Tag Archive | National Adoption Awareness Month

This Child

This is a re-blog from November 5, 2012.

Here is this one child, whose smile is rare and strained

This one child whose life is stolen by another’s drug abuse

This one child in a wasteland of broken promises

This one child, this child, the child so in need

This child whose hope is nearly gone…

This child needs a voice…this child needs a home.

There is this child, whose body is battered and worn

This one child whose life is a bloody canvas of hatred

This child who has felt blows and curses for existing

This one child, this child, the child so in need

This child whose hope is fading fast…

This child needs a voice…the child needs a home.

See there is this child, whose stomach twists in hunger

See there is this child who has never known fullness

See there is this child who has eaten the unimaginable

See there is one child, this child, this child so in need

See there is this child whose hope threatens flight…

See there is this child needing a voice…this child needs a home.

Hear the heart of this child, whose parents walked away

Hear the tears of this child whose life turned upside down

Hear the heart of this child who does not comprehend

Hear the silence of this child, this child, this child so in need

This child whose hope struggles on…

Hear the heart of this child be their voice…this child needs a home.

Here is this child, whose mother’s promises to “get right”

This child, this one child whose world centers on those promises

This child who loves their mother in spite of the pain

This child who is fostered in a financially struggling system

This child whose hope fights to live…

This child needs a voice…this child needs a home.

There is this child, whose newborn cries wake strangers

There is this child whose care is provided by underpaid foster parents

There is this child who melts the hearts of many

There is this child whose future depends on a 21-year-olds decisions

There is this child who knows not hope yet….

There is this child who needs a voice…this child needs a home.

See there is still this child, this one child “aging out of the system”

See there is still this child whose birthdays are a countdown

See there is still this child who too early understands

See there is still this child who is hard to place at eight

See there is still this child whose hope grows older with them

See there is still this child who needs a voice…this child needs a home.

Peer into the life of this child, this one who is part of three

Peer into the life of this child who wants only to be with brother and sister

Peer into the life of this child who tightly holds the others hands

Peer into the life of this child a hard to place sibling part

Peer into the life of this child whose faint hope is times three

Peer into the life of this child needing a voice…this child needing a home.

I am the voice of this one child, whose mother choose a man

I am the voice of this one child who was unwanted in a new marriage

I am the voice of this one child who cries bitterly for what she lost

I am the voice of this one child who calls me Mama

I am the voice of this child whose hope is being restored

I am the voice of this one child…who no longer needs a home.

Of these others, these other children who ache for families

Of these others, children with special needs and much understanding

Of these others, these other children who are blessings meant to thrive

Of these others, these other children who need voices

Of these other children who will be their voice

Of these others who will speak for them…who will be their home?

If not those who will be the voices of children who are often unheard

If those who will band together and say “I will be this child’s voice!”

If those who will open their hearts and open their homes

If those who will for just one of these children, then does for all

If those who will restore hope to one, thereby restoring hope for all

Then all the voices will heard…then all will be home.

-dfav 11/5/12

–Donna

Advertisements

Another Woman’s Child-Part 1

There are lots of questions couples have about adoption. One of which is can they love someone else’s biological child as much as they would their own biological child. The desperate search for a way to have a baby can be heart breaking. Remember with me the journey Kevin and Sarah have in their quest for a child to call their own.

fvbf

The tears in his wife’s eyes, rolling down her face and falling unheeded onto her blazer made Kevin twisted him with guilt. He gripped her hand more tightly, fumbling with the key fob, silent in his fear. Internally he thought only how this was his fault.

“Kevin I just really feel God leading us to trust Him to provide and not to go through infertility treatments again of any kind.” Sarah had said.

“Honey trusting God to provide food, a job, or clothes is one thing, but last time I checked He didn’t walk around handing out babies.”

“Try telling Abraham and Sarah or Jacob and Rachel that Kevin.”

“That was Old Testament times. These are modern times,” he countered back picking up his mug-to-go and heading out the front door, “God uses modern science and medicine to work His miracles now.” He paused. “Just one more time? For me?…

View original post 398 more words

This Child

This is a re-blog from November 5, 2012.

Here is this one child, whose smile is rare and strained

This one child whose life is stolen by another’s drug abuse

This one child in a wasteland of broken promises

This one child, this child, the child so in need

This child whose hope is nearly gone…

This child needs a voice…this child needs a home.

 

There is this child, whose body is battered and worn

This one child whose life is a bloody canvas of hatred

This child who has felt blows and curses for existing

This one child, this child, the child so in need

This child whose hope is fading fast…

This child needs a voice…the child needs a home.

 

See there is this child, whose stomach twists in hunger

See there is this child who has never known fullness

See there is this child who has eaten the unimaginable

See there is one child, this child, this child so in need

See there is this child whose hope threatens flight…

See there is this child needing a voice…this child needs a home.

 

Hear the heart of this child, whose parents walked away

Hear the tears of this child whose life turned upside down

Hear the heart of this child who does not comprehend

Hear the silence of this child, this child, this child so in need

This child whose hope struggles on…

Hear the heart of this child be their voice…this child needs a home.

 

Here is this child, whose mother’s promises to “get right”

This child, this one child whose world centers on those promises

This child who loves their mother in spite of the pain

This child who is fostered in a financially struggling system

This child whose hope fights to live…

This child needs a voice…this child needs a home.

 

There is this child, whose newborn cries wake strangers

There is this child whose care is provided by underpaid foster parents

There is this child who melts the hearts of many

There is this child whose future depends on a 21-year-olds decisions

There is this child who knows not hope yet….

There is this child who needs a voice…this child needs a home.

 

See there is still this child, this one child “aging out of the system”

See there is still this child whose birthdays are a countdown

See there is still this child who too early understands

See there is still this child who is hard to place at eight

See there is still this child whose hope grows older with them

See there is still this child who needs a voice…this child needs a home.

 

Peer into the life of this child, this one who is part of three

Peer into the life of this child who wants only to be with brother and sister

Peer into the life of this child who tightly holds the others hands

Peer into the life of this child a hard to place sibling part

Peer into the life of this child whose faint hope is times three

Peer into the life of this child needing a voice…this child needing a home.

 

I am the voice of this one child, whose mother choose a man

I am the voice of this one child who was unwanted in a new marriage

I am the voice of this one child who cries bitterly for what she lost

I am the voice of this one child who calls me Mama

I am the voice of this child whose hope is being restored

I am the voice of this one child…who no longer needs a home.

 

Of these others, these other children who ache for families

Of these others, children with special needs and much understanding

Of these others, these other children who are blessings meant to thrive

Of these others, these other children who need voices

Of these other children who will be their voice

Of these others who will speak for them…who will be their home?

 

If not those who will be the voices of children who are often unheard

If those who will band together and say “I will be this child’s voice!”

If those who will open their hearts and open their homes

If those who will for just one of these children, then does for all

If those who will restore hope to one, thereby restoring hope for all

Then all the voices will heard…then all will be home.

-dfav 11/5/12

Who Am I? (A Guest Post Story by My Daughter)

This story was written by my daughter.  On her own initiative she decided to make her writing project for her 6th grade Language Arts a story about adoption.

She graciously agreed to allow me to post it on fvbf (Faith View by Faye) to help bring awareness to the need for adoptive parents.

…FROM CHAPTER 4

“Three years later and Bella was seven years old now.  Butterscotch had given birth to one perfect kitten, that looked just like her mom, but Butterscotch died soon after.  Bella kept the new kitten and named her Buttercup.  She and her parents buried Butterscotch in the backyard the next day and had a funeral.”

CHAPTER 5

While putting Butterscotch in her grave it reminded Bella that she was very lucky to be living with Mom and Dad. Bella still remembered her birth mom who yelled at her grandma a lot and that her birth mom couldn’t take care of her.  Her birth mom couldn’t feed her because she never had any money.  Sometimes they ate at a friend’s house.  Once her birth mom had even left her alone and she was only two months old. 

Thinking of her life then made Bella feel mad and sad.  Then Bella would become happy because although her life started out yucky it became lucky when the Chase’s adopted her.

Not all kids get adopted, Bella knew that from her time as a foster child. As she walked inside with her parents she wondered why there were so many kids who needed Forever Families and so few adults to adopt.

Bella felt proud that her family was going to adopt another child, a boy named Justin who was six. Still, there are lots of kids needing adopting, who would do that for them?

THE END

Laughs on the Legal Road to Adoption

As November draws to a close I thought sharing some funny moments along the legal road to our adoption would be fun.

#1:  We were so naïve when we started out!  First imaging it would be a simple process and that we could handle it without a lawyer.  Second how quickly simple was immediately made complex as soon as the legal aspects were involved.  Third, how nervous we always were to go to court, always feeling as if we were some sort of child snatching criminals instead of two people trying to do the best thing for Kiana.

#2:  How astonished the judge was when letters, even certified ones, to the biological mother were signed for by the Army post office staff but Alicia* did not respond.  Alicia always told us she never received anything which seemed to be unbelievable to the judge.  Or how neither we nor they were able to locate the biological father at all, regardless of how we tried.

#3:  In response to the question why Alicia wanted to give up custody of her child I simply parroted what we had been told, that the Army wouldn’t allow her to maintain custody of her child and enlist.  That had to make me sound ignorant.  No wonder the process seemed so slow!  It probably took the judge that much time to be sure I wasn’t lying; I was just trusting enough to believe what I had been told.

#4:  The very first time Kiana’s court appointed lawyer and I arranged for us to meet with her after school was one of those times Kiana got into the car looking like she’d worked in the fields all day instead of going to kindergarten.  She was smeared with dirt, lunch and sweat.  There wasn’t enough time to run by our house and clean her up so I had to do the best I could with baby wipes and the emergency set of clothes we had in the car.  Kiana had grown enough that the pants were short enough to be noticeable.  But off we went to the appointment anyway and as it turned out that visit went very well.

#5:  Our attorney asked us to have some character witnesses come to court during one of the last custody hearings.  In addition to my father and his wife, we had two benches full of people willing to vouch for us.  The judge took one look and after having them identify themselves for the record, asked them if any of them was going to say anything negative about us.  All said no.  Then he directly addressed my father, “You Sir are this woman’s father, I can presume you aren’t going to tell this court anything negative about your daughter are you?”  To which my father replied, “Depends on what you ask me.”  I didn’t think it was funny, but the court did.  Now I can laugh too.

#6:   At the final Family Court hearing on the custody issue during my husband’s testimony the judge asked him about any special times he and Kiana shared.  He told them about her fear of bugs and how I had invented a “bug dance” to keep bugs away at night.  Kiana however insisted he had to do the dance because his feet were way bigger than mine and would scare the bugs more.  So as part of the nightly bedtime ritual Daddy performed the “bug dance”.  My husband turned fifteen different shades of red when the judge suggested he show the court the “bug dance”.  Fortunately for Daddy the judge was only teasing!

#7:  Having gone to court many times to obtain custody when our attorney called with a date and time for our appearance in probate court, where the actual adoptions were handled, she said the adoption would likely happen that day.  By now, we were used to Family Court where everything was postponed until the “next time” so we cautiously prepared ourselves.

On the chance we would become Kiana’s parents we invited my father and his wife and Kiana’s play therapist for the court appearance.  We were trying hard to not be excited and that meant I was extremely nervous.  For some reason on this day Kiana didn’t want to take “Charlie” her stuffed dog we had purchased her and that she took everywhere she went except school and wanted to take her teddy bear “Teddy” instead.

Sitting across the table from the probate judge Kiana looked scared, she never liked going to Family Court because she left always afraid that “judge man” was going to take her away from us.  The probate judge took the time to ask Kiana who her friend was that was with her.  She told him it was Teddy.  When the court stenographer listed the names of those in attendance that day the judge insisted that the record reflect Teddy was present with Kiana.  It was a sweet gesture on his part and earned a laugh that relaxed everyone.

#8:  Another funny part of this stage of our adoption journey was how worried I was that Kiana insisted on Teddy instead of Charlie that day.  I knew how much she missed her biological mom, how hurt she was from all that had happened and how in her viewpoint Alicia had just abandoned her.  So, what if, when the judge asked her if she wanted to be adopted by us she said, “No”?

I was overwhelmed with an irrational fear that Kiana didn’t want to be with us.  It wasn’t until when we got home and “Teddy” was returned to his place on the shelf and “Charlie” was in her arms beneath the covers I understood.  Teddy went that day because Kiana wanted to be sure all of her, her past included was being accepted and wanted by us.  Why it took me so long to understand this I can only relate to every adoptive parents fear that the child they are adopting will surprise everyone by saying, “No I don’t want to be adopted by these people!”

There are many other humorous things that happened on our way to becoming Kiana’s parents that didn’t occur in court.  The best ones are the ones bonding us as a family during our daily lives.  This one I just have to share.

I don’t like mice.  I detest them.  But we lived in a very rural area surrounded by woods so occasionally a mouse or mice would attempt to invade our home.  We routinely kept means to capture or eliminate them in the house (of course safe guarding Kiana from touching the items).  One Saturday morning I was cleaning and Kiana playing when I turned around and spotted a mouse just laying on the floor, midway from the oven to the island.  It was clear he had gotten into the mouse poison.

It would happen on a day Chris was working.  My fear of them extended to them alive or dead.  So I did what any fully grown woman would do, I called my father.  He promised to come and remove the dead mouse.  Meanwhile, I am afraid the mouse is not quite dead and afraid he’ll recover.  Cautiously I put a plastic container over the mouse and have Kiana bring me three of my college yearbooks which I then placed on top of the container.  When my father arrived he could only shake his head as I removed the “cage” and he removed the mouse.  Not wanting to instill a sense of fear in Kiana I had, throughout the event, told her, “We are two tough cookies except when it comes to mice, then…we call Papaw!”  So we managed to laugh even though I felt as if I was going to lose my skin at any moment.  That mantra though as kept us “brave” through many fears we have faced.

Adoption is a serious choice and deserves to be treated seriously.  But a little humor, even in court, doesn’t hurt anyone.  I hope in your journeys to adoption you have even more laughable moments, both inside and outside the courtroom and lawyer’s offices.

Our Adoption Story – Part 2

Having secured Alicia* willingness to have her parental rights severed we had to focus on the biological father’s parental rights.   Finding him was impossible.  We would no sooner find him at one address than he’d move.  Letters to him in care of his mother never came back but received no response either.  Court ordered to pay child support he had the habit of working at one job until the Department of Children’s Services caught up with him and would garnish his wages for child support and then he’d quit, find another job or go without work.  Once we were able to find out where he was working and planned to drive up and meet him at his job but on the morning of our planned trip I called the company only to learn that Tim* had quit.  We were never able to find him again.  When the child support stopped we learned that after six months of no child support we could notify Tim of our intention to adopt his daughter by publishing an ad in the local paper in his hometown.

Six months passed, the ad was placed and neither he nor anyone in his family responded to it.  The court severed his parental rights.  Kiana was five by this time and in kindergarten.  Tim had never seen her, not once, not even when she was first-born and a paternity test was ordered to prove who her biological father was.  No one in his family had ever seen her.  Alicia had sent his mother a picture at Kiana’s first Christmas which was returned torn into multiple pieces.  His wife, who was unable to have children too, and he had once told the court they wanted custody of Kiana when Helen* still had custody.

However, upon arriving for court the first time and the judge not allowing Tim’s wife to speak for her husband, the second time they did not show up.  That was the end of any of Tim’s family even acknowledging Kiana’s existence or relationship to her biological father.  I believe the challenge was retaliation for Alicia having seen Tim, told him of her plans to enlist and telling him he “better not try to mess it up” for her during a visit back to Tennessee before boot camp, his wife’s anger that her husband (they weren’t married then) having a child with another woman and Alicia pushing for child support when Tim would quit a job.  Nonetheless that was the last any of us heard from Tim or his family.

At last on November 25, 2007 we were allowed to adopt Kiana and the two-year battle was over.  In the seven years she has been with us and since that one heart breaking visit to Dollywood, Kiana has refused to see Alicia or Helen.  Kiana has seen therapists during these years to help her cope with abandonment issues, her anger at Alicia and the emotional damage she’d suffered with Alicia and Helen.

Initially Kiana was so underweight when I gave her a bath or helped her change clothes I could count her ribs and she looked like she was only skin and bones.  She ate little and it wasn’t until during a play therapy session she told her therapist and me that we didn’t understand.  If she ate all the food on her plate then Alicia and Helen would go hungry.  Kiana had learned to starve herself believing that they would starve if she didn’t.  It wasn’t true.  Neither of them were anywhere near a weight nor suffering any health issues suggesting they went hungry.  In fact, one of Alicia’s obstacles to enlistment was her weight being too high and that was why she joined the Army, who would take her as she was, instead of the Air Force where she wanted to go.  Several heart wrenching truths came out during Kiana’s play therapy appointments, she had been left alone in an empty apartment, exposed to adult situations and led to believe she alone was responsible for Alicia or Helen’s happiness.  It was difficult to hear Kiana talk about these things during her therapy sessions but it was more difficult to know how she had suffered.

Kiana still wrestles with some issues around being adopted.  She still refuses to talk to Alicia or Helen nor will she barely acknowledge her half siblings (one boy, one girl).  She is treated for depression and anxiety, is far more comfortable with adults or young children than children of her own age.

Paul* and Alicia did marry but are now separated and filing for a divorce, after having two children together.  Helen spends her time between her apartment in Tennessee and with Alicia and her two grandchildren in Washington.

Kiana is very well bonded with her dad and me.  We have our family traditions which Kiana counts on.  She is not fond of being away from her home or us.  She no longer gets up in the night to check to be sure I am still here as she did the first few years.  Nor is rough housing her way of showing affection as it was when she first came to live with her permanently.

Kiana chose to call me Mama a couple months before Alicia left for the Army.  She had already asked me if I would take care of her for the rest of her life.  During one of the court sessions about her custody the judge asked me if I was willing to risk having my heart ripped out if Alicia or Tim should come forth and want Kiana.  There was no hesitation on my part as I answered, “Yes, I am.”  I knew this child needed me and there was no way I was going to not fulfill that need for her as long as it was up to me.  I knew the risks.  I accepted them.

God choose to fulfill my husband and my desire for children through a family adoption.  An unexpected but wonderful thing and a blessing I cannot begin to explain.  Kiana is our daughter and I hate it when people feel the need to stipulate that she is our adopted daughter.

I do wish Chris and I had understood adoption better before delving into adopting Kiana in that knowing the laws and more of the how to do this and that would have been valuable information.  That is one reason I advocate for adoption now.  There are so many children who need families.  Some of them may already be part of your extended family, as Kiana was for us.  Some of them may live next door or down the street.  Some of them in your city, county or state and some of them in another country, but they all have the same need regardless of where they are or where you are located, a safe and loving home.

Options for adopt are many.  Which will you choose to take to heart?

*Names changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

Our Adoption Story – Part 1

My husband and I had been married ten years when we finally accepted the fact that God did not intend to give us children the “natural” way.  We had suffered through our third miscarriage and the heartache for me was heavy and suffocating.  On top of this I had been through other health issues that made even trying to have another child ill-advised.

I had become one of those women who looked longingly at new-born babies in their parent’s arms and felt as if I was being stabbed in the heart by the site.  Toddlers who wobbled their way down the church aisle or said “Hi” to everyone they saw when they were encased in shopping carts being pushed along sometimes brought tears to my eyes.  I would mentally compare the ages of the children I saw with the children I never saw, the ones who died inside of me.  It was a process but I did reach a point of acceptance.

My husband and I did discuss adoption but we also did so with a lot of bad information in our minds.  We failed to actually look at adoption or contact an adoption agency or child protective services about fostering in hopes of adopting.  From the stories we’d heard about adoption people were going through agencies who arranged adoptions from countries overseas and the costs involved prevented us from trying.  So although we know better now, we didn’t then and we failed to educate ourselves properly.  However, God was working where we were not.

Christmas time 2005 and I agreed to sing one solo with our church choir.  It was a song I’d heard Whitney Houston sing in the movie, “The Preacher’s Wife”.  The morning of the performance as I stood to sing, the words enveloped me to the point it felt as if they were a physical thing.  “Mommies and Daddy’s, always believe, that their little angel is special indeed.  But of all of the wonderful things they could be, who would imagine a king?”  Of course the song refers to Mary and Joseph with Jesus but the miracle of Jesus birth was renewed in my heart.  As I sang, my hand rested on my stomach, right where a baby would grow, and I prayed from the innermost depths of my heart one more time that God would open my womb and allow me to have a child, allow me to be a mother.

That same Christmas my husband’s sister, her four-year old daughter and his mother moved in with us for the third time.  Our 16×80’ pre-manufactured home was full of people, but Alicia* my sister-in-law had enlisted in the Army and with my mother-in-law, Helen*, aging and beginning to experience more serious medical issues it made sense that she and Kiana would move in with us until Alicia got her orders and settled in one place following boot camp.  It took a little longer for Alicia to get all the pre-enlistment things in order than she’d planned.  One thing that slowed down her process was the custody issue of her daughter, a matter still unsettled when Alicia left for boot camp in April.

Kiana’s custody turned out to be a legal maze of red tape, greatly hampered by Alicia’s absence in court, her presence in boot camp and her not responding to court sent communications.  Another obstacle was the inability we had, or our attorney had, in being able to reach Kiana’s biological father.  A third was the lack of cooperation with the Department of Children’s Protective Services in Tennessee, who even refused to talk with the judge in our case.  Meanwhile we had undergone a home study through our Department of Human Resources in Alabama and were granted foster parent eligibility status.  This would have allowed us not only to have legal custody of Kiana but enroll her in Medicaid and receive other services from the state and DHR.  We elected not to apply for nor receive any of these services.  Kiana was our responsibility and we would provide for her.

By the time we’d finally settled the custody issue and my husband and I were her legal guardians the entire case changed.  Alicia called shortly after she’d completed boot camp from school in Texas and asked me if we’d adopt Kiana.  When I got home Helen asked me if Alicia had called and I told her yes, hesitating to tell her she’d asked us to adopt.  Helen hesitated to tell me her news too but we finally just said what needing saying and between us we had a better picture of what was going on.

Alicia was pregnant and the father was a fellow recruit from boot camp who was also with her at school.  They planned on getting married when school was over.  What I suspected to be part of the picture we were not seeing was that her fiancé’ wasn’t thrilled with the idea of raising Kiana.  It would be a few years before Alicia admitted that to me.

Meanwhile, Alicia’s second pregnancy was difficult, especially during the first trimester and the Army discharged her on a medical discharge.  She moved back to her hometown, living with different friends and planning a wedding as soon as Paul* was out of school and on leave.  Finally Helen moved back too and they moved in with Helen’s mother.  Paul joined them around Thanksgiving.

We went to visit and to secure Alicia’s signature on her giving up her parental rights so we could go ahead with adoption.  The whole visit was awkward.  Kiana sensed Paul didn’t like her and she wasn’t thrilled to see that a new baby was growing in her Mommy’s tummy.  During our trip to Dollywood Paul’s mood was dark and Alicia cried.   We split into two groups, Alicia going with Paul to the arcade where he wanted to go and the rest of us to do the rides and things in the Pigeon Forge located theme park.

At the end of the day, when dark had fallen, we prepared to leave and Kiana’s heart was broken.  She was really unhappy leaving her Mommy with Paul since Paul had made her cry, she was tired from being active all day, and she was torn between the Mommy she loved and the Mama and Daddy she also loved.  Even at four she recognized she felt safer with us, but Mommy was who she’d known her whole life and who seemed so unhappy without her.  None of us knew that this visit would be the last time we’d see Alicia and Helen for a very long time.

*Names changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

Prayer of Gratitude

Thank You Abba Father for adoption

For the way that helped us be a forever family.

Thank You Lord for every successful adoption story

For each one brings You honor and glory.

Thank You Father for caseworkers, attorneys and courts

For each has a job to do in each individual case.

Thank You Almighty for each precious child

For each tear they shed and each smile they smile.

Thank You Jehovah for each adopting parent out there

Who opened their hearts and stepped up to care.

Thank You Abba Father for the biological parents too

Those who gave willingly and those who had to.

Thank You Lord for the system though it may not always work

Its intention is noble, it’s purpose for good.

Thank You Almighty, the I Am, for the example You set

By willingly adopting us into Your heavenly family.

Most of all Abba thank You for my precious child

Who calls me “Mama” and was born in my heart.

-dav 11-22-12

Who Am I? (A Guest Post Story by My Daughter)

This story was written by my daughter.  On her own initiative she decided to make her writing project for her 6th grade Language Arts a story about adoption.

She graciously agreed to allow me to post it on fvbf (Faith View by Faye) to help bring awareness to the need for adoptive parents.

The story of our adoption of her will be part of the overall focus of National Adoption Awareness Month during November 2012.

…FROM CHAPTER 3

When she picked it up she noticed it had pencil sized holes on the lid.  Could they be air holes?  Bella was confused.  She carefully untied the ribbon, lifted the lid and…

??????

CHAPTER 4

…a KITTEN!

“Awww…it’s just so adorable!” Bella squealed.  The kitten hopped out of the box and Bella could see it was a calico kitten.  Its ears were a light shade of orange, her nose was pink and twitchy, her eyes big and green.  Its paws were white and as was the underside of her body but the rest of her was varying shades of tan, and near orange.  The very tip of its tail was white too.

Bella thought the kitten looked like it was smiling.  “I’ll name you Butterscotch!”  Bella exclaimed.  “I think it is a perfect name for a calico kitten.”

Her new parents came into her room and asked, “Well?  Do you like her?”

“Oh yes!  Thank you!  I named her Butterscotch!”

“What a lovely name you’ve given your kitten Bella.” Bella’s mother, whose name was Sondra, said.

Bella looked up at her new parents and spoke her thoughts aloud.  “What should I name you?”

“You could call me Jason.”  Her new dad said.

“And I guess you can call me Sondra,” said her new mom, “We will work it out.”

“No, I think I will call you Mama and Daddy.” Bella said, petting Butterscotch who was nestled in her lap.  “I think Butterscotch is hungry, and so am I, may I give her half of my ham sandwich and some warm milk?”

“Of course,” her Dad said, “but we did buy Butterscotch some special kitten food.”

“Okay,” Bella answered.  “Which way to the kitchen?”  Her laughter rang out as Butterscotch gave her sandpapery kisses.

Three years later and Bella was seven years old now.  Butterscotch had given birth to one perfect kitten, that looked just like her mom, but Butterscotch died soon after.  Bella kept the new kitten and named her Buttercup.  She and her parents buried Butterscotch in the backyard the next day and had a funeral.

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.