Now remember, he had only met me once before this!)

We got his things in the car, which consisted of a garbage bag full of balls, a few toys, a mix matched set of pj’s, one spare pair of pants, a few shirts, and a bag of candy. He said goodbye to his foster home and we were off. It was so quiet in the car. I thought, ‘I bet I know what will work,’ and I asked if he wanted McDonald’s. He nodded his head yes. So, off to McDonald’s we went!

When we got home, Elijah ran right to his room, which he knew from his one pre-placement visit. The rest of the day seemed a flurry of activity; a haircut, shopping for clothes and other necessities. We also visited the toy department and I told him he could get whatever toy he wanted. He pointed at the $1 bouncy ball. He was so happy with that ball! On the way home, I turned around and smiled at him at a stop light. He said “Mama,” and I turned around a cried a bit. I couldn’t imagine how scared, confused, lost, he was.

That evening, while Elijah slept, I sat by the baby monitor listening for any breath, whimper, or noise at all. Nothing. Was he scared? Was he okay? I went in to check on him, and he was out like a light! I sat down on the couch to think about how much my life had changed since nine o’clock that morning.

Part Two of “How Elijah Came Into My Life” will be posted tomorrow.

World Wide Wednesday – May 29, 2013

It’s World Wide Wednesday! Here’s what’s happening the world of foster care and adoption around the web:

Have news you’d like to share? Please post in our comments!

Our Journey with Anna

In honor of May being National Foster Care Month, Strengthening Families, Changing Lives is running a special series designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of foster care and adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences. 

Our Journey with Anna
by Robert and Renata Winterrowd, Colorado foster parents

When we first began the process of becoming foster parents, we weren’t really sure what to expect. We knew that we wanted to expand our family, but little did we know what the foster care system had in store for us.

After several years of trying unsuccessfully to expand our family, we turned to the state to help us with it. We spoke with several agencies that work with foster care children and originally thought that we only wanted to do the “safe” foster-to-adopt way. I guess somewhere in between the paperwork and the training, we decided that we definitely wanted to do temporary foster care cases, as well. Our hearts were leading us that way and we gladly followed. What an amazing journey we were beginning and we had no clue about it.

We were handed our license in the beginning of August 2012 and, one short week later, we were doing a respite case. Two weeks after that we received our first placement. I will never forget how excited we were and how ready we thought we were. Our family had been through the training and we had done the research. What they don’t tell you is that these cases aren’t as easy as one may think.

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August 28th was our D-day. That call came in around 11 am and of course we readily accepted. All they could really tell us was the child was a little girl, she was Caucasian, and she was four years old. The case worker was there by 1 pm and I couldn’t answer the door fast enough. We were READY! I will never forget that day. I opened the door to see a wide-eyed little girl standing there with a social worker who was hanging on to her for dear life. We were told she was a “runner” and that she had some minor things going on.

The look of pure confusion, frustration, and anger was written all over this little girl’s face. The case worker introduced her to me as “Anna.” They both stepped inside the door and, when it was closed, the case worker released Anna’s hand. All heck broke loose after that! Man, oh man! The case worker assured me that she would adjust and, when she did, things would get better. She then handed me a plastic grocery bag that contained two changes of clothing and three diapers, and left.

When the worker left, I remember standing there staring at Anna and Anna staring at me. All I could think was, what do I do now? Before I could take a step toward her Anna took off up the stairs and to the top of the landing where she threw herself on the floor and screamed so loudly that her whole body shook with exhaustion. She was angry and she didn’t know any other way to express herself. I sat down next to her and waited for her to finish. I could tell that she didn’t know how to take me. She was trying to get a feel for me and I wasn’t allowing her that read right away.

Anna eventually calmed down. I called the agency to tell them that we had her at home and then packed her into the car to get diapers, wipes, and sippy cups. She wasn’t ready and I wasn’t ready! The store sent her into sensory overload. Even five short minutes of being in there was too much. I scooped her up and checked out as quickly as possible. I needed to get her back to the house where she could calm and relax. Anna’s body was taking a huge hit that day. Too many changes too quickly.

When we got back home, I offered her lunch because I wasn’t sure if she had already eaten. It was like watching a lion devour an antelope. She ate so quickly that it made her sick and she threw up. I got as much off of her as I could but then decided that a bath would be a better idea and a quicker way to get her clean. I WAS SO WRONG!

I ran the water and added bubbles. She wanted to watch the bubbles and I remember thinking that maybe bubbles were something that was familiar to her. Anna gladly undressed and when she did I was very aware of the skin condition that covered almost all of her. Eczema that looked like third degree burns. I lifted her up to put her in the tub and it became a battle. She fought with every ounce of energy she had. She was genuinely terrified of the water. She saw it as a punishment and not as a good thing. I took her out when I realized what was going on and then had her stand outside of the tub so I could bathe her without putting her whole body in the water. She allowed me to do it that way, even though she wasn’t happy about it.

My husband arrived home shortly after our two biological kids got off the school bus and, when he walked in, Anna went immediately to him. There has always been something about him that children love and I was so grateful that he was there. I gave him the rundown of what had happened, and we were both baffled. We couldn’t comprehend what kind of environment that she came from that could cause her to be almost like a wild animal. The visitation supervisor once referred to her as feral.

The next couple of days were filled with tantrums, over-eating, being withdrawn, and very unpredictable reactions to very simple things. Saying that it was like a roller coaster ride is an understatement. It was more along the lines of an earthquake combined with a tornado topped off with hurricanes.

Two days later, the case worker came out and all the questions that we had were answered. We were told that there was no food in Anna’s home, the home was filthy, she was neglected severely, and was separated from her brothers. Anna was dealing with more in her short four years than most people have to deal with their entire life. The case worker soon left with the promise that she would have Anna evaluated with a worker from the state.

The evaluation took place a few days later and the worker was floored at Anna’s reactions to things and the depth of her issues. She kicked, hit, and spit on the worker when she wasn’t throwing things at her and the whole time screaming at the top of her lungs. The worker later classified her as a severe trauma case.

Many things happened the months following. Anna wouldn’t let people touch her, she wouldn’t allow us to comfort her, and she continued to have anywhere from 10-20 meltdowns per day. We were even escorted out of the back door of the doctor’s office because her behavior was so out of control. The whole time we continued to remind ourselves that her behavior was a result of the environment that she was in previously.

Now, seven months later, she bathes without tantrums and even plays with her water toys and pretending that she is swimming. Anna is now down to maybe one tantrum daily on a good day. She also expresses herself with her words and allows us to hold her and hug her. She now knows what affection means and, once she had that figured out, she became the biggest cuddle bug! She has come a long way, but she still has a long way to go.

We didn’t expect to really learn new things. We just thought that we would be the ones helping her and teaching her things. Now we see that, throughout this process and trying to help Anna, we have become better parents and we have learned to have an open heart regardless of the situation. We can’t tell you that there weren’t times that we were ready to say we can’t take it anymore. But, with Anna being in our home, she has enriched our lives and she has shown our bio children what happens when some children aren’t lucky enough to have parents that love them and adore them. We have all grown because of this one little four-year-old!

What an amazing journey this has been so far.



Peek-A-Boo Affect

In honor of May being National Foster Care Month, Strengthening Families, Changing Lives is running a special series designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of foster care and adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences. 

Peek-A-Boo Affect
by Emma Mildon

Peek-a-boo, a game many of us grew up with as children. You see your parent, they hide, and they come back. But what if they don’t come back? This blog post discusses the ‘peek-a-boo affect,’ and the abandonment issues many foster and adopted children face throughout their life.

I was adopted, and experienced a reluctance to let anyone get too close to me. By my mid-twenties, I was self-sabotaging a lot of my intimate relationships; not just testing my adoptive family (checking they were not going to leave), but also my girlfriends and boyfriends. I had this underlying fear that I was going to be left behind . . . and so, often cut people from my life before they had a chance to leave me.

The ‘peek-a-boo affect’ is common in children who have experienced adoption, foster care, or even divorce. A fear from childhood becomes ingrained in our behavior and set into our mind as a constant worry, and becomes part of us as we grow up into adulthood. It is the constant fear of being left; left out, left behind, excluded, and abandoned.

So how do you work with children to help them develop confidence in facing their abandonment issues, and develop skills and exercises to change their frame of thought? It is not rocket science – it is actually cartoons! It is as simple as Spiderman and Harry Potter, fictional characters who have been inspiring children through comics and books and film for years. And they were inspiring because they came from abandonment – orphaned, fostered, adopted. Cartoon heroes who transformed their lives from abandoned to amazing. The kids who wanted to change their circumstances, make the world a better place, make others feel safe, loved, protected – all the things that they had missed in their childhood and relationships.

Take, for example these characters:

  • Harry Potter was orphaned. His parents were killed by evil wizard Lord Voldemort.
  • Batman (Bruce Wayne) and Robin (Dick Grayson) – their parents’ murders turned them to fighting crime.
  • Mowgli of The Jungle Book was lost by his parents and raised by wolves.
  • Superman was sent to Earth without his parents from his doomed home planet.
  • Tarzan was raised by apes after the deaths of his parents.
  • In Nemo, Nemo’s mother dies, leaving him in a single parent family.
  • Cinderella was orphaned and left to live with her step-family.
  • Spiderman was orphaned and brought up by his grandparents.
  • Wolverine was abandoned by parents for being a mutant.
  • Snow White was orphaned by the death of her father the King.
  • James Bond was orphaned by the death of both of his parents, who were killed in an accident.

 Some Tips for Parents

  • EDUCATE – Books! Growing up I was actually told I was adopted through a children’s picture book titled “Why Was I Adopted.” (Editor’s note: For kids in foster care, the book “Maybe Days” is a good option.) Books help children to understand why, and help them recognize the different start to their life, and why they are special. Also, I always made the connection between my favorite super heroes and what I had in common with them!
  • COMMUNICATE – Openness – children are curious. I would constantly ask my adoptive mother questions about adoption. Try not to take curious questions personally, and try to remain open and honest. Your children will appreciate it when they are older.
  • LOVE – Accept your child’s journey through adoption. And never fear about your relationship with them – you are raising them, you will always be thought of as their mother or father even if you are not blood. Your relationship with them is sacred.
  • INSPIRE – you are an inspiration for adopting or fostering a child. You gave a child love, hope, and a second chance! Inspire others to do the same, there are so many children in this world with no home. Everyone deserves the presence of love in their life.

Tips for Foster and Adopted Kids

  • KNOW – Know that you are special. You were chosen by your new parents, not unwanted by your old ones. You are part of a very big family full of successful leaders, innovators, and inventors who also started their life with abandonment.
  • INSPIRE – Surround yourself with inspiration. Learn about others who have walked in your shoes and the things that they have achieved. Focus on your goals, dreams and aspirations and know that you can achieve great things!
  • GRATITUDE – Thank the people around you who are helping you, loving you and inspiring you. Let them know you appreciate what they do for you. Let them know how they have changed your life.

“I Finally Found My Perfect Family” – Part Four

In honor of May being National Foster Care Month, Strengthening Families, Changing Lives is running a special series designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of foster care and adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences. 

“I Finally Found My Perfect Family”
by Kita Seger, former foster youth

The next few weeks are a whirlwind in my memory. I had so many emotions coursing through me that I almost felt numb on a day-to-day basis. My grades dropped (I had been a straight A student), and I lost my appetite. I also lost a sense of who I was and who I belonged to. I tried therapy to “fix” the issues with my adoptive mom, but we only had six sessions. The therapist tried to diagnose my adoptive mom with a mental disorder, which made her abruptly stop the sessions. We later found out that my adoptive mom suffered from schizophrenia (her mother had it as well) and she had done me a favor by placing me back in the foster care system.

The adults in my life knew that a plan needed to be made so that I would have some stability. I couldn’t stay with Denise and Dennis, because they had two teenage sons and I was sleeping on their couch. They collaborated with my church adult friends, Deana and Bob, a couple who I had been especially close to, and they became licensed foster parents for me. I readjusted to yet a new family and slowly came out of my depression. I thought all of this turmoil in my 15 years of life was because I was simply a “bad” kid, but the adults in my life reassured me that this was not my fault and everything would be okay.

None of us thought a new adoptive home was a good idea, and Deana and Bob were perfectly happy to keep me as long as I needed. I also did not want to be adopted by someone else. I was still confused and hurting from the horrible loss and I still had a little glimmer of hope that I would move back to my adoptive mom. However, I knew deep down that we would never be a family again and I resorted to pushing her out of my life completely, so that I could heal on my own terms without the constant confusion of her schizophrenic words and actions.

Meanwhile, school became my escape from my hectic home life. I thrust all my energy into my studies and concentrated on my scholastic future. Deana and Bob were very helpful in keeping my grades high and also gave me the spiritual support I needed in this difficult time. After a year, Deana was going to have a baby, so I asked my caseworker to move me so I wouldn’t be a burden. Despite my beliefs, they supported my move and said they still wanted to be in my life.

My caseworker moved me to a girls’ group home the last day of my junior year of high school. Upon my arrival, my adoptive mom voluntarily terminated her parental rights, making me a ward of the state again. This made me realize that I was technically an “orphan,” an “unwanted child,” and I felt considerable loss knowing that I would “age out” of the foster care system on my 18th birthday without a permanent family.

Living at the group home allowed me to grow to my fullest potential and I learned a lot about myself. I lived with 10 other girls and I learned how to speak up for myself for the things I needed. It was a very structured environment and our behavior was constantly monitored. I was one of the few girls that complied with the rules, did my chores, had a part-time job, and was college-bound, which made the other girls resent me for receiving more privileges for my good behavior.

During this time, I applied to colleges and reconnected with my older sisters and maternal grandmother who lived in San Francisco. I remember asking Denise and Dennis about my older siblings but Social Services didn’t know where they were. So one day when my caseworker called telling me Taña wanted to get in contact with me again, I was stunned and nervous because it had been 13 years since I had seen her. But I also knew that finding my oldest sister again was the last thing I needed to feel complete before I aged out of the system. I made a trip to San Francisco to visit schools and had a momentous reunion with her and Geneva. We have since become very close, but there will always be a big gap in our relationship that I grapple with every day. My other older half-sister Mariah and I have never had much of a relationship. She had my nephew, Andrew, when she was 15 years old and struggled with addiction most of her adult life. She has been in and out of jail and now resides in a psychiatric hospital in San Francisco; her son now lives with his father.

When I reconnected with my maternal grandmother, I had all these questions about where I came from and who our family was. She had all the answers, and for the first time, I learned about my Mexican heritage. She introduced me to her extended family and I was able to gain a deeper sense of identity, feeling like I found a part of myself that had been hidden from me for so long. I learned that our family began with a freed slave and a Choctaw Indian from Mississippi and that I come from a long line of strong resilient individuals.

During my time at the group home, I also became really close with one of the staff members who became my mentor and is still in my life today. She made living in the hectic house bearable, and she helped me talk through my many losses, which helped me heal. I still carried much hurt from my dissolved adoption, but she made it clear to me that there were people in my life who still loved me as their own daughter.

And she was right: Denise and Dennis had been there for me every step of my tumultuous journey and I realized I would not age out of the system without a family, because I had their unending love. I still had to request overnight passes from my caseworker to see them, but I needed their support and would go to their house as often as I could. They never pressured me; they were just a loving constant in my life.

I was accepted into the University of San Francisco to earn my degree in Psychology. I was ecstatic to move to another state and start a fresh part of my life where I was in control and doing what was best for me. At the same time, I was sad to leave my home state, where all the memories, good and bad, had taken place. Denise and Dennis put me on a plane to my new home and said they would be there for me whenever I needed them and to call them for anything.

All four years of college, they stuck to their word. I called them whenever I needed advice and some parental love. Dennis would fly out about once a month for his job and we would have a father-daughter dinner together. He even surprised me by bringing Denise during one of his trips. As soon as I looked out my apartment window and saw her step out of the car, I flew down the stairs to hug the mom that I knew was mine.

My birth mother died during my junior year of college from cirrhosis of the liver due to her years of alcoholism. When she was in a hospice in Colorado, I asked Denise and Dennis to fly me home to say goodbye. This was extremely hard time for me because I hadn’t seen her since I was adopted at seven years old. Taña and Geneva were there as well and we had a moment where we all forgave her for choosing booze instead of the love of her own children. When I saw my birth father’s face, for the first time in my life a flashback of him abusing me came full circle and I realized what that memory was. I couldn’t be in the same room with him, couldn’t even look at him, and Dennis told him he had to leave while we were there. Taña knew of the abuse that took place when I was a child and took this opportunity to confront him. I felt that I may be able to forgive him if he would just admit to scarring me for the rest of my life. However, he denied it completely and this left me with a deeper hole in my heart. I refused to let him into my life even though he wanted a relationship with me. I relied heavily on Denise and Dennis during this time. They were there for my emotional breakdown and gave me all the support and love I needed to recover from this experience. I have since forgiven him for myself to fully move on from the experience, but he will never be in my life.

At 21 years old, I began experiencing lots of anxiety, nightmares, and flashbacks about my loss, emptiness, and the un-dealt-with trauma I had carried with me for so long. After graduating from college, I had to make one of the most difficult decisions of my life, whether or not to defer graduate school at Columbia University. Denise and Dennis helped me weigh the pros and cons and fully supported me, offering to let me live with them and take a year to work through my pain, to heal, and to go to therapy for myself. I am so grateful I did, and I’m thankful that I had my support system with me.

During that year-long period, I felt like I had stepped back in time because I was living with the parents that I had found at five years old. Everything felt right and I experienced the love from Dennis’s extended family all over again, which made me feel like I truly belonged to a family. I no longer felt like “an unwanted child” and my nightmares disappeared.

I know that I deserve to be loved and that I can be happy despite my past because I had such great role models to look up to. I realize that Denise and Dennis saved my life when I was in dire need and I always had a place to go or someone to call when I needed parents. They are my permanency. I know I would have made it through the system even if I didn’t have them, but they made all the difference. The summer before I graduated with my Masters in Social Work from Columbia University, Denise, Dennis, and I made the decision as a family for them to legally adopt me at 23 years old. I gained three brothers that they also adopted over the years, but I am still very close to my biological siblings, even though we are all separated. I have finally found my perfect family.

Today, I work at a non-profit organization as an Adoption Resource Consultant, finding permanent forever families for children who have been waiting in foster care for over a year. I will continue advocating for the 500,000+ children and youth in care until each and every one of them has permanency.

Kita was separated from her four siblings when she entered the foster care system at age five in Boulder County. She was adopted, but reentered the system eight years later due to a dissolved adoption. After aging out of foster care at age 18 and graduating from high school with honors, she went on to earn her degree in Psychology at the University of San Francisco. Kita attended Columbia University in New York to earn her Masters in Social Work. Her dream is to continue advocating for her brothers and sisters in the foster care system until every one of them has permanency. Kita found her permanency with her original foster family and was adopted by them in 2011. Kita has had the opportunity to do hands on advocacy and train her peers in foster care on various critical topics like permanency, while interning as a FosterClub All-Star in 2009. FosterClub is the national network for youth in foster care. Kita’s life aspiration is to change young people’s lives wherever she goes.

“I Finally Found My Perfect Family” – Part Three

In honor of May being National Foster Care Month, Strengthening Families, Changing Lives is running a special series designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of foster care and adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences. 

“I Finally Found My Perfect Family”
by Kita Seger, former foster youth

Adjusting to a single mother after experiencing a solid mother-father family was foreign to me. I didn’t understand how I could benefit from just a single parent family. I was also angry at Social Services for separating me from my younger sister. No one explained why this happened and they probably thought I wouldn’t be able to understand because I was only seven years old, but I had lost my only connection to my birth family. And there was no way that could I protect her if she was in a completely different family. Her new adoptive family thought it would be best to cut the biological tie from our brother and me completely in order to create their perfect happy family. Fortunately, my adoptive mom fought hard to keep us in contact and only after a couple of years of sneaking visits from her adoptive dad, did her family finally give in and accept that we had a sister bond that no one could break.

During the eight years that I lived with my adoptive mom, I experienced many highs and lows. I tried to love her as my one and only mom, but I don’t think that I ever let go of my love for my foster parents. I had already come to terms with the fact that my birth family was just never going to be a big part of my life, even though I missed my siblings terribly.

My adoptive mother was loving and she tried to buy my love with gifts for extravagant Christmases and birthdays. But she also gave me many positive growing opportunities and memories, including dinners at expensive restaurants, road trips to see her brother’s family in Arizona, and most importantly, introducing me to her church. She was Buddhist and this spiritual community was a big part of our lives. They were extremely welcoming to me and because I was one of the few children in the church, I was given a lot of attention from the adults. This spirituality provided something new and comforting to me, and through the teachings at a child’s intellect level, I finally connected with a religion that made sense to me that wasn’t strict and conforming, like my previous church. There was a little baby boom in our church which gave me the responsibility of being the designated babysitter every Sunday starting when I was nine years old. I thoroughly loved my role and I became very close to the young kids. I also felt appreciated and important because the parents trusted me. For the second time in my life, I felt a part of a large extended family and knew that these families loved me, even though I wasn’t related to them.

One significant experience that exemplified their care for me happened when a large group of us traveled to Nepal for a reincarnation ceremony of an important religious Buddhist figure. I was 10 years old and in fifth grade. During the year prior to this trip, my adoptive mother experienced some abdominal pain and went to the doctor repeatedly. However, no one was able to find a reason for her pain. The night we flew into Kathmandu, Nepal, she was rushed to the hospital and had emergency surgery due to an ovarian cyst. She had to remain in the hospital for a week, during which time, my church members took care of me and became my surrogate parents. This was a very scary time for me because we were in a foreign country and my adoptive mother almost died. I remember hearing the adults whispering about who would become my legal guardian if anything were to happen to her. This was when I truly felt that everything would be okay because I had not only a few, but many adults who would make sure that I was taken care of.

As much as I was grateful that my adoptive mother survived, because I didn’t think I could handle getting a new family so soon, I couldn’t help feeling a little hope that I would be able to go back to my foster parents. My adoptive mom knew that I had a special connection with them and had allowed me to stay in contact with them over the years. This probably inhibited my ability to completely assimilate into my new family with my adoptive mother, even though I tried my best.

However, there was always some other barrier between us. We didn’t have any post-adoptive supports, like therapy, which I think was a big aspect of the end of our family. Because it was just the two of us, I think there was a sense of perceived equal power on my part, which made it hard for her to establish normal parental control of me, causing her to be extra controlling. Looking back, this was very unhealthy and she simply did not know how to handle a child that had been through so many traumas in my young life. Being a single mother on top of adopting an older child (as opposed to a baby) must have been extremely stressful for her.

During my sophomore year in high school, our pet basset hound suddenly died of liver failure. This was so unexpected and caused me to shut down emotionally, because I didn’t think I could experience any more loss. About a month later, my world flipped upside down yet again.

That night will stay with me forever. I came home after school to find her home early from work. She said that I could go watch TV in the living room while she made an important phone call. I was excited because she rarely let me watch TV, but I didn’t think much of it and turned the channel to my favorite show. About two hours later, she came out of her room and said that we needed to talk. She looked like she had been crying and I anxiously held my breath. My mother sat down next to me on the couch and reached for my hand. Because she wasn’t saying anything, I blurted out “Mom, you’re scaring me. What is going on?” She replied that she was very sorry, but I was going to move away for a little while. She said that she couldn’t be a good mother for me anymore and this would be better for me in the long run. I was dumbfounded and immediately became angry with her for her lack of explanation. I asked her where I was going and how long I would be gone. She replied that my foster mom, Denise, was already on her way to pick me up and that I might live there until I graduated high school. At that point, I stood up and started crying. I didn’t understand why she was doing this to me and I felt like it was my fault for not being a better daughter. I promised her I would do anything she asked if she only let me stay. She said that even though this was the hardest thing she had to do and she still loved me deeply, she was doing this for me and I would thank her later.

I decided to play her game and go along with it just to make it easier. I thought that she would change her mind and I would be back the next morning. My adoptive mom had already pulled out two suitcases for me to use. I thought this was excessive but didn’t say anything. However, when she started packing things from my bathroom cabinet, such as a bright pink bottle of Pepto Bismal, I told her I wouldn’t need it because my foster parents would have all those kinds of things. That’s when I realized that she was already planning to completely move me out of the house and I felt completely heartbroken. My foster mom arrived and I dragged out my two heavy suitcases, loaded down with emotions I didn’t understand. I gave my adoptive mom an obligatory hug goodbye even though I felt betrayed and lost.

Kita’s story will conclude on May 24.