November 30, 2010

Going Public

Off to my right on the desk, buried somewhere in a wobbly stack, is a piece of paper that says Todd and I completed 27 hours of foster home certification training. It's legit and everything. In the eyes of our state we're just a quick (ha!) public home study away from being qualified foster parents.

We've had it since this summer and I'm still not sure what we're going to do with it. I should probably find out if it has an expiration date.

Both times that we took the preparation workshops for our two adoptions, there were couples there who were still really undecided about the whole adoption thing. I didn't understand them at that point. At the workshop stage in the process you're taking time off of work and shelling out significant (at least to me) money--it's not really something I'd do on a whim. At the time it seemed to me that you'd wait until you were at least a little bit sure about adopting. There are easier ways to get your questions answered.

Yet there I sat in an uncomfortable chair at our local child protective services office for 27 hours over two very hot weeks this past July, not entirely sure what we would do next.

In our area, foster parenting and adoption from the foster system are two separate tracks. If you are wanting to adopt, they (theoretically) aren't calling you with foster placements. In reality, of course, foster families frequently end up adopting kids who've lived with them when reunification or kinship placements aren't possible and pre-adoptive homes sometimes see kids be successfully reunified with family. But they wanted us to choose one track or the other and we thought we had made our big decision by signing up for the foster parent training instead of the adoption one.

Only it turns out they put the two groups together and train them all at once and everyone gets the same certificate. So much for making decisions.

So we have that certificate. We have a folder of paperwork to start a home study process. We've had more than one discouraging conversation with different local foster agencies. And I've done nothing more since July, save pick up the home study folder every other week or so and put it back down.

I've been reluctant to talk about this as we bumble around looking for direction. I know how it looks on its face when put up against some of the uglier realities and hierarchies of domestic adoption: we adopted a white baby, then a brown baby, and now we're considering foster parenting.  Like the people who chirp about how they want to adopt when they're "done having children of their own."  I know what actually happened in our family's story and what brought us to this point. But putting things out on the internet means knowing that people will judge you for how things look and not how they are. I've never been the bravest blogger. Not to mention the simple fact that they're always in need of new foster homes around here, so all my indecision and navel-gazing seems pretty self-indulgent in the face of the need.

I've become friends with too many foster parents to be anywhere near starry-eyed about possibly being part of the system. There are no fantasies about being a saintly foster parent, a transformative beacon of hope in a hurting child's life. I just know I've started to have that feeling again that there is someone missing in our house. A sense that there is space at our table waiting to be filled with another person, whether for awhile or forever. And it seems right to explore opening up our home in this way.

November 26, 2010

When Family Can Save Your Life

On the one hand, I tend not to emphasize the medical history aspect of open adoption. The relationships open adoption brings into my children's lives are about so much more than information. I'm loathe to see their connections to their first families reduced to sources of medical facts in anyone's minds. And I've seen adoptive parents so focused on information that once they have a few vague pages of medical history to file away and have maybe met the first parents, they don't see any reason to embrace openness after placement. (Which is really short-sighted even from an information standpoint, since a medical history changes over a person's life. I know the info I put on a medical form now in my mid-30s looks much different that what I put at 25 or 17.)

On the other hand, the access to family medical history that open adoption affords is invaluable. Being cut off from that information (and from potential transplant donors) has had devastating, even deadly, consequences for people in closed adoptions.

It's underscored in this story about Madison Tully, a teen from Louisiana--placed for adoption as an infant--whose life was saved by a bone marrow transplant from her biological sister. The sisters didn't grow up knowing one another, but there was enough openness in the adoption that Madison's adoptive parents were able to contact her birth family when she developed a terrible combination of diseases.
Madison was one of only 12 people in the world known to have both [lupus and sickle cell anemia], and the doctors determined that the only possible cure was a transplant that would replace her bone marrow. Bone marrow transplants had been done for people with sickle cell and people with lupus, but never for someone who had both diseases...
And there was a problem. Finding a match would be almost impossible because of Madison’s mixed black, white and Hispanic heritage.
Because of the open adoption, though, the Tullys knew that Madison had a sister. When the girls were little, they had even gotten together a few times. [Madison's adoptive mother] called [Madison's sister] Jasmin’s mother and asked if Jasmin could be tested as a possible donor.
“I didn’t even have to think about it,” Jasmin said. “I would do anything for Madison.”
Imagine if Madison's adoption had been closed. Because her adoptive parents were uncomfortable with open adoption. Or because the agency was stuck in the idea that placing parents just need to move on with life and adoptees need to be protected from scary birth parents. Or yet another excuse people use to take any form of openness off of the table.

Eddie and Mari are affected by both sides of the medical history issue. Because we know all four of their first parents, we know about some hereditary risks. That knowledge--and the wisdom of the family members with first-hand experience--could potentially make a big difference in diagnoses and treatment should they ever become ill. But because both of their first moms grew up in closed adoptions, there are also some enormous gaps that may never be filled in. The important knowledge we do have makes those gaps seem even bigger sometimes.

November 25, 2010

Some Clichés are Worth Embracing

Listing out the things for which I'm grateful: I know this sort of post is a dime a dozen today. More like a penny a dozen. And yet.

I have been feeling emotionally puny this year as the holidays approached. Hence the long silence. It's taken everything I have lately to be a good friend/parent/co-worker each day, leaving little in the emotional reserves to be present with my friends inside the computer. I miss you all!

I've also been feeling a lot of powerful gratitude lately for things both big and small. Here are seven at the front of my mind this Thanksgiving:
  1. TiVo. How I love you, you little box of escapism.
  2. My toasty bed on a cold night
  3. The kids both being old enough that we can share in a joke together
  4. Our weekly family story time in front of the fireplace
  5. The always-singing, pretending-to-sommersault, sparkly-eyed little two-year old that Mari has grown into
  6. Watching Eddie discover this year his gigantic, emerging talent for building and creating and figuring out how things go together
  7. You. And you. And you, too.

November 16, 2010

Learn and Share

My friend Cynthia is helping organize an open adoption symposium called Opening Adoption: Realities, Possibilities & Challenges this coming September in at the University of Richmond in Virginia.  A whole conference devoted to the philosophy and practice of openness--be still my heart!

They've just issued the official call for proposals, so if you've ever considered pulling together a panel or workshop, now's your chance. Here are some of their suggested topics:
  • Opening of conversation about adoption in the community and the family
  • Legislative advocacy – how to, what are obstacles, what does current practice do to inform legislative change related to past adoptions
  • Best practices in adoption policies, laws and processes;
  • The impact of openness or a lack of openness has had on individuals and families
  • Preparing for openness (for families hoping to adopt or for women/men planning a placement)
  • Negotiating boundaries in search/reunion, open adoption, closed adoption, etc…
  • How to offer more/better post adoption services related to openness
  • Siblings and open adoption
  • Managing openness in families with children by birth and children by adoption
  • How does the current thinking around openness change things for those in closed adoptions
  • Opening adoptions later on in life
  • The internet and openness in adoption
  • Openness as it relates to sperm/egg donors
  • Openness in adoption as it relates to the developmental stages of a child
  • International adoption and openness
  • Managing obstacles to openness (personal/emotional, familial, cultural, legal, safety, etc.)
  • What sets up open adoptions for success? What doesn’t?
  • How can placing parents and families hoping to adopt best prepare for openness?
  • Negotiating boundaries in search/reunion, open adoption, closed adoption, etc…
  • What kinds of post adoption services best prepare families for success?
  • Moving from a closed system/adoption to an open system/adoption
  • Post adoption contact agreements – pros/cons; what works and what doesn’t work
  • Gender and openness – what if any differences are there for men and women – talking about adoption, managing relationships, etc…
I'm hoping to be there, thanks to the magic of frequent flier miles (if I can get past my revulsion at what might now face me at TSA security checkpoint--ugh). We should make sure to do an Open Adoption Bloggers lunch table or something, don't you think?

November 08, 2010

Let's Give Adoption Mosaic a Virtual Hug

The online magazine SixSeeds interviewed me as part of their National Adoption Awareness Month project!  They're generously donating $2 for every comment at my interview post to the adoption-related charity of my choice.  I picked the fabulous Adoption Mosaic.

Adoption Mosaic is doing the work that is so needed and so historically overlooked in the adoption community: helping create healthy lifelong adoption experiences through education, support services and dialogue. It's a great resource. The lack of training and post-adoption support services (for everyone in the adoption constellation) that many of us bemoan? Adoption Mosaic is out there doing something about it. Folks not lucky enough to live close enough to attend their events can still join in through their just-launched quarterly magazine The Adoption Constellation, online resource library, or blog. They even recently took one of their workshops on the road to the East Cost. It's a much-needed place where the voices of adoptive parents are included but don't dominate.

Let's raise a ton of money for Adoption Mosaic and show them how much we value the work they do! A few details: SixSeeds requires an email address to comment. If you've already commented on one of the other SixSeeds adoption interviews, you'll need to use a different email address this time in order for Adoption Mosaic to get the $2 donation. Time to pull out that address you save for entering giveaways and getting online coupons (doesn't everyone have one of those?)

Please please please go comment and help me raise some money for Adoption Mosaic!

(Lunasea, Dawn, Soper and Lori were also interviewed and picked some fabulous charities, so check out their posts, too!)


November 05, 2010

"I’ve been waiting for you for your whole life"

We did the whole baby sign language thing with both kids, which meant we watched a lot of Signing Time.  They were still airing on PBS when Eddie was tiny and it was the only thing we let him watch. (Yes, we were those first-time parents. Mari missed out on the pure Signing Time experience, seeing as how she had an older brother obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine. Somehow she still survived with her intellect intact.)

This made the Signing Time co-creator and star, Rachel Coleman, our family's first kiddie celebrity.

This was the first song baby Mari ever tried to sing.

I've followed some of her life with her two daughters on her (really well-written) blog. Only it turns out she's the mother of three daughters.  She wrote for the first time today about her recent reunion with the now-eighteen-year old daughter she placed for adoption when she (Rachel) a teenager and what it was like to wait through those years hoping she would contact her.
I’ve celebrated her birthday every year.

“Mommy,” four-year-old Leah signed to me enthusiastically, “I’m your first baby. Lucy is your second baby. I’m the oldest!” “Nope. Remember?” I pointed to the smiling baby pictured in the gold, sun-shaped frame on the mantel. “She’s my first baby. You are my second baby and Lucy is my third baby.”

“Oh! I forgot!” Which sounded like “Oh I-per-dot.”

Leah and Lucy grew up seeing the baby on the mantel smiling down on them.

“Mom, I hate this!” Twelve-year-old Leah threw herself down on my bed in tears. “I hate that I have a big sister, but I don’t have a big sister! I really need one right now! I don’t understand how you were ‘too young’ to keep her, but only four years later you were suddenly old enough to have and keep me!”

When I was seventeen I really did believe that nobody would know or really understand how much I hurt and how much I suffered. I guess I was too young to imagine that my future children would inherit the pain and that they would share my loss.

The entire piece is worth a read--that bit above is just the smallest slice of the emotion packed into it. Her whole family's joy at this reunion is so apparent; it burbles throughout the post. I admit to tearing up a bit, as I often do when reading people's reunion stories: happy along with them that they are finally together again and sad that they ever spent all those years apart.

Disclosure: The "Signing Time" link in the first paragraph is an affiliate link.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...