Sunday, April 21, 2013

Every time I say goodnight...

Everytime I say goodnight...

I am acutely aware that another day is gone.

I feel the loss of every moment that I wasted focused on something other than what really matters, stretching all of the way back to the day my first son was born. And, I want to just sit and hold them...for hours. The last thing I want is to put them in bed, tuck the blankets around them, and walk away. Even after a long day...I hesitate.  "Why?" you ask? 

Because, I know how fast graduation day arrives...and I know what it feels like to stand there, with an aching lump in your throat...wishing with everything you have in you that you could go back to bedtime, back to when he was just 5 years old... crawl in that little bed...wrap your arms around him and read that story "just one more time". 

I know how hard it is to watch them leave, excited for their future, but aching to hold them close to your heart for just a little longer. To realize that from now on, you face holidays with no guarantee of having the pleasure of their company. To regret every moment you spent being impatient, or brushing off questions because you were "too busy" or had "important" things to get done.  

And,, with my littlest ones, I look into their beautiful shining eyes... And, it is everything I can do, in the name of a healthy routine and say "Goodnight my sweet Angel Baby...I love you, I will see you in the morning!" and close the door.  And, without fail...stand in the hallway...pause...feel that tug...nearly irresistable, and want to go back into that room of stories and snuggles and sleep and stay just awhile longer... Because I know exactly how quickly morning comes. And just how soon I will be gazing into those eyes... and instead of another "Goodnight" I will say "Goodbye my sweet Angel Baby...I love you, I hope to see you again soon."

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Fear or fascination?

So, I got to thinking today(yeah, yeah, brace yourself!lol!)...I have always thought of my "need to know" my curiosity about how God is going to do "this or that" constant unconscious efforts to solve the puzzle of His plans was a lack of faith...fear. And, maybe sometimes it is...I am certainly not immune!  But, it hit me today, it isn't always fact, it isn't often fear, because that would imply a lack of faith...and when it comes down to it, when I stop and think, I know that I know that I know that I know that He is in control, loves me and is working on my behalf...for my ultimate good. I really believe that. What I am pondering is whether or NOT He is actually behind something I think I see happening in my life...and whether or not He will do it one way or another...or a way that I haven't even thought of, can't comprehend?! It is fascinating! I am fascinated by Him...I love the way He thinks(in as much as I can comprehend it! Which ain't much, but it doesn't take much for my teeny tiny finite brain!) I love the way He works in our lives...and how He pulls everything together. I love knowing that He has got this. And, I love that nothing is impossible with Him! Nothing what so ever! And, my mind grapples with the various possibilities. Sometimes I wear myself out trying to fit the pieces together. But, usually...I just come back to the same old realization that in His timing, I will know everything that I need to know. And it will all fall into place, without struggle, or strain. 

So, I am sitting here, looking at the various "nudges" and "signs", for lack of a better word, that Kelly and I have picked up on recently...and, we are seriously starting to wonder if God may be planning to send another daughter our way...actually, we think He is. So, here we go...I wonder who she is? I wonder what she will look like? I wonder if she will like play dough, or coloring books, or puzzles and stories? I wonder how He will bring her to us(if, in fact, this is what He is doing). I wonder when...I wonder what her name is? I just wonder...about all of it. 

So, in the end...when it comes to the question of whether it is fear, or fascination...fascination wins! I am simply fascinated with the way He moves. I love His Mind. And, whatever it is He has planned for our family...I am all in!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The next right thing...

For years now, I have lived by one particular phrase. I have repeated it a thousand times, and I share it often with anyone who is facing difficulty or pain. The reality is that anyone who has faced loss...grief...knows what it means to need this phrase...the bottom level on the grief spectrum is a very dark, cold room. If you are like me, then you have laid on the floor of that room and heard your own cries echo off the walls...demanding life to go back, rewind,  "make it not so"...if you have been there...then you have lived this concept as goes like this  "Just do the next right thing in the next 30 seconds". As you progress through the grief process, you might be able to change that into "in the next 5 minutes" and then eventually "in the next hour", and so on...but, what I am realizing in my life that this can apply to not just grief...but, monotony...what Katrina Kenison calls "Dailiness" and what Ann Voskamp speaks of while standing in endless piles of laundry in her book "One Thousand Gifts".  Life goes on...and some days, finding the joy is soul seems to be tuned to it...primed and ready. I have more moments like this than I ever did in my life before. Sunlight streaming through a window, and a small boy gazing in wonder at the dust particles dancing in those rays. That will yank you out of monotony in an instant, so long as you are paying attention. And, that is where the phrase comes into it...paying attention. Because, on the other side of life there are the grey days...the days when I am so tired that I claw my way up out of sleep...feeling it tangled around me like heavy nets under water, dragging me down, as I struggle to rise and finally burst through the surface gasping for air(and some of you wonder why I am not a morning person!) followed by forcing my feet up the stairs for that first cup of coffee and the quiet that I must have... to just be, to fully wake up and sit at God's feet and just breathe before starting my day...days when it is cold and dark outside, and, the laundry has piled high, and the cat box needs to be cleaned and the babies are crying over *everything*,  the phone rings too loud and dogs bark and my coffee cup crashes to the ground...dark liquid sanity splattered everywhere...and I just want to crawl back into bed...back under those heavy nets and let them take me down. Those are hard days...days when there is no real grief, only life. SO much life. Same old, relentless is then that doing the "next right thing in the next 30 seconds" becomes my oxygen.  My access to hope. Those words become the only path to really feeling anything on the hard days. Those words lead me through the sparkling raindrops...and looong dark eyelashes...and the curve of a little mouth...adorable even when turned down in a pout. 

 And, then other words surface in my memory, words like"In 10 years this will not matter...heck, tomorrow, this will not matter, just breathe". Do the next right thing. Next right thing, clean up the right thing, get the babies settled in the play room, next right thing, check voicemail, next right thing, go sit on the floor and play with babies(cause they won't be babies forever). 

And, 30 seconds at a time...I can move through those days...and I may even find a sunshine moment in a toddlers eyes sitting on that play room floor with dark clouds outside...because I was looking...and it was the next right thing. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I've been a "girl mom" for 17 months now...(and, the glory of pink sneakers)!

Yesterday, my little girl turned seventeen months old...I have five sons, and one daughter...if you've been around the blog, you know that one of those sons is about to hit twenty-one months, and those youngest two kiddos were adopted on the same day. The reality is I have been a boy mom for over twenty-three years now...and I was really used to being a boy mom. This being a mother to a girl is pretty strange, but wonderful! She is everything I could have ever wanted or dreamed of in a daughter. I absolutely adore her.  And, I admit it...shallow as it may sound to some, I am glorying in the butterflies, and flowers and the pink soles of her new shoes! 

(Awww....they(both) are so dang cute! Ok, so I am glorying in getting BOTH of those pairs of shoes.) Silly? Maybe... I grew up in, my boys went barefoot(other than slippers, which mainlanders call flip flops) as long as possible when they were babies...these two have had a couple pair of really soft soled shoes(one of each of "Robeez" or "See Kai Run") these are the first "big kid" shoes, you know, with velcro and flashing lights? In other words(try not to gag, I can't help it) this is a "they are getting SO big" moment for me...I'm loving the blinking lights reflecting off of our wood floors as they stomp around giggling

It never ceases to amaze me how much joy I find in the simplest parts of all of this. I am very much like a first time mom. Except that, at the same time, I'm SO not! No one has to tell me how quickly this passes. And no one has to tell me how important it is to really BE here in this moment now.  It's not that I didn't enjoy those moments when I did this the first time around...but, I definitely had more noise in my head when my boys were little. I was younger and more self focused, worrying about "how my life was going to turn out"...I did not really grasp that I was *doing my life* the whole wasn't some "destination" off in the future...I see things so differently now.  So, celebrate shoes, I will! ;-)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Monday, Monday...(and the definition of "family")

Phew!  Tired, I am! This weekend was fun. I got to go see two of my four boys(which is always a good thing)! And, we got to have another one of those strange "post modern" family moments...the more I see, the more I believe that family is what you make it. I am sure people were having an interesting time making sense of our crowd...just thinking about it makes me laugh! In attendance were myself, my husband, two of my sons, 19 and 16, the 19 year olds girlfriend, our two little ones 16 months and 20  months...and...the boys father. Yup. All of us roaming around the riverfront park together in Spokane. It was funny to watch my older boys father fall in love with the the end of the day he was referring to himself as "Uncle" was actually kinda sweet.  It blows my mind, reach back into my memory and try to get my head around all that has happened in the last 15 years of our lives to land us right here. Right now. It's incredible...but, whether or not I ever truly manage to grasp it...I am profoundly grateful. I wanted a family.  And, that's what I got!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

What foster parenting means to me...(got a new perspective)

I am still a foster least, this nagging feeling I am having would suggest that I am(even though we "closed" our house to further placements after the adoption in November, we are still technically licensed through June 2014). There is a BIG part of me that wishes that there were some way to open my home back up to taking kids right now(yes, really). But, we are trying to follow the "don't take kids who are older than your youngest child" rule...there are various reasons for this rule...and while I have seen it work out for some folks to take a child older than their youngest the same time, I have seen *great* damage done in situations where this happened. I'm not willing to take the risk where my babies are, I wait. Because the only other option would be to take another 16 month old and, contrary to popular opinion, I am not actually insane(ok, fine, there is room for argument, I'm just saying)!

When we first started all of this, foster care was something I wanted to the plague, and, not just a little! And, once we got going...I (if I am being honest) saw it as a means to an end. Adoption. I never expected to feel this way about being a foster parent.  Honestly, part of me still doesn't get *why* I feel this way. I hate the system. I don't trust it...I don't believe it works. I've seen so much damage and pain. I could NOT wait to be done dealing with it before we adopted the kids, and I was SO relieved to be done with it after we did. And, I am. 

I've been doing some praying on that...but, a conversation that I had recently with a new cyber friend Tisza, opened up a whole new way to look at this...she said something to me that I had not previously considered...

"But then isn't that the very essence of the foster parent? A loving, kind generous soul who willingly heads into the emotional equivalent of a burning building time and time again to save those they can. All the while knowing full well that they themselves can and will be hurt in the process. But who does it anyway because it needs to be done"

That, right there, changed things for me...I can not get it out of my head. She is absolutely right...after reading that, I really had to rethink my stance. I have railed against the system...I have shaken my head in wonder at foster parents who take kids in, time and time again, knowing they will probably be burned, again. Because, even if the kid eventually exits the system(burning building) it's not always in the best possible way. There is always the potential for permanent injury to everyone involved as a result of having been in the system to begin with...but, you know, fire fighters don't have any reason to think that once the flames are out and the people are safe, there will never be another fire to put out...or another burning building to enter. That *really* struck a chord with me. It is a completely new perspective on foster parenting that *I* personally have not ever grasped before now.  If I  look at the system as a burning building(and trust me, I do not know a single foster parent who would not strongly relate to that comparison, they may chuckle, they may cry...but, none would argue) and I were to look at taking kids in as running into a burning building and putting an oxygen mask on them, using equipment to keep them safe while working to get them out...that changes everything. 

Notice I did not say that I would look at taking kids as getting them out of the building...not true, so long as they are in the system; their world is on fire. It's just reality. The only way that kid is coming *out* alive is if they are *successfully* reunified with healthy family, OR if they are adopted into a new forever family. Again, either way, there is serious risk of permanent injury, whether to their emotional lungs or their brain due to smoke inhalation(ie. damaging visits with parents, attachment trauma from bouncing around, home to home, all of which exacerbate the issues caused by the abuse or neglect that landed them in the system in the first place). 

Thing is, the primary concern of a fire fighter is to keep that person alive and as safe as possible while IN the building. Once they have them out, their job is done...over. They usually just leave them in the hands of the EMT's(ie family, whether by blood or adoption) and walk away. 

So, while I may not know what God's plans are for our family in the long run...and I may not be in a position to run back into that burning building just yet...I have a whole new way of looking at this, that might explain my feelings recently. Perhaps I am called to be a Parent. Definitely food for thought. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

It's the little things...

So...I have already admitted that I am not a soccer mom...never have been, never will be. When I look at Pinterest, I cringe. I had two boards put together and then decided it was too much like scrap booking...bottom line, (pretty sure I've said this before, too) I'd rather stick a fork in my eye than scrapbook. Just sayin. I have never been able to sit still long enough. A friend of mine is an avid scrap booking genius...I just told her, I'll take photos for her, if she'll do the scrap booking for me! ;-) Best of both worlds...

But, having said that...I want to be a creative mom, too!  Like any other mom...I want to really engage...make Peanut butter play dough...and get on the floor and have real face time...I want to color Easter eggs and bake cookies and play "gonna git you"...and "tickle monster"...I want to soak them in and love on them...I just know by now...I can't do it in any "ideal" sort of way...there is nothing "ideal" about my life...not one thing. My house needs a fresh coat of paint in the worst dogs share their hair with EVERYTHING...and dust bunnies abound...and abound, and abound. It will all happen eventually...juuust not right now! I have better things to do with my time...

So...if all of that is undone...what am I doing?     This....

 my sweet little dancer...she is pure sunlight in a dress...


This child is simply intoxicating. 

 I want to LIVE IN my moments. I do not want to let a single one of them pass me by without squeezing the juice out of it. I have already lost too much time worrying about things that may never even happen(or that I have no control over anyway).

And on that note, this morning I managed to grab hold of one of the many thoughts fluttering around like butterflies in my mind. This one is a new thought on an old truth...It's not like I don't "know" this already (after all, one of the unique opportunities presented by parenting a second batch of kids is that you are already living with the *regrets* over things you did not do the first time around, and cannot change, no matter how badly you would like to have the opportunity for a do over). Anyway, I had not yet thought of it in exactly these words; while I stand here and ponder the size and number of our problems...still unsure of the actual impact those problems may, or may not have.   I just *spent*(willingly handed over, threw away, used up) the only resource I have right now that truly matters to me. Time. I *spent* my time on thoughts about something that I have no control over, that has not happened yet...*this* moment does not require a response of me on that particular issue. It can wait.  I could not "respond" in any constructive way right now if I wanted to...period. 

So, why do I sacrifice moments when my fears are not a part of todays reality? The only things that are real, in each moment...are the activities specifically required of that moment; and the people sharing the moment with you.  It is NOT procrastination to let tomorrows concerns sit *out* in the future...on their appointed day, rather than gather them to myself in this moment. I will not be any better prepared to handle them until I am facing them in the moment and God provides the clarity needed to address them at that time(I've never personally known Him to give me answers before I need them). In *that* moment...out there, on that appointed day, I will be required to take action. But, here, now, there is nothing I can do, or need to do. And, there are a whole lot of "moments" between here and there that look like*THIS*

and this(yes, he is staring in wide eyed wonder at the dust particles floating in know how to do moments...I just need to let them take me with them when they do...)

And definitely this...

...why would I willingly give up every one of those moments in between now and the moment that I have not reached yet; and frankly, why would I WANT to trade this, for facing that when I don't I have to yet?  Why would I do that?  Good question. Better am I going to make certain that I remember this...because, for whatever reason, realizing it in exactly *these* words has struck a chord where nothing else quite did before now... worry is an old habit. 

We are already nearly 17 and 21 months into the two beautiful little lives that God has placed before us. We are witnesses, and as I know from personal experience...we cannot go back and "re do" anything we have missed thus far.  *That* is a sobering thought.   

Do you ever struggle with wasting your moments worrying about things that are out of your control? What do you do to try to stay in *this* moment?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Filling the Gap ~ Part 2

(Be sure to start with Filling the Gap ~ Part 1 )

Now, a few things that go WITH this reality...

1. You will *feel* like a parent. Like a mom or dad with a new, vulnerable child(and they ARE vulnerable).

HOWEVER, you will be reminded, repeatedly, that this is NOT your child. And, you will experience a myriad of ways that you are of no consequence; you have no rights, no real voice(in most cases) you can't even say you think the doctor should wait to give some vaccinations, not pile them on so heavy...nothing. It is NOT your child. 
~~~~~~~~~ another little side note to this;  you dreamed of having a newborn (and you could) you just might care for a newborn baby that you picked up from the hospital. You may even be one of the ones to experience the miracle of that child staying. But, the *reality* is that for *at least* the first year of that child's life, you will be calling him/her by a name you may not like. You will be reporting EVERY move you make, every sneeze, every bump, bruise or rash. And, you will be dealing with notes coming home in the diaper bag from the birth parents after visits asking you to do/not do, X,Y,Z.  And, one of the memories you may have to accept is the day you picked your precious little bundle up from the hospital, only to face a hostile nurse who just watched his mother leave crying and wants to make DARN sure you know this is NOT your child(and feels compelled to go on and on about how she *hates* foster parents who think this is a good way to get a baby.) This is NOT the first year of life that you will have been dreaming of, Ok? You need to understand that right now. If you need to grieve the loss of that part of the dream, go ahead and do so before you get started. It's a harsh reality. EVEN IF all goes beautifully, even *if* the child is one of many that the parents have willingly relinquished, and no relatives come forward to take this one(or previous foster parents who adopted older siblings, for that matter) even then...this is not going to be the dream you had in your heart.  Oh, there will be moments. There will be glimpses of the dream. And, yes, you will cherish this will rock him/her at will hold them when they are inconsolable...(oh, yeah...that's the other thing, YOU get to care for them while they go through withdrawals...and then sit across the table in a team meeting from the parent who did it to them ~and who, maybe, decides to share the details of the last time they *did* drugs while pregnant~ and be reminded that you have no rights. In particular, you don't have the right to leap across the table and wrap your hands around the throat of the person who hurt *your* baby. Because, once again; they *feel* like yours...but, they are not. But I digress)  Yes, you will have some of that and IF you have a case where the parents don't show up for visits, you may go long stretches where no one reminds you that this is not your child. But, eventually, you will be reminded...and usually, in a pretty rude way. 

2. You will *feel* like your family should count, and that holidays and special times should be reason enough to miss/reschedule a visit for a parent who has skipped the last three visits. Especially when they have multiple visits a week. 

HOWEVER, your caseworker will most likely not see it that way. At all. Ever. In fact, when it comes down to it you may even get to the point of being named the pre adoptive resource by some miracle, down the road, and still miss your little ones actual 1st birthday because the caseworker decided to schedule the parents *last ever* 5 hour long visit with the child, on that day;  at the last minute(think night before, after you have made plans to have a birthday party and invited people) and expect *you* to be happy about it. Yes, really.

3. You will expect to be treated with common courtesy and flexibility. And, you will expect them to do exactly what they say they will do. 

HOWEVER, the reality will be that people will push you to your absolute limits if you let them. They will change visitation times at the last minute, or ask you to transport a child when you can't and had no idea they were going to ask, OR even call you up asking *what* the child's schedule is and who is supposed to be handling it, because no one in their organization can tell them, and the worker who usually handles it is out of town(poor planning on their part) and, they will act as if it is *your* responsibility to make it happen. Now. No matter what you might have to cancel to do so.  (Really think about this may find yourself wanting so badly to please these people, to not make waves, that you will lie down and let them do this sort of thing. But, if you do, it will only get worse! Remember that, even if they start throwing around phrases like "contempt of court" the truth is, THEY will be in contempt if they don't meet their responsibilities. It is NOT your job to fix it for them if they screw up. You give them 15-20 minutes to pick the child up when they said they would, and if you have an appointment to make, when the time is up, you take the child with you and go to your appointment. Not your problem.)

4. You will expect answers, deadlines, framework, the ability to do some planning...

HOWEVER, you will live in a world of "We'll see...eventually...but not today!" for a very, very, very long time. For some families it lasts years. I heard a couple months ago of a family who had cared for a child since the day he left the hospital after birth. They had finally adopted him, and I believe he was 9 or 10 years old on adoption day. Yeah. Really. 

5.  You will believe that this system is about the "best interest of the child" and in fact, you will hear that, over and over.

HOWEVER, it's bull. Flat out, unadulterated bull. This system is about liability. It is about birth parents rights, and about building a case, in one direction or another.  If visits are torment for the kids, great, it's fabulous evidence for the case against the parents. But, that isn't going to make anyone STOP visits. At least not until the parents rights have been terminated. Your "normal-common-sense" way of thinking will want to dispute that. Don't waste your time or energy.  Just hold them when they come home from the visit. Tell the Court Appointed Special Advocate(CASA), report it to the caseworker as calmly and factually as you can, list it in your "Caregivers Report to the Court" using concrete terms for what is happening in and to the child due to these visits. And, let it go. No one is going to do ANYTHING in the 100% total best interest of the child until the judge declares the parents rights severed. And, even then, just know that relatives can still come first. Just depends on where you are and how it's done in your area. 

#6.   You will believe that *surely* if family were going to come forward, they would do it early on, and you would at least *know* the child was not staying before you got too attached. 

HOWEVER, it's just not true...

First of all, I have heard with older kiddos, you don't always attach, at least not right away. It can be really hard, especially given some of the behaviors they exhibit. It is truly a matter of chemistry,  If it's not a good fit for your family, don't beat yourself up. 

But, with newborns you attach, pretty much immediately. They are totally helpless and they think YOU are the mommy and daddy. They have no reason to believe any different than any other newborn being born into their biological family.  And, in the end, for various reasons (most of which I do not understand, or agree with)  there are relatives who will wait until they *know* the parents are not going to "get it together" to step forward...I have heard that sometimes they think it is better to leave the kids in foster care so the parents will be motivated to do their case plan...sometimes they really don't want the kid, but darned if they are going to let "those people" keep em if it comes down to termination of parental rights. And still, other times they had not heard of the child being in the system.  Or, as in one case I personally knew of...they had heard the child was born, but she was the 8th sibling to go into care and by then, there were four counties involved and it took them ages JUST to get a hold of someone who could point them in the right direction so they could jump through the hoops and take custody. 

#7.  You will believe that because this child came to your home as a newborn and knows no other parents that the system will not move him/her for some non related "fictive kin" who live across the country 16 months into things. would be wrong. It happens. More often than I like to think about. 

Ok, so I could keep going, but I think this is probably more than enough for one post. In short, just know that you are saying goodbye to the life you normally lead, and would naturally assume  you could continue to lead, for a life of forms and reports and suspense(like you have never imagined) and cancelled vacations, kids who go sideways after every visitation, regress and act out. And, even when it gets to the point where you are named the pre adoptive parents, you will be living through a process that is fueled by people who do not have anywhere near the sense of urgency about the paperwork on their desks that you do. 

Having said ALL of that,  if you feel called...if you felt a calling before reading all of that, then go look at the photos of my kids and read the post titled Are You Out There?  And just know that it IS TRULY all worth it...I just don't want you to get out there and feel like I (and so many others) did when I realized that nobody told me what this was really going to be like!  Bottom line, I'd do it again. Even knowing what I would be getting myself into, I would do it again. It is a season(albeit a looong one in some cases) when the right kids come to stay is a blip on the screen compared to a lifetime with your children. And, especially in light of the chance to impact the lives of the children who come into your care.

Filling the gap ~ Part 1

So, there is this gap right between the "getting licensed" and the "adopting two babies at once" phases of this blog. That gap, is called foster care. It's a gap because you are not allowed to say much of anything. And even if you could say some things, it was hard to find coherent words while we were living it...I erred on the side of silence for this period of time. 

Becoming a foster parent is like moving to a whole other planet. A parallel existence, and not always a pleasant one...ok, not often a pleasant one(in terms of the system)!  Don't get me wrong, there are some really wonderful moments in foster parenting. The "family" side of it can be a great experience! And the impact you can make on the life of a child is of innumerable eternal value. But, the actual, day to day reality of working within the foster care system, dealing with visitation workers, caseworkers, and birthparents...not so much.  

Now, before I go any further, let me clarify...I am *not* trying to talk you out of foster parenting.   I just know from experience how very little I understood about what it would truly be like. So, what I want to do here is "Arm" you with something a little closer to realistic expectations, ok? Ok.  ~  I'm waiting for the *click*. Once I know your seatbelt is fastened, we'll hit the road!

I am going to really take my time writing this piece, and it will be *long*.   I believe it's important experience to share. 

Sometimes I feel "unqualified" to share on this some of this, because we experienced the "ideal"(for those who are dreaming of adoption)the miracle, the dream outcome(X 2)...not many people do.  I always feel like I should issue a disclaimer before telling our story. I want to give you hope, because I believe that even if you have one of the nightmare stories(and, oh...have I heard them)if you stick it out, and follow where God leads, you *will* live out your dreams...and your kids will find you! But, you need to know your story may look entirely different...most of them do. Really, all I can do is give you *my* personal experience, and what I saw/heard of the experience of other foster parents along the way, even if I did not live it myself I listened closely and watched carefully, and I found some pretty common themes!

When I first thought of foster care(with the eventual goal of adoption)...I felt my heart squeeze in my chest.  What we really wanted was an infant...we would have loved to adopt an already legally free infant. But, we had heard that you will only get older kids through the list of those who are already legally free(unless you come across a large sibling group who's newest member is tiny...even then, no chance it will be a newborn.) So, we thought about private adoption, thinking it might be "easier"but, quickly thought, "no, wait...hold on, cause the reality *there* isn't much can sink thousands of dollars into the care of an expectant mom, only to have her exercise her right to change her mind at the last minute...leaving you with nothing but the excruciating loss of dreams, possibly even the loss of an actual child that you had home with you for weeks until she changed her mind." wondered, how about International Adoption?  Hmmmm....we did our research, you face ALL kinds of adjustment issues, possible attachment issues, and that is ALL if you can get the funds together to get *started*!  There is NO easy route to adoption. Period. And tons of kids here in our own country who NEED families.  We wanted to adopt. And we wanted an infant(many people do) and most folks will tell you that your odds of getting a newborn infant from the hospital who stays with you through foster care, to adoption...are teeny...tiny...very, veryvery small...and they are(I still don't get how our story happened. I guess that is what makes it a miracle!)I say this, because parents will work harder(even ones who normally wouldn't) for a newborn...and some relatives have a nasty habit of letting foster parents handle the sleepless nights and withdrawals of a newborn and then agreeing to take the child just about the time they come out of it and hit that adorable 4 or 5 month old stage, or worse, after you have had the child for nearly a year(Be sure to read #6 in Filling the gap, Part 2, coming next Sunday soon)! 

And yet, we felt very strongly that this was where God was leading us. So, we pressed on, and we put down the age range of 0-2 years in all of our paperwork...and hoped for the lower end of that range. Then we started feeling nudges to study the care of drug exposed newborns(most newborns who come into care at birth are exposed to many things in utero!). It was a good thing we did because both of our kids have one level of exposure or another(there is NO such thing as a perfect baby. Just sayin'.)

What I *thought* it would be like(and how I have seen many, many couples approach adoption through foster care).

I'm not proud to admit it but, I think on some level, I expected the caseworkers to be thrilled that we were coming forward to "solve their problem" by adopting one of these little ones who would have issues with drug exposure, and might struggle developmentally. Um, yeah...that is *not* how it works. The goal from DAY ONE is reunification with the parents(from here on, I will just refer to that as RU). It is the caseworkers mission; their job, their passion(if they are new)to give the parents whatever tools they need to get back on their feet and reclaim their children.   Now, that sounds logical, it does, but, let me tell you, when you are fostering from a place of wanting a child, from having an empty spot in your's really easy to just sort of mentally dismiss this. After all, as far as you are concerned, you and your hubby could give this child a MUCH better home than his parents, even if they did everything on the case plan and tried really hard (I repeat, I am not proud that I ever saw it this way. I am just admitting what I know (looking back) to be true of my attitudes coming into this. My view of the whole thing has changed with experience).  And, often, they don' fact, you may find yourself wondering how it is that, in any other area of life, if a person assaulted another in that manner, they'd be facing jail time. But, in the case of child abuse they are given a case plan, free housing, food, training, and counseling. Trust me...that *feels* as warped as it sounds, even when you do NOT already love the child but, when you do. Well, it's crazy making. There is NO question that child would be better off with *most* people than with someone who deliberately harmed them. Well, at least, there is no question for the rest of us but, as far as the folks who work in the system...well, that is a different story. In fact, it has to be. Even if you get a really good caseworker; and even if she believes YOU are the best thing to ever happen to that child, and the parents decide to relinquish...she *still* has to do what the department tells her to do. If that means she moves the child elsewhere, against her better judgement...then that is her job. It sucks.  But, it's reality.

Continued in Filling the Gap ~ Part 2