What About Adopting?

No adoption story is the same. There are many shared experiences but each adoption is unique. Many speak of the adoption process as a journey. Our journey was that one day everything changed because we didn’t know we wanted to adopt.

Our 7th child was 4 months old when a call came from the state agency asking if we were interested in an emergency placement for our 2-year-old niece – for the weekend.

Because of circumstances similar to those surrounding many children in such emergency situations we had only met our niece once but were more than happy to have her come home with us.

A week into her “weekend” stay she was happily sharing a room with her 2-year-old cousin. Marty asked me if there were any updates. Nope. A month later there were updates but no resolution. This went on for three years.

There was the family tie, so we were able to expedite the becoming-foster-parents regimen. This meant we skipped some of the training typically given so our niece could be placed with us immediately. We still had to prove that we were capable. With seven children we weren’t exactly novices at the parenting game, but there is something very disconcerting about having your home, family and lifestyle scrutinized by a stranger who has the power to accept or reject you. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so vulnerable as I did when the state workers went through our home, asked personal questions of us and our children and judged our ability to parent.

"Did we spank our kids? Were they vaccinated? Did we have a room and bed for her? Did Marty and I argue? Were we religious? How did we handle anger? Did we understand that visits with birth and dad mom were mandatory? Did our kids go to the dentist regularly? Did we have a babysitter? Why did we homeschool? Did we have a car seat?" Some of these questions were quite valid, but when a child’s future is riding on the “right” answers it’s intimidating.

The goal of the state agency was to reunite the child with the parents. This is a noble venture. Unfortunately, it leaves everyone in a constant state of “what’s going to happen?” If the birth parent is diligent about showing up for visits, staying clean or out of jail, following the rules, going to meetings and who knows what else, there is a good chance that parent will regain custody. Even if the rules aren’t always followed there is a chance. And even when there seems to be no way in hell it’s a good idea to put a child back into a very bad situation, it can happen.

In our situation the birth mom (my sister) was not able to stay clean and sober but refused to sign the papers releasing her parental rights. This was compounded by the fact that she had three other children also in emergency family care (my parents and brother). It was horrible for her to be losing four children, and although she couldn’t manage to clean up her life, there was no question she loved these kiddos. 

19 years ago our 2nd daughter came home to stay. It’s been quite an adventure and we are so grateful.

Note: 15 years in my parents (who had ended up adopting as well) gave me a book, The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier. I can’t recommend it enough. It would have made me a better mom all around.

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