Foster Series: 2

It’s been awhile since I have posted anything relating to foster to adopt.  I have reached out to some of my adoption community members and asked for assistance in this area.  Today’s post is brought to you by a “soon to be” adoptive mother, through the foster care avenue.  Erin brings a lot of insight from her experience with fostering children, infertility and the way she has looked at parenthood through her tenure.  Thank you for taking the time to read her story.  I think it’s a great addition to the Grew In My Heart blog.  – Sarah

Foster to Adopt  by Erin Connell

Paper chain family protected in cupped handsThis post is for those of you that are stuck between trying to conceive, treatments and contemplating adoption and/or foster care. Or for those of you who are just interested in foster care, but have biological children either living at home or are already grown up. And this post also tells my husband’s and my story to parenting, plus a small snippet of our life as foster parents.

Despite some of the more difficult things about adoption and foster care, my recommendation to you wondering what to do next is… if you really want to parent then do it! Stop trying to conceive (or at least simultaneously along with IVF/IUI) and move on to adoption. Adoption offers so many wonderful and challenging things, but the good far outweighs the bad. Foster care is wonderful too, (again challenges) but being a foster parent is the happiest thing that I’ve ever done, at least this time around. We weren’t ready the first time (3 yrs ago pre-IVF). Now instead of pouring my heart and soul into horrendous shots and procedures, I get to pour my heart and soul into children’s lives. It is rewarding and it takes away the time spent just wondering and willing myself to be a parent. I am no longer stuck waiting. I am just parenting. It may not be official, but I am finally a MOM! Some days are hard with 2 babies under 1. But at the end of the day, I can look back and say that I made a difference today. My kids are 9-month-old, James and 5-month-old, Riley. Both came to us at birth.

We were initially attracted to foster care because my in-laws fostered several children for about 6 or so years. They adopted a young lady at 12. She came to them at 10 and she is now 17. She is still learning and growing, but it is amazing the story she has to tell and the growth she has shown over the last several years. We were very involved with my in-laws kids and wanted to help children as well as start a family. All of their biological children were married and grown when they decided to foster. We were just starting our family. The cases they took were very challenging. They were a treatment home. We decided to foster babies. There are many different paths to take as well as many different types/ages of kids to help.

We had a brief stint with fostering in 2010 when we fostered twin 4-month-old babies. These babies are no longer with us and after that placement we closed our license and decided to pursue fertility treatments. They are now in a loving adoptive home, but their case took 3 years to get to that point.

It took a lot to get us to foster again. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and we may not always understand those reasons while we are suffering and even sometimes after the clouds have lifted. I believe in God and I believe in Jesus as my Savior and I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit. They are the driving force in my life for why I do what I do. I would not be a foster parent or any kind of parent without them. To get to where we are now was a process. We needed the IVF process to strengthen our marriage and prepare our hearts to love children that may end up back with their birth families.

John and I will be married for 10 years this March. Three years ago was when we really decided that we wanted a family. John wanted one right away, but I wasn’t ready. I knew the responsibility of children was great and I wanted to make sure that it was something that I really wanted. We tried to conceive on our own for a while but nothing happened.  Throughout our marriage we never really used protection to stop a surprise pregnancy. I knew something was wrong, but never wanted to admit it. Then we got tested. I had blocked tubes from a surgery I had as a kid. It caused a lot of scar tissue around my tubes. I also have endometriosis. My husband had low testosterone and 0% morphology. After one IUI, we did a laparoscopy and decided to proceed straight to IVF. We spent a great deal of money and emotion and heartbreak on IVF. We did 4 tries, 2 pregnancies, and 2 miscarriages when we decided to call it quits. It was hard on my body, it was hard on our careers, and it was hard on our emotional state. It would have been all worth it if we took home a baby. Now I know we needed it to get to where we are today, but it is still painful looking back. We moved on to infant domestic adoption and were matched right away with a birth mom through an attorney. She ended up changing her mind 5 weeks before her due date. Our almost daughter turned 1 last month.

All of the past attempts to start a family were so emotionally draining; yet I still felt God pulling us into foster care. My husband wasn’t fully on board yet due to us having to complete all of the training again. 36 pre-service hours and then another home study. We had a friend who had 3 foster sons who needed to be adopted: twin 4 year olds and a 6-year-old older brother. They are really adorable kids. The older one looked so much like my husband and they were fun and we were smitten at first. We quickly realized that they had too many needs for us to handle being first time parents. Something we could have done, but they would be our only children and I still desired to start our family from infancy. We were also looking to adopt them alongside the baby girl and knew that it was too much to start out with so we ended up not adopting them, which put us back at square one.

Those boys gave us a gift. They allowed us the strength to do the training process to foster again. We did it for them. Once it was completed and we had already made our decision to not adopt them, we decided we might as well be open to receiving other calls to foster and/or adopt another child(ren). I owe those boys everything; they brought us to our James. (They are now transitioning in another adoptive home).

We were officially licensed on May 3, 2013. We got the call for our first placement on May 6th. After about 2 hours of pondering whether to accept the placement, we accepted. Two kids showed up on May 8th, a cute, blonde, 8-year-old and a teeny tiny, 10-day-old baby boy. When I first met James he was wearing only a white onesie and was sound asleep as the social worker placed him in my arms. It was a rather difficult adjustment because it was our first time back as foster parents. It was this little girl’s first time in care (We will call her K). Everything was new for all of us. It was hard to balance the needs of a newborn with all night feedings, alongside driving her to school 45 minutes away. It was the last 2 weeks of school and we wanted her to finish the year at her familiar school.

After one week, where I don’t believe I slept at all, K went to live with her great aunt. Guilty, I was a bit relieved. She was a very sweet kid, but I don’t think I was quite ready for the sass that comes with an 8-year-old. I have bonded with her now and she is welcome here anytime. We thought both kids were leaving, but it turned out that our James got to stay.

I had a long conversation with the aunt over the phone and ended up telling her our reasons to foster and also about our infertility. She always tells us what amazing people we are. She too, is amazing to take in her niece when her niece needs her the most. We hit it off and she has been our biggest advocate towards adoption of James. At that time, we didn’t know the future we would have with him. We were getting very attached and at the same time preparing our hearts to have him leave us at some point – most likely when he turned one. I didn’t think I could love him a whole year, have him call me mommy and we grow to love one another and then he would leave us. My husband once told me that if he didn’t parent “all in” then he didn’t know another way to parent. So that is what we did. We treated him as if he were our biological son. He felt like he was anyway.

There were times early on in our placement with James that I still wanted to conceive a biological child; one who matched my husband’s and mine mixed DNA. I wanted to play guess the gene game. I wanted to name my kids myself. Most importantly, I wanted to not have to drop him off to visit his birth mother and feel my heart get ripped out of my chest while I waited the 2 hours to pick him up. Everyday he felt like mine and then once a week I remembered he wasn’t.

Today and onwards, I want my foster son more than any biological child I could ever dream up if GOD was allowing me to choose. I may not have a biological connection through genetics or pregnancy, but my son is 100% mine regardless. Love is absolutely not dependent on biology. I love my husband, yet I share no DNA with him. James is ours and he will share many of our mannerisms, habits, and traits. He even looks like us, not that it matters. In other ways he will be uniquely himself. Isn’t that what we all should hope for our kids anyway? I want him to be unique and independent. (Adapted from Creating a Family’s web site.)

I also read on Creating a Family’s web site: “It’s interesting why we idealize the idea of falling rather than growing in love. When I think of falling, I think of something quick and painful. I much prefer the image of growing in love. Growth implies depth, roots, and the ability to withstand the forces of life.”

I did not fall in love with my foster son and daughter; I grew in love with them and now cannot imagine life without them both. I actually was worried that it would take more time to grow in love. I worried that I wouldn’t immediately have a connection with my child through biology and IVF or adoption. I worried that I would want my easy old life back. But I do NOT. I want my foster son to be MY son and my foster daughter to be MY daughter and I want more kids too! Funny how time and age matures me!

We got the call for our foster daughter when James was 4-months-old. She is from a different birth family than James. Some may say we were nuts to take another baby when we already had a baby. Doing the infant stage back to back was tough. I do believe she was meant to be ours – if you believe in that sort of thing. Her history is a bit scary, but we decided to take the placement anyway. She has surprised us in so many ways and is happy and developmentally on target. If either of them have learning disabilities in the future we will take those one day at time, but as of right now they are both very intelligent and delightful children. In regards to fears on loving children with disabilities, a good friend of mine told me, and it spoke straight to my heart:

“We know that the lifestyles these parents are living and the way in which they show the effects of those lifestyles doesn’t have to be repeated in our/their babies. A life of love and well-adjusted emotions do a lot of good for changing the outcome. I understand that some issues cannot be ‘loved’ away and they will be very real and lasting. In that   instance,

I would remember that you have prayed about babies and that God would bring the right ones at the right time. If you feel that she belongs with    you and that you could love her forever then it doesn’t matter what    they tell you or what future diagnoses could be faced. You can do anything!!! The struggles you have already had to plow through show  that you are tougher and that your God is more near to you than any obstacle you could ever face. Don’t let diagnosis, story, hypothesis or worker comment scare you or change your mind. Do what    God is  telling you and be tough… you can do it!”

During the tough days, I remember these words and thank my friend for them.

James will be officially adopted (Feb. or March 2014). I am happy to say that I am a foster parent to a wonderful, perfect (I can’t imagine a more perfect) little boy who I love so deeply it hurts. It hurts because I can’t imagine the thought of ever losing him. I can’t imagine the devastation that it would bring my husband who if you watch him he is so enamored by this little guy. And he is an extraordinary father! We feel the same way towards our daughter.

It will always be a little hard to share him with his birth family, but I always will because I love him and I know that is what will allow him to grow up in a secure relationship with my husband and me.

His birth parents are wonderful people who love him very much and are just working through some things in their life right now. I want them to get better. I want them to have a healthy relationship with me someday. I want them to get healthy for their 2 daughters who are old enough to understand what is happening. They are very supportive of us and asked us to adopt their son. They wanted him to have a better life. They are working towards reunification of the girls. They signed their rights away at court in November 2013. It was very emotional for his birth mom and us. She wrote me a beautiful letter and gave me a disc with photos from his birth.

Usually a case takes at least a year before the county will discuss permanency, whether that is with the birth family, a kinship family or an adoptive family. The county will give the birth parents this time to work a case plan that usually requires them to get counseling, take parenting classes, take drug tests, and take substance abuse classes. Sometimes they need to get a job or move. The goal is to become clean from their addictions and into a safe environment for themselves and their children. Some cases are simple like James’ and others are more complicated like Riley’s. We got her from the hospital and the goal for her was 99% adoption, but legally they still have to give her mother the year to follow her case plan.

Adoption and foster care are hard. Adoption and foster care are wonderful too. It is possible to have two conflicting emotions at once. I can despair what I do not have yet (in regards to fostering with no real answers to whether these kids will stay or go) and despair the challenges that adoption and foster care bring. And love what I get to be in these children’s lives and the other children we will hopefully bless as they will bless us. With adoption and especially foster care, it is challenging to strike a good balance between being respectful to the biological parents’ rights and feelings as well as showing them how much you love their/your child and being compassionate to them as well. You will have to decide how much openness you want to have with your child’s family whether fostered or adopted. These kids will always have two sets of parents, sometimes more. She is his/her mother in a way I will never know and I am his/her mother in a way she will never know, but together we are motherhood.

Openness is a thing that will take time and you will grow in a relationship with the families as time moves on. We started out with a safe distance and gradually got to know them more over time. We are pretty close with James’ sister and her aunt. We feel like extended family to them. I feel like an aunt to K. I also feel like an aunt to the other sister who is with her biological father. You will learn that these relationships can be complicated, but also beneficial to the well being of your future child/adopted child. In Ohio, open adoption is not mandatory it is a verbal agreement between you and the birth family. In regards to domestic infant adoption that openness usually is respected. In foster care you have to do what is best for your child. If the parents are abusing alcohol or drugs or in an unsafe living environment around people that are unhealthy and unsafe you may not allow your child to see his biological parents once adopted. During foster care they do see them at court appointed meetings usually for 2 hours supervised by a licensed social worker. Once adopted there is a goodbye visit where they will see their birth parents for the last time and then it will be up to the adoptive family to make decisions on what is best for their new child.

Three years ago we would never have seen ourselves being so open with the birth families. Time and God changed our hearts. My husband wanted no contact with the birth families at all and now he enjoys hanging out with James’ family. With our daughter, we have not had the same openness. I do not know what the future will be like for her in regards to her and her relationship with her birth family. We will take it one day at a time.

Whatever place you are in right now in the parenting journey, I would love it if everyone would consider foster care. There are tough kids and tough placements. These kids are hurting because they have been abandoned. They need good families to step up and intervene and sometimes save them from themselves. The older ones will test your commitment to them. If you make it through the testing phase the outcomes are so worth it! I won’t say it is easy because all parenting is hard. But parenting is worth it! There are stereotypes too and not all children from foster care fit into that mold. Many are newborns and adopted before ever going back to their birth families. All of us in humanity are working through something or have been hurt by someone. These kids are mostly just like all of us. The foster care journey has a lot of unknowns, but not unlike any other way to parenting. Fertility treatments bring a risk. Will it work? Will I miscarry? How much will I have to spend? Even getting pregnant the first time you try brings risks. Will I have a healthy child? Adoption. Will the birth parents change their mind? And then foster care. Will I parent a child that is just going to leave? Will I parent a child that just doesn’t fit into my family? Will we get along? Will my foster child have major mental or medical needs? To all these questions the answers could be hard to hear and ultimately handle. My advice and encouragement to you if you are just contemplating this journey… open your hearts to love. I don’t want fear of all the unknowns to rob you of the biggest blessing and joy of your life. We want to be parents, right? If you are struggling with infertility or not, these kids need homes and the foster care world needs willing hearts! They will bless your life as much as you will bless theirs. There will be amazing times and hard times. This is what we call LIFE.

To learn more about Erin and to read her blog, please visit fallopianfailure.blogspot.com

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Milestones

walkingIt seems time has gotten away from me and it’s been awhile since my last post.  The life of having a one year old is not what I remember when Isaac was this age.  Granted I didn’t have a career back then.  I didn’t serve on the PTA as a chairperson.  I didn’t write a blog.  I don’t even remember having this many chores; laundry is never ending, the dish washer is full every day, there are toys that scatter my house, not to mention all this SNOW!  I just pretty much sat around playing with my baby.

The best part of having a one year old again, is watching him grow. One of the biggest reasons we chose domestic infant adoption was, although I had a biological child, Joe became a step dad when Isaac was 6 years old.  He was not there for the milestones that come with a baby.  I wanted him to experience the joys of being called dad and understanding the kind of love you get when you bring a baby home from the hospital and are present for every first.

Ezra just started walking.  That was a milestone I was so excited for, yet so sad when it happened!  My little baby, likely our last child, was growing up.  It’s like the ultimate transitional milestone from being a baby to a toddler/kid.  I was so excited when he lifted his head the first time, or smiled the first time, that first laugh, first bite of cereal, first roll, first crawl, first word, first stand… but first WALK!?!

Experiencing milestones gives me so much joy.  It’s when I see him the most as MY son.  My beaming pride, the look of adoration on my husband’s face, the clapping and cheering that comes from my older son, Isaac; it is all part of parenting and being a family.

When a couple faces infertility or enters the realm of adoption, milestones may be something they fear they will never get to experience.   I guarantee no matter if you adopt an infant or through foster care, there will be a lifetime of firsts that bring smiles and tears.

Happy 1st Birthday Ezra!

A Year of Ezra!

A Year of Ezra!

Wow, a whole year has passed… really?  It seems like this has been the fastest year of my life.  It seems like just yesterday that that little baby was still in T’s belly.  It seems like just yesterday I fearfully attended doctor visits with her and made trips to the hospital for amniotic fluid checks, wondering what day he would come and would she really be able to let him go?  I can’t imagine the pain she had, even knowing the choice she made was going to allow her the ability to give more to the children she was parenting and to him at the same time.  What kind of selfless love is that?  The strength in her and J’s choice astounds me.

So as I celebrate his day of birth, I also will be taking a moment to mourn their loss with them.  I thank God every day that through the miracle of open adoption I get to share him with them still.  They can see him periodically, text or call when ever they want, follow him daily with the countless pictures, videos and statues I post on Facebook.  I am thankful that when the day come that he starts asking questions, he will already know the love they have for him.  They hug him and kiss him and tell him they love him every time they see him.  He will already know them and his biological siblings, before he even knows how to verbalize his questions.  He’ll never have to search.   How amazing is that?

As Ezra has reached this giant milestone of turning ONE today, (*sigh, cry, weep, sniffle, smile, cry again*) I want to thank his first parents for trusting us and our family to love him as much as they do.  Not a day goes by that we don’t think of them.  This year has been such an amazing journey for us.  Our family has grown in ways more than just being a family of 4 now.  We have learned our strengths, our weaknesses and our endless love for each other.  We have watched this little, once helpless infant, learn to smile, “talk”, crawl, feed himself, test us, giggle, and now walk!  He now enters toddler-hood!  A new phase and a new stage.  Where has time gone lil’ man?

Happy Birthday Ezra Joseph! You are loved by more people than you will ever know or understand.  You are our precious little boy and the child that completed our family.  I love watching you with daddy and your big brother.  You are an awesome kid and I can’t wait to watch you grow into a young man just like I have watched Isaac over the last 12 years!

Stay tuned for birthday cake and party pictures.  🙂

Choosing Adoption

Choosing Adoption

Sarah Baker | November 11, 2013 | 01:14 PM

Along our journey many people have asked us, “why adoption?” There are many ways to become a parent. Most people find that natural pregnancy is the means to expanding their family. When pregnancy doesn’t come easy, people may resort to more time, fertility treatment, artificial insemination, IVF, surrogacy, sperm donors, egg donors, etc. Adoption isn’t for everyone, so it’s understandable that this question may get asked. However, sometimes the questions is just out of curiosity to learn your story, other times people ask “why adoption?” with a tone that implies it is not the choice they would make. Early in my life, I felt drawn to adoption.

When I decided it was time for me to start my family, there were restrictions to adoption like age and years married. I also didn’t have the big bank account to fund my adoption, so we pursued getting pregnant. Pregnancy happened quickly for us; in fact it was the first month we tried. I am glad I was able to experience pregnancy, but it wasn’t without complications, despite my young age and good health. I had HORRIBLE all day sickness for months. About the time my appetite came back, I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. Then came the hand and ankle swelling, my eye sight worsened several times and I had to keep getting new scripts for contacts. My entire birth plan went out the window; 48 hours of intense labor, an emergency C-Section and all night long hemorrhaging… but I had a perfect 8 pound 8 ounce baby boy, Isaac, to show for it all. I knew after that, adoption was the only way I could add to my family again.

Fast forward few years and Isaac’s dad and I decided to divorce. We are still great friends, we just married very young and grew apart as husband and wife. We ended our marriage to save our friendship. I then met Joe and as we were getting to know each other, I told him my story of giving birth to Isaac. I told him I didn’t know if it was possible for me to have more. He said it didn’t matter to him either way. If it was unsafe for me to have more children, then we would adopt or not have any more, but he wasn’t going to let it stand in the way of us being together. WOW! He’s a keeper right?!? After we were married, I saw how wonderful of a step dad he had become and my need to parent a baby with him began to overwhelm me. We looked into adoption, but were again overwhelmed by the price and the wait that it may take for us to become parents. We started “trying” to get pregnant. Honestly, I figured it would come quickly. But after a year, then two, we realized something was wrong. We were both tested and found out that we were both infertile. My eggs didn’t release, I had hormonal imbalances and massive fibroids and his sperm were deformed from a Varicocele. Even using IVF with sperm washing would be slim for us to conceive. We did not want to spend money on something that was not a guarantee when we could put that money toward adoption instead. We did not have a burning need to have biological children, just children. It was the experience we craved not the DNA.

We started saving money and learning about all types of adoptions and gathering information from various agencies. Many times we felt defeated and unable to move forward. We were overwhelmed with the information we got from agencies and the financial stress of it all. During that time we continued on with our lives and each month I secretly hoped I was pregnant, just because it seemed easier, despite how I knew it would probably be a miserable pregnancy based on my first experience. It was 4 years into our marriage that we decided to stop looking at adoption passively and start pursuing the plan. It became very exciting and scary. We started telling people our plans and asking for support.

That’s when the questions started. Everyone seemed to have an opinion on our plans to adopt. People would tell us about how their sister did IVF, how their aunt had a closed adoption, how we should adopt from another country, or through foster care, how once we adopt we’d get pregnant, or how we may not get chosen because we have pets, we have another child, we have a small pond in our back yard, a two story house, etc., or how we wouldn’t be able to bond with the baby because it’s not really “ours”. Then there were the questions of race, gender, drug exposure, etc. Everyone had something to say about the method we decided to become parents. I am sure many of these questions were from lack of knowledge or concern, but after hearing them over and over and sometimes more than once from the same person, it became offensive to us. Like our decision wasn’t respected. Like we didn’t have a large enough mental capacity to have talked to our doctors or made our decisions based on facts.. Adoption was in our hearts and we felt that was where our child was growing. We felt alone and that these questions would turn into years of feeling like our child wasn’t accepted.

Luckily, with some prayers and tears, we were able to talk to the people closest to us and understand where they were coming from and educate them on our choices. When our son was born, he was welcomed into the family with loving arms and many joyful tears. He is treated no different than the other children in our family. He IS their brother, cousin, nephew, and grandson.

I still get asked why we decided to adopt by people. Our answer, we just wanted to be parents.

To follow our adoption more, “Like” our facebook page at www.facebook.com/OurAdoption

You are Sooooo Wonderful!

You are so wonderful!

Sarah Baker | November 05, 2013 | 11:04 AM

Since adopting our son, I find people say the strangest things. At least they are strange to me. While we are very open about the fact that Ezra is adopted and we want him to understand his roots, other people are making me learn to be more closed lip about it. I have come to only share our adoption story in certain platforms now. Not because I am ashamed or don’t want Ezra to know, but because people don’t understand adoption. It really depends on if I am in “educate” mode or “I’m a busy mom and don’t want to hear your comments” mode.

When someone says to me, “wow, where did he get his blonde hair?” Do I say, “His birth father was blonde as a child too”, or do I say “His dad”, or do I sarcastically say “Must have been the mailman.”? I don’t want Ezra to grow up thinking I am ashamed that he is adopted by avoiding the topic, but I also don’t want him to feel like I am always saying “well he’s adopted” either.

One thing I hear a lot when I do mention that he is adopted, is “Wow, you are so wonderful to have adopted.” Or “You are such an angel to adopt”. This is what gets me: I am not wonderful or an angel for adopting. I did not pluck an orphan out of the gutters of the street. I selfishly chose to expand my family through domestic infant adoption. I could have chosen foster care adoption or international orphan adoption, but I didn’t. I wanted my husband to experience having a baby since birth, since he missed that time of Isaac’s life. I wanted to know he would be called “daddy” not Joe by the next child. I wanted to experience the joys of a baby with him and with Isaac as a big brother. I wanted to have an attachment that felt like I was there from the start. I wanted to attempt breast feeding by inducing lactation.

So, when someone tells me I am so wonderful for adopting Ezra, do I smile and nod and give them thanks for the compliment or do I spout off like a crazy person telling them why I am the lucky one, not him? I want to educate people on adoption, but is there a time and place for that?

Why You Should Not Fear Adoption From Foster Care

This post is from a guest blogger.  I will be adding additional foster to adopt posts in the future.  While it’s not a subject I have direct experience with, I think it’s a topic that many people are curious about and fearful of.  – Sarah

Foster Series:

Why You Should Not Fear Adoption from Foster Care

Stephanie Rosic | September 23, 2013 | 01:48 PM

While my blog focuses primarily on my experience of domestic infant adoption, there are many ways for adoption to grow a family. I reached out to my adoption support group “Celebrate Adoption” asking if anyone would be interested in sharing their “foster to adopt” story. Thank you Stephanie for sharing this with us. – Sarah

When I met my daughter for the first time she was almost three months old. She was wearing a pink baby onesie with bloomers and on her tiny feet she wore socks with pink scrolling letters that said “I love my Mommy.” She had that baby fresh smell and as she was placed in my arms by our social worker I was also handed a bottle full of formula just mixed by her foster mother. This little girl, with the long fingers and big brown inquisitive eyes was my daughter at last. As we gazed at one another I wondered if she was thinking of her foster mother. I was her third ‘mother’ in three months, but I promised one thing that day – in my arms you will stay.

As we drove out of the city I was overwhelmed with gratefulness for both my daughter’s birthmother and also for her foster mother who cared lovingly for her for nearly three months. Foster care allowed my daughter a safe environment to wait for us while we waited for her. Once we found each other, foster care allowed us to begin the process of foster/adopt immediately. This is not to say that we had not followed many steps to reach that moment in which I held my daughter. We had found a reputable agency, completed the seemingly unending application process, finished our home study with several visits, reached approval, were matched with our daughter and then ultimately our baby girl was placed with us. Almost one year later we finalized our adoption in court. Adopting from foster care is a laborious process but a fruitful one.

When I share my story or talk with others about adoption from foster care most of the time I encounter a fearful response. You will find me taking a deep breath while I wait out the horrifying story of the one adoption they know of that went sideways. And when they are finally finished with that one story and proceed to tell me how brave I am to adopt from foster care, I tell them a few key facts. Generally, I can boil their fearfulness down to three areas.

Fear: Foster children have complicated histories that ultimately make them unavailable for adoption.

Truth: There are over 104,000 children who are legally free and waiting to be adopted in the United States from foster care. It is estimated that in 2012 alone over 58,000 children were made legally free and ready to adopt. Legally free meaning that both birthparents have legally terminated their rights and these beautiful children are ready and waiting for a family. This was my daughter.

Fear: Birthparents return and disrupt domestic adoptions from foster care.

Truth: Very few birth families will reappear after legally terminating their rights. Over 98% of legally completed adoptions remain intact. Those children in foster care in which reunions with birth families are possible work toward that reality. More than half of the children currently in foster care will be returned joyfully to their birthparents or extended relatives. We should rejoice in that statistic. But that leaves the remaining children who cannot be returned to birth families for a diverse range of reasons, and so they wait in foster care for families. This was my daughter.

Fear: Children in foster care have special needs or things I can’t provide them.

Truth: Kids in foster care are normal, regular kids. They need support, guidance, and someone to care for them like any child. Some children in foster care do have specific medical needs, yes, but not all. Post-adoption support and mentorship from your agency or support group can aid you in processing such needs if they arise. However, all waiting children in foster care do have hopes, aspirations, a need to be loved and celebrated, and a place to belong. This was my daughter.

My hope is that more people would consider adopting from foster care. I’m not saying that sometimes foster adoptions don’t go as planned, and hearts get broken all around. Those things sadly do happen. But what I am saying to those considering adoption is do not be persuaded solely by that one story you once heard about foster adoption going badly, but rather look for and commit to care for a child from foster care who needs a family to champion them in life.

Ten years after I first held her in my arms, my daughter is still just a regular kid, with a regular mom, and a promise made to never let her go.

*All statistics taken from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) Report

For more about Stephanie and to visit her blog check out www.stephanierosic.com

Open Adoption

Open Adoption

Sarah Baker | September 17, 2013 | 06:38 PM

I posted a blog awhile back about lessons we learned during our first match. Most of the lessons we learned surrounded setting boundaries early on and communicating directly what your wishes are for the adoption. Both parties should fully understand the adoption plan so there are no surprises or hurt feelings later down the road. One of the most common things I have heard from people who are opposed to adoption or looking to reform adoption say is; “In most states, open adoption is not legally enforceable”.

Open adoption is a relatively new concept. In the lifetime of adoption, open adoptions just started being more accepted in the 1970’s. As with all new concepts and alterations in tradition, changes don’t occur over night. Studies were done and are still being done. Since people my age are pretty much the forerunners of this new concept in open adoption being the “norm”, it is not uncommon to have friends and relatives question and caution the decision to have an open adoption. They have fears (and let me admit, so did I before learning more about it) like; Will it undermine me as the parent? Will it confuse my child? Will it hurt the birth mother more to see the child? Will it cause trauma? Will the birth parents try to steal the child back? Will it be a competition of love? Will it be awkward? What will other people think? After hearing these questions dozens of times, it starts to get frustrating, but keeping in mind that open adoption is “new” and they are just looking out for your well being, I take it as a great opportunity to educate them and involve them in the expansion of our family.

As a reminder from my previous post (Lessons Learned):

Things open adoptions are not:

• Co-Parenting

• Custody arrangement

• Long term child care

Things open adoptions are:

• Birth parents having knowledge of well being of the child

• Self-identity for the child

• Love and communication

So my response to the people that like to constantly remind expecting mothers that “In most states, open adoption is not legally enforceable”, is that while it is indeed not legally enforceable, choose wisely. Choose an ethical agency. Choose an agency that advocates open adoption. Choose an agency that has training and education on why open adoption is healthy. Ask the agency if they will intervene if an open adoption starts to take a turn, sometimes miscommunication can be a simple fix. Tell the adoption counselor what your expectations are. Make sure you are choosing adoption for the right reasons and fully understand what adoption is. And lastly, choose a family that you feel you can trust with the adoption plan you envision and that you see your child having a good upbringing with.

Communicate your feelings, no matter what they are. Don’t assume that people know what you are thinking. But, if you are thinking that you want to see your child that you place for adoption at least weekly or maybe even monthly, that may be unrealistic for an adoptive family and could also be a sign that you don’t really want to go through with adoption. You may want to explore your options and see if there is a way you can parent. Don’t let anyone tell you that you must place your child for adoption. That is YOUR choice. Open adoptions are great, but ultimately, you are no longer that child’s mommy. You turn into a birth/first mother. So just be comfortable and confident in your choice.

So, while some people do close the door on their open adoption, I’m an optimist that likes to believe that this is not the norm or that they have valid reasons. I can’t understand why an adoptive family would enter into such an agreement and take this amazing gift from a loving woman, and then shut her out. It’s something that doesn’t comprehend in my mind. Was it in their plans from the beginning? Were they deceitful? Did something in life change? My thoughts on open adoption are this: We have an open adoption with Ezra’s birth family. I say family because it’s not just his birth parents. He has siblings. He has aunts. He has grandparents. These are extensions of my son. Who am I to deny him this identity of himself? There are very few circumstances I can see me making the tough decision to limit physical contact with these people. Those reasons would be drugs, crime, abuse, prostitution, alcoholism, etc. Allowing Ezra to see his birth parents this way at a young age would be devastating. I would carefully explain that until these actions are corrected, we would cease visits that include Ezra. However, I would never stop contact altogether. I would still send updates and photos. I would still be there as emotional support and encourage them to get back on a better path in life and if that day never came, when he is old enough, then I would provide him with the way to be in touch on his own accord. I pray that is never something we will encounter; we really enjoy our family picnics and time spent together. But, I believe they placed their son in my care so that I would do what is best for him… and if they were in one of those situations I described previously, I think I would be doing them and their choice an injustice by putting him in harm’s way.

To learn more about the benefits of open adoption and stereotypes often associated with them, please visit: http://www.openadoptions.com/ (I didn’t have a chance to read every single topic on this page, so I hope the information is useful and accurate)

Follow our adoption story more at www.facebook.com/OurAdoption

If you have specific questions about open adoption, please message me, I am open anytime to help!