Saturday, December 26, 2009

Adoption and David

So, I finally had the conversation with David about adopting him. He was pleased to accept. He doesn't tend to extreme expressions of pleasure, so the quiet smile and "Yeah, that's okay with me" was enough.

To back up: David was here with his boyfriend, the one he has dated for more than a year and whom we like so very much; Evan came alone, no longer dating the too-young, too-dependent boy we were always very nice to; and Andrew brought his girlfriend Alice. Andrew spent Christmas Eve with Alice's family, learning to make tortillas from scratch and scarfing down on all the tamales so that there were none to bring home to me, which Alice promised she would try to do.

So I had all my kids except Carl here for dinner yesterday. That alone always makes me happy, not the missing Carl part you understand. David's boyfriend has biblical (Hebrew scriptures) name and after one glass of wine I called him by another that really does sound a lot like it. Something like, "Micah, I mean Michael..." except his actual name and the one I called him are both uncommon. (I think I will start using "Michael" for him. It is a good name for someone who looks so lovingly at the man I call "David.") I corrected myself immediately and apologized. He smiled and said it was okay, "It's a mom thing."

We talked a little bit about the ways the boys could change their names, or not. Evan is thinking about asking the judge if he can change his last name to his father's. His dad died when Evan was three and having Roland, or both of us, adopt him while reclaiming his father's name would be a way of claiming us all, not to mention a way of demonstrating to his family that he means no disrespect to his father. David said he had been talking about how much he had just recently been talking about how he wanted to change his name. He told us about how he was struck with the name of one of his customers and had thought about changing it to that. Michael told him it would not happen in our state. Michael tried to change his name some years back and the judge told him that the only legal reasons for doing it were change in family relationships or if you were in mortal fear of your life. Since he had neither, she assumed he was trying to commit fraud and she wouldn't help.

As far as I understand the law, the judge mis-informed Michael. The law does state that you cannot change your name if the intent to do commit fraud, but does not specify legally acceptable reasons.

Anyway, we all agreed that Evan's desire to take his father's name would probably make sense to a judge and that David would probably have to decide between taking our name or keeping the one he has. I reminded everyone that they could make either name their middle or last name.

Now I have to get Carl on the phone to have the conversation with him.

I am talking to the older boys now because I don't want them to hear about it after hearing about the situation with Gary. I don't want anyone thinking that they were an after-thought. On the other hand, after talking the other day with Evan I am beginning to think asking them to spend a year and a half with a promise to adopt and no action may be more emotionally draining that I realized (which wouldn't be difficult because I stupidly did not even consider whether that would be an emotionally difficult position to be in). So I am seriously considering calling my family lawyer friend and seeing if I can't adopt the older boys fairly soon. I like the idea of doing all four at once, but that is a lesser consideration.

Anyway, we had a good day yesterday. Everyone was pleased with their presents, and we had the usual fight over the leg of lamb. Gary, David, Andrew and I managed to get some slices off before Roland saw it, exclaimed that it was going to kill us, and put it back in the oven until it was just pink, and not red, in the middle. "That is plenty rare. It is still juicy. It is NOT dried out!"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Evan and (the myth of) Adoption

I had a longish conversation with Evan yesterday and I have been trying to write a post that is about my feelings without violating his privacy.

The conversation was mostly about his mother. He wanted to talk about what he did, and did not, owe her. She is far less self-destructive than many people I have known, but she does get herself into difficult situations and wants and expects her son to rescue her. That Evan's baby sister's welfare is sometimes at stake makes it all the more difficult.

Now, as most readers know, Roland and I are planning on adopting the boys who came to us from foster care. They range from 17 to 26. The older two have no parents. The stories are complex, but there is nothing in them that gives me pause. Adopting them fits clearly into my ethical framework. Adoption is to provide parents for children who don't have them. That these young men are legal adults does not mean that they don't need parents. They do, and we are the only candidates. The youngest is more complicated, but I've written about that recently and that is not what this post is about. The short version is that I wish what was happening to him wasn't happening, but if it does we will adopt him and not regret it.

I can't however find myself at peace with respect to Evan.

The truth is (and my darling, if you are reading, please don't be hurt) that if he were the only boy to come to us from foster care we never have considered adopting him. He has a mother. She is part of his life. She is a difficult, pain-causing part of his life, but she is there.

When Evan talks to me about his mother I think a lot about my father. I remember when I was Evan's age that I did not want to acknowledge his (my father's) existence. I was hurt and angry and slowly coming to terms with the truth that he was never going to be different. I had to give up on that dream. I was jealous of my mother because she was able to divorce him. She wasn't related to him any more and she didn't have to worry about him. She was no longer his wife, but I would always be his daughter. I struggled to figure out what that meant. I toyed with the idea of cutting him out of my life entirely. If I just didn't give him my address when I moved, would anyone else? Could I go on as though he didn't exist?

So when Evan talks to me and our conversation shifts from his mother to the adoption, I find myself wondering if it would have changed things if someone had adopted me. If I had a new, legal father, would that have given my father less power to hurt me? Would it have settled any of the questions about what, if anything, I owed him?

I don't think it would.

Because it is a myth that adoption, especially adoption of older children and adults, unmakes the previous relationships. I think it can make a new one, but it does not erase the past. It doesn't even create barrier between the past and the future.

I eventually found a degree of peace in my relationship with my father. He can certainly make me moderately nuts, but mostly I have my boundaries set in ways that make me comfortable. I accept what he wants to give us, but I no longer expect or hope for something he isn't. And if I had been adopted by someone else as a teen or an adult, I suspect I would have had to travel the same journey. It would have been no easier. And I think the same is true for Evan. My adopting him won't make his relationship with his mother easier. It could though make it worse.

One way that it would make his life easier is in all those getting-to-know you conversations, one of the really difficult things for kids who have been in the system. Most of us have different levels in friendship. Some people we interact with and know almost nothing about. Some we know better and we share a bit more. Some are intimates and know our pain. When you grow up in foster care (and probably other situations) it is difficult maintain that. So many questions don't have truthful, non-mysterious answers. It would be easier for Evan when he meets people to be able to truthfully tell them that his parents live in Our Small Town, are educators, and members of PFLAG, and only later share that we are adoptive parents, that he still has a relationship with his mother, and that relationship is complicated and sometimes painful.

I get that.

But here is my dilemma.

On one hand it feels impossible to deny to Evan what I am offering to the other boys and wrong for me to decide what is best for him and his life. I don't love him less than the other boys. I don't want to offer him less.

On the other hand, the idea of adopting Evan without his mother's consent, probably even against her wishes, is anathema to me. David and Gary's mothers have been completely out of their lives for more than a decade. Though I believe they think about their sons and love them still, they simply are not there. Attempts at reconciliation have been exhausted.

But Evan's mother is there. She is making him crazy and sometimes miserable, but she is there.

Though I say and believe that it is a myth that adoption unmakes families, myths are powerful things. And there are some things that are not myth. The legal changes will not matter as much as they would have if he were younger, but they are real. Part of me is firmly convinced that it is just wrong to do this.

And yet it feels wrong to tell Evan that I won't adopt him too. I feels wrong to make this decision for Evan. He has my heart as much as any of the boys. If he wants to be legally ours, it feels like that should be his choice. Telling him no just feels wrong.

I hate it when there are not right answers.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hearing Scheduled

The termination hearing is scheduled for two months from now.

Gary still doesn't want to go and doesn't see why he should make any effort to communicate with the court. Clearly, he says, it wouldn't have gone this far if he wasn't okay with it. I've told him that I will make sure he has a meeting with his GAL so that he will be represented.

Thinking about it makes my stomach hurt. I want his father to fight for him. I imagine scenes one would expect in an after-school TV special. In this case all fighting for him means is SHOWING UP. I think I am most afraid that his father will have just not bothered to respond.

I make up stories to myself to explain that and keep it in a positive light. I imagine that his dad has decided that he can't fight for him. He can't ever bring Gary home. I understand that. I don't like it, but his father has to make decisions that are best for all his children. And I don't think he wants to let Gary go. So I imagine him just putting off dealing with it, not being able to think about it. Maybe tomorrow.

But I don't know. Maybe he has responded. Maybe he is going to fight. Maybe he has signed forms.

I don't know.

I want to adopt him, but I cannot be happy about this.

My best information regarding his mother is that they can't find her. She's had no contact with him for a decade. My heart breaks less over that one. [Added: I mean about her losing her rights now. It feels like the court will only be acknowledging something that already happened long ago. It is more than that with his father.]

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Judo and other things

Just five weeks for the department to decide that it would be okay for Gary to take a Judo class.

I really am thrilled. It is local. I feel very comfortable with the instructors. They are volunteers, seem very dedicated and though the student participate in competitions it isn't all about getting on television and getting beat up. It is inexpensive and it is on the bus route. Of course classes are over after the bus stops running, but they can take the bus one way.

Probably Gary will decide it isn't what he really wants to do, but he will stick with it for a while. I'm trying to convince him of what I do really believe to be the truth -- this class is far safer than the others he has looked at and getting permission for this one does not mean he will get permission for another. I think we can convince him to stick with this class (or at least not try for another) until he turns 18 in the fall.

In other news, Brian is lobbying to take a driver's education class. All the other boys waiting until they were 18 to drive. Carl took a class and finished learning at Job Corps. I taught Andrew and Evan. David came claiming he already could drive, those who have read the archives might remember this escapade. Brian though has no desire to wait. He is turning 16 in June and he could start driver's training now and he wants to! Part of me would rather he wait at least until the fall when Gary is 18 and they could both be doing it (part of the whole "fair" thing). I have begun to wonder though if it wouldn't be better to let Brian start early. It might help with the competitive issue if they are not doing it at the same time. Or not.

Part of the issue really is just that I don't want him driving yet. Although I am also getting tired of chauffeur duty too. My best idea right now is to find out what GPA he has to have for the safe driver discount, and tell him that he can't get his license until he gets that.

Having Andrew home is delightful. He has been cooking dinner all last week while the rest of moaned and groaned about final exams ... except Roland who merely moaned about being tired with the last week before break. He and his girlfriend have also been making Christmas cookies.

I still have a pile of grading, and then a very manageable list of work-duties for break. Grades need to be turned in on Wednesday and then I will just relax from Christmas until New Year's. Maybe I will even catch up on all your blogs I have not read for ages.

We'll see.

Oh, there is this lovely Christmas song I need to share with you. Sassy Cupcakes shared it with me. It is sung by an Australian atheist (agnostic?) and it is beautiful. It is about really liking Christmas, even when you have all those reservations about the consumerism and religious part of it all.

Tim Minchin,

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

MMA, Libilities, etc.

Feeling frustrated.

Gary is always full of plans. He's has once again found another dojo, martial arts place, gym, whatever. He talked and talked to them on the phone. They are new. They said that he could help teach the younger students if he wanted. This could turn into a job! The coach/teacher/whatever there is great. It is going to be wonderful.

I took him. The atmosphere is more of a fitness gym than a dojo. There is a lobby with two flat screen TV's and two employees at the counter. In the back are mats, one of those cage things they have MMA fights in, exercise bicycles and other work-out equipment. Gary is welcomed by the instructor who asks if he is ready for his freebie. Gary goes back with much excitement while the people at the counter give me information on monthly membership fees (high) and a liability form to sign.

Now I'm not supposed to sign those. I did just for the night though. I even wrote on it that it expired tomorrow. That is totally against the rules and if Gary gets hurt tonight I really don't know what will happen. Like a teenager I'm just counting on not getting caught.

I took the form back to him to show him. I told him that there was no way we were going to be able to get it signed.

"So enjoy your one night here."

"Oh, I'll work it out! This is great!"

Sometimes his relentless optimism is exhausting.

Crime and Consequences

**Originally I intended to write a post about parenting in general. I finished the intro-story part and then realized that I really don't have time right now. Normally I would save and write the post I really wanted to write later. Since I post so little these days, I changed my mind. Here's the story.***

It is final exam week here. I have a pile of grading and administrative work, but a relaxed schedule. Andrew is home for his winter break and he wants to drive me to work every day so that he can have my vehicle. He will get up at whatever time I want, having a vehicle is important, but he isn't normally a very early riser. All this means that when my alarm went off at 6am it seemed only sensible to turn it off and go back to sleep.

I got up around 8:30. I puttered, made tea, and mentioned to Andrew that the boys had left the bathroom fan on downstairs. When the fan suddenly went off I went to the computer to check if there were school closings. Andrew wondered why I didn't just ask. I told him that it would ruin my omnipotent reputation. There were no school closings so when Gary appeared just before 9am I asked him what was going on. He said, "My alarm didn't go off."

He sleeps through his alarm a couple of times a semester. Usually I am up and I wake him, though often not in time for him to catch the right bus. I'm not doing that on purpose, it is just that he often doesn't appear except to run out the door to the bus stop. By the time I know he is not up, he's probably missed the bus.

Anyway, this morning I just took another sip of my tea while Andrew said, "Can you get another bus now?" Gary said yes, that one would be there in a few minutes, and he took off.

And I realized I wasn't even annoyed with him.

Years ago I would have got angry. I would have felt at least the need to lecture him, perhaps to "impose consequences" (a phrase I hate since it really means "punishment" and if that is what we are doing we should be honest about it). Of course, if the other boys had done that it would be part of a pattern, not something that happened a few times a year. I know that what I did was the best response for Gary.

Still, I found myself wondering if I have evolved into the Zen parent I always wanted to be? Have I perfected the attitude promoted in my favorite parenting books?

Or have they just worn me down?

This is probably a bad time to ponder that question too much, you are invited to discuss it in the comments though. Not necessarily me in particular, but parenting approaches in general.

Rambling now.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas during a busy year

I did something I never thought I would do. I told Roland he was in charge of Christmas ... and I meant it.

He knew I meant it because he had been cuddling me while I cried in exhaustion. This was maybe two or three weeks ago. I told him about all the things that I had to do and how I was just managing to keep up, but I was worn out. I was fighting off a cold and SOOOO tired. And then, that very day, the college president (a new guy whom I am having deeply mixed feelings about) sent out an email telling us that many of our voice mail greetings needed to be changed. The email was really long, and talked about professionalism and our responsibilities, blah, blah, blah. My voice mail greeting is definitely one of ones that need to be changed to fit the new standards, but DAMN, I was so freaking busy and I've forgotten my voice mail pass code, and did the president really have to give us ONE MORE THING to do at the end of the term? Really? I mean, couldn't it wait until a time when we weren't exhausted? Or if he had to tell us now, did he have to send out a long email lecture? It wasn't a big thing, but it was just that one extra thing, you know?

So Roland asked if there was anything he could do to help, and said, "do Christmas. All of it. When it gets here, I'll cook, but will you take care of all the presents?"

After being absolutely sure that I really, really meant it, he said yes.

And so now there are boxes of unwrapped presents in our closet. There are no Christmas decorations out -- not even the advent calendar (no candy, every day you move a Velcro-backed figure from a pocket to the town above) that should have come out on Dec. 1. I've decided I'm totally okay with that.

It is final exam week now. I have things coming in from students on Wednesday and Thursday. That means that I can spend most of today and tomorrow doing administrative work. I have piles of things to proof-read for the catalog, I have to write the advising guidelines for the minor, hound a few department chairs who are as exhausted as I am so they will get done some work that I need them to do so I can get mine done. There are a few other things too.

Still, the list is doable.

Andrew came home yesterday. We talked about his classes and he cooked dinner. I told him that in my intro class I was giving the students something to read and then asking them questions about it. I had narrowed it down to three, but hadn't decided. He kindly looked them over and told me that he recommended the long one. Even though it was four pages, it was clearer than the others. That was wonderful.

Everyone else seems to be doing well. Gary is great, still coming up with plans and more plans. We haven't heard anything about when the hearing will be scheduled or anything else. It is bothersome, but then I don't really have time to worry about that, so I don't.

We had a planning meeting for the catalog. The good news is that all this work will over on March 1. The bad news is that all the work has to be finished by March 1. Still, the end is in sight. The Yondalla you have all missed so dreadfully will be back, I hope.

So for now, I will sign off and get back to work.

I still haven't fixed my voice mail greeting.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Let's see.... update...

Okay, sorry I've been gone so long. This is the last week of classes and hopefully I will write lots and lots over break. I've been pretty worn out. I spent most of the weekend sleeping, so now I have to get busy and do the grading I assured my students I would do then.

One reason for not writing is that things have been quiet and easy. Brian and Gary have been getting along. Remember when that was an issue? Aside from the things that were going on before we changed it so that they don't share kitchen duty. They take turns doing the whole job. That gives them one less thing to quarrel about, always good. They play video games together often.

We still don't have a date for the next hearing. Gary's previous CASA worker is no longer working with them, and he doesn't have a new one assigned. We are working on it though. The social workers really want him to go to court himself, and he really doesn't want to. He hasn't protested when I said that I would be pro-active about setting up an appointment for him.

Roland says that Gary's constant changing of plans wears him out. I seem to flow with it. Of course I am the same way, though better than I once was. The blog started out as a way to release some of the obsessive pondering without driving my friends and family crazy. Of course, then Evan admitted to an addiction and the blog started fulfilling a new need altogether. What was I talking about? Oh, yeah. Gary's changing plans. He keeps changing them. I think right now he still wants to be a nurse, but is disheartened to learn that I might really have to brush up on math skills. He is trying to find the right way to get through it all.

We learned that because his juvenile offense was before he was 14 (he was 11), the record is automatically sealed. When he is 18 people can do a background check on him and nothing will come up. Of course, if they ask if he is on probation, he will have to say yes. At this point his PO considers him to be on "unsupervised probation" which is just like not being on probation, except that if you get arrested your PO gets called and you go back to being supervised. The social workers tell us that the PO is trying to get him totally off when he turns 18, but it is my county's practice to keep kids on probation until they are 21. That may be unconstitutional, but there it is.

I just got an email from Carl. He is still living at the retreat center. He is now a paid employee, actually running the place. It really is good for him there.

David is now a manager of the video store where he works. He wasn't able to come over for Thanksgiving because he was working. He is still dating the same man he was a year ago, maybe longer.

We changed our phone number and made it unpublished because of one adult child's on-going fight with creditors. We kept asking for our name to be taken off the file. We would be assured it had, then it would go to a new department and we would be getting calls again. We do business with the company, so we couldn't put them on a no-call list. I have decided I love having an unlisted number. Nobody calls. We haven't quite worked up to just turning off the phone completely. I'm nervous that if we do we will have to give out our cell numbers to people and then we will get calls all day.

Evan is working as a supervisor at the television-content-provider. He told us a story about taking out some of his supervisors and to find out why he didn't get fired for being such a pain. Evan knows he pisses everyone off asking for things to be explained, challenging decisions, and generally being insubordinate. He said they told him that if they fired him they would lose his team. They (the team) might not like him all the time, but they trust him and if he told them to walk through hell they would do it. So that was cool.

Brian is doing really well. Every now and then I remember the anxious kid I was so worried about a few years ago. Now there is this confident fifteen year old, taller than I am and with a voice I don't always recognize.

Last week Brian and Gary had a concert here at the college. They spent most of the day on campus, rehearsing in our facility. On the bus over Brian called to say that he and Gary had not remembered to pack lunch, would I please buy them something? I told him that I was very busy but that if they met me in the student union at 12:30 precisely, I would. When we got there I asked what their classmates were doing for lunch. Brian said, "Well, some of them packed a lunch."

"And the rest had money to buy it on campus?"

"Well, no."

"So what did they eat?"

"Umm ... a boxed lunch from the cafeteria."

"And why didn't you two do that?

Brian gave me a wide-eyed innocent, puppy-dog face, "Because we have YOU."

While we were prepping Thanksgiving, Andrew wanted to ask me some questions about the philosophers in his Analytic class. Evan, wanting to participate, asked what the difference was between Analytic and some other philosophy. I told him that in some ways it was a difference of style, but if we were talking about history, for instance, a Continental philosopher would be more likely to say that there were only competing stories and that it made no sense to talk about what really happened. An Analytic philosopher, on the other hand would be more likely to say that the project of discovering, writing, and evaluating those stories only makes sense if we believe there is a truth about what happened.

We debated that for a while and then he asked if there were other differences. There are of course, but I gave him the one I use to tease my colleague who teaches Continental philosophy. "Yes, Analytic philosophers are committed to writing clearly and making arguments."

Last week I got a text message from Andrew:
"So prof r described analytic philosophy today now that were past the whole examing language as a way of figuring out reality thing. It was pretty much exactly how you described it: people who write clearly and use arguments.
and I smiled."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Update on Talking to Gary

In the car the other day I told him casually that I was going to make an appointment for his GAL to come talk to him about what he wants, "That way the judge will know what is important to you and you won't have to go to court."

I've decided that even though he is 17 I will be aggressive about making sure they have time together. In the past I just made sure they had each other's phone numbers and left it up to Gary. Once I get her here, I will get out of the way. Maybe she will even take him somewhere for fast food or something.

Anyway, I think that is the best I can do for him.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Asking What He Wants

So at the meeting a week or so ago the social worker (state) said that he had done all the paper work and that we would be informed about the TPR hearing. What discussions they may or may not be having with Gary's parents we don't know. Well, we do know that the address that previously work for his mother no longer does. The private agency is really trying to track her down to see if she will provide photos of Gary's siblings and tell him (again) the name of his genetic father. At this point Gary has not expressed much interest in meeting him, but he has expressed a great deal of interest in knowing more about his American Indian heritage.

When the agency worker visited last week she told Gary that the judge would want him at the hearing. At 17 the judge won't want to make a decision without knowing what he wants. Gary said that he hates going to court. The social worker suggested writing a letter, which Gary didn't seem enthusiastic about. I said that it was important to be sure to talk to his GAL (CASA worker) so that she could include his wishes in her report.

We tried to talk to him about he felt. He kept insisting that he didn't have any feelings about it one way or another. He didn't care. He will go so far as to say that if his dad doesn't want him, then that's fine. He doesn't actually say, "then I don't want him either" but it comes close. The agency worker and I both tried to communicate that it would be normal to have complex feelings, that he might feel one way now and a different way later, and that it was important for the judge to know what HE wanted.

In the car the other day I asked twice if he had decided what he wanted to tell the GAL. He changed subjects without really seeming to notice. I mean that he didn't seem to be trying to avoid the question. He didn't seem awkward. He just said something like, "I don't know her very well, not like I do the workers at the agency. They really are cool. Some of them remind me of [one of his MMA instructors]. They are a lot better than the state worker. Did you know that the state worker didn't even call me by my right name in the meeting?"

When I ask him about whether he wants to be adopted, he beams. He says he does, and then he will debate whether being adopted before his 18th birthday (and therefore being able to take driver's education and go to Judo class) would be worth giving up the financial benefit of staying with the agency. Right now when we shop for clothes (for instance) he just picks out what he wants because he knows we are going to be reimbursed. If we weren't going to be, he would care about price and it is just so fun not to care at all. He tends to decide that he would rather be adopted after he is 18. It is just so much easier.

We have, by the way, assured him that he is not a burden, that we can afford to buy him clothes, etc. He says he understands that. I think I understand what he is saying too. He actually have very modest needs for clothes. We don't let him go nuts, but he still experiences a kind of freedom picking out a shoe that is more comfortable and costs $10 more; something he wouldn't let himself do if we were paying.

Anyway, I am trying to think about his resistance to saying one thing or another about the TPR.

I think I get it. He wants to be wanted. He wants for his dad to fight the TPR. That's what he wants. Given that his dad is unlikely to do that he is protecting himself by saying that he doesn't care. Certainly he doesn't want to try to make a parent stay if that parent doesn't want him. This whole process started with his father telling him that he was going to initiate termination so he would have to pay child support.

I have mixed feelings about pushing him to make a statement to the GAL. On one hand, I think that at his age it is inappropriate to make decisions about his life without his input. On the other hand, maybe it is wrong to ask kids to make a formal statement saying they don't want to have their parents to be their parents. Certainly it is much easier for Gary to say that he wants us to adopt him (at some point) than to say anything at all about the TPR.

What I want out of the process is for his parents to be notified that we are going to adopt him if they don't make an objection. It would be hard for me to make such notification, given how difficult they both are to find -- not to mention the anxiety issues. Having the state do that feels right.

But past that? I don't know.

I also don't know, at all, if that advantage is really worth going through this. If his father follows his past pattern he will avoid responding, and that is going to be painful for Gary.

Monday, November 16, 2009

TPR, in case you were wondering

I asked for an update on the TPR process. This is what I know:

The state worker has finished the paper work and we will be told when the hearing is scheduled.

No one has been able to make contact with Gary's mother.

And that's all.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Catch UP

So, still outrageously busy. There is just so much going on at work this year. I've been forbidding myself the blogosphere at work, which has really been helping. I work longer days and I WORK hard. However, it has the unintended consequence of leaving me really not wanting to sit at my laptop when I go home. All I want to do is crash and read trashy (not too trashy) novels. My Google Reader is now so full that facing it feels like another overwhelming work assignment, so I just don't do that either.

Things really will ease up soon, and for a while.

In the meantime, I am giving myself permission to post at the beginning of my work day. Here is what is going on:

  • Gary decided that he hated graphic design, because he got a C on one project. He decided then that he wasn't going to do any more work, get to the point where he was definitely getting an F, so the school would have to let him out to use the time as a study period. We talked about it and he confirmed with the school that since he got a B during the first quarter he was not going to fail and he had to stay in the class.
  • His social worker and PO are trying to get him off probation and have his juvenile record sealed/expunged when he turns 18. He is considering medical careers and no one will hire him if he is still on probation. I hope they succeed. Of course, the grade he is likely to get in Graphic Design will be a probation violation, so who knows. I am trying to stay out of that discussion because if he is lying to them about his grades I don't really want to know about it.
  • He told me, like it would be news, that he realized he has a problem with over-optimism. I was proud for not doing a spit take as I swallowed my tea and said, "really?"
  • He has found a martial arts instructor who currently doesn't have a space to teach. Gary has talked to him and volunteered to help him find a space, set up programs in school, recruit students, and teach classes. He envisions this turning into a partial ownership of the business.
  • He found a Judo class that is actually in our town. I am so very pleased about that. It is run by a volunteer organization, the instructor really impressed me, and the classes are only $30/month. I think it is safer than MMA, and being a student is so much more appropriate than trying to help run a business. I want to get him signed up and going on it before things progress too far with the instructor above. Gary wants to get going on it because with all his background he already knows most of what they teach and he needs to get training for the junior Olympics where he will defeat everyone and receive many medals.
  • The social worker can't sign the permission form for the Judo class because it includes a waiver of liability for death. He (social worker) has sent it to his supervisor who will discuss it with the program manager. The social worker tells me he supports it but doesn't know what will happen. I am considering preparing an appeal to the governor. (Actually, I don't know who I appeal to).

  • Brian is doing well. It looks like he had the flu, though it was relatively mild. I hid myself in the bedroom and avoided catching it. I'm beginning to think it has peaked at our campus. I hope so. Something like 20 percent of our students have been identified as having flu. By the time we know how many of them had H1N1 it will be long over.
  • I started a new treatment for anxiety. It seems to be working. I realized a certain appointment is coming up. A month ago thinking about it being so close would make my heart race, my head feel light, and my hands and feet tingly. This time I just felt really nauseous. That's improvement and I have only been on the new meds for 3 weeks. So, yay me.
And for those who are interested in the female troubles:
After seven weeks I am spotting again, very lightly. The physician said that it would take 3 months before we knew if the procedure worked, so I have no idea if this means anything. Maybe it will stop again. Maybe wearing a panty liner every day is just my fate for the next five years. I don't know. The only other medical intervention they can offer me is removal of the offending organ and at the moment I would have to sigh deeply and say that the benefit of NOT having to wear a panty liner every day for five years probably doesn't outweigh the expense, pain, and risks of the surgery. Still, it irritates.

And now back to work...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Nook v. Kindle

I will come back soon to write regular posts again, but a couple of people have asked me if I would have bought the Nook instead of the Kindle if I were buying now. That seems an easy thing to write about between catching up on all this other work. My answer is no. I'm thrilled the Nook exists because I have been worried about Amazon having too much control over the book market, but I'm happy with the Kindle. If I were picking one right now I would ultimately pick on the same basis that I picked the Kindle over the Sony reader: availability and price of the books I want.

1. Nook improvements.
So Nook did do some things that are cool. You can replace the battery yourself instead of having to send the machine in (though the Kindle battery should last a very long time), and you can use a memory card, just in case you want to carry more than 1,500 books around at one time. This makes the device just a little thicker and about an ounce heavier.

The buzz is all about the color touch screen. It doesn't appeal to me. I don't like virtual keyboards much, but that is a personal thing. Mostly I just see it as a battery drainer. However, if you like the idea of seeing color pictures of your books and you like virtual keyboards, you may love it.

I was excited when I heard that you could lend Nook books. Then I found out that you could lend a book for 14 days one time...ever. Not so impressive. I guess I will still hope that Amazon decides to let me lend books.

2. Non-Improvements
Nook didn't fix the things that most frustrate me about the Kindle: lack of organizational tools and no page numbers. I'm beginning to figure out that the lack of page numbers is not something a device can fix. It is a problem with all ebooks, in nearly all formats, on all devices. The Kindle has location numbers and will tell me how far through a book I am (e.g. 47%) which is fine if I am just reading for myself. Part of what I do with books though is talk to other people about them. Right now I am teaching a seminar and we are allowing the students to get paper or electronic copies of the book. It is a small class and everyone has a sense of humor about it, but it is a nightmare. If the people with paper give us a phrase, we ebook folks can search for it. If we want them to find the place we are reading we have to say something like, "um...three paragraphs before the subheading..."

The lack of organizational tools though is just horrible. I know have over 100 Kindle books. I can search them by author, or title. My Kindle is set so that the books I have most recently read are on the top. I can't ask it to show me all my non-fiction books, all my mysteries, whatever. On the up side, Kindle won't let me buy a book I've already bought and the Amazon "My Collection" page automatically lists everything I have ever bought from Amazon and does allow me to keep an organized record of what I have bought.

3. Books!
Okay, so this is why we consider these things, right? We like to read books. B&N is claiming a larger books store than Amazon based primarily on a deal with Google Books to make available out of print books. Apparently, there is a way to get those books on your Kindle. If that really interests you, read this.

What I strongly recommend that you do is pull up B&N's & Amazon search pages. Now search for books you have bought or considered buying recently. Here are some of my results:

Kindle: $12.95
Nook: $14.99

Laurie R. King's Mary Russell series:
Kindle: all 9 available, $5.59-$9.99
Nook: numbers 5-9 available, $6.99-$20.00

Peter Singer, The Life You Can Save:
Kindle: $9.99
Nook: $17.60

Your results may differ of course, but for me the choice is still clear.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Catching Up

Yesterday Gary was in a one-day men's choir event. Boys, more than 200 in all, came from high schools in two counties. At least at Gary's school, the boys had and practiced the music some before hand. The even started at 10am. They did nothing but practice, with a break for lunch, until the concert at 3pm. Brian's Drama 2 class had the two final productions of Dracula. He had to be there at noon. They performed at 1 or 1:30, scattered for dinner, and then had to be back at for the second performance at 5:00. So...I drove Gary to The City in the morning. Roland drove Brian to Schoolville at noon. We both drove to the City, stopping at Schoolville to give Brian dinner money, in order to go to the concert. then we drove back to Schoolville, at fast food, and went to see Dracula.

Both boys did well, had a good time, and, like their parents, were exhausted at the end of the day.

Gary keeps making and re-making plans for finishing high school. I had an uncomfortable conversation in the car yesterday. He asked what I thought about him doing his senior year at Our Small Town High. That sounds fine to me, but he wanted to know whether I thought he should take AP classes.


It was hard not to be encouraging, but I have made that mistake before. I stumbled around for a bit, pointing out that the AP classes require things like high-pressure big projects that kill your grade if you don't work on them far in advance. He responded that he needed to get used to that if he was going to go to college. Finally I said that if he took the regular classes he could go to school part time and take other classes at the community college and that might be better use of his time. He agreed that made sense, but he has in no way settled on a plan.

He still in not at all good at predicting how difficult something will be for him. He is taking an on-line course in physical science. He was sure it was going to be easy. He would just tear through it. He did the introduction and passed that test in a week. The next chapter though was about calculating forces. He can't do the math. He is frustrated because he is good at science, just not math. The school has recommended an advance student to tutor him, but he doesn't want to talk to her because she is good at math, but she doesn't know anything about physics. (Roland and I believe that he doesn't want to look "dumb" in front of a girl close to his own age.)

The tutor problem aside (which is a problem I can do something about), there is this constant issue where he expects things to be easy and then is frustrated when they are not. There are other examples, but I won't list them.

He has decided he wants to be a nurse, which is cool. However he simply does not understand that you have to do science classes and that after junior high there really is no such thing as being good at science if you are not good at math. I've encouraged him to try taking it one step at a time. He is thinking about taking EMT classes and then working to get an LPN before doing the RN program. Sigh.

I've known so many college students who have worked hard and not made it through nursing programs. I know that he is smart enough, but I don't think he has any idea of how difficult it will be.

Mostly I am pretty good at letting these things just be his problems. I really am convinced that kids (and adults) learn by trying to do things they don't do well. Sometimes they succeed, and sometimes they don't, but they learn much more than if they don't push themselves. Most young people discover what they want to do while actively pursuing something they learn they don't want to do. I guess it was the conversation in the car yesterday that pulled me in and made me anxious for him.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Can't Go Home

Do you know this boy?


Of course many of you have seen this photo. He is Corey's son. She loves him with all her heart and he can't go home again. Not her home. He needs a new one.

He is a little boy who has been victimized. He has been abused. He struggled to understand that and in doing so he hurt his siblings. He needs a home where he is safe from being hurt and safe from hurting others.

It is going to be incredibly difficult for him. He has been given so many reasons not to trust. Moving to a new family will be unspeakably difficult. He is a child. He deserved to be a cherished and protected infant, a safe toddler, a small child full of wonder and laughter, playing, hiding from his parents and knowing they would find him and bring him home. He deserved so much, and he did not get it.

And life is simply not fair. He can't live safely with his sisters, so he must live somewhere else. No matter how much everyone wants something else for him, that fact is an unmovable object.

He can't live with his sisters. He must live somewhere else.

I've been trying to write a post since I read Corey's, but it is hard. When I write, I find I am telling Gary's story. He was hurt by those who should have protected him. He struggled to understand and in doing so, he hurt his sisters, and now he just can't go home again.

Not that home.

Healing is possible. I know that. There is a teenager in my basement, playing his guitar, who is evidence that it is possible.

The challenges will be different. For Corey's boy they will almost certainly be more difficult. He won't heal just because someone loves him. If that was what it took, he would still be living with Corey. He will need more than that.

As you think about this boy, know that though it will be difficult, it will be possible. Inside him there is pain, but there is also laughter and love.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I'll miss her so much

One of my heroes died this week. She was in her mid-eighties so it is what I would call a sad death, not a tragic one. But I am sad.

She was the mother of four. Around 1980 she stood up in front of the national assembly for her church and read the coming out letter her son had written to her. She never, ever stopped lobbying. She went to conventions, was a charter member of the state's largest PFLAG chapter.

In the mid 1990's she buried son who wrote that letter after he died from AIDS.

She has been the heart of a group of us who try to have monthly potlucks.

It was at her anniversary party that I wrote this post.

The world has a Carol-sized hole in it. She was a short, slight woman, but it is a awfully big hole.

You are not hearing much from me because... is a giant, time-sucking monster this year.

Normally in the fall I teach Logic which is an extremely light prep for me. This semester I have three preps and none of them is logic. I have more students than I usually do, and keeping up with the grading is time-consuming. I ALSO have a student who is doing logic independently. That usually isn't a lot of work because those students usually teach themselves. She however is spending 3 hours a week in my office getting direct tutoring. I didn't realize she would need that, but too late to back out now. (I have another student who signed up for logic independently, but hasn't done a darn thing and I'm just going to fail his butt.)

Also the faculty is doing the most complete curriculum over-haul ever (really, no hyperbole) and I am not only on the curriculum committee, I am the "catalog czarina." That means it is my job to print, record, and generally stay on top of every freaking thing.

I am also still department chair, and so have to deal with things like our annual collection of assessment data, which means hounding my two recalcitrant colleagues.

Who are especially recalcitrant this year because one of them is on sabbatical and the other has just decided he is definitely going to retire. This is his last year. He has been my mentor since I got here and I would describe myself as "coping with the devastation of him leaving."

Since he is leaving, I now need to hound the dean for permission to do a search for a one year replacement, and then for another search next year for a tenure-track replacement. If we get that permission, then I will have to do the freaking search, which will take time I do not have.

Thank goodness the boys are doing well.

So, I will see you around the Internet tubes periodically, but not nearly as much as in the summer and not even as much as during previous school years.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Should I write?

The state worker told me that after the agency worker and he had both written to Gary's parents, I could write them letters too.

I have no idea what to say or even if it is appropriate to say anything.

I think it would be inappropriate to say anything that might sound like I was trying to encourage them to relinquish their parental rights, and just about everything I can think of seems to fit that.

So maybe it just isn't appropriate for me to write to them. I feel comfortable with the idea of answering any questions they might have for me, but I just can't think of anything that I might say that wouldn't amount to "reasons why you should give up your kid and let us adopt him." Everything I can think of just makes me feel icky.

But I thought I would throw it out there. Is there something that it would be appropriate for me to say -- with out them having asked me a thing?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Monthly visit from the social worker

I came home a bit early yesterday so I would be here when the social worker was doing her monthly visit. I know that she was supposed to be writing the first letter to Gary's parents and I wondered if she would tell me about them.

I didn't really learn anything. When I got here she was downstairs with Gary looking at his new guitar. Roland said that SW had mentioned that she had written the letters. She had asked Gary if he had heard from his parents, so apparently the letters were written long enough ago that they might have responded. She said that she told them that he was healthy and doing well.

That is what I got from Roland. He didn't ask any questions. I assume that the letters also said something about the change in the case plan, since that was the reason she was supposed to be writing them. However I don't know. My entire conversations with her consisted in her laughing about how really horrible my current letters were in a game of Lexulous (all vowels except for one V).

I asked Gary how he felt about all this. He said, "pretty indifferent." He gave me a straight-in-the-eye look, like he was daring me to challenge that. I didn't. I figure he is working pretty hard at not caring. If that is what he needs to do right now, okay.

Everything about this is awful. Waiting to see if his parents will bother to respond when they are told that the state is thinking about terminating their parental rights, and thinking there is a good chance that they won't, is just terrible.

On one hand, I can find a sympathetic way to think about them. I have a difficult time facing conflict and the possibility of failure. Both of his parents may feel that there is no chance that they could possibly win a fight for him. His mother hasn't seen him in a decade. His father could get him under different circumstances, but taking custody of Gary would mean leaving wife and young children. He isn't going to do that. I imagine them wondering what they could possibly say to Gary. I can understand why they don't call.

But on the other side is a teenage boy who knows his parents have been told their relationship will be severed. He is wondering if they will even bother to call him, and telling himself that he doesn't really care either way.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Busy Week

It has been one of those weeks at work. My days have been packed with extras, including individual meetings with 15 first year advisees and special events in the evening, only one of which I actually attended. Yesterday was the worst sort of day: the kind that starts with an advisee standing you up at 7:30am, continues with an almost uninterrupted series of meetings and classes, and ends with sweating in regalia and singing the college hymn at 5:45pm.

Roland and the boys were home all day and the weather has just turned. So I came home to a house that was 74 degrees (this is why I normally keep the thermostat locked). While trying to gasp for air I had to explain something to my husband about how the medical reimbursement plan he has at his job works, even though he has had it for years and I know I have explained it to him a dozen times before...and he should be learning this from his HR department anyway.

My interaction with the boys today was limited to brief grunts in passing and a text message to Gary (sent from the bedroom) that said, "pls get dog." That would be the dog that was barking at who knows what in the back yard while I was trying to fall asleep.

I'm sure you have days like that too, even if some of the details change.

I left all my school work at work because I decided I deserved a night off. I came home, ate, cleaned up, and went to bed early. I just about fell asleep when my husband called my cell phone to ask if we needed milk. I got back to sleep to be awakened by a wrong number at 1am.

And now I am up in the middle of the night, unable to finish preparing for classes tomorrow (no books) and anticipating being tired when I finally get back to my office in the morning.


So I am irritable and whiny, and what's the point of having a blog if you can't whine in it? (I know there is a good answer to that question, but I don't have one right now).

The agency social worker is coming over tomorrow at 2pm (kids don't have school). I may use that as an excuse to leave work earlier than usual. I do want to know if she has any information about the writing of the letters to Gary's parents.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Passing the Buck

Got an email from the state worker (who has never done a termination before) that the agency worker (who I think probably has) will be making first contact with Gary's parents.

My first thought was, "the state worker is dropping the ball. That's his job."

My second thought was, "Well, maybe they agreed to do it that way."

My third thought, which I had after I started this post, was, "The agency workers get really irritated at the state workers when the state workers try to manage their cases. So maybe this is the way it is supposed to be, or at least the way the agency worker prefers it to be."

Oh well.

The plan as he explained it to me is:

1. The agency worker will write to them.

2. The state worker will write to them somewhat later. He will put in his letter that Roland and I are committed to not being an obstacle to Gary's contact with the rest of his family. Since Gary is 17, I wanted it to be clear that if just isn't my job to negotiate their relationships for them.

3. At that point I will be allowed to write to them if I want. I'm thinking about that. I feel more comfortable writing to his mother than to his dad, because I'm a little bit afraid of his dad.

4. The public defender assigned to the case is supposed to talk to them after the social workers have made initial contact. At that point his parents can decide whether to relinquish voluntarily.

5. The state worker is not entirely clear on what happens if they do not relinquish, other than there will be a hearing at which the judge will presumably tell everyone what to do.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Stupid Foster Parent Training

So we went last night to the required training on med management. Gary doesn't take regular meds, but a lot of kids do, so I figured that it made sense to have the training. Besides, I do need the hours.

I anticipated that it might be about psychiatric drugs. What are reasonable expectations? What changes in environment have to happen for the drugs to "work"? What are the side effects and why we should be cautious about only using them when we need to.

I was really, really wrong.

In the beginning I wrote down quotes so I would look polite and attentive when I really wanted to scream or cry. Interested? Sure you are:

"Oral medications are taken through the mouth." This was followed by examples of medications that came in strips that dissolve on your tongue, liquids, pills.

"Topical medications are put on the skin itself. Just right on it. It could be an ointment or a patch. The medicine goes through the skin and gets into the blood stream. That is really good for kids who hate to take their medicines."

And my absolute favorite, the quote that may have made the entire 2-hour training worth traveling 40 minutes to attend:

"A side effect is like a side salad, but it doesn't have to be the whole salad. It might just be the tomatoes."

I have absolutely no idea what that means, but I think it is hilarious.

After an hour an a half we were on page 8 of 23 pages of handouts. The social worker (who was clearly as disappointed with the training as I was) interrupted the nurse to point out that we needed to hurry along.

Afterwards Roland and I went to get some dinner. They used to feed us at trainings, but now it is just snack stuff. We kept each other amused by quoting the salad line and laughing like teenagers. We may be been rather tired. We had a serious conversation too:

Roland: "How many more trainings do we need to go to?"

Me: "At least 8 more hours this year."

"What about next year?"

"Well, if we adopt Gary and turn in our license we will never have to go to another one again."


For those following my sister's story

They are doing okay. They still live in the apartment suite in a hotel. I'm not sure when their house will be ready.

Sis is getting along better at church. She has fallen so far from grace that they now treat her gently, demanding little and giving her lots of leeway. Their dog barks when he is left alone in the hotel so the church is letting Niece2 bring him with her to school. Sis says that a year ago they would have insisted that they find other arrangements. Now she seems to be able to get away with anything.

Nephew still has had no contact with juvenile justice. Sis is beginning to suspect that he might not. This is disappointing because she really wanted it to be impressed upon him that though this time he is getting sympathy and therapy, if he sets more fires he will be in serious trouble.

The therapy is coming along slowly, which is to say it isn't really coming along at all. Every time I talk to her it looks like it will start soon. This time I learned that though the therapist had changed practices, she did get stuff done so that she could be paid. I didn't pay attention to the details.

BIL & Sis decided that his last leave with them was so stressful that he will skip his next one.

And the big new is.... the fire marshal from my sister's area knows another fire marshal who is serving in Iraq (presumably he was in the reserve) at the same base as my BIL. This guy has apparently been having some conversations with my BIL. BIL had thought it was important to get home as soon as he could because clearly his family was falling apart without him. The marshal in Iraq though suggested that maybe what his family needed was more time apart. After these conversations he is thinking about seeing if he can just stay in Iraq another year. He is hoping that he can rebuild trust with Nephew through email and phone calls.

I don't know how the rebuilding of trust will go, but Sis is thrilled to know that they have more time before needing to be a family again. If BIL does stay the extra year, Nephew will be a sophomore and the only kid at home when he gets back. She's hopeful.

So everything there is going as well as can be expected.

Tracking Stats

Okay, we all keep an eye on them, or most of us do anyway. It's fun to see where people come from and why they show up. It can also be fun to see what searches bring people to the blog.

I don't do these very much. The vast majority of my searches are pretty obvious. People search for "Yondalla." I always wonder how many are looking for me and how many are looking for the D&D goddess Andrew suggested when I needed a blog name. People search for foster care blogs, rules for foster families, parenting teenagers, adopting teenagers.

10% of my visitors arrive having done a search that landed them on my single most popular post: "How Much Do You Get Paid to Be a Foster Parent?" Those people rarely stick around though. They read that and then go off somewhere else. Many of them leave by the links I have on that post to places where they can get more information.

All that stays very consistent, so I don't normally blog about the results.

Today though I looked at the key word searches and there was something new. Someone came to the blog after searching:

"51 Signs you are getting older."

I think one of them may be that people are finding your blog by searching that phrase.

Stacie gives me some info...

So Stacie gave me a summary of how TPR works where she is. I'm going to assume that it is pretty much similar here, since I don't have any idea. If that is the case, then that means....

TPR in our state is much more complicated than that. Typically, it requires abandonment of the child by the parents (no monetary support or physical contact for 6 months) and then the parents are sent a notification of intent to pursue TPR.

Presumably that is the letter the social worker is writing is that notification. Will has given monetary support in the form of having his tax refund held. I don't know if the court counts that. They have not been in the same room since June of 2008. Gary did not hear from his father at all from September 2008 to August 2009. And that August phone call was the one in which Will told him that he wanted to he wouldn't have to pay support.

They then have the opportunity to respond. If they respond and say no, that's all they have to say.

In this case, anything is possible. People who have interacted with his parents (and that interaction has been minimal) predict either an agreement to voluntarily relinquish or non-response. His father did, of course, tell him he wanted to relinquish his parental rights. Though he can't take back the damage he did to his relationship with Gary when he said that, having said it doesn't mean he will do it. I think there is a big difference between announcing you want to do something and the state telling you have to do that same thing. No one wants to be pushed around, and relinquishing your kid is a big deal, even if it seemed like the right thing to do one August evening.

He hasn't had any contact with his mom for a decade. She certainly would be in her rights to say "no" but the abandonment case against her is pretty air tight.

It immediately forces DSS to start working toward reunification again, and to either restart or rework a family plan.

Only wrinkle here is that there
never was a reunification or family plan of any kind. The plan has always been "we need to find Gary a place to live until he can take care of himself." Even if his dad says he won't relinquish he will also almost certainly say that he can't give Gary a home either.

If the parents agree to sign the plan, it negates pursuing TPR for the lenght of that plan (typically 6-12 months).
If the parents refuse to sign the plan or don't acknowledge the original notice of intent to pursue TPR, then the state can go ahead and serve the parents with the date/time of the court date where the TPR proposal will be heard. If they show up, they'll be given attorneys and the fight begins.

In the scenarios we have been playing around with, not showing up seems to be one of the significant possibility.

If DSS has grounds, then a trial will happen. If DSS does not have grounds or the parents argue that they were denied reasonable assistance to work their plan, then the request to pursue TPR is denied.

If that passes, then there is normally a TPR trial, and the judge looks at whether or not TPR is appropriate. For most teens, TPR is not granted in our area unless there is a) a suitable adoptive family waiting (preferably one that has had placement of the child) b) relative or close family friend willing to assume care of the child and who needs TPR in order to add the child to medical benefits, etc c) the child is nearing 18 and wants to be free of parental ties so that he/she will qualify for the scholarships and grants of higher education that are avialable to high school graduates who were legal orphans at the time of graduation.

Well, we're the potential adoptive family. The social worker also said that TPR with teenagers was pretty rare, mostly because there isn't normally an adoptive family around.

Or so we understand....LOL nothng is ever quite certain inthe system, is it?

TPR around here is hard to get- the parents have a lot of rights, if they choose to use them, which most do.

That is as it should be. I'm a strong supporter of parental rights. The state's power to decide who should and shouldn't be a parent needs to be very limited.

Gary just turned 17, so it is quite possible that just with stalling there will be no TPR. Gary and the rest of us are curious about what is happening in the TPR process. It is stressful. We are not stressed about the long-term issues. I'm glad his parents are getting this warning. If either of them step up and actually communicate with him, then that is a good outcome. I suspect they won't, and I expect when he is 18 we will adopt him.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Where we are

I wrote to the state worker today to see if he could tell me anything about what was going on in the TPR process. I got back a very short email saying he was writing a report, needed run it by Gary to be sure he got his facts straight, had the parents' addresses, and was going to be writing them each letters telling them what was going on. He also said that should pass on any messages that Gary wanted to send.

After reading that and reading a bunch of stuff on-line about the TPR process I realized that I was pretty confused. I know all sorts of stuff about it, but I don't know what the real process is.

Like, where I work, if you were going to be denied tenure or fired for cause, you would be able to resign at any point in the process. In the history of the college some people have been given an opportunity to retire early with certain benefits. People who are not going to get tenure are sometimes given a chance to resign before any document saying they shouldn't be tenured is put in their file. The handbook is is full of information official notification, procedures, time-restrictions, appeals processes, but nothing says, "if the dean at the time is not a jerk, you will know this is coming and you will have plenty of time to resign before anything official happens." That this is the case is both good and bad. It could allow a bad dean to manipulate people. On the other hand, people are allowed to resign. We can't insist that they go through reviews and hearings if they just want to quit.

So I don't know if the letter the social worker is talking about is official notification or if it is parallel to the dean telling someone, "we're about to initiate this whole thing. If you prefer you can just call it quits now."

I find the whole thing heart-breaking.

I emailed the social worker back and confirmed that Gary was available the day he wanted to talk to him. I also told him that if it was appropriate I wanted him to tell his parents that Roland and I did not ever want to be an obstacle to a relationship between Gary, his parents, siblings and other relatives.

I asked Gary if he wanted to send anything and he laughed and said, "You suck." He imagined that for a while, enjoying imagining a scene in which a social worker is being professional and explaining things and then say, "Oh yes, I have a message here from Gary. He says, 'you suck.'"

I didn't pass that one on. I also was careful not to be disapproving. I told him before that he could express whatever emotions he was having. Wanting to tell your parents who have hardly paid you any attention in years that they suck is not an unreasonable emotion.

Well, I have to leave for a required training. I'm going to publish this though I am not sure that I got around to saying whatever it was I was intending to say.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Birthday Conversation

Gary left school early today because the pain from the Shingles was wearing him down. It might have actually been worse today, but it might also have been just that he was wearing out from being in pain day after day for so long. He slept all afternoon on the sofa and seemed better this evening, although he did take another pain pill.

We talked about his birthday. He wondered if his father would call like he did last year and what his dad would say if he did. He wanted me to understand that he didn't really care one way or another, but he was curious. I suggested it was like really wanting to know what the next chapter of the book was going to say.

We talked a little about termination and about the emotional impact. He is of course all teenage tough guy. He doesn't think that it will be a big deal to either of his parents. They will not bother to respond, or if they do they will just sign the papers and never think of him again. He believes he means nothing to them, and they mean little to nothing to him.

He insists that his mother can't possibly still have parental rights. His father got those terminated a long time ago. No one else thinks that is true. Certainly there is no record of it. It is true that his father had full-time custody and he has only had contact with his mom a few times in the past fifteen years. It might be that his father was talking about custodial rights or something. That is not how he understands it though. He has not seen or heard from her in a decade. The idea that the state has to track her down and deal with her so that we can adopt him seems to offend him. I guess I can understand that.

I told him that I didn't think that this would be a casual thing for either of his parents. Even if they think it is the right thing to do, they won't take it lightly. He doesn't believe me.

I also told him that this was probably going to be emotionally complicated for him too. I wanted him to know he didn't have to pretend to feel anything other than what he felt. People who get divorced, who believe it was the right thing to do, often still feel sad on the day the divorce is final. He gets that, he says, but he won't feel sad. He's let go of all his attachment to them a long time ago.

I think he is in denial but, as a psychologist once explained to me, denial is a good thing. It protects us from thinking and feelings things we are not ready to think or feel. He has an emotional journey to travel and he needs to travel it in his own time and his own way. I just need to keep letting him know that it is okay to express whatever he feels.

And I confess I also wonder if his father will call him for on his birthday.

I have a feeling he won't.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Endometrial Ablation {update 11/12}

If you don't want to hear about this then move right along...

I was really anxious yesterday morning. I think only people who knew me fairly well could tell. Or maybe not. Probably most medical personnel can figure out that deliberate, deep, calm breathing is a sign that you are coping with some tension.

Anyway, I had the procedure done a place called a "hospital" but isn't like a REAL hospital. It is a physician-owned facility where they do out-patient diagnoses and surgeries. They have 9 beds for over-night stays. I don't know if those beds are just for people who unexpectedly need more care of if they ever schedule procedures which require it. I do know that I signed a form saying that I needed to know that though highly trained medical personnel were always available, there wasn't a physician on duty 24/7. Anyway, it is supposed to be less expensive than a REAL hospital and they have anesthesiologist. I could have done it in the doctor's office but that would have meant getting "something to help with the pain" but being wide awake. Sorry, but um, no.

So. I got there. I signed forms. Roland went back to the getting-ready place with me. They took blood. Asked me how I was. The physician and the anesthesiologist both visited. Everyone answered my questions, though I didn't really have any. I was there for a hysteroscopy, D&C, and ablation. Just before taking me in the nurse asked if I understood what what the doctor was going to do. I said, "Look, scrape and burn." She and the anesthesiologist laughed and they agreed that that summed it up pretty accurately.

Anyway they rolled me into the OR. There was some conversation and then the next thing I knew I was in recovery and the nurse was asking me how I felt. I hung out in the bed for a while and they told me that if I was ready to get dressed I could go sit in the chair and my husband could sit with me. I had wore sweats and the recovery nurse really appreciated that. She and the other nurse talked about the evils of button-fly jeans.

I dressed with only a little help. They gave me a snack (I selected hot tea and graham crackers). They offered me pain meds. All I experienced was mild cramping so I just took some over-the-counter stuff.

Then I left. I got there at 9:00am and left just before 1:00.

By the time I got home I felt fine. A little more relaxed and happy then I would normally be, which I figured was the drugs. I had some lunch and then lay down to read...and woke up 3 hours later.

I haven't had any pain med since the dose of over-the-counter stuff they gave me there. I'm not being brave or anything. I just don't hurt. I was bleeding when I went in and though they warned me that I might have spotting for up to two weeks, so far it is far lighter than what I had going in.

I just called the nurse to ask if I was supposed to be taking anything because I thought the doc said something about antibiotics. She said that I should have had that in the IV, but she would double-check. I also told her I felt really good. She laughed and said not to over-do it though. It was a little unclear to me exactly what might happen, but I don't need much encouragement to be lazy.

So all's good.

Well, they say I can't take a bath or have sex for 2 weeks. I'm finding the no-bath thing to be really disappointing. In the bathroom next to my bedroom there is an 80 year-old claw foot tube with a hand shower. In order to take a real shower I have to go to the boys' level and use their bathroom. It's sort of gross. I haven't decided whether I will just kneel in the bath tub and use the hand shower or if I will brave the boys' bathroom.

Um...I'll probably kneel in the bath.

I whined to the nurse about the bath thing. She made sure I did hear her when she said the part about no sex. Yeah, honey. I've been married for 24 years and I have been bleeding 60% of the time for the past 9 months. No sex for two weeks? Wow. I probably should not go sky diving either.

Update 11/12:
Okay, so I currently am discouraged. I had light bloody discharge for two weeks. Then I had a yellowish discharge for another four. The doctor said that was normal. Over the weekend, about seven weeks after the procedure, I started very light spotting again. Actually, it might be more light a small amount of blood-stained, otherwise clear/white, discharge.

They OB/GYN Guy said that we wouldn't know if it "worked" until 3 months. Of course "worked" is subjective in this case. Many women have ablations because they are having very heavy periods. After the procedure, they count having light periods as a success. I was spotting more than half the time with no discernible pattern. The spotting I am doing right now is even lighter than before, but I'm not sure what would count as success for me.

So, I'm sighing here. I guess I just need to wait a few more weeks and then figure out what, if anything, I want to do.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rambling thoughts

As I start this post I feel committed to posting it no matter how disjointed it is. However, I may change my mind.

Like many of you, I have concerns about the ways in which we fail to take care of families. I believe that many of the children end up in foster care because their families did not get the help the needed when they needed it. In other words, many of their parents are not bad people who never should have had children. They are ordinary, decent people who were put into a situation I don't know if I could survive.

Those of you who do care for babies see a lot of mothers with drug problems. I take care of kids who entered foster care in middle or late childhood and though substance abuse is often part of the equation, poverty and domestic violence plays a bigger role. So very many of the kids have common themes in their histories. Their mothers were young when they were born. Their biological father usually wasn't around. The man that was around, was abusive. Their mothers lacked education and job skills and were abandoned by people who should have cared for them.* I have had four boys on permanent placement. In not one case was the parent who last had custody of them a substance abuser. Not one of them lacked the ability to be a good parent, though the lacked the resources.

My point though is that my experience has taught me that many people who have lost their children to foster care are not "people who never should have had children to begin with." Many of them are victims of injustice. Many of them would have, could have been successful parents if the world had been just a little bit different. A certain number of them never should have lost their children at all.

I've thought about that, worried over it sometimes, as I have also worried about private adoption. Though some agencies are clearly far better than others, I wonder how any agency that is funded by adopting parenting can meet the standards I would like set for them.

My mantra has been, as I know it is for many of you, that adoption should exist to find parents for kids who need them, not to find children for parents.

I have, and this is something of a confession, comforted myself with the fact that I am personally insulated from these problems. I am a citizen of this country and so share responsibility for its laws, but I have not been part of the decision to remove a child from his or her parents care. No one's parental rights were terminated so that I could adopt. All that happened before I came along.

Only now that is not what is happening. Now the court has said that Gary's parents' rights should be terminated, and a big part of the reason why is that Roland and I will adopt. That is not what I wanted to happen, but it is what happened.

My high horse just up and left me standing in this moral swamp.

And there is no Right Thing to do. I have no control over what is said to his parents and how it is said. I don't know whether, when or how the state worker will contact Gary's parents. I don't know if he will tell them that they should relinquish because we want to adopt. I'm not part of the conversation. I have no contact with his parents, and I'm pretty sure the social workers want it that way. I don't get to tell them that if they want to claim him, I will not fight them. I can't tell them how important I think they are to his life.

I'm pretty sure that the state worker will not talk to his parents the way I would want him to. The worker is very excited about being a part of an adoption ... and of a 17 year old boy! He is a specialized worker. He gets assigned teens who are going to emancipate from the system. They need to be prepared to have no one in their lives. Their foster parents don't want to adopt them. Termination either happened in the past or won't happen at all, because what's the point? But adoption is the "gold standard," he says. He wants it to happen. He wants, I believe, to have this experience of being part of the adoption of an older teen. He wants to tell his colleagues that it does happen sometimes.

When he looks at us and our situation I feel like a rare bird in the presence of an enthusiastic bird watcher.

I'm thinking, "I hope we are doing the right thing, in the right way."

He seems to be thinking, "This is SO COOL!" (I could be wrong. These are my impressions.)

It isn't a closed adoption because Gary is almost 17. He knows who his parents are. He can contact them whenever he wants. They can find him and contact him.

It doesn't come close to my conception of an open adoption because there is no conversation between us and Gary's parents. I don't get to tell them that I know they are still his parents, that I will continue to do anything I can to support his relationship with them, and that I don't want whatever happens to get in the way of that.

Being insulated by time was a comfort. I could tell myself that it happened long ago and I wasn't a part of it. Being insulated while it is happening is not. It means that I have no idea if his parents are being treated ethically. There is nothing I can do or say to mitigate ... anything.

And yeah, I know that his mother hasn't made contact with him for nearly a decade and that his father went 10 months without any contact at all. I know that in his last contact he said terrible things, including saying that he was going to initiate termination himself. (Which he didn't understand that he couldn't do.) I get that those are reasons for the current actions. But I also know that life is complicated and that isn't all of the story. I know that people make mistakes and I believe they should be given a chance to rectify them.

And I am part of this whether I want to be or not.

And it is all complicated and distressing with Evan too. He indicated in our last conversation that he wanted for me and Roland to adopt him (as opposed to just Roland) because that would keep things "even" with the other boys. In other words, he would prefer that I not give something to Gary, David, and Carl that he is not given. Now that might just be his gut reaction which he reconsiders, but it was really strange. Adopting someone who has a mother, even a far from perfect mother, in order to satisfy a narrow notion of fairness is so absurd I know how to make him understand that it is absurd.

And then I wonder how the heck I got to this place. It feels so wrong, and yet I can't leave. I can't take promises back that I have made. And I don't want to leave, and it feels right. And yes, I know that's confused, but I'm confused.

There is no moral ambiguity in me with respect to Carl and David. They are alone in the world.

And then sometimes I just want to slap myself for being so damn self-involved. Are my qualms about justice? About what is right for the boys? Or is it about my having clean hands?

So what is best for Gary? His family, for complicated reasons, decided they had no place for him. He went into foster care not because he needed to be protected, but because otherwise he would have been homeless, maybe. Though I wonder about that too. If the state hadn't been there, would he have been homeless? Would different relatives have taken him in and perhaps passed him around? There were good reasons why various relatives either could not or should not take him, but would they have just done it anyway? His younger sister, also a child of his father and not his step-mother, has also been deemed impossible to live with. Last we heard, she is living with the grandmother who was judged unable to take Gary.

But what might have happened isn't really the issue is it? There is only what did happen. His mother left his life. It wasn't a free, uncoerced choice, but it happened. His immediate family said he couldn't live with them. His extended family said, "not us either." Then his father said he was giving him up, at least legally.

And we said, "We want you."

My response to what his father said was primitive and immediate. I thought, if he is giving Gary away, then I will take him. I told Gary I couldn't imagine anyone not wanting to be his parent.

I meant it then, and I still do.

But nothing is ever that simple.

But I want it to be.

*Please understand that most teen moms are great moms. Most step fathers, and romantic partners of parents, are good people who care appropriately and lovingly to the children in their lives. And most people who are poor and/or have less education than the average are wonderful parents who provide for their children's needs. Even if it were true, and it isn't, that all the kids in foster care have mothers who were young when they had their first child, that would not mean that all or most of teen moms will have kids who end up in foster care.