Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I'm too busy to post

No really,  "I'm busy, busy, dreadfully busy, much, much too busy for you blogging." Our girls grew up on Veggie Tales. :-) But I digress.  We got another large packet of paperwork this past Monday.  This time it is the official beginnings of our home study, among other things it includes our application to adopt and personal references for Michael and I and school references for each of the girls. That part is hard because you see I AM NOT IN CONTROL! Yikes.  We have to rely on others completing these and returning them to us. Honestly they aren't "required" until March 26th (our last class) but I like to be prepared.  Did I mention I made our introductory photo album back in November?  The good news is I already have one personal reference and one school reference returned.  How is that for service? There are obviously a couple of equally goal oriented folks out there. We even have a couple of references coming from Canada, considering the longest anyone could have known us here is 5 years.

So here is the UPDATED to-do list we have left to complete for this set of papers:

  • Get cats vaccinated - last time we Michael took them to the vet, Lucy scaled the wall - yes, literally! The vet never called us back for their annual visit - that was two years ago. :-(
  • Have someone at Michael's work fill out a proof of employment form.
  • Have the rest of the references returned. All 3 school references returned, (teacher's are an organized bunch) 4 of 5 personal references returned. Only ONE to go!!!
  • Have doctor's physicals completed - mine is booked for March 20th - I guess I should have said something was wrong with me if I wanted in this week. Michael still has to book his.  is booked for April 12th, because his annual physical will be covered then.
The rest of it was just filling out many papers and copying lots of other paperwork, driver's licences, green cards, proof of insurance, dog's vaccinations and so forth.  I like having lots of papers to turn in at class time. It makes me feel like if they have our info sooner they will move faster in our home study.  I'm still holding onto my hope that our home study will be complete by the end of May.  That gives our adoption worker two full months after our last class to make their two home visits and personal interviews with Michael and I and our girls.  

My other reason for wanting to do as much as possible as fast as possible is MY DAD IS COMING TO VISIT!  He will be staying with us for one week while my mom & my brother enjoy some quality time while mom is on Spring Break from teaching.  Dad will be roughing it here in the sunny south. And BONUS - my friend Cathy & her family are also coming to Florida over Spring Break and they are going to stop by for a visit.  

That reminds me I'm busy - gotta get going!

They don't look wild - do they?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A diagnosis isn't always good news...

Over the next few years I explored various areas of concern always coming back to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  Though my formal education was minimal in this area I had read enough about FAS to consider it. At different times I took K to see two very well respected pediatricians in the city and inquired about this specific disorder.  Their responses greatly saddened me, one straight out said, "She can't have fetal alcohol syndrome because she's not Native American" WHAT?! I honestly tuned out after he said that.  That was the most unprofessional (not to mention racist) opinion I'd ever heard.  The other specialist gave her a very thorough look over in his office and confidently said, "She isn't Autistic and she doesn't have ADD or ADHD.." he scratched his head a little and said "but I can prescribe her something for her aggression."  Oh thank you wise doctor you just told me you have no idea what is wrong with this child but you would like to drug her. Thanks but no thanks I think we will pass. 
Over the next few years we watched as T caught up and quickly passed her older sister, first to read, first to do everything.  It is not a problem when you are 5 years old and your 4 year old sister can read you stories.  When you are 8 years old you start to catch on to the fact that as the bigger sister you should be doing more than the younger sister.  K began to be very aware of her needs in comparison to her little sister.  We choose to homeschool K & T because there was still no explanation for K’s slower development and we hoped that more one on one attention would help. At the time it didn’t seem to do much more than give T an excellent start while every day was a battle with K, because, according to the professionals, she was simply playing me and being lazy.  Looking back I think if nothing else these early years where she was read to everyday and encouraged in her abilities contributed to her current love of reading.  
It took eight years to meet the man who would change our lives and give us an understanding of K's behaviors and lack of age appropriate development.  We met Dr. Ted Rosales from Newfoundland online and as timing would have it there was soon to be a conference on FASD being held on Prince Edward Island.  So we packed up the family and headed for the island. Dr. Rosales was a speaker at the conference and very graciously took time from his schedule to consult with us in our hotel room and give us his opinion on K.  He was so wonderful, he sat back and watched her for a while, she was on her very best behavior.  We have always said K could live “happily ever after” in hotels.  Dr. Rosales approached her slowly after he saw she was comfortable with him and it was so encouraging to see a professional who knew how to interact with K.  During his consult he looked at photos of K from birth to current age of 8. The facial features of FASD become less evident with age, so younger photos are helpful with diagnosis. He also measured her cranium and looked at her hands & fingers. He was unequivocally certain of her FAS diagnosis, though he said he would rate K as having fetal alcohol effects, because she has an IQ in the very low normal range and her physical features have lessened significantly over time.  He warned us that FAE is more difficult to advocate for than full blown FAS because she will “appear” to be more capable than she is but her brain is equally as damaged as a child with FAS. He asked me many questions about our previous consults with other physicians.  He was surprised they could not reach this diagnosis.  

K age 8 photo taken prior to FAE diagnosis
Here is one of my favorite informative charts about FASD - it isn’t the exact one I was looking for but it gives a good idea of what it “appears” K can do and what her “ability age” is and forever will be.  Now at 17 she has reached her maturity and ability level.  Our sweet girl will be eight years old forever and you will never catch me saying, “I wish they could stay small forever..,” because one of ours will and it hurts to know the dreams we had for her and the dreams she has for herself died the day we got that formal diagnosis.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

K's adoption story continues

There was no MAPP class scheduled for yesterday and Michael had the day off work.  So we used his day off to go out for breakfast together after all the girls were at school and then we completed our mini mountain of family profile paperwork.  Yeah! Another small goal achieved.

So I've been debating what else I should share about K's adoption.  The whole failure to thrive issue was a little scary.  Basically she had been hospitalized three times in her first six weeks of life for failure to thrive and a variety of other reasons I will not go into.  So the social worker left me with instructions that K needed to be fed very small amounts every four hours. No problem. We set her up in the craddle in our bedroom and woke her every four hours.  I learned all that I could about failure to thrive and basically if I was awake I was holding, reading to, feeding, talking to, changing, bathing that little baby.  When Michael was home he was fully hands on as well.  Our sibling group of three was only going to be with us for the next eight weeks. During that time we played outside lots and they all loved snuggling in for reading - that worked well for all of us.  A noteworthy moment in the first week we had K, I took her for her follow up at her Dr's office.  Her Dr weighed her and with tears in her eyes she looked at that sweet little baby girl and said "You are thriving J (birth name)"  I was so pleased to get that report, I had no idea it was possible to turn failure to thrive around so quickly. In our experience it truly was a case of "all you need is love."  So things moved along from there.  We dressed all the kids up for Halloween, I dressed K in a white sleeper and called her a ghost - my mom thought that was a morbid costume for a baby who had been so sick.  Look I had three bigger kids to dress for Halloween (Batman , a Princess & a little baseball player) - a ghost was quick and easy for the baby.

As Christmas approached we prepared for our sibling group to go home to their family.  We celebrated Christmas early with them at our house and then sent them home about ten days before Christmas. We were blessed to be able to stay in close contact with those three littles and their parents for a time after they left us.  I won't go into that too much as that is their story to tell. Suffice it to say we loved them all very much and they have overcome some great tragedy in their lives and we are very proud of all of them.

Christmas of 1994 was a quiet little Christmas with just the three of us. It was shortly after that Christmas when I really started to have questions about K's development.  I was curious about her continuing lack of responsiveness - she NEVER cried, at least at home.  Her case aide who took her for her supervised visits with her birth parents told me that social workers would check the board and if she had a visit they would book appointments out of the office because they couldn't stand to hear K's cries.  The drive to the office was thirty minutes and she would always arrive home still doing that siphoning post cry noise.  Any moms reading this you know the sounds I am talking about.  The Dr said she was thriving, though still very tiny she was gaining weight and meeting early goals.  So as the foster parent with no formal say I shared my concerns, namely Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, with the Dr and K's social worker and I let it go and trusted the professionals.

In April of 1995 another sibling group arrived, this time a group of five.  They were a group of blond headed, blue eyed, beautiful children ages five, four, three, (almost) two and (almost) one.  As if that crew weren't enough I was three months pregnant at the time. Needless to say things didn't exactly slow down for that year.  By October of 1995 baby T was born and K was "unofficially" a big sister.  A month later when K was 14 months old we got the official word that the government had been granted guardianship of K.  She was now officially available for adoption. Her social worker called me as soon as she left the courthouse and relayed every detail to me.  The part of this day that still sticks with me is that K's birth mom was in the courthouse totally unsupported.  The social worker said she left the courthouse and K's birth mom was sitting alone on the steps of the courthouse.  She had no one. Birth mom would require 24 hour support to raise a child and that was not something she had available in her life.  She loved K and wanted her but she was unable to provide a safe home for her.  We have always told K that her birth mom loved and wanted her but she didn't know how to take care of babies, not everyone does.

 Daddy & K welcoming baby T home.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fingerprinting 101

I have to say I really like taking these steps that feel productive. Michael and I had digital fingerprinting completed today.  So once we are cleared by our local authorities and the FBI, we will be one more baby step closer expanding our family.  The forms we filled out said results are 3-4 weeks from today.

This process is making me reminisce about K's adoption which happened so long ago it seems like a dream. The ironic part of that was that we had no intent to adopt, we just wanted to be foster parents for children who needed a temporary home.  The day that wee baby girl arrived changed our lives and our hearts forever.  It may be like a dream but pieces stand out like it was yesterday.  I remember Michael coming home from work and things were busy - we also had a sibling group of three 'littles' running around the house at the time.  Baby K was sitting in her baby seat in the middle of the kitchen table - out of reach of the one year old, three year old and four year old.  Michael walked right up to her looked at her and said, "Hi baby J (birth name) I'm going to be your daddy for the rest of your life." Daddy say what? I don't know where he got that idea and I sure wasn't on the same page. Having already experienced the intensely painful event of returning an infant boy just a couple of months earlier I knew how this system worked all too well.  A social worker brings you a baby, you agree to meet every basic need of this child and love them and care for them as a parent.  Then the baby gets to go to a suitable relative and as the foster parent you never get to see them again.  The poor social worker who came to pick up that baby boy actually went out to her car and left me in the house with him while I sobbed uncontrollably with him in my arms for more than twenty minutes until rational thinking returned and I realized she had a schedule and she needed this baby.  The sweet sibling group of three would be returning to their family just before Christmas.  I expected K would follow along the same path and go to a relative if not back to her own parents.

Daddy with his first baby girl.

All that said when a social worker calls and asks if you'll take a six week old baby girl.... well what would you say? I was in immediately.  One of my very first thoughts when I got off the phone was "Six weeks old, I wonder if she has lost her belly button yet?" Seriously that was my biggest concern?  BTW - she had a belly button that was as cute as a button.  So the worker arrives with baby K, in a hospital gown, a few diapers and a couple bottles of formula... oh and casually says, "She is failure to thrive." And I was worried about a belly button.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Half way there....sort of

We completed our fifth MAPP class last night. :-) Five down five to go. Things picked up in excitement last night.  We got the info we need to go get our fingerprinting appointments scheduled.  Michael is calling today to set those up. In addition to our usual weekly homework, we also got a good sized stack of profile paper work to complete before the end of the ten classes.  General Family Profile, Individualized Family Profile, Michael and I each have to complete an Adult Personal Profile, then we have to complete a Child's Personal Profile for each of our girls.  Each of the girls also has paperwork they need to complete on themselves and on what their expectations are of a new sibling. R wanted to do hers before school this morning. I told her it would take a little more time than she had but I'm glad she is so anxious to do it.  So, lots to do in the next few weeks but we are very excited to be taking productive steps toward our adoptive home study.  

Based on the information we have received in class this far the fingerprinting should be complete and returned to the agency by the end of March when we finish our MAPP classes.  Our weekly homework and completed profiles are also due by then.  At that point the home studies will formally begin with interviews in our home. I'm hopeful that our home study will be complete by the end of May 2012.  I'm hesitant to put a date out there like that but I am hopeful that if we do what we are asked in a timely manner that our Family Adoption Specialist will also be proactive in getting through the process. Once our home study is complete we can begin the "formal" waiting stage to be matched with our son.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Not so sweet dreams

Have you ever had a bad dream and then been plagued by the emotions of that dream even after you wake up?  I have - more often than I care to think about. Last night at our fourth MAPP class we had a guided imagery activity. I started to feel bad as soon as our leader announced her plan, I've done these before and it never ends well.  So the just of it is she had us close our eyes and imagine ourselves in our homes in a place we are happy with people, pets and things that are special to us.  A real happy place. Then she comes to the door and tells me to quickly gather a few things to take with me because she's taking me to a new family that needs a mom.  They've been waiting for me for a long time. WHAT THE!!!!????? No thanks! I immediately got angry - very angry.  I'm happy and safe where I am thank you very much.  So she continued with me being taken to a house that was nicer than mine and the people who lived there all met me at the door smiling and happy to see me. Then I stayed there for a year before I was allowed to return to my family!!!!  For children in the foster care system this scenario plays out in reality sometimes dozens of times - in multiple foster homes and sometimes returning to their own home.  Why would they think coming to this "forever family" will be any different than any other place they have lived?

So usually Mike and I have really good discussions on the drive home from class, after all it is an hour drive and the class always has discussion worthy topics.  Not so last night - I was still mad.  How could he let them take me away? :-(  I know the idea was to try to relate how children feel when they are removed from their homes.  I know children love their homes and their families no matter how unsafe they may be.  I understand how terrifying it must be to have to trust this stranger coming to your door and then they take you to a house with more strangers and they leave you there.  You don't know what the rest of your family are doing, you don't know if or when you will see them again.  I'm an adult with full understanding of the imaginary scenario presented and I was still upset when we got home last night, complete with a headache I needed to take Advil for before bed.  So many times I was that smiling face at the door of the new house when we had children placed in our home.  I really tried to comfort the children and ease their transition but this little exercise made me think my smiling face was just as welcoming as if Freddy Krueger the door.  I could care less who was at the new house I just wanted to go home.

These classes are tough but we cannot deny they are providing us with skills to deal with the emotions and issues that may have affected our son-to-be.

On a positive note next week we will be given information on getting our finger printing appointments. That will feel like we are making progress in the right direction.