Tag Archive | foster parenting

Another Woman’s Child – Part 3

(From AWC-Part 2) “However it came to be, they wouldn’t be seeking a solution in a doctor’s office this they both knew for sure.”

Briefly closing her eyes Sarah reminded herself of the promise God had given her, He would allow them to be parents, in HIS time. God could not be rushed.

Sarah clung to that promise and exploring adoption with Kevin had provided them with much more fun and anticipation than they had thought possible. Yet so far they had not been able to find “their” child. There were so many children out there needing parents but both of them knew they were meant for specific children and so far, God had not given them the green light. Now the Christmas holidays were fast approaching.

With this holiday approaching Sarah found it to be particularly difficult to sing the hymns and Christmas songs about a baby Jesus and His mother Mary. The longing for a child seemed to triple in her heart and she prayed constantly. Reminding herself God always kept His promises she forged ahead.

She prayed as she shopped, as she decorated, as she wrapped gifts, as she cooked meals, laid awake at night, woke each morning and even as she showered. “Please Lord; please help me keep the faith.”

Kevin too was praying. He knew, though Sarah tried hard to hide it, how hard the holiday was for her. It was hard for him too.

The phone ringing early two weeks before Christmas caught Sarah in the midst of baking cookies for the widows Christmas baskets at church. It was one of the not-for-profit adoption groups they had applied with and had been approved as foster parents with.

They’d taken in four children over the last six months for brief periods before the children had been moved to other homes before too much bonding could take place as they would not be children up for adoption later.

If surprised at the number of adoption agencies, for-profit and not-for-profit ones they were stunned at the number of children in the United States who were waiting to be adopted. Sarah and Kevin’s hearts wept for many of the children they read about on websites.

The caseworker asked Sarah to look at a particular group of siblings who had recently became listed with the state as adoptable children. The picture that came up was of a group of six siblings. The caseworker had told her their parents had died in a house fire. A fire caused from their manufacturing crack cocaine in their homes’ basement. The children ranged in age from 4 to 14 and as Sarah studied their photograph she saw the weariness in their eyes.

The oldest, a girl who was dressed much like a boy, had a defiant look on her face that chilled Sarah to the bone and made her wonder what that 14-year-old was feeling. As much as this sibling group called to her Sarah was sure taking on six children at one time with such an age range and in a house that didn’t have room was not God’s will.

There was no point in getting the children’s hopes up knowing the local Department of Children’s Services would not approve them for six children. Still she and Kevin went to meet the siblings and Sarah felt it hard to leave them in the agency’s visiting room. The six had been split into four different homes and clearly the hour they had together was precious to them.

Reality couldn’t be denied. Kevin and she lived in a modest three bedroom house with one bathroom, it would not work for eight people. No way. Sarah tried to forget the sibling group and a new fear began to nibble at her heart.

Christmas was a week away and Kevin asked Sarah to sit with him by their tree one night after dinner. He’d turned the tree lights on and lit the candles she’d placed around the room, turning off the overhead lights. They sat on their sofa enjoying the quiet of the moment. Kevin spoke first.

“I’ve really been praying a lot more about God leading us to the right child in the right way to adopt Sarah and I know you have too.”

She sighed, “Yes, but mostly I’ve been praying He’d help me keep my faith in Him and the promise He made me.” She paused then continued, “And I have to admit there is one issue I can’t get beyond Kevin.”

“What?” He was surprised.

“What if I can’t love another woman’s child Kevin? No matter which child God brings into our lives?” Sarah confessed her fear.

“Sarah honey, you have a mother’s heart already. Of course you can love another person’s child! Where did this come from all of a sudden?”

“I was looking at that website with that sibling group of six on it and remembering what their caseworker said about how their parents died. Kevin, their parents were dopers. They used drugs and they made drugs to sell. They endangered the lives of their children by starting that fire that killed them. Why do you think the oldest has that hard look on her face? What do you think those kids have seen? Experienced? It won’t be easy to love kids like that.” The look on Sarah’s face was one of panic. “Kids like those six are going to need a lot of emotional support, unconditional love, a firm set of ground rules and who knows what else?

Kevin nodded slowly and interjected, “We haven’t even discussed adopting that sibling group seriously Sarah. And they can’t help who their parents were or what their parents did, kids like them and others need forever families in more ways than we can begin to name.”

“Yes, I know,” Sarah said, tears rolling down her cheeks, “but Kevin there won’t be a bit of either of us in a child we adopt. Not a bit of our blood or a bit of our flesh. Biologically no child we adopt will ever be ours.”

“You’re right but we know a bunch of people who have been adopted and it makes no difference to their Father.” Kevin smiled.

“Yes, but I’m not God…I’m not sure I can do this Kevin but I don’t see any other way we can become parents.”

“Let’s pray now Sarah, together. God is going to open this door. I just know it.” Kevin said, reaching for her hand.

Across town another group of people were praying too. They were praying about how to help Kevin and Sarah in a practical way.

To be continued…

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Joey

This is a true story.  I know the people who live these lives.  Only the names* have been changed for protection of their privacy.

Joey* is a success story for Alabama’s foster care system.  We often hear the stories of failure but there are successful and good stories of the system working, they just don’t get the spotlight as often as the times the system isn’t successful do.

Joey, at the age of eight had enough wisdom to know he didn’t want to grow up in a home where drugs and alcohol were more necessary than food, shelter and clothing. Joey didn’t want to never know who that man was in his house when he came home from or went to school. A lot was wrong in the home Joey was being raised in and Joey knew if he didn’t get out then he’d grow up to do what he saw his mom and older siblings doing; dealing and using drugs.  So Joey ran away to the Department of Human Services.  He then became a child placed in the state foster care system, as did his younger brothers, of which one had learning disabilities.

Even though he made the decision to leave his family, Joey was having a hard time letting go of the life he’d had for eight years.  He had an even harder time facing how his mother’s actions were saying she valued her drugs more than him or his younger brothers.  She certainly couldn’t give up drugs to get them back, so what else was he to think?  Until she did she couldn’t provide adequate housing or provisions for her youngest children.

It took DHR several foster home placements before DHR found him a home that fit Joey and his needs.  Carla and Jesse Carter* accepted Joey as he was and he felt their love for him in many ways.  He also knew he loved them too but it was hard to let the old life go. Having had to raise himself, living by his own rules, doing what he felt he had to in order to simply have enough to eat, these were the past realities for Joey and it was hard to let someone else take care of those things.  It was all he had ever known.   Plus, there was the hope nearly all foster children shelter in their hearts; the hope their parents will change.

Joey was a therapeutic foster child because of his emotional needs. He was on the verge of becoming a teenager now, at the age of 12, and he was changing in many ways. His behavior escalated and then his foster-father, Jesse, died after a battle with lung cancer from working in the coal mines. Joey’s acting out his unspoken inner feelings made him defiant, angry, sullen and obstinate.  He refused to obey the Carter’s house rules. He added much to Carla’s grief and refused all her attempts to help, love and support him. Carla had to admit she couldn’t handle Joey’s behavior on her own while she and her older children were mourning Jesse’s death too. She explained to Joey what the family was going through and told him they needed to work together to move on without Jesse.

Counseling, behavioral modification, respite services and Carla’s unending love didn’t help. Joey grew more out of control and violent in his anger. Her broken heart from her husband’s death now shattered feeling that she was unable to help Joey. Reluctantly and with much sorrow Carla called and asked the foster care agency to remove Joey.

He went through more foster care placements but Joey was out of control, his behavior ruled by his anger. He had many things to be angry about, Joey was angry his mother refused to change, not to get him or his siblings back, not if it required giving up drugs. He was angry Jesse died.  He was angry he had to change foster homes.  Everything and everybody was against him, in his mind.  Everything was a reason to be angry.  Finally Joey’s anger caused him to be so out of control that he found himself in an inpatient psychiatric facility.

Now forced to be quiet and still and however reluctantly, to take part in counseling and group therapy as well as to take medication, Joey had time to think.  Once more Joey’s wisdom managed to at last rule his emotions. He remembered Carla’s promise to him, when he was willing to change she would be waiting. Joey thought about why he left his mother’s house to begin with, not wanting to be the type person she and his older siblings were.  He realized his behavior, his choices were as destructive as his mother and older siblings and even without drugs he was headed down the wrong road. Joey begged someone to call Carla.

Carla came. Joey went back home, the only real home he’d ever had. He started trying at school and his grades came up, he was then allowed to play basketball by the school. He began to date and to work part-time jobs.

Joey, Carla and her two older adopted children became a solid family. The court wanted to sever Joey’s biological mother’s parental rights but every time his mother would seem to have stopped doing drugs and was willing to get her life together to get her kids back.  But every time she would not stay clean long enough for her kids to come back to her home.  It was a painful see-sawing experience for all involved.

Wanting very badly for Carla to adopt him so he could be her “legal” son was something Joey talked about with Carla regularly.  His heart only accepted the reality of that not happening when Carla told him, “Joey, you are my son.  In my heart, and in Jesse’s, you have been our son since the day you crossed the threshold into our home.  Now nothing can change the fact that biologically your mother is your mother.  Nothing can change that Daisy* is going to do what Daisy is going to do.  Everyone who matters knows you are my son.  Gene* and Alicia* know that when I pass away everything gets split three ways and it’s in my will that way.  Put your energy into your hopes and dreams for your future and I will always be here to cheer you on.”

That’s exactly what Joey did too.   He graduated high school with grades good enough to get into one of the best universities in the country. He started attending college, living on his own, through our agency’s independent living program and he worked part-time.  He soon discovered that though his basic needs were met it was a challenging lifestyle.  So Joey thought long and hard and after talking to Carla he enlisted in the Navy.

He spent time in Iraq, volunteering to go with a team of Marines and he went to Cuba to be a guard at the military prison there.  Joey managed to see many parts of the world while in the Navy and experience many different types of work.  When his enlistment was up he returned home, a new wife beside him, and resumed his college career.

Joey and Eileen* found marriage wasn’t  as simple as they thought.  Eileen was accustom to having plenty of money and Joey, working part-time and going to school full-time wasn’t making much money.  Eileen found the adjustments to life in the South from life in the North ones she felt she just couldn’t make.  So even though she was expecting their son she left Joey and moved back home to her parents.

Carlos* was born premature and has some medical struggles.  Eileen and Joey agreed they are better people when they are not together and that divorce is best for them. A failed marriage was not in Joey’s plans and he accepts his own role in the break-up of his and Eileen’s marriage but he is as much a part of Carlos’ life as he can be and financially Carlos is well taken care of now.

From a desperate eight year old little boy forced to take on his own survival to a member of a loving “permanent” foster family to the U.S. Navy to a college graduate to the owner of his own security business, Joey has proven that the foster care system can produce productive and honorable members of the world community.  Especially with those like Joey who learn that they do indeed control some of their lives with the decisions they make and who find foster parents like Jesse and Carla.  The Carter’s, especially Carla, were willing to work hard with the foster child who was struggling like Joey had been.

There should be successful foster home placements for all the kids like Joey.  If you’re considering adoption consider foster care as an option to find the child that is right for you.  There are many successful adoptions through the foster care system.  Can you and your family help a child like Joey?  Also, don’t overlook the older child or sibling groups that are in need of forever families too.

November – National Adoption Awareness Month

Bright shining faces

Beaming with smiles

Does anybody know Lord

The pain in their miles?

The miles they’ve walked

From this place to there

In need of a home

Somebody to care.

A parent to love them,

A place that is “home”

Does anybody see them

Will they find families before they are grown?

Each has a story

Each have a voice

Each has a need

We have a choice!

Do we see them?

Do we hear their voice?

Are we to meet their need?

Will we make them our choice?

-Faye 11-1-12

November is National Adoption Awareness Month and starting today this blog will be trying to bring more awareness for the need for adoptive families, specifically in Alabama but across America also.  I will feature a new story series, “Another Woman’s Child” beginning tomorrow as well as relaying stories of adopted children and their parents.

Wherever you live there are children who need permanent homes with a family who loves them.  The numbers in Alabama from 2011, according to the local CBS website tell us that there are 6300 children in the Alabama foster care system, 590 of them are available for adoption.  Of that 590, 300 will be adopted by the foster families they are currently living with, leaving 290 more children who need permanent homes.

Some of those 290 are children who are considered “hard to place” for one reason or the other.  Sibling groups are harder to place when the goal is to keep them together and they certainly deserve that to say the least.  Children with special needs, be that physical, mental or emotional special needs are harder to place.  Sadly, the older a child is in the system they too are harder to find a permanent home for…so many people will only consider babies or young toddlers while older kids continue to age out of the system.

In Alabama the contact information for being a foster parent or adoptive parent is families4allkids@dhr.alabama.gov.  There are several non-profit and some for profit agencies that work with DHR to place children in foster families, both regular foster care and therapeutic foster care.  One of those agencies, the oldest social services agency in Birmingham, Alabama is Gateway.  You can contact them about becoming a foster parent by calling 205-510-2600 or via their website at www.gway.org.

The Heart Gallery, a non-profit group that puts the spotlight on children awaiting adoption in the United States by providing photos of these children will kick off National Adoption Awareness Month in Alabama today at an event featuring live entertainment, success stories, inspiring speakers and of course a showing of the photographs of Alabama’s kids at the Alabama School of Fine Arts in honor of Governor and Mrs. Robert Bentley.  The event is being held in the Dorothy Jemison Day Theatre and for ticket or other information contact The Heart Gallery at www.HeartGalleryAlabama.com or calling 205-445-1293.