RIP Storm

Yesterday I went out to close up the chicken coop right after dusk. Our chickens free range all day and take themselves in to roost at dusk. We close up the coop with a double latch and we lock up the run so nothing can near the double latched coop door. When I looked into the coop to check on the girls and say good night, there were only two hens? Storm my Rhode Island Red was not in there. We have a big backyard with lots of ivy and it’s dark..but I have to find her because she will get hurt if she’s left out all night, so I start to look with my flashlight ..I found her in the ivy and it wasn’t good. Something had gotten a hold of her and they were no longer hungry. It was horrible. She was my favorite, she was the sweetest and always the first one to find me when I walked into the backyard. While I sat in my house..she was killed and taken as a meal. Our chickens are no longer free range and plans are already in place for a larger enclosed run.

I’m one of those who is a believer in experience/lesson, so of course I’m searching for the meaning in the loss of Storm…yes a chicken. Last year we started to make plans for making changes in the backyard ..we started some things and then the chickens became free rangers and took over everything, they ate all of the garden and they ate everything I planted in pots, so we kinda stopped. Maybe this is our cue to start again. Dean and I are celebrating 30 years of marriage this year and I would love to have a party, so maybe this is the time to start getting ready?

Why is it that we always take for granted that we can put things off, that there will always be a tomorrow or a next week or even a next year. We work and work and say maybe one day? When do we learn that today is the day? Is it negative thing to think that we may not have a tomorrow? Is it wrong to live in the moment, to put everything we have into today? Some pretty heavy thinking all over a chicken?

I love that chicken, but it’s not just her. It’s been a full week of many other emotional hits, some professional, some personal. I just need to sit and figure out what to do with all of these “experiences”. I’m hoping its a vegetable garden, a beehive and a new outdoor pizza oven.

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Changes

This has always been a blog for my experience with adoption but I will be posting about other things moving forward. Writing is relaxing for me. It helps me to share. I’m the Director of a service organization that works with pregnant women and teens who are pregnant and parenting. I work with families who want to adopt. Our goal in providing services is to keep children safe and out of foster care, we hope to achieve this through parent mentoring and adoption options. My work can get heavy sometimes and it helps for me to write. I also love fitness, I have run many marathons, half marathons, 10k’s , 5k’s, cycled 2 centuries and done one triathlon . I have competed in 3 figure competitions show casing muscle building – all over the age of 50. I love to share my love of these sports and sports nutrition. I love to share recipes that feature clean whole foods and I LOVE chocolate cake and ice cream. I also have chickens!

What IDoes It Really Feel Like when your Child Reunifies With Their Birth Mom (For Me)

adoptive mom   To take on the legal responsibilities as parent of (a child that is not one’s biological child). That’s the legal definition of adoption..which is so far from the feelings I have as a mom. The minute I laid eyes on all 4 of our children I was in LOVE and I was to be their warrior, their protector, their nurse, their guide through life, That’s what a mom is right? Then why so many times do I get asked..Where is their REAL mom? Aren’t you afraid their REAL mom will come take them..Aren’t you afraid they will want to go back to their REAL mom one day? Why do people think your not a REAL mom when you have adopted? I think an even better question would be..why do people think it’s okay to ask these questions. I know that as adoptive mom’s we are always qualifying who we are, we apologize for not having a birth story, we are always working a little harder to be a better mom.
I’ve always known that my children had another woman in their lives..it would just be a matter of time when and/or if they would have a relationship with them. Our children’s birth moms have ALWAYS had an open invitation to be part of our children’s lives. We have lived in the same community since our children were born and have the same telephone numbers. For reasons of their own each of them chose not to be present. Our oldest son’s birth mom contacted him through Social Media when he was 16. We were able to connect with our twins birth mom through their sister, although she (sister) encouraged us not to because of her lifestyle..but I felt it was important for the boys as adults to know who she was, and let them make their own choices. Our youngest has not met her birth mom yet, and after meeting a sister and hearing how chaotic her life still is our daughter has decided to wait. Our oldest son has encouraged her to wait as well, after his experience.
As an adoption professional I know that offering the opportunity for our children to have a relationship with their birth families is important. Some kids want this and some don’t. Some birth moms want a relationship some don’t. Just like with all family dynamics you make work what needs to work when it’s needed. There are no laws or “have to’s” – adoption is not co parenting. What everyone needs to be looking for is what’s best for the child. I have found from experience that if the situation is safe and a relationship early on is possible it is easier to start when the child is a baby, or toddler. It’s more comfortable for everyone as the years pass and its “normal” . No reason to hide this relationship or make pretend it doesn’t exist..it does and every family going into adoption needs to know this. It is part of adoption.
As my boys were growing up I never felt threatened by the presence of these other women…I was always proud of my children and wanted to have each of these birth moms in our lives..I tried many times to find them without success. So what was it like for me when it did happen?
At first I was excited, I was so excited that we finally had contact with our oldest sons birth mom. We had a short relationship with her when she was pregnant with Kyle and thought we would have an “open adoption ” relationship. It was her choice to not continue the relationship. Do I wish that she would have contacted us first, of course but I was still excited, for our son. I was able to meet with her and at first we found a mutual respect for each other but that changed with some decisions she made, and once that shifted it was difficult to get that mutual respect back. Uncomfortable for me for sure, I wanted this woman to like me, I wanted her to appreciate me, as I appreciated her. I wanted for us to adore each other so my son wouldn’t have to feel like he had to hide his relationship with her or he wouldn’t feel that classic adoptee guilt.
Children are not possessions so they do not belong to anyone. A mom gives birth and she can not or does not want to parent and she has an option of adoption. A woman wants to be a parent and she is there to adopt this child. You love and protect and raise this child with everything you are. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a mom.
As our children grow up they leave, they make a life for themselves and they start to live. That’s what we spend 18 years in preparation for right? It hurts when they leave but we are supposed to feel comfort in who they are and what we have provided, so they can succeed in this moment. My oldest took a little longer to leave and when he did he moved to another country and he moved in with his birth mother. I had 5 days to process this information. I’m being honest when I say..I’m still processing this information. It has nothing to do with whether or not my son loves me. It has nothing to do with whether I want him to be with her or not. I don’t want him to feel guilt, I don’t want him to choose. I know who I am, I know where I’ve been. I know as a woman she is happy to have him in her life. I have tried to process my feelings..I have tried to put my feelings into words. I know this is a day that as an adoptive parent I could expect..it’s one of those tools that I share with others that they have to have, but I am still having a hard time. I see pictures of them together and I am happy for them, and I am sad for me. I am sad that I had to be the disciplinarian, I am sad that I am the one who created boundaries and curfews, I am sad that I am the one who had to look for him when he ran away for a week and now she gets to be the one who makes him smile, she gets to be the one who takes him to see places he has never seen, I am sad that she gets to laugh with him and I had to make sure he graduated high school. I am sad that he has memories of hating me and she doesn’t have this history. And as I say those things, I LOVE that I was the one that was there when he graduated from preschool, rode his first motorcycle, swam in the ocean in Mexico, got his letter jacket, cried with him during his first break up, held his head when he was vomiting after drinking too much – I know that I’m the lucky one. I know that he is able to smile now because we helped him become who he is. I know that there are parts of him that need her love right now to make him stronger and as his mom I appreciate that she is available to provide this But I would be lying to say it doesn’t all feel good..that I don’t have moments of jealousy. My husband doesn’t understand…he asks me why it hurts me to see our son happy. I still don’t have the words…of course I want him happy. I know families whose children have “left the nest” even gone to other countries..does it feel the same? I don’t know.. I only know what it feels like for me.

I Stand Proud

I have had my fill of chat rooms and FB posts and personal opinions for the week. First let me say I do not have a Masters Degree or a PhD in Sociology or any other field, and this post is ALL MY PERSONAL OPINION.  I work in the streets with my clients. I work in the jails, I work in Child Welfare and Private Adoption. I work with drug addicts and prostitutes. I work with the homeless and the mentally ill. I have been in homes were they were manufacturing meth in the bath tub and had a child sleeping in the next room. I work with women who have been in and out of jail. I work with women and children who have been abused, emotionally, sexually and physically. I assist women with private adoption plans,adoption plans that they come to me to talk about, adoption plans where they make the decision- it is what they want to do, adoption plans that they ask me to help them find a family for, adoption plans where they receive and willfully accept assistance with living expenses. There are no promises made. They make all the choices. They receive counseling and have their own legal representation. I work with girls who have spent most of their lives in foster care. Girls who have bounced in and out of relative caregiver homes, girls whose parents even after years of resources and services provided to them for free – could still not leave their addiction or attend a full series of parenting classes, girls who were abused repetitively by their parents, by the system and by other foster children. I work in adoption plans where mom is the patient in the hospital, where mom gets to decide who is in the room, who holds the baby and who is taking home the baby. I provide diapers and formula and clothes and car seats to women and young girls who need them. I help with getting resources to have a warm place to sleep, a place to get free food for a week. I work with girls who have friends until they need them. I help women who are having there 4th baby and have had 3 removed due to abuse and neglect. I also will provide information about adoption to these women and I am not ashamed of that. There are over 400 thousand children in this Nation in foster care, 63 thousand in my beautiful state. These children did not all get there because of a conspiracy to take children from the poor. Some of these children go in and out becasue we keep providing services to the parents in hopes that family reunification will happen. Someone should have talked to them about adoption ..but that would have been coercion right? It’s why they don’t. Every body is afraid of that word… Children don’t have choices..they don’t get to decide who they will be born to, they don’t get to leave when they are being abused..and yes your right they don’t get to decide if they are going to be adopted. But I have seen enough, too much some days to decide that I would much rather have a child or an adult be upset with me for placing them in an adoptive situation , one that has proven itself to be stable – than to have left them in an abusive one. I have seen babies put in microwaves, I have seen children living in homes where there are drugs being manufactured and I know that some of the women I work with leave their babies and small children in the tub in a motel room to service a “John”. I have seen kids go for days without eating because their parents were on a binge. These are not situations that have happened out of necessity, these women have made choices .. I work with women who shoot up heroin during their pregnancies, who will use their diaper money for a fix..I work with women who will leave recovery to be with their man – leaving the children in foster care even longer.  I work with parents who’s ability to function is so low that they believe their baby is talking to them at age 3 months. For these women, adoption should have been an option..that’s not coercion..that is – make some changes in your choices or provide a life for your baby. Babies don’t have choices…. they don’t have choices about being abandoned, they don’t have choices about who there parents  are they don’t get to decide to leave if they are being abused. This is 2015…..The average age of women entering an adoption plan today is 32 (not a researched or documented fact – just my experience) at 32 you have free will unless you are involved in an abusive relationship/human trafficking situation..you have free will….there are resources to assist..are they perfect? will you get brand new stuff and always have enough? No, will childcare be hard to obtain? Yes but honestly – its hard for most people now a days LIFE is HARD.You have two choices though..parent or not. If you choose to parent then step up to the responsibility.  Yes I know that some regions offer more than others…yes I know given a crystal ball some of us would be able to make better choices or ride out the storms.. I know a lot of women regret making their decision to do an adoption plan several years later..the problem is that several years later we can feel that way about alot of decisions. If you are thinking about adoption..you need to know its forever, it hurts. You need to understand what you are signing up for. Can you step up and make changes to be a parent? I know there are still unethical practices in adoption, I know there are unethical professionals..this is the human race.I also know that there have been amazing changes in policy and practice in adoption. I believe that family preservation is a priority, but circumstances always need to be evaluated and not taken for granted. Adoption is an Option….Does Coercion exist?   Of course it does..but not to the extent that the media would like you to think. I work with women who have shaken their babies until their retina’s have detached….I work with women who have dropped bodies at an ER from a moving car, I have worked with women who will get pregnant just to pay their rent instead of getting a job, Nothing is Black or White anymore..nothing is easy..what should never be a question though is if a child is safe, warm, nurtured and loved. And for this ..I am proud of the work I do..no matter how many blogs or chat rooms say I shoul

I AM Adopted!

If someone asks one of our four children “What’s it like to be adopted?” Their answer is usually “I don’t know” “How do I answer a question like that?” “What’s it like to be you?” I’ve always wondered, because I too am adopted, and I don’t know what it feels like to be anything but me. I stayed in my family of origin, because my adoption happened due to the death of my biological father, but like I hear in a lot of articles written by adoptees, I didn’t have a choice of who was to become my father. My mom remarried, and my “new” “un-biological” father raised me. You can say it’s not the same, I know my medical history…not really – both of my birth parents don’t know who their biological fathers were..my grandfathers were second marriages (relationships) for my grandmothers. All four of our children have more information about their medical background then I do! My birth father had a son before he married my mom, who I met but haven’t seen in 40 years and without doing a search, have no idea where he is. I don’t know if he has children.

Hands make heart shape

I wish there was a way that life could be perfect, that people could fall in love and have children and stay together forever. That they would love them and take care of them and show them how to be good people and good parents so they could go out and repeat the same thing…BUT this is not the reality. People have casual sex, babies are made…there is poverty and abuse and drugs and horrible parents and life really sucks sometimes.

I don’t EVER want to idealize adoption..it is not always rainbows and unicorns – research states it is always better for children to stay in family of origin – my questions is at what cost? Without the possibility of adoption, we would have hundreds of thousands of children without families. I’ve heard people say if we just threw the money into reunifying families that is spent on adoption – we could help these families…possibly some of them – but no not most of them. Abuse is real, addiction is real, life is real. Spend one year working out here..spend one year trying to get a woman off drugs so she can raise her child, one year where her child sits in the same home and watches people in and out buying drugs. one year watching this woman and her child move from motel room to motel room and eviction after eviction. Spend one year assisting her, helping to make a stable environment with no attempts from her to get clean. How long do we wait? How many rooms does this 9 year old deserve to live in. When he tells you he is going to start charging the people coming into his home and taking his food ..is that when? Or is it when mom actually starts making the drugs herself?

I wish we all had third and fourth chances..but I’ve seen enough children abused through these third and fourth chances that I’m not willing to be part of them anymore. Children don’t get to make choices, adults do. Not everyone is ready or willing to be helped….I don’t get to write the Rule Book but I do get to decide what choices I am going to make. I ended up with a pretty good life. I was given opportunities I might not have had, and I Love both my dad’s..the one that helped to create me and the one who provided me guidance and support through life.

Adopted is adopted..there are no degrees of which adoption is less or more …I am an adoptee and I am real.

Struggling…….

I’ve been struggling today. We’ve just what I would call finished up..with two adoption plans. One that we worked on for 7 months, the other just a few weeks. By finish up, I mean consents have been signed and are irrevocable in both plans. The adoption won’t be finalized for 6 months or more and our relationship with the families and the birth moms will continue a life time. I’m struggling because a lot of emotion and time go into an adoption plan, whether it lasts 7 months or it lasts just a few weeks. Like post adoption/post pregnancy blues, I get a sort of depression too. I know it’s time to work on the next plan, time to network, time to reach out to or individuals I haven’t had time for..but I don’t feel ready yet. Then I remembered I have a blog! I could write my thoughts on here and say what I needed to say. I thought I would try to explain what goes into working with a mom for 7 months…..or two weeks. I know I’ve written about this before – so please humor me, I find it therapeutic.
When someone calls us and wants to talk about adoption….we first find out what is going on in this woman’s life. If possible we schedule a face to face within a couple of days. It is much easier to read a story with someone sitting in front of you. Many times this is the last meeting we have. We provide information about what adoption is and what it isn’t and they may decide at that point it isn’t for them. If we do have a second meeting, we talk about what kind of resources are available to parent..who is important in their life, are there significant female relationships close by, what about the father of the baby and his family. We ask them what resources they are using now. We also talk about histories of drug use and mental illness. We do a lot of fact finding and listening. With all of this info we leave and start doing background checks. We look for current jail time, warrants, past jail times etc. We look into facebook pages and anything else we can find online. Sometimes you can’t find it right away, it takes time. If after a second meeting someone wants to move forward with an adoption plan, we start to put it into place. We look at what her expense needs are, we look at what kind of family she wants, what kind of future as far as openness goes, and we start assisting with looking for a family for her. During this process if she is homeless we ask for help in the community for donations. We visit food banks for food boxes, we start setting up counseling and Dr’s appointments. We start looking for housing. Housing is usually the hardest because many of the women we work with have had evictions, bad credit , no history of income. Rents are really high in California, especially the Bay Area. It can takes months to find a landlord to take a chance, and not compromise our mom’s confidentiality where the adoption plan is concerned. Once mom finds a family (which yes could be a family we are working with) then all of the legal components are put into place. It is decided whether its going to be an agency placement or an independent placement. This is usually determined by the adopting family. Either way, an attorney is involved and/or an agency is involved and all expenses are filtered through one of these entities. EVERYTHING is documented. If it’s to be an independent placement, then an Adoption Service Provider sits with the expectant mom and explains the process and makes sure mom is not being coerced. If its an agency placement then mom is seen by an agency Social Worker. We continue to provide support and case management on a day to day basis. We facilitate the relationship between mom and family. We set up appointments and provide transportation. We go out to lunch or dinner on a regular basis, this can provide a lot of insight about what is going on with mom, how she’s feeling about her adoption plan and whether she needs more help. We get mom to counseling and treatment if she will accept it- you can’t force someone to seek drug treatment. We get mom to court if needed. If mom is in jail we do jail visits, and court room visits to keep everyone up to date. If mom needs to be moved we find a new place and move her. All the while keeping everyone updated and as involved as possible. If mom needs bus passes we get them to her. We take her to get her food boxes. We communicate with landlords and attorneys and anyone else that needs to be communicated with. We read between the lines…one of the most important parts of what we do and we filter what needs to be communicated. As I tell our families, some of your expectant moms life may have nothing to do with the adoption plan, and frankly is not anyone’s business except hers, she is not being hired – she still has free will and can make her own choices, even when they are not good ones. We will ALWAYS provide what information we feel is important to the adoption plan. We listen to the adoptive family, we provide support and updates as needed. Communication is key to a good adoption plan, even when circumstances have gone in directions we had hoped they wouldn’t if you can keep communication open it can work. I think the most important thing for people to understand is that we aren’t in positions to judge, we don’t have to agree with the life that some of our moms live. They come to us to do an adoption plan and that is what we assist with. It’s our opinion when professionals are involved in the plan, it is more of an experience, a journey, a path. We want everyone when possible to not necessarily have a kum – by-ya moment but recognize that what’s happening is a life altering event for all members involved. We’re working with human beings, not numbers. I don’t have to agree with the lifestyle the mom I’m working with has chosen, but I am certainly not her judge. My role is to help her with her plan, help her get through this journey with less pain as possible and hope to uplift her circumstances while doing so. My role is to help our adoptive family understand what is happening as best as they can, to filter the chaos and make their way into parenting this new baby as crisis free as possible.
We don’t force people or bribe them with the promise of a new car to sign consents, we don’t go out and pass out cards to pregnant women to come to us to do an adoption. We don’t talk families into matching with a particular situation..we don’t make false promises to families about matching times, and we are honest about what fees are involved. We don’t lie about the number of adoptions we do or how we do business. We provide community outreach with the help of diapers and formula. We help provide shelter for women in need. We give FREE parenting classes for families involved in child welfare.
At the end of the day I am very happy with what we do in our community and the families we help to adopt. And I am happy I have a blog because I feel much better now. 🙂

A Story of Reunion

It’s always interesting to me when a new family comes to us for assistance with adoption and we ask what they know about adoption, and what they want in an adoption. There are families who have heard all of the horror stories of birth families and there are families who have read every book on Open Adoption and want a full blown relationship with mom because that’s what’s best for child. End of the line is Family is Family, Birth, Adoptive, Step, By Marriage and like everything in life these relationships cannot be controlled. What may start out one way – ends up another.

We have four children by adoption, each with a different level of openness. This weekend we had a reunion after 21 yrs with our twins birth mom. I have been talking with her for over a year now on Facebook. She had a daughter that was 4 when the boys were placed with us that we reunited with a few years ago and this daughter has come and stayed at our home. I have been in contact with their birth father and he was ok with just that and nothing else. There are some paternal siblings that myself and the boys have been in virtual contact. Twenty one years ago next month we were chosen within a 48 hrs period to parent these boys. We knew nothing about them except that they had been born prematurely.  We didn’t care, we were presented and chosen and rented a van to go pick them up 3 hours away. We met with mom for the first time, saw the boys and went to a park to talk. We had lunch at Red Robin’s and drove home just a few hours later with the boys. They were 4 months old.

There was about 6 months to a year of contact after that. We helped her find stable housing, she got a new job. Her first child at the time was living between her and her ex husband. We received cards and letters from her. By two to three years the communication stopped. Phone numbers get disconnected, there are no forwarding addresses. Life happens. Fast forward to now, we met again at a park. We drove 3 hrs to meet with her, she was late and I was worried for my sons that she was not going to show. An hour and a half later than the time we arranged I was able to get in touch with her, drove to her apt and picked her up. This reunion for me was much different than our oldest sons birth mom. I don’t know if it has been life’s circumstances or age (maturity) or just personalities. I felt like we have known each other for years. I did not feel uncomfortable at all. She was very nervous, I could not tell this, it was what she shared with me.  The visit went well, one son did more talking than the other (the quiet one did not initially want to go, he decided at the last min) the one that did most of the talking is the son struggling with addiction, something his birth mother has struggled with for 23 years. She was able to share this with him. She was able to share why she decided on adoption, that it wasn’t an easy decision but it wasn’t hard either knowing that she wasn’t going to have any support from family members even though they told her she would. She was able to tell them that she did feel shame, but never regret and that when people ask family and debbieher how many children she had , she always said 3. She told them that she was happy for them, that they had a family who loves them, and most powerfully that if she hadn’t made the decision for adoption that she knows they would have ended up in the foster care system and she would never know what happened to them. They learned about their family medical history and they were able to ask her questions that they pondered with over the years..Reno point blank no holding back asked her “why did you drink while you were pregnant?”

I could see in their birth mom’s eyes that she was tired, I imagine I would have been exhausted too. She was afraid initially that the boys would be angry with her. They aren’t- not for choosing adoption. I’m not sure what the future brings, I’m not sure who will stay in contact with who. I do know that it was the right time for everyone. I do know that I love this woman for trusting me with her boys. I do know that I love my sons and feel grateful for the opportunity to raise them, and I do know that I am very proud of them for fighting to live that day that they were born even though it was 13 weeks too early.