Monthly Archives: November 2013

Someone

Guest post by Sara Davis, a 46-year-old single mom who today adopted three more foster children to complete her family of five.                         

Today, their adoption day, was so important to them that they wore their Christmas best!

Today, their adoption day, was so important to them that they wore their Christmas best!

I am a single mom. A 46-year-old single mom to five beautiful kids, none of which I carried in my tummy, but all of them I carried in my heart. People say it is unconventional. I say nothing is traditional anymore. We make our own traditions and they come in all colors, designs and sizes.

I remember the first day Ceinna asked me if she could call me mom. The first time Michael and Dominic made snow angels. Our first road trip together to visit my family in Alabama. I knew I was a mom the first time Vanessa fell asleep holding my hand. The specials things we look forward to doing together as a family are our traditions.

Vanessa and Gracie are my first-borns, in the sense that I adopted them first a few years ago. Today we could not be more thrilled for Ceinna, Michael and Dominic to officially join our family during Hillsborough County’s National Adoption Day.

People wonder how I manage with five kids all under the age of 10 and just me as the schedule juggler, master chef, problem-solver and comforter. I tell them I depend on friends, family, daycare and an understanding employer. I feel like every other biological parent.

I would encourage any single person to not let the stigma of single parenting scare you away from this incredible chance to be a parent to a child in need. Everywhere you look there are children who need someone. What if you were that someone?

For more information about adoption and children available for adoption in Florida, visit www.adoptflorida.org or call 1-800-962-3678. 

Preston’s Road to Recovery

Guest post by Sherry Griffing, Medical Foster and Adoptive Parent in North Florida. 

I remember the day Preston came to our home. We were so happy he was a part of our family, but also worried for his health. At that point his little lungs were struggling so much that I could hear his wheezing from across the room.

He was on albuterol breathing treatments, steroids and 3 percent saline solution via nebulizer every three – four hours. At that time, his breathing treatments would take approximately 45 minutes. He had already had one surgery to drain the fluid from his lungs and they were filling up again, not responding to the 3 percent solution. I slept in the room with him the first couple of nights to keep better track of his breathing. The pulmonologist labeled him a “fragile asthmatic” and soon she was talking about doing another surgery on this precious, just-turned-2 little man.

I learned that there was a 7 percent hyper saline solution that the pulmonologist thought would clear the “crud,” as she called it, from his lungs. After a short time on the 7 percent solution, Preston responded to the breathing treatments and his lungs were clear!

As time went on, we watched Preston flourish. He became stronger, requiring fewer and fewer breathing treatments. Now he requires no daily breathing treatments. In fact, he no longer takes any asthma medication at all. For peace of mind, I carry his emergency inhaler everywhere we go, but honestly I can’t remember the last time we had to use it! He is a sweet, loving, funny, stubborn, handsome, smart addition to our family!

It is amazing the extent to which medically involved children can benefit from being in a home where they receive consistent attention from a parent who is willing to pursue options to improve their health. What condition would Preston be in today if he hadn’t been brought into our home? How many surgeries might he have been subjected to? We feel so blessed to be able to see the impact we have had onPreston’s health. If you are thinking about becoming involved in the adoption of a medically involved child, I can’t encourage you enough to do it! It is a great way to contribute to the lives of medically involved children and is indescribably personally rewarding.

To Err is Human

Guest post by Judge James Seals.

SealsThe death of a child at the hands of a caregiver, someone a child trusts, is indeed one of our community’s most tragic events. It’s even more tragic when the child is under the watch of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), but it will continue to happen as long as humans have the capacity to make mistakes – which is always.

Child protection system professionals, like physicians, airline pilots, builders, and police officers, to name some, make mistakes which can directly or indirectly cause the loss of human life. Their duties require them to gather information, process it, exercise judgment, reach conclusions and make decisions – all human functions – usually under some measure of situational stresses and the pressures of time. With risky endeavors, having insufficient information, or lack of time to consider all the information, or drawing an erroneous conclusion can lead to bad decisions which in turn can cause a death or other tragedy. Expecting zero deaths in professions where human judgment and high risk intersect every day is a fool’s wish.

Rather than pass judgment and sentence on DCF on the few bits of anecdotal evidence gleaned from the media – which covers less than 1% of all cases handled – the better response is to ask whether the child protection system is learning from mistakes made, and how. As a veteran of 15 years in the child protection system, my answer is yes, but I must quickly add that learning from mistakes will not guarantee that child mortality by abuse will always decrease over a given period of time. Every day the child protection system encounters new, different and increasingly bizarre ways that parents and caregivers manage to endanger their children. If child abuse and neglect were stationary targets, then systemic improvements would consistently reduce child abuse and neglect. Child endangerment, however, is and always will be a moving target pursued by humans who, no matter how competent, will always fall short of perfection. The best we can hope for is a steady downward trend over the long term.

The child protection system, which includes our legislature (policy), the courts (oversight and final decision-making), and the child welfare agencies (investigations and case management), is constantly searching for new and better evidence-based best policies and practices to prevent child maltreatment, to ensure child safety and to improve families’ capacities to safely and competently parent their children.For example, investigations now go far beyond just focusing on the alleged maltreatment to information gathering on surrounding circumstances, child functioning, adult functioning, general parenting practices and general discipline practices within the family under investigation. This enables system professionals and courts to make better safety-related decisions right from the start of the case; it improves the system’s capability to assess and control the dangers to vulnerable children through safety planning; and it helps caregivers through targeted case planning to improve family functioning by removing or reducing the threats to child safety.

Costly mistakes are most likely made out in the field where system workers come face to face with offending parents and victim children. Throughout Florida there are many well qualified, well trained, passionately motivated workers out in the field. However, the turnover rate of these key players in child safety and welfare is very high. The good ones get promoted out of the field or move on to better paying, or less stressful jobs in other careers. The ill-suited are either terminated or resign. High turnover in field personnel is the incubator of error. Even the best child protection system available, staffed at the higher echelons with the best leaders and experts, will always underperform without a stable, qualified, motivated cohort of investigators and case workers at their command.

Constant and diligent efforts at controlling risks and dangers will never eliminate the human capacity to err. Regrettably, airplanes will continue to crash, bridges will collapse, brakes will fail, parents will abuse children, and people will die. That’s life, pure and simple. I’m not suggesting we look upon child abuse with resignation or acceptance, nor am I suggesting we throw away accountability. I’m advocating for responsible, well-informed, constructive accountability which asks the right questions instead of making the same old ill-informed, ill-advised, illogical demands.

 We can begin by acknowledging that Florida’s child protection system is blessed with many great generals and colonels, but it is also plagued by high turnover and low morale among the troops. Not taking adequate care of the troops may well be the worst mistake of all. Why this is happening is one of those right questions to ask.

Forever Home, Forever Commitment

Guest post by Ashley Rhodes-Courter, MSW, is the New York Times Bestselling Author of the memoir, “Three Little Words.” She and her husband, Erick, have cared for nearly 20 children and are now adoptive parents. 

photoBy the age of 12, I had already been in 14 placements and had spent nearly 10 years in foster care. Finally a family stepped forward to adopt me and give me the unconditional love I craved. Today that circle of love is complete: Almost exactly 16 years since I moved in with my forever family, my husband and I are adopting one of our own foster children.

I am also keeping a promise I made to myself to become the caregiver I had always wanted for myself and the parent every child needs—and deserves.  We finally get to affirm what our hearts already knew: Skyler is our son. We are making a forever commitment to this amazing little boy and will dedicate our lives to ensuring he never has one day of abuse, neglect, loneliness or fear in his future.

Children, by no fault of their own, come into foster care for a variety of reasons. Not all are able to return to their biological families. As we celebrate our new addition, we are mindful that there are more than 100,000 children in the United States still waiting to be adopted. There is always a way to give back and become involved. I was nearly a teenager when a family was brave enough to love and take me in all those years ago, and I now have the chance to do the same for another child.

Siblings Help Each Other Heal

Guest post by Willy and Kristen Bolander, adoptive parents in North Florida.

Siblings2Several years ago, about two weeks before Christmas, two sisters became a part of our family. The experience was surreal: the sisters didn’t seem to acknowledge each other or play together. In fact, it took several days before we finally saw them interact.

What we eventually observed (and were able to observe again and again as time went on) was that Lilly would go into the refrigerator and, still fearful of not having anything to eat from her prior  years before foster care, eat whatever she could grab. After getting a few bites for herself, she would turn and hand some food to Tera, who was patiently waiting behind her. Lilly later told us that she was the main caretaker for her 1-year-old sister and if there was enough food she would share. Tera suffered for a long time with food hoarding and Lilly would overeat to accommodate for the times when she feared food might get scarce.

Siblings3The first time they played together, Kristen cried. They held hands and jumped up and down chanting the Barney song. It was like they finally realized they didn’t just have to survive, but could start to enjoy life. Today, the girls have a bond that is strong beyond words. The girls do everything together. Even though she doesn’t remember the abuse, Tera is happy to retell the story of her big sister providing for her when no one else would. She is proud of her sister for what she did. Lilly still looks over her sister daily, ensuring that she is ok at all times. Being together through this ordeal has helped them heal faster than if they had been separated into different homes.

We would encourage people to consider the benefits, both to the children and to themselves, of adopting sibling groups. Having siblings around adds to the stability of a very difficult situation, can help facilitate the healing process, and is just a little more fun when it comes to play time. In contrast, separating siblings compounds the trauma, increases the difficulty for a child when he/she has questions about the past and creates a much harsher landscape for healing.

Siblings1So, what do you think? Want to replace that twin bed in your kids’ room with a set of bunk beds? We very rewarded by opening our home to foster and adopted children. It is a wonderful way to grow and complete a family.

For more information about adoption and children available for adoption in Florida, visit www.adoptflorida.org or call 1-800-962-3678.