I’m Good Now…

Each adoption plan I work with is different. When I have a family call and start asking me how many successful adoptions do we have? How many moms change their minds at delivery? How many this , How many that….my response is that I can tell you what happened this past year and the years before that but they have nothing to do with whats going to happen tomorrow. I had an adoption plan this week turn out differently than we had hoped, and yes I am being honest about my feelings about this even though I know that the mother who had intended on placing will probably read this. I will support her decsion and I will assist her in finding the right resources to help her parent because, my work – my drive – my reasons for working in adoption are to find a safe, loving and nurturing home for the child, I want her child to be safe and I have concerns because what made me decide to help her was the day she told me she woke up many mornings wanting to kill herself, she was afraid what that might mean for her child. I work with women who want to or need to choose adoption because I don’t want one more child to enter the foster care system, because I don’t want one more child to ever wonder if they are going to get beaten that morning, or their breakfast money is going to be used for drugs or whether or not they are worthy of being loved. I assist women with adoption planning because they NEED it. I am not part of the industry, I work a part time job to help supplement my income and pay my mortgage. Much of what we make goes right back into the community. I do not entice women with vacations or hopes of a better future. I do talk about what differences their choices make for their children. I’ve heard often enough if we just provided enough resources or adoptive families donated the funding they anticipated spending on an adoption women could parent. I disagree. First it’s not anyone else s responsibility to financially support another human being who shouldn’t be having more children..to have more children. Secondly, we do have community resources, they are not always easy to get, there are waiting lists…just like for everyone else. When I need something I have to work to get it – period. We have generations of families who have learned to live on nothing and will continue to learn to live on nothing because when you have nothing, everything is FREE. Poverty is not a reason to make an adoption plan. An inability to parent is a reason to make an adoption plan and that cannot always fixed. DNA does not give anyone a right to be provided 50 chances to screw up another human beings life. I totally agree with The Primal Wound theory, I totally agree with the hole of separation between child and birth mother and the life long  emptiness or connection. That still does not give anyone who can’t or doesn’t want to or doesn’t have the capacity, or doesn’t want to stop using drugs or whatever …that doesn’t give them the right to screw up a child’s life because they are hurting.It is not a child’s responsibility to fix that hurt, it is not a child’s responsibility to provide support in recovery and a child does not cure a mental illness.  You can accuse me of whatever  you want because of the work that I do, you can point fingers at me, you can call me names if it makes you feel better. But until we start changing the way we look at options – those numbers: 400,000 kids in foster care, the overcrowded jails and prisons, the numbers of homelessness will not go down..they will only continue to go up.

Rights for Kids!

I was having a business meeting with my partner this morning.brainstorming on ways we could help our foster care community. I had a long list of things that I knew were needed, a long list of things I knew could help those that are working in foster care: the agencies, the Social Workers, the Foster Parents, the Attorneys, the Judges. Then my partner says” Lisa, I thought you were an advocate for decreasing the amount of kids in foster care..I thought you wanted to see kids moved through faster to either go home or find permanency? How are all of those things on your list helping the kids? OMG! Light Bulb! He was right, my list served to make foster care softer, easier for all of the adults involved, I guess I thought – if the adults were happier then the kids would be too? WRONG!

In California  (according to the 2014 statistics) we have over 62,000 children in foster care. Over a 1000 of those children are here in Contra Costa County with African American children in the lead and surprise..Caucasian children in second. I know that that common thought is that Social Workers run around looking for reasons to remove children from their parents..not true. It takes a pretty good amount of abuse and neglect to justify removal. When a call is made to the CPS Hotline, a social worker answers and screens the complaint coming in. A caller has to have witnessed abuse/neglect and have proof, some piece of tangible evidence to warrant a Social Worker to go out to a home to investigate..you can’t just say: “she’s a teen mom” or “I’ve seen her let the baby cry” or “I think they are doing drugs” there has to be enough for when the SW enters that home she can witness your complaint. It doesn’t matter if mom is a bad house keeper or there’s not enough food, or there are 5 people sharing a bedroom. We no longer remove babies from mom’s at the hospital for positive drug screens. (this is a whole other blog for me)

If a child is removed the clock is started and so are the court dates. So remember the primary reason that CPS/DSS or CFS whatever you want to call them, exists is to keep children safe, assist to heal families and to keep them together. This is supposed to be what’s best for the child right? Well it would be in an ideal world where we could wave a wand and make everyone a great parent and provide a wonderful world for a child to grow, be nurtured and thrive, but it’s not. Children who do get removed , are removed from situations that are dangerous, not just a one time drug use kind of thing.  On average, if removed and placed into foster care a child spends about 12-16 months. First they are placed in an emergency home..a home that is licensed or certified to do foster care until a disposition hearing, which can take a week or two. If the child is going to stay in care then they can stay there or be moved. If they are going to need to move, a longer range plan is looked at. Is this a family that has a history with CPS, was the reason for removal so horrific that the child will probably not go back? Then a con current home, a home that wants to adopt will be considered for placement. Not all homes that want to adopt , want to be concurrent. Some homes do not want to take a child unless they are freed for adoption, they don’t want to take the emotional risk that the child may be reunified. I share all of this because sometimes people tend to assume that all families who adopt through the foster care system are doing so for altruistic reason, not so.Some kids might go to a relative home and stay or that relative home doesn’t work out either and they are moved to another foster home. Studies have proven that more disruptions are actually from relative caregivers than from unrelated foster home placements, this is a fact that most foster parents will agree with. So hopefully from what I’ve just shared..you can see that kids can be in 1 -2 or more homes in a short time.

We have so many great foster parents in our county. I know this because I used to train them. We have GREAT Social workers too. But we don’t have to have this many kids in care.  Our SW’s don’t have to carry loads that go on for years. We keep our children in care when they don’t need to be. How do we stop this? We start talking to our families when they enter care. We start talking about adoption options at the beginning. We let these families know that they can make Open Adoption plans and they don’t have to wait until they are going to lose their parental rights…AND they can choose who to work with. See the biggest obstacle with all of this is that each adoption the county does , they receive funding for. All of those months spent in reunification plans are hours of job security. Do you know that the attorneys who are hired to represent the families and children in court don’t even know their clients sometimes. Ask a handful of foster parents how many times the child’s attorney has been to their home? Ask when they get the phone call about how the child is doing…it’s usually a day or two before court date. Ask when the SW has been out to the home to meet the child. I’m not pointing fingers or blaming..I’m just saying the system is over worked, has too may meetings and not enough time is spent dealing with the situation and looking towards the future. It’s all spent on running in circles . Child Welfare has analysts that spend 40 hours a week researching, developing statistics and writing best practices and all of this is to recruit more funding ..none of it is spent in time with the families.

So what can I do, someone who sees the problem, but is so little no one knows I even exist, to best serve these children? The children who linger in care? The children who wait around while all of the “Best Practices” get put in motion. While months and months go by . I could ask for donations of pajamas…..or I could start to make a lot of noise and talk about how unfair it is for all of these kids to wait and wait and wait…for all of the grown ups in their life’s to make a decsion..to do what’s right and start talking from the beginning about whats going to happen with them. To stop making adoption the last option…..I can talk to the professionals about Private adoption vs Foster Care and about how and why it can make a difference in a life. I can talk about “rights for kids ” and what that means. I can get as many people who also care about this involved and make some noise! I think my time is better spent educating foster parents on how to advocate for their kids, talking to Social Workers about how to think outside the box and providing attorneys with education about private adoption, and maybe that’s how I can help keep children out of foster care…or at least moving through the system faster.

 

 

 

 

Who Is That Woman In The Mirror?

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I used to say “OMG..I’m 50! ” Now I say – “I can’t believe I’m 54”. It the grand scheme of life its still young. I still have a 12 yr old (soon to be 13) child. I look around, I have friends in their 20’s and 30’s and 40’s. I don’t feel any different then them. I lift weights with them, I run with them, I eat with them, I drink with them. I work out 5 to 6 days a week with them But when I get up in the morning and I look in the mirror..I wonder who she is, where did she come from? Her skin is dry, there are wrinkles – more each day, her hair is no longer oily. There are spider veins on her thighs and each time she bangs her hand against something it bleeds. When did all of this happen? I don’t feel like that woman who looks back at me every morning.  I wonder when I’m with some of my younger friends if they  see that woman I see in the mornings..I wonder if they see the woman that I FEEL I am. When my husband looks at me, am I still desirable or just comfortable? Am I sexier than I was in my 30’s because of my experiences, my ability to tolerate more, my maturity, my appreciation for value of life. Do I work harder now to be presentable  more than I did even 10 years ago…yes. Although I never have worn makeup, I am careful most days to choose something to wear than shows I do care. Little things to think about..like clothing styles and even admiration of the opposite sex have boundaries. I can’t see at all without my glasses and my teeth are changing. I’m starting to forget things like names more quickly.

Where did I go? Am I the same person? Am I better? Do I try to slow this down or do I embrace it as one more journey in life? I’m grateful today for my health, I’m grateful today for yesterday…..I’m not really sure yet how I feel about the natural progression of things tomorrow, except that my curiosity says  I want to live and find out.

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