Proclaiming Liberty

This year, my church is declaring a Jubilee. The announcement came while I held my friend’s foster baby. The words spoken by Jesus,

 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Luke 4:18-19 (NKJV)

took on a new meaning for me. Suddenly I saw the captivity this baby had been born in to. The child welfare system is, unfortunately, necessary. I won’t dispute that reality. It’s a sad truth. There are situations children need to be protected from. Before he drew breath, this little one was caught up in the system.

As necessary as it is, the system is just that – a system. It’s not an ideal situation for children. Social workers, for the most part, do their best to make the right decisions. Foster parents, hopefully, pour love and nurture into these precious lives. But the system is cumbersome and often difficult to navigate. Decisions and directions don’t always appear to be in the children or family’s best interest.

2yr old Athena - November 2011

2yr old Athena – November 2011

When Athena came to me, she had been diagnosed with an unusual genetic mutation. The specialist insisted upon reconstructive surgery. But the system decided against it. Athena’s head was noticeably misshapen. Her one eye was recessed and it was unclear if she would be able to see properly as time went on. The decision didn’t appear to be in her best interest. As the foster parent, there was nothing I could do but pray and love her. In the end God has reshaped her head. Her eyes are aligned, though one remains slightly smaller. Had I been her legal mother, I would have decided on surgery when the world renowned geneticist insisted it was the best course of action. But Athena was subject to the decision of a system. Among other things, that system was bound by the challenge of legal custody. At that point, they were still trying to connect with the birth family – who were living in another country. The system didn’t have the authority to take medical action in a situation that was hardly routine. I am eternally grateful for Athena’s healing.

It was a miracle. Followed by an even greater miracle – that she was released from the system. Now that Athena’s adopted she has a parent – me – who has legal authority to make decisions for her life. And those choices are based on love and a desire to do what’s best for Athena. The system is unable to operate under that mandate. There are rules, regulations, and budget realities that make it impossible.

Athena & mommy - October 2014

Athena & mommy – October 2014

It’s a necessary system. But it’s a system. This year, as my church focuses on Jubilee, I’m praying for the release of captives. Foster children are captive to a system. Even operating at it’s absolute best, a system is no substitute for healthy, loving parents. So I’m praying this year, children will be released from the system into healthy, life-giving families. First and foremost, I’m praying for birth parents to come to a place of health. If at all possible, this is where kids should be. Should that not be possible, I’m praying for adoptions to occur at an exponential pace.

It was 9mths from the time my daughters became available for adoption until they were officially “placed” with me for adoption. (In our case, since the girls were already living with me, the placement was just a visit from the adoption worker that involved paperwork making the adoption official.)

9mths in the life of a child is a very long time. There are families waiting to adopt. There are children needing to be adopted. Let’s pray that comes together miraculously fast. Let’s pray that this year, many children are released from the captivity of the system into healthy families who can care for them to a degree the system can’t. Because even operating at it’s absolute best, a system is no place for a child to grow up.

Adoption Update

A very long time ago I mentioned devoting Thursdays to updates on our adoption process. Evidently, I’ve not done so. As of yet, there’s nothing I can report.

The paperwork lingered on a desk in my room. For some reason I couldn’t complete it without a clear picture of how I wanted our family to evolve. After a lot of time and experiences with a variety of children coming on weekends while their foster families take a break, I think I know what could work for us.

So the paperwork got done and delivered to my adoption worker. She’s in the midst of completing a few other homestudies. I’m now at the bottom of her list.

Shortly after that conversation, I received a letter in the mail from the supervisor of the adoption department. It was a general mailout encouraging me not to lose hope as I go through the process. She also mentioned applications will be expedited for those seeking to adopt older and/or special needs children as well as sibling groups. Being open to all three categories, I should find myself rocketing through the adoption process. In stead we’re lumbering along as though time is of no consequence. Children wait in foster care. I wait to go through the motions (since adopting Raine & Athena I have not become a convicted felon but still background checks must be made again in every city I’ve lived in). My daughters wait for new siblings.

The girls and I have an idea of what we want. I’m doing what I can to get us there. Basically it boils down to waiting with grace.

Canada’s child welfare system is a cumbersome system that moves at snail’s pace. Others have lost heart and abandoned the lengthy and often frustrating process of adoption through children’s aid. Some choose not to attempt it despite a desire to parent through adoption. Here I am wading into the water and trying to convince others to come with me.

It may be futile. It may come to nothing in the end. After being approved we may not ever be matched with a child or children. But as long as children in my own country need to be adopted, I can’t turn away. So I’ll keep waiting with grace.

What’s in a Name?

William-Shakespeare-quote-530x256

It’s Thursday and time for an adoption process update. I don’t have anything new to share. I’ve been busy getting ready for my trip among other things.

Since I don’t have a progress report, let’s explore an adoption issue. Names. Adopting an older child from foster care limits one’s options. For me that’s been challenging. I am a connoisseur of names. One of my first purchases as a teenager was a baby name book. I’ve carried it with me all these years. Whenever I meet someone, I check to see the meaning of their name.

Since childhood I’ve had a list entitled, “What I Want to Name My Kids.” Over the years the list has changed and evolved. The main criteria is names that are uncommon with a meaning that resonates with me.

Looking forward to adopting again, I’d love to be able to choose one of my children’s names. I have a revised list ready. There are several selections for boys and girls depending on the child’s personality and/or given name.

I love my daughter’s names. They never appeared on my list – but are lovely and meet my criteria. Because of the spelling of Raine’s name it means queen. Athena means wisdom. Both of those concepts have great meaning for me. When I met with their birth mom last year, I asked why she’d chosen their names. The question surprised her. Apparently she hadn’t given much thought to the reasons.

Since my girls were young and accepting, I was able to choose middle names for them. That was lots of fun. Still, there’s a lingering desire to select a first name. If it doesn’t happen, I will survived. I can continue to name companies, books, and characters I write about. That might have to suffice. We shall see.

Book Release!

It’s Thursday. I’ve promised to update you on my new adoption process these days. So far I’ve completed the initial paperwork. Monday I’ll call my adoption worker to set up our first in-home meeting. That’s it for now.

But I do have something else to share in the area of adoption. Recently I completed a picture book on the subject. It’s a beautiful story for parents waiting to adopt and children who are adopted.

You may have already taken a peek at it over on Meira Publishing. It’s taken some time for the printed books to arrive. But finally they’re here!

Because I’m a single adoptive mom, I’ve created two forms of the book. One is for single adoptive moms (in my heart) and the other for couples (in our hearts). At the moment both print books are available, a pdf ebook for in our hearts, and some lovely prints inspired by the books.

I’m so excited to be sharing this book with you! So for the month of May there’s no charge for shipping.

Thanks for taking part in my adventures as an adoptive mom. If you’re in a similar boat or know someone who is, I know this book will bless them.

www.meirapublishing.com

in our hearts coverin my heart cover2

Growing Family

As you know, I have two wonderful – and unusual – daughters. Raine is 6 and Athena 4 ½. When Raine came to me, 3mths before her sister, I already had Sabrina* who was 15 (a glimpse into our life). Shortly after Athena’s arrival, 10yr old Megan* joined our family. All four girls were foster children stuck in the system. For two years we were a family of 5. Then Sabrina turned 18 and Megan decided she needed to move on (based on this incident).

For the first time ever, this past summer, it was just us 3 – Raine, Athena, and I. That was our family. Technically it had been since the adoption occurred. But we’d never really been on our own. It took us all a while to adjust (see Progress Report). Since then we’ve had lots of time on our own. Lately foster children have been coming and going at breakneck speed with long intervals in between.

Mother of two is not how I imagined my life. I’m the oldest of four and thought I’d have at least that many kids of my own. As much as I love my girls, when it’s just us our family doesn’t feel complete. Before Christmas my heart started expanding with the idea of adopting again.

Each night I try to spend a bit of time with my girls while tucking them in. They’re in separate rooms and really appreciate this one on one time at the end of their day. Not knowing my inner musing, one night at bedtime they both said, “When are the new adopted kids coming?” Raine went on to clarify, “I don’t mean more foster kids. I mean adopted kids who stay here forever and get to have the same last name as us.”

“Would you like to have more adopted kids in our family?” I asked both of them – separately.

“Yes!” was the uniform answer (given separately since this occurred in two separate conversations).

Seems their hearts are ready as well. Until this past Tuesday it remained a thought and topic of discussion in our own family and with a few friends.

I was nervous to meet with my adoption worker. After our initial meeting, she came to recognize the unusual skill set I bring to the table as an adoptive parent. She even testified at the hearing where I petitioned to keep Raine and Athena. But…..I am single with two sometimes high needs kids. Finances were of concern when I completed my first adoption homestudy. At that point I was working part time as well as fostering. Now I’m home, building Believe, and benefiting from a government subsidy.

These two factors, I was sure, would disqualify me. I chatted about the changes in our life since I’d last seen my adoption worker – Sabrina turning 18 and moving out, Megan moving on, homeschooling, etc.

“And you want to do it all again?” she asked.

“Yes.” I prayed she’s see through the facts into the truth of who I am and what I’m capable of.

“Ok,” she answered, passing me a stack of paperwork.

After she explained all that, came the question, “What’s your dream?”

“My real dream…..” (there’s always a safe answer, but I decided to be completely honest) “……is an older child – maybe 8yrs old – and a baby.”

“You’d like two more?” Instead of shock, her face was full of excitement. Even with the government initiated subsidy, people are reluctant to adopt older children and/or sibling groups.

“Raine and Athena have a shared history and biological connection. They’re very much aware of that,” I explained. “I think it would be ideal if we could add another sibling group. That way they’ll have that same connection.”

There are best practice guidelines for adoption. Within Ontario, one is preservation of birth order. So my adoption worker’s next query was along the lines of an older child adoption.

In no way is Raine accustomed to being an older child. In her birth family, she’s the fourth born. When she came to me, there was Sabrina and very soon Megan who were older. It’s been difficult for Raine to come to grips with being the oldest child in our family. In our discussions she repeatedly comments about the “new adopted kid” being older than her.

“And I’m the middle,” Athena often says. Even when she and Raine are lined up to get out of the van and she’s last in line. Athena, the baby of her birth family and here since she’s arrived, is convinced she’s a middle child.

My explanation about Raine opened the adoption worker’s eyes to our unusual family dynamics. Immediately her mind started racing with children about to be available for adoption. “Oh, but you’re not even ready yet,” she commented, pointing to all the paper work.

Not yet. But we will be soon enough.

I began blogging after I’d completed my adoption homestudy. And, as mentioned (Why Wonderfully Unusual?), Raine & Athena’s adoption was quite unusual. I’m hoping this one will be more typical and would like to walk you through the process. Thursdays will be my adoption update days. Be sure to follow Wonderfully Unusual so you don’t miss out on hearing about how this unfolds.