Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Friend or Family Feature...

Let me preface this by saying that I believe in adoption in all forms. I believe that the way that you adopt is a very personal decision based on your own individual strengths and weaknesses. The life that you have led up to the point of your adoption may very well determine which route you will take to find your children. I will hopefully be able to explain, over the next few months, how we came to our decision.

Originally we decided to be foster-to-adopt parents. We thought it would be a win/win situation. We would be giving needy kids a safe and loving home, and we would finally have the family that we always wanted. We signed up at a local agency and were thrilled that the agency was right in our neighborhood. We thought it would be an added bonus if we could serve our community as well (most of the kids came from just a few miles away). We attended thirty hours of training classes. These classes were amazing and are why I have chosen:

Jody, Fariba, and Patty

for today's feature. I am sure that they will not read this, and I don't have their pictures, but please take my word for it, these three women are beautiful inside and out. They work tirelessly as foster adoption social workers. Social workers on the whole, like teachers, are underpaid and under appreciated. They devote their lives to helping others and to creating positive changes in society.
These three women took us through an intense Modern Approach to Parenting curriculum that was definitely not for the faint of heart. The classes involved among other things, role-playing (imagine Steven's initial horror of having to "act" in front of a room full of people.) These role plays were invaluable. They taught us to put ourselves in the position of the people who lose their children to the DCFS. They presented a "falling down" kind of scenario where someone's really bad day just keeps getting worse and worse. These exercises helped us to empathize with the birth parents who, up until that point, had been pariahs in our minds.
Many of the classes were devoted to understanding the losses associated with adoption. This training has prepared us, a little bit, to deal with some of the ramifications of international adoption. Many of the classes dealt with trans racial parenting (98% of the kids in foster care are children of color.) We feel better equipped to deal with some of these issues because of these women.
We were good foster-adoptive parent candidates. I could stay at home and take these kids to the required birth parent visits (some at their center, some at rehab centers or even prisons). We could provide stability and love. Steven could have provided some great meals. We both could have taught them to trust adults again. Moses could have kissed their sad faces for hours on end. Teddy could have put his big Galoot chin on their shoulders and reassured them that they were in a safe place.We could have helped.

In the end, we just weren't strong enough.

We were terrified that we would receive our sibling placement, fall in love with our new kids only to have them returned to their parents. This sounded a lot like our experiences over the last five years (The joy of pregnancy followed by the despair of pregnancy failure.) Also, the foster-to-adopt system makes you bank on some one else's failure, (basically if the birth mom can't get her act together then the kids will remain yours). We didn't feel comfortable rooting for someone else's failure, ESPECIALLY the failure of our future children's birth parents. This idea rubbed us the wrong way. In addition to that, we felt completely unprepared to parent a baby born addicted to/or withdrawing from drugs. The majority of these children (we requested an infant,) would fall into this category.
In our case, we decided that we just couldn't handle the foster-to adopt route. This must be particularly disappointing to these social workers who spent those two months with us last year. We were the only couple in the class (they do these classes all year long) and there were only three other people in our group. I am sure though, that they have continued on with their work. They are recruiting and training those strong, resilient souls who will unselfishly parent these sweet children who need them. I am sorry we couldn't do it. Maybe someday down the line, when we have our family and are reassured that they won't be leaving, we will have gathered enough strength to take in a foster child. Right now we cannot. Thank you for teaching us some important lessons. Thank you for opening our eyes. Thank you for revealing to us our weaknesses, our prejudices and our strengths. Thank you for helping parents and children in the foster care system. Thank you for understanding that we want to parent children from Africa. Thank you for the training that will help us to parent in a more loving and enlightened way.

Steven requested that I mention his favorite part of the class. While I was on a short break from class, Jody asked him if he thought that I would be willing to participate in an exercise called, "The Annoying Habit." She needed a couple, and we were the only one. He said that of course I would do it. We had to stand, back to back, in the front of the room, while the rest of the class asked Steven to describe a really annoying habit that I have. Now you would think that it would take HOURS for Steven to come up with something annoying that I do, but surprisingly he was able to come up with a plethora of examples in mere seconds. So, there we are back to back, and Steven begins to tell everyone how I always nag at him to eat breakfast. He, apparently finds this annoying. (I think it is loving. I don't want him to get low blood sugar.) That morning I had bugged him about it, and insisted that he carry a banana to foster-parenting class.( I guess in retrospect he could have come up with something a lot more embarrassing or incriminating.) Anyway, as the class and the social workers berated him about this saying things like ,"How can you put up with that?" "How long has she forced you to eat breakfast? " "That is terrible, why does she do that?" You could see that Steven was getting visibly agitated. I could feel the heat coming off of him. He began to defend me. "Well she just wants me to be healthy," "She does it because she loves me," "She has other really good qualities." This exercise was amazing. It illustrated to us how foster kids who have been abused and removed from their parents will ALWAYS defend them. They are their parents. If they beat them, burned them, or stuffed them in a closet, these kids will defend them. Heady, emotional, interesting stuff.

We finished, Steven ate his banana, and we looked at each other lovingly. I was proud of him for defending me and he, I think, was relieved that my habit wasn't something much more annoying..

Steven with morning blueberry muffin. (I have heard that it is the most important meal of the day.)

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE that story of your annoying habit. Keep bugging him to have breakfast. I am sure you will :)