PART TWO: QUEEN CALLS IT
Can Anybody Find Me Somebody to Love?
Our efforts to build a family between the end of 2009 and 2014 took us into the world of private adoptions, CPS (Child Protective Services) and foster care agencies. To adopt takes courage and tenacity along with the necessary heavy dollop of unconditional love. It is not for the faint of heart. These are industries fraught with corruption, greed, and disillusion. We met caseworkers so burnt out and calloused they had no regard for the significant role they played in the construction of our family. To everyone’s detriment. There are painful memories associated with this time in our lives that even today are difficult to remember without getting emotional. And I don’t just mean sad. I mean angry too. “Do you do well to be angry?” Yes. Yes, I do. The things that happened is astounding. You can’t be a part of the foster care system without the experience leaving a mark on your heart.
The band Queen has the best song. It fits perfectly with what we went through in our efforts to adopt through foster care. So, in honor of life imitating art this part of our story is brought to you by the famous song, “Somebody to Love”:
“I work hard…”
Private adoptions are spendy. Be prepared to plunk down between $15000 and $50000 with the higher end figure coming from overseas adoptions. Most of the overseas costs include time you have to live in the other country (some places require 3-6 months residency) and bribes for officials in charge. There is no way Sean and I can afford to bribe anyone with the few bucks we keep in our wallets. You may also have to go live in another country indefinitely sometimes 3-6 months or longer. I think that’s how some of the bribing happens. You can pay officials to fudge on how long you’ve lived there.
Also, for us, the idea of taking out a second mortgage or bank loan to buy a human being is…weird. I do have friends who have put forth the money and I know they have a different perspective. For them, the money paid is like paying a ransom-setting these sweet, tiny people free from extreme poverty, crippling injuries and even potential death to live a better life with a family who paid much to freely love. It’s a beautiful thing but just not for us especially when we consider all the children here in the United States who need love too.
At the end of 2009, we were given the opportunity to privately adopt a baby where we were living in Joplin, Missouri. At the hospital where I worked there was a nurse who agreed to help us with adoption. She had recently adopted a baby girl and explained her process to us.
Because it’s such a small town when a person came into the hospital to give birth and they decided they didn’t want the baby the hospital staff had the option to help. Because I was hospital staff (sort of: I worked for an outside company with doctors in the operating room) I could give my number to the anesthesiologists doing the epidurals and they would call if a baby is available. My friend assured us it could be as quick as 3 days or take a month or two at the most. Sean and I started making plans including contacting an adoption lawyer in town who would need to be available for drawing up and filing an adoption certificate. Two weeks before Christmas, we were ready. I gave my cell number to all the anesthesiologists and waited expectantly.
I kid you not, that same week, I got a call. But not from an anesthesiologist. It was the company I worked for calling to say they were looking at the yearend financials and could not afford to keep me there in Joplin. They offered me the “opportunity” to start traveling to other hospitals in different states, but we would have to move. Sean and I looked into other jobs in Joplin, but nothing panned out. And when I say looked, I mean we scrambled desperately to keep us there to no avail. With heavy hearts we left Joplin and moved to Texas. I saw no reason for this turn of events and spent the majority of my free thoughts questioning God. Mercifully, God was polite enough to give me answer. One year after we left, Joplin experienced the seventh deadliest tornado in US history. 158 people were killed. Hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed. Incredibly, the hospital where I worked took the worst hit. The side of the building where they did surgery was ripped away. Six people died in the hospital itself. The entire building had to be demolished and was only reopened last year. Who knows what would have happened if we had stayed? God saved us in spite of ourselves.
“I try and I try, and I try…”
We continued our quest to adopt in Corpus Christi. There are 7 agencies that provide “forever families” for those children who have had parental rights terminated through the state. And no matter how simple Sandra Bullock from the Blind Side makes it look, dealing with CPS is time consuming and labor intensive. There are hours and hours of training classes you have to attend—classes on discipline styles, water safety and trauma support, etc. as well as CPR and First Aid. You’re given requirements on childproofing your home that include things such as locking up kitchen knives and double locking vitamins and medications. Once the training is complete, your home and life gets questioned and examined in an hour long (4+) test called a homestudy. You get asked a lot of really personal questions and have to let them inspect every room in the house. If you and your home pass, you get licensed by the state as foster-to-adopt parents and then get kids.
Our first agency and lone case worker took us through the licensing process in two long years. The second agency and lone case worker took us through the process in eight months. Here’s why we ended up at foster agency number #3: Our first caseworker never filed our paperwork before she quit even though we were already at the point of meeting potential kids. Incredibly, no one in the agency had even heard of us. We assured them we were really foster parents and only because I kept all the training certificates of completion did, they believe us. For the last two years, our case worker had been overwhelmed with her caseload and dreamed of having her own agency. She’d been holding back the paperwork of all new perspective parents coming to them.
Case worker and agency #2 had a similar problem. The case worker couldn’t keep up with her caseload and never filed any of our paperwork. The agency had heard of us this time but when she quit the agency the owners decided to merge its Corpus location with another agency in town. Back to square one. Agency #3 made us take all of their training and have another homestudy done but the process went faster (5 months). By this point, Sean and I had both became very good at getting through homestudies. We could talk about our favorite childhood memories or preferred discipline styles all while showing off our double-locked vitamins or what’s in our coat closet (broom and mop, actually). Job interviews got nothing on homestudies. We officially became licensed foster parents 3+ years after we started the process and boy were, we ready to get us some kids.
“Somebody to love…”
In May 2014, a ten-year-old boy and his seventeen-year-old sister moved in. We finally got the family we always wanted, and we all lived happily ever after…
….Just kidding. That’s not what happened at all. (Someday…someday…that did happen but not this day.) Sean and I were way in over our heads. Picture us like this those old timey films you see of the Wright brothers testing airplanes.
Lots of big smiles and thumbs up at first. Then you strap yourself onto a machine made of paper, wood and controlled fire. Up you go. Everyone including you thinks you’re gonna make it. You’ve achieved the impossible. Then poof. Right into the sand dune. Smoke and dust surround you as you stagger out thinking, “What the heck just happened?”
Neither of the kids had lived with each other since they were last with their mother three years before. No one in our agency, CPS, or ourselves were prepared for the extent of the abuse these poor kids had experienced nor how it would play out when they lived together again. In addition, with the subsequent CPS investigations (we were found to be too naïve but not at fault) it was determined that when our agency gave us permission to let the teenager have access to a phone and computer this was not a good idea. Unsurprisingly, she was able to get around internet firewalls and do a number of really bad things. She also reached out to her birth family (which wasn’t bad, but she wasn’t ready for what she found out). Her birth mother had gotten cleaned up, married and had another child. It gave our soon-to-be daughter false hope that maybe they could go back home eventually (sadly, once parental rights are terminated there’s no going back as a minor).
Three weeks before our adoption she told us about what she’d learned about her birth mother. She then made the decision to not be adopted and as soon as that happened, she dropped all pretense of kindness and consideration. And same thing for the 10-year-old. As soon as he didn’t want to be there, he did what he could to make us as miserable as he was. It was harrowing to say the least. One a positive note, we were able to help the kids work through some of the abuse and traumatic things they’d experienced when they were younger. Before they were moved to other foster homes separate from each other, both kids started much-needed Trauma-Based Counseling.
When they left, we were filled with a combo of heartache and relief. Sean and I thanked God we made it out alive. Literally. I do not mean figuratively. We also got the chance to empathize in small part with every parent’s good fight to raise up children into productive members of society. We learned what it’s like to deal with (in no particular order, drum roll please…): diapers, potty training, bed wetting, therapy sessions, start of school, flunking school, skipping school, summer break, jobs, stealing , drugs (LSD), boyfriends (3), pregnancy (negative), internet porn, driver’s ed, car accidents (2), suicide threat, hospital stays (2 days for 1 kid and 1 week for the other), football practice and games, police visits (2), and CPS investigations (3).
All this crammed into 6 months. It was like bootcamp for parenting. Looking back, we can see where God protected us each step of the way. I’m not gonna say it was the best experience of our lives, but we survived. And we’re better for it. We learned a lot and are closer than ever to each other and God. This did not happen overnight. The first couple of months after they left were rough. And for two years afterwards, I refused to consider adopting again. (Like I said before, God had to do some weeding.) This is no longer the case. We’ve started the process of adopting again. Crazily enough, we’re actually looking forward to it. Already this time it’s different. But that’s a story for another day.