Category Archives: Adoption

My take on foster care

Blog post by Kristen Bolander, a foster, adoptive and biological mom in North Florida.

Baby Adorable and I blogging away

Baby Adorable and I blogging away

I had the pleasure of babysitting a tiny little bit the other night. The baby, who I will name Adorable, is adorable and in foster care. As I snuggled Adorable to death I was reminded of all of the emotions that come over you as a foster parent. This is Adorable’s foster parent’s first foster kid. Not only that, but they have a 7-month-old bio son themselves. They took in an addicted baby when they have their own child to raise.

We have all seen those blog posts about how hard it is to be a foster parent, and how it’s worth it, and all. This is my take on it…

 

 

As a foster and adoptive parent I get comments everywhere. EVERYWHERE.

“God bless you for doing that.”

“I’ve always thought about doing that.”

“I could never give a kid up.”

“When the time is right I am going to foster.”

“I wish I could do that.”

“You’re such a great person for taking in abused kids.”

“There is a special place in heaven for you.”

“You must have a heart of gold.”

We heard all of the above comments at the beach in one hour.  All in front of my kids which gets old for all of us.

We heard all of the above comments at the beach in one hour. All in front of my kids which gets old for all of us.

While I always appreciate any encouragement I can get, I hear these same phrases so often that they have become blanket statements for people to say, when they want to express their admiration for someone but don’t know how. I smile, make a joke about how I just drink a lot of coffee and have a bunch of bad ideas and walk away before anyone can bother to ask more questions like, “Are any of them related?” (Please, do not ever ask an adoptive parent this question in front of their children – use your head people.) 

My feelings about foster care aren’t about how hard it is to give a kid up, though it can be very difficult. For me, what has been hard is looking the kids in their beautiful eyes and thinking about what has been, and what could be. Those incredibly long nights, when you are awake with your addicted baby who is screaming from withdrawal are hard, really hard. That time when you look in your child’s eyes and you see the resemblance to their bio mom and a moment of fear flashes through your mind of, “What if they turn out like that?” and you can do nothing but pray and hope. Those moments when your child is screaming to go back to the person who hurt them.

Those foster care classes where they give you the reality of foster care but then try and let you know how rewarding it can be, they cannot prepare you for it all. Sometimes it’s not rewarding. Sometimes a child will come into your home and you cannot help them. Your skills and love do not match their needs, and you have to find that child another home. Sometimes, or a lot of times, you lock yourself in a bathroom and cry because you are so overwhelmed by the kid’s behavior, or the thought of what happened to them, the thought of losing them or everything. Being a foster parent is overwhelming, and emotionally and physically exhausting. It’s not hard for me to love another person’s child; if you’re a kid in my home, you’re my child and I love you, though many times I may not like you. It’s hard to deal with bad behaviors and it’s hard to accept that people abuse children, but that’s what foster parents do, day in and day out. All while caseworkers, attorneys, and Guardian Ad Litem’s, come in and out of the home, make phone calls about you, and scrutinize if you have taken out your bathroom trash that week or not.

I don’t watch TV because it’s a great way for me to avoid the news and reality of the world around me. I don’t get newspapers, I don’t follow politics, and I don’t really care about much going on around me. But abuse, I’m not in the business of ignoring reality.  I copied this from www.adoptuskids.org.

“More than 250,000 children in the U.S. enter the foster care system every year. While more than half of these children will return to their parents, the remainder will stay in the system. Most of these children are living with foster families, but some also live in group facilities. Each year more than 20,000 children age out of the foster care without being adopted. Today there are 104,000 children in foster care waiting to be adopted ranging in age from less than a year old to 21.”

250,000 kids come into foster care each year, and you know where they end up? In the homes of tired people, emotionally exhausted people who just want to sleep through the night, people who have raised more kids than ‘The Duggars’. Those foster parents, when approached by strangers giving blanket statements, “I don’t know how you do it, I could never do that,” smile and give some generic answer, just like I do, smile again and move on. But in truth most of those people who say those seemingly nice statements have no clue how much we foster parents give, and love. They have no idea how much time and energy we invest into helping mold the most vulnerable members of society, who will one day grow up and have a choice to make about how they want to treat their children. We work, day and night, to ensure that our kids aren’t treated differently, that they get the special services they need, that they feel loved. We have to think about child abuse all day, not just when it pops up on the news for three minutes. It is our kids’ constant reality, and now ours. If you get upset when you hear something terrible on the news, truly stop, and think about how foster parents have to take that reality on 24/7 until the child, or children can adjust.

Today, go thank a foster parent. Don’t give out any more blanket, “Oh you’re such a great person” statement. Go DO something for them. Foster parents are helping to change the entire world of the children in their homes. That’s a big freaking deal. Take them a meal, send them a gift card, or write them a thank you note. What we do behind closed doors is epic, even if you can’t see it. But to us, it’s all worth it, knowing that even if that kid was with us for just a few days, we helped make their life a little better.

I love being a foster parent. I know foster parenting is not for everyone, but if you have honestly been considering it, here is a video that my husband Willy and I are in.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwIA8y-YjY8

Welcome to Our Family, Elie!

Guest post by Heather Rosenberg, a foster and adoptive parent for almost five years. This is the third post in her blogging series.

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Warren and Elie, both born of Heather and her husband’s hearts through adoption.

After many emotional conversations, we both came to the conclusion that we could not break up siblings, and we would be the resource for the new baby if it were to be sheltered. We prepared our home for a new child and told our employers the news. Experience had shown us that you take a lot of time off with a new child (and both of us said goodbye to the possibility of any sleep ever again). Even though these adoptions were an emotional and physically draining rollercoaster, Bethanie, Dianna and Karen all played instrumental roles in our decision making process. These women pour everything in their job for the kids on their cases and helped us to recharge and stay in it for the long haul. I am forever grateful for these ladies.

The day we made the decision to take Elie into our home, Bethanie called with the exciting news of her early birth! My 3 year old and I went to pick her up. Upon our arrival we instantly fell in love with this little squishy baby that would find shelter in our home and love in our hearts. It was difficult to watch Elie’s parents struggle in changing the course of their destinies, but they began to understand that their children were going to be well cared for with our family. It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you foster sometimes because you are so uplifted and encouraged by the gains the children in your home make but find such despair in knowing that their family story involves so much loss and pain.

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Adoption Day with the advocates who helped during the journey. Thank you!

A few months ago the judge announced the arrival of our Elie for the first time to the world and in the process made us a legal, forever family of five. Today our house is a little messier, our schedules are a little more hectic, we have less disposable cash and much more laundry to fold, but our family is exactly the way it was meant to be! The journey has not been easy for us—Evan and I have fussed and whined at and to each other. We’ve had sleepless nights as one or more of the kids have been sick, or teething, or experiencing night terrors for the first time. Our marriage has had to grow with our growing family.

I think back to the beginning of our foster care journey and I can’t help but think how much life has changed for my family in those short five years. We have three forever children now, have fostered a dozen children along the way and have made many friends who have fostered or adopted. But we also have seen the amazing capacity of the human spirit to thrive and rebound, and we’ve met three wonderful women who worked very hard to ensure the safety of one child, but ultimately ended up creating a loving family for his sister too! I think about all of this and know that my life is as it should be.

The Road to Adoption

Guest post by Heather Rosenberg, a foster and adoptive parent for almost five years. This is the second post in her blogging series.

Liam and Warren, his adoptive brother and child formerly in foster care.

Liam and Warren, his adoptive brother and child formerly in foster care.

After many, many months of failed visits, lack of progress on case plan tasks, and then ultimately the disappearance of the parents, the posture of the case changed from reunification to adoption. I became acquainted with the Children’s Legal Services attorney assigned to the case, Diana Korn, when she reached out to me to answer some of the legal questions I was asking about how the process worked. I was able to see first-hand how well Bethanie and Diana worked together on this case. All along the way, Diana would call me at various points to make certain that my family understood what was happening in the legal arena. I had never had a CLS attorney keep me so well-informed in the process of the legal system, which was incredibly helpful because every case is unique.

The other person who played an integral role in this case was the guardian ad litem, Karen Isch. Karen visited Liam at his daycare (which was in a different county from where Karen worked), our home, during visitations with his parents – she even came to a doctor’s appointment to visit him while he was getting shots (and helped me calm him down after those shots). Besides her expected career duties, she wanted to help in any way. She even helped during the holidays – she put Liam’s name on the list to receive gifts through the GAL office!

Then our story changed again. Shortly before Liam turned 1, we were told that his mother was pregnant again. We were asked if we would consider being the placement resource for that child as well, if the baby were to be sheltered. The maternal instinct in me was to say “yes, yes, yes” again, but I knew that my husband and I were stretched very thin with the two boys we already had as Liam had some complicated medical needs that kept me out of work a lot traveling to the children’s clinic in Jacksonville for his specialists.

Not wanting to give up on the idea of keeping the siblings together if the new baby was removed as well, my husband and I started a several-month-long dialog as to whether we could financially afford to take the new baby, had the physical resources to fit a third car seat into our vehicles, could find a child care center that would take a brand new baby, could handle another child with complex medical needs like Liam had, and whether we had the emotional capacity to go through this again—as this case has been the most emotionally draining case we’ve ever had. We knew our own relationship had been strained through the course of this – and we were both exhausted. Could we handle another child?

Stay tuned for Heather’s next guest blog post, where she talks about the next big events in Liam’s life.

Meeting Liam

Guest post by Heather Rosenberg, a foster and adoptive parent for almost five years. This is the first post in her blogging series.

Liam on the move!

Liam on the move!

Twenty-three months ago, before I had met Liam or Elie, one of my fellow foster moms hinted I might receive a placement call for a 9-day-old baby named Liam, a little boy who desperately needed a home. When I heard the phone ring I already suspected it would be Big Bend Community Based Care Placement Specialist Rachel Bassett, who has placed children with me before. Covered in water from bathing my recently adopted child and current foster baby, I reached for the phone, already prepared to say “yes” (I am one of those mothers whose first instinct is to say “yes, yes, yes” even though my husband fusses at me for doing that). Shortly after, I raced out the door to go meet the child protective investigator and pick up the new baby. That was how Liam came to our family.

Upon taking care of Liam, I discovered that his parents experienced multiple mental health issues, drug abuse, homelessness, violence, criminal activity and were former foster children themselves. BBCBC Lead Dependency Case Manager Bethanie Milford worked between us and Liam’s parents to ensure Liam was in the best care, wherever that meant he was supposed to be. As many assume, this is a messy time of tracking paperwork and referrals and struggling to stay in communication with the busy case manager. However, Bethanie was anything but average. In fact, as a 10-year veteran case manager, she took her role as family advocate very seriously, and she was determined to do everything in her power to break the cycle of abuse in this family.

Bethanie went out of her way to set up visitations with the biological family, asked about our family’s needs, got every single piece of documentation I asked for as soon as I asked for it, provided follow up and constant communication with both us and the biological family, and gave referrals and services at least once a week. She would even reach out to me before I could even reach out to her.

I watched in awe as Bethanie did things I had only ever dreamed a case manager would, should or even could do to help heal a broken family. It was incredible. Watching Bethanie started to restore some of my faith in a system I have only ever seen fail since I was a young teen and watched my own siblings fall into the system having their lives slowly broken, piece by piece.

But this was only the beginning of Liam’s story.

Stay tuned for Heather’s next blog post, where she talks about the next events in Liam’s life.

The Genesis

Guest blog post by Isabella Glazer, Bella’s Group Founder. Bella’s Group was chosen as a featured “Hope for the Holidays” organization and is in need of laptops, gift cards for household supplies, food, clothes and toys, and resources for group family events: http://flpartnersforpromise.com/hope.shtml

Gabriella and Isabella

Gabriella and Isabella

When my sister Gabriella and I were in grade school (I was in 4th grade and Gabriella was in 3rd grade) we went to live with our grandparents, Drs. Ira and Marietta Glazer, because there were difficulties with our family. It was strange at first, but Noni (Italian for grand mom) and Grandpa were so loving and caring, we soon found life to be “normal.”

Noni is VERY active. She’s been a volunteer with several area charities. My sister and I found we were being invited to attend some of the charity events, so you might say we learned about the non-profit work while we learned about math, social studies and history in school.

Although things were going along nicely, I felt it would be neat to meet other young people who were being raised by their grandparents. We looked for a support group – and we looked a lot! We asked around at school, church, on the Internet, but couldn’t find anything. We did find out that in Broward County there are about 35,000 children being raised by family members that were not their parents; sometimes uncles and aunts, and some were being raised by their great grandparents. But no support group where we could socialize.

Bella - girls at teaseSo with Noni’s encouragement, Gabriella and I started Bella’s Group in 2009! We came up with a plan. We would give free parties so that the children would have a really fun time and get a chance to meet other kids that were in similar situations. It would help the kids realize they aren’t the only ones not being raised by their parents. Noni then suggested we invite people who worked at social service agencies so they could give the adults some advice, help them find resources, guidance and receive support by meeting other caregivers, all while the children are playing.

Things have worked out well. We give a few parties a year – pool parties, an afternoon of bowling at Manor Lanes, and what has become an annual holiday party.

But we are not just parties! Here are some of the things we do to help people in our community:

  • We have partnered with other non-profits like the Pantry of Broward, encouraging children and adults to bring canned goods and food to our events.
  • We are very proud of is our Back-to-School Backpacks which we have been doing for the past few years. We have a back-pack drive where people drop off new school supplies and back packs as well as donations and we deliver fully loaded back-to-school back packs to agencies in Broward County.Our Bella Bags are special packages for children who are leaving their homes because of domestic violence or other difficulties. Many times they have to leave without being able to pack some essentials like tooth brushes, hair brushes, personal care items. We also include a ‘cuddle blanket’ and sippy cups.

Bella - Girls for BettyOh, yes — Noni and Grandpa adopted us about five years ago. We are both members of the Florida Youth Orchestra, where Gaby plays the Violin and I play the flute.  We take ballet and have a black stripe in Taekwondo. We also actively participate at our school nativity, where we are altar servers, sing in the choir, attend lectures and sometimes usher. I play basketball and Gaby is a cheerleader. We are both members of the drama club and this year we are doing “Sussical the Musical” – I am the “Cat in the Hat” and Gaby is “Mazy.” We make good grades, go to Walt Disney World once a year, take really amazing vacations with Noni and Grandpa and know we are blessed and are surrounded by love!

Note: Bella’s Group was chosen as a featured “Hope for the Holidays” organization and is in need of laptops, gift cards for household supplies, food, clothes and toys, and resources for group family events. Visit “Hope for the Holidays” to help them this holiday season.