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Adoption= Insanity? (Chapter 1: Only Try This if You’re Crazy)

**Four years ago to the week, this was my first post on Hypervigilant. Ah, memories…

Ever notice the words “adoption” and “insanity” have the same number of letters?

Coincidence? I think not.

It’s been almost three years since the Wednesday they arrived, dropped off by another foster parent. At the time, we didn’t know that a Social Worker was supposed to be present to “facilitate” the situation. The kids had no idea what was happening. Neither did we. Married ten years, with approximately 20 years of “kid experience” between us, we thought we could handle it. The kiddos, then 5 and newly-turned-7, had met us and seemed to like us. Surely, this would be a breeze. They were so teeny and adorable..like baby jackals.

Surely you’ve heard the phrase, “Wednesday’s child is full of woe.”  That Wednesday evening foreshadowed the next two years of our lives with fair accuracy. We took them to a church spaghetti dinner. During the course of the meal, they ate pasta and sauce with their hands  (unwilling to use apparently foreign utensils), spilled six (count ’em, six) cups of pink lemonade – including a huge trip-fall-splatter that involved about a third of the floor space, and the five year old ate a napkin. Ate a napkin.

Well, ate might be exaggeration. He stuffed the napkin in his mouth, and despite (or because of) our exhortations of “Oh, honey, don’t…don’t do that.” “No, that’s not food. Take it out.” “Spit that out right now.” “SPIT. IT. OUT.” he continued to chew the paper with a “make me” glint in his sweet blue eyes. Finally, Hubby said, “Fine. Swallow it. It’ll probably stop you up and you won’t poop for a week.” The game was no longer fun. He swiftly deposited the mass of wet fibers onto the floor.

We arrived home past bedtime, exhausted, but bathing could not be skipped, as the kids were literally covered in sauce. Imagine all the cute photos of your friends’ infants eating pasta for the first time. Super cute, that tomato-basted babe. Fast forward five or seven years. No longer super cute.

We wanted to get them into bed quickly, so I started the shower, made sure it was warm, then helped the 7 year old remove her saucy outfit and step into the tub. She gave me a little smile. Then…she collapsed, screaming, on the floor of the tub. In my panic to find the problem, I left the shower running. “Are you hurt? Did you slip? Are you okay? What’s wrong?” She continued to scream. Hubby, who had been entertaining the five year old, opened the door slightly. “What in the world is happening in there? What did you do?” More screaming. What did I do? Clearly, I lost my mind and brought an insanely scary spirit-possessed child into the house.

Finally, as the decibels reached somewhere between ear-piercing and drum-bleeding, I regained my conscious mind and turned off the shower. Screaming stopped, immediately. No explanation. “Are you okay?” Nod. “Are you hurt?” Shake. “Did the shower scare you?” Another negative shake. “You have to get clean; will you take a bath?” Nod. The child then washed the remnants of dinner from her hair, calmly and apparently in her right mind.

We didn’t attempt another shower for the next year. Then, the younger one spontaneously decided he’d rather shower. Not to be outdone by her little brother, our girl braved the shower the next night, with no complications. Oh, how I love sibling rivalry.

Approximately six hundred showers later, she said casually. “Hey, remember that time I was screaming like a crazy person in the shower, on our first night here?”  “Oh…um, I think I remember.” Yes, I remember. My eardrums spontaneously tremor at the thought. “Yeah, Mama…I was just freaked out about being in a new house. Sorry about that.” Freaked out, indeed. “Oh, sweetie, don’t even worry about it. That was a long time ago. I barely even remember it.”  Liar, liar, pants on fire…

My mom says she doesn’t remember the hours of childbirth because the joy of seeing the baby’s face “erased the memory.” If you’re lucky, birth happens in hours (or if you’re unlucky, days).  Adoption, especially with behaviorally challenged kiddos, is a little different. Labor pains happen every day for years.

And believe me, I remember every single minute.

Good thing we like a little insanity around here.

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Trauma Mama

I can’t figure out how to reblog this page, so here’s the link. Her blog is fabulous and this link sends you straight to a bunch of great books and resources.

Click below for the

Super Resource List by one of my favorite trauma mamas.

Help a Girl Out?

At some point, we’ve all searched for parenting or adoption or mental health resources.

I’m compiling a list…please forward me links, book titles, etc.

If everyone sends 2, we’ll have

over 1000 resources

on our list!

(I’m assuming there will be some overlap.)

People need help. Let’s be the community where they find hope, healing and health. 

Add info in the comments or email me: Casey@hypervigilant.org

*Commentary on the resource is helpful but not required (e.g., “great guide to first-year parenting,” or, “this agency provides post-adoption support in Cambridge, UK”).

#MicroblogMondays

 

I’m not the most dedicated blogger in the world, mostly because I am a perfectionist and like to get my posts just right before I post them (which takes a loooooong time).

I think Stirrup Queen’s Microblog idea might help.

What is Microblogging?  Click the link to find out. 😉

I’m also pretty bad at consistency, so this might be my only one.

Short and sweet blog post, once a week with up to eight sentences. Maybe you should try it, too!

And…that’s eight.

 

List of Great Adoption Blogs

I recently learned something cool:

along with a bunch of other awesome sites,

Hypervigilant.org is included in a “Best Adoption Blogs” list!

Looking for new reads and fresh perspectives? Start here:

 

Home » Adoption » Best Adoption Blogs

Best Adoption Blogs

Great list of adoption blogs

The sheer number of adoption bloggers online is overwhelming. We have attempted to help you out by weeding through and selecting our favorites. Please let us know via ourcontact page any of your favorites that we’ve missed.

+ Adoption (General)

  • Adoption Toolbox – Mom who adopted from China whose kids are now teens. Writes about general adoptive parenting, being an “older mom, parenting adopted teens/tweens.
  • Extraordinary Moms Network – This faith-based group provides support, love, encouragement and guidance for adoptive mothers and foster moms, mothers of special needs children, and all women who invest their lives in other people’s children.
  • Land of Gazillion Adoptees – Highlighting the expertise, accomplishments, programs, projects, and stories adoptees. It aims to be “adoptee-centric by: challenging the adoption status quo; challenging the traditional adoption narrative; challenging adoptees; and being challenged by all.
  • Stirrup Queen’s Mega Blog List – This is the mother of all blogrolls. Every blog on infertility and adoption ever created, or just about, is listed on this magnificent collection of blogs. The blogroll is actually searchable, which is wonderful.
+ Foster Care Adoption

  • Seeds of Hope – Great blog by a mom who adopted a singleton at 19 months from foster care in 1999, then a sibling set of 3 under the age of 6 in 2009, then another sibling set of 3 under the age of 8 in 2013. She mentors other foster/adopt families. Her experience covers lots of different age ranges and diagnoses.
  • Three Pink Diamonds – Mom of 3 siblings adopted from foster care in the UK. She blogs about becoming an instant family of five after years of struggling with infertility.
  • Journey to Josie – Mother to two children adopted as infants through foster care.
  • Fosterhood in NYC – Written by a younger woman who has fostered multiple children, and now is in the process of adopting a daughter that she is currently fostering.
  • Popp Life – A mother of five – three biological children, and two that are in the process of being adopted through foster care.
  • Foster Parenting Podcast – This is a podcast, not a blog, but it has helpful information about foster care adoption parenting. It is not currently adding new shows, but all past shows are available to listen through a computer or download to phone, tablet, or iPod.
  • Barren to Blessed – The author of this blog had a hysterectomy at age 11 to save her life from a bacterial infection. She now is a mom of two kids through foster care adoption, and is in the process of adopting a third child. She writes about her experience with both infertility and adoption.
  • The Lewis Note – Mother of two – one biological, and one that is being adopted through foster care. She also suffers from secondary infertility, and is going through the process of getting tested to figure out the cause.
  • From Instant to Forever – This lady is a veteran of dealing with the foster care system. She fostered a sibling group of six (chronicled on Instant Mama), and is now a mother to a sibling group of five through foster care adoption.
  • Word from the Wallaces – Family adopting from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Also foster parents to two kids and bio parents to two young kids. She’s a good writer and a prolific blogger. She also blogs about her faith and what God is doing in her life through adoption.  She also blogs at Light Breaks Forth.
  • Blogging for Baby Shayla – Mom of three by adoption from US foster care and China
  • Millions of Miles – Adopted a child from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and are beginning the process of becoming foster parents.
  • Hypervigilant – I love this blog! She blogs mainly on fostering, but she is also adopted from foster care and talks about that experience as well. This is a must read for those considering foster care or foster care adoption. Blog by a mom who adopted a 5 and 7 year old from foster care. She doesn’t hold back in sharing the joys and the challenges.

 

THANKS to https://creatingafamily.org for including Hypervigilant!  Check out the site directly for additional blogs and information. 

Adopting.org

quote31

Photo credit: Sarah M. Baker

Adopting.org emailed, asking for permission to link one of my articles on their site.

Let me think…

Um, YES!

Side benefit: I just found a ton of great new resources. Think Pinterest for Adoptive families. A site full of curated content related to adoption?

Yes, please.

Adopting.org is FABULOUS. Here’s just a sample of the super articles you’ll find:

4 Things I Wish I Could Change about Adoption  by Round & Round Rosie

Adoption and Sensory Issues  by Forever, For Always

Back to School: Communicating with Teachers by Tara Vanderwoude

5 Things NOT to Say to Mothers of Transracial Adoption by  Meghan Rivard on Adoption.com

Two Worlds, One Family: An Adoptive Mother’s Insecurities by two peas from different pods

Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Adoptive Parents Aren’t Parents by Carrie Goldman on The Huffington Post

Why “I’d get too attached” Just Doesn’t Cut It by The Lewis Note

I Could Have Said No by The Full Plate 

ENJOY!

XO,

Casey

 

 

 

 

“What can I get you?”

Pressed from Rainorshineblogger.com …you should stop by. I love this one:

 

********

So this week we had to choose our criteria for our future children. It felt a little bit like going to Subway: I’ll have a six inch Hearty Italian with tuna, NO cheese. Toasted, but with the …

Source: “What can I get you?”

Care for Disrupted Families: Part 2

Our experience would have been easier if I’d had time (and awareness) to research disruption five years ago.

We entered the foster-adoption realm with no idea of the mammoth task we undertook. Helping disrupted children find peace, security and closure is no picnic.

Actually, maybe it is a picnic. One with a Mad Hatter. An insane, unbelievably weird picnic. Pretty much the only way we differed from Alice: we weren’t on drugs.

NIKON D700, AF Zoom 24-70mm f/2.8Gf/8, 1/250, ISO 500, 70mm

Photo Credit: Sean McGrath

Our kids were 5 (he) and 7 (she) when they came to us through a foster placement. They expected to be reunited with their biological family. In their minds, we were temporary.

If we’d had the following information, our first two years together might have been very different.

Caring for Children who’ve Experienced Disruption

1. If possible, maintain consistent care for the child immediately after a disruption, keeping the same daycare, childcare, school and teachers.

This particular point still makes me grit my teeth; our kids had three families, three schools and three home environments in forty days. If social services had honored my request to enter them in our school district with family #2, we could have at least cut out the school change. (And if they hadn’t lost our fingerprints, we might have eliminated family #2 altogether…but that’s another story…)

If at all possible, collaborate with your social worker to limit the number of environments to which your child must acclimate.

Think of the last time you switched employers. The stress of learning all-new expectations, routines and ways to perform tasks. Imagine how much deeper the “newness” anxiety affects a  child.

2. Just as children need to be prepared for each step of the adoption process, adults need to explain each step of a disruption in a way that children can understand.

Social services didn’t tell the children termination of parental rights (TPR) was in process. Instead, they cut off all visitation in anticipation of the TPR and moved them to our house with no warning or explanation to the kids. Although we hoped to adopt, we agreed to foster them even if reunification was still the goal. Within six months, TPR was complete and adoption with us was the new target.

We were new to the foster-adopt situation and followed the directions given by the social worker (“don’t tell the kids anything”). She sprung a “last visit” on all of us after the TPR was complete. We weren’t allowed to tell the kids it would be the last time they saw their biological family.

And yes, looking back, I realize that keeping the kids in the dark was not the way to go, but the social worker made it clear that if we rocked the boat they’d take the children from us because she already felt we “couldn’t handle” them (they have severe behavioral issues).

We’d already seen them moved twice and knew they’d had 7 placements in just over 3 years. Not wanting to take the chance of having them removed, we went along with what the SW told us to do.

Every facet of the above situation exacerbated the stress and negative feelings already pulsing within the two small, angry creatures residing in our home.

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Photo Credit: Angry JulieMonday

3. Engage a therapist well versed in adoption and in disruptions.

Our first counselor, referred by the social worker, was very sweet. He did a great job of encouraging Hubby and me to continue survival. He recognized that the children were angry and behaviorally…challenged.

He gave us behavior charts and tried to help us address the behavior issues. Unfortunately, he didn’t do much to address the feelings BEHIND the behavior.

Three years in, we finally found counselors appropriate for the kids. These therapists are very familiar with Reactive Attachment Disorder, PTSD, grief and, of course, behavioral issues.

I can’t give strong enough encouragement here: find a counselor for your children. Ignoring the underlying grief will not make it go away. Be sure the counselor has specific experience with RAD, PTSD, grief and any other issues you’ve seen.

4. While the first tendency is to sever all ties between the child and the family, consider if this is the best practice and if it benefits everyone involved. Contact may be advisable in some cases to take care of unfinished tasks.

In our case, the social worker denied any access to the family. When the final visit was scheduled, we were instructed to hand the children off to a social worker in a grocery parking lot. We were allowed no contact.

On one hand, this is probably for the best. Knowing what they did to the kids, I might have done something regrettable. Or, if not regrettable, at least illegal.

However, the kids left an apparent treasure trove of toys behind This caused a great deal of angst; to this day, they talk about those toys. Supposedly, the social worker asked the family for the toys and they refused to hand them over. I have a feeling we’ll get a different side of that story eventually. Either the SW never even asked for them, or there were never toys to begin with.

We also requested pictures of the family and of the kids as babies/small children; the SW said this was denied as well. Again, I wonder if she really asked. Having those pictures would have been great. Our daughter frequently mentioned a photo of herself as an infant and wished she had it, especially when her class did a project using everyone’s baby pictures.

5. Consider holding a ritual around the unraveling of the adoption, after consulting the child’s counselors and therapists. If indicated, carry out the ritual in a way that the child can understand and can participate.

Our kids are under the impression that the foster family (where they lived for 18 months) was happy to be rid of them. They don’t understand what went wrong. One reason for the move was their behavior, but it wasn’t the only reason. The family had already adopted one child and decided not to adopt further children. It wasn’t “just” our kids—they haven’t adopted any others.

Because we took the kids to the same dentist (trying to find some ways to keep continuity), I found a note in their file. The parents told the dentist that the kids needed a family with no other children willing to take them on and give them stability long-term. They weren’t able to do it. (Why they felt the dentist should know…I’m not sure.)

We weren’t allowed contact with the former foster family, either. I wish we’d been able to communicate; we might have learned that the placement ended for a completely different reason. Regardless, being able to talk through the reasons, grieve the loss and move on would have been better than having no information whatsoever.

6. Therapist Vera Fahlberg suggests that a child’s placement history be reconstructed, identifying a person to whom the child was able to attach and working cooperatively with that person in planning the child’s future.

In our case, the unfortunate truth is that there was no individual with whom the kids had attachment of any kind except possibly the grandparents. However, according to the SW, they were unwilling to get involved or help in any way. If the disrupted child does have someone in their life with some attachment, I imagine this could be very helpful.

7. Some school age children may need permission from a significant attachment figure in their past (face-to-face,  via video or audio tape or in written form) before they feel free to join another family. The task of building a bridge for the child from one placement to another can be invaluable.

I wish we’d known to ask for this. A letter from a family member—especially from the grandparents—stating that “it’s okay” to settle in with the new family would have been extremely helpful. Our girl, in particular, still feels very loyal to their biological family. Attaching to us seems like betrayal. Permission to be happy might have ameliorated some of these feelings.

8. Just as parents need to describe their personal experience in order to move towards healing, so do children, often under the guidance of a trained professional during the adjustment period after a disruption.

As mentioned earlier, we’ve found a pair of excellent counselors. Our guy rarely talks about the past; I assume that will come out in teen years. Our girl, on the other hand, raves about how angry she is at her biological mother.

She’s still angry but has made great progress in talking her feelings through. We’ve even worked through some of that anger in positive ways (journaling, focusing on not allowing negative feelings to precipitate actions).

As I mentioned above, it’s possible that having some of this knowledge would have saved the kids—and us—from experiencing such high levels of heartache and stress.

I hope you’re able to use some of it to bring strength and healing to your family and the children you love.

Did I forget anything? Add your advice in the comments below!

*All quotes directly from the MNAdopt.org Fact sheet.

Adoption = Mother’s Day Sucks

For many years, Mother’s Day was…not the worst day of the year, but close.

Everywhere I turned, mothers rejoiced with the young darlings surrounding them. I didn’t understand why, with such a strong desire to be a good mama, children of my own always seemed to be just out of reach.

Looking back, it’s obvious to me that every step of our journey was directed by an unseen Hand, but as we went through the ten years before our kids arrived, I didn’t always feel it. Hope and trust kept me going most of the time, but Mother’s Day made faith a bit more difficult. Ten years is a long time.

Of course, in the Bible story, Abraham and Sarah were close to 100 when their first son arrived. In comparison, I guess ten years was a light sentence.

Several years ago, I experienced the worst Mother’s Day of my life. Both of my younger brothers’ wives were pregnant, and though I was happy for them…it didn’t help my personal feeling of loss. Usually, I made it through the Mother’s Day church service without spilling tears. Our church does an excellent job of recognizing ALL women on Mother’s Day, giving flowers to every female and celebrating the influence the women have on all the children. “It takes a village” and all that happy trappy.

Don’t get me wrong. It was better than watching only women who had birthed a child receive a flower but it still couldn’t take away all the pain. Sort of like that bubblegum-flavored gel they give you at the dentist to numb the area before the Novocaine syringe. It sort of dulls the ache, but you still feel the cold stainless steel sliding into your gum.

So, that particular day, I was especially edgy and just wanted to leave. As I walked down the aisle toward my seat, I heard a chirpy little voice behind me. “Happy Mother’s Day!” A little boy I knew, but not well, leaped into my arms. I knelt down, wrapping my arms around him.

Tears pricked my eyes and slipped down my cheeks. I looked around to see who was cutting onions in church, and then whispered, “Thanks, Buddy.” He squeezed my neck tight, grinned at me and skipped off.

That kid saved my Mother’s Day.

I tell this story, not so you will feel sorry for me but to make a point (unless your sympathy prompts you to send me Godiva chocolate. In that case…by all means, go ahead).

Here’s my point. There are women in your life and mine—possibly even reading this blog—who are in that same place. Look around for her tomorrow. Notice the downcast eyes, the slumped shoulders, the less-springy-than-usual stride. Give her an extra hug. If one of these women has been an influence in your life, make sure to thank her.

Has she dedicated time to your children? Make sure THEY thank her.

Many women who don’t have children spend many mostly-unnoticed hours caring for others. Pay attention. Search out those ladies. Give a hug, squeeze a hand.

If you are that lovely woman who wishes for children and endures Mother’s Day, know that I understand the depth of that pain, and that my heart is with you. Thank you for everything you do. To the women in my life who have been “adopted mothers” to me, to my husband and to my children, I hope you know how special you are. We wouldn’t be where we are without you.

(And although this post isn’t about bio moms, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to my mom. Love you so much!)

Make tomorrow the BEST Mother’s Day ever for someone in your life.

Check out these links, too:

http://gateway-women.com/tag/dealing-with-my-childless-friends

http://thenotmom.com/the-mothers-day-challenge-for-childless-women-groceries/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marcy-cole/mothers-day-for-childless_b_3242421.html

http://vinitawright.typepad.com/my_weblog/2009/05/for-the-childless-woman-on-mothers-day.html

Adoption = Occasional Victories

For the last three years, on four separate occasions each year, my friends posted jubilant messages on every possible social media outlet.

“My son is amazing! All A’s! Future Rocket Scientist, here!”

“Suzie Queue got Honor Roll. AGAIN!”

“My Ralphie with his award for Citizenship. Check out that tweed jacket. Cutest pic ever!”

“We are so proud. All eight of our children made honor roll! So blessed.”

Here are my imaginary reply posts.

“My son decked his Kindergarten classmate! Super amazing. Pretty sure he’ll be an MMA fighter when he grows up.”

“My daughter is doing Second Grade. AGAIN!”

“My kid doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘Citizenship,’ but we’re pretty sure he was dropped off by the Mothership.”

“I can’t imagine having eight children. We only have two. Thank God.”
It’s not easy to watch the success of others, especially when it comes easy or “gets handed to” them, but it’s exponentially more difficult to watch the success of someone else’s child when yours is struggling so hard. For the last three years, I’ve bitten my tongue more times than I’d like to admit.

“Who gives a rip if your perfect kid made honor roll. Of course she made all A’s. You’ve been personally tutoring her since birth and making sure she has every opportunity to learn. My kid made a D on his test, but he FINISHED the test. Since it’s usually a struggle for him to even complete the assignment in the allotted time, this is a huge win for him.”

“My girl finally grasped the idea of subtraction last night. She hates being the oldest child in her class, but holding her back was the best thing we ever did for her. We’re building a foundation for her life that no one else bothered to build. Watching the light come on in her eyes when she understands a math concept — now, that’s priceless.”

It has been a very long road. The last three years were very difficult (also known as HellonEarth, as I’ve explained before). This fourth year appears to  be a time for cautious optimism. We may be turning a corner, or it may be the eye in the center of Hurricane Hyena. It’s a little too early to rejoice or even relax, but Hubby and I are starting to believe again. This was actually a good idea. We can save their lives. They can learn, grow and be successful. God’s love can make a difference.

They brought their report cards home last week. Neither had grades below a B. This is the FIRST TIME neither has had a “D” on their report card. If, three years ago, two  years ago, or even last year, you’d tried to tell me this day would come, I probably would have laughed, a little sadly. “I wish. They would be so happy.” We’re truly not worried about the grades, other than the fact that they reflect learning and retention. We always tell the kids that C is great, and anything higher is bonus. Honestly, this “Honor Roll” thing was a goal they set themselves. And to see the look in their eyes when they realized they had attained their “B Honor Roll” standard was nothing short of amazing.

I didn’t post their success on any media outlet. I didn’t call my friends. I actually thought about not writing this post. Why? I know there are others out there who are still in HellonEarth. You may not want to hear it, because it shows in stark relief the long road you have ahead. I decided to go ahead and write this post, though, because I want you to know: IT CAN HAPPEN. If our kids can succeed in spite of all they’ve been through, so can yours.

Keep in mind, though, it’s not about grades. Growing up in my house, grades were a big deal. Here’s what I’ve learned in the last three years: celebrate every victory, no matter how small. Don’t worry about what everyone else’s kid is doing. Your child is special. Uniquely gifted. Absolutely one-of-a-kind. Be sure you don’t overlook the smaller –but still amazing– hills they take as they climb the mountain range. Find out what THEIR goals are, and support them.

We’ve already had our shot at glory. Now it’s their turn.

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