Saturday, January 23, 2010

Agency on adoption

Though I could probably get this into a tweet, and perhaps I shall, I heard back from the agency regarding our inquiry regarding assistance for legal fees to adopt older boys:

"I am gathering information about our legal services and will get back to you with a solid plan asap. Thanks and we are so happy to hear about this for your family."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Adoption conversations move forward

So Carl called me yesterday and we FINALLY go to talk about adoption. He is the only of the boys who calls us "Mom" and "Dad." He had no hesitancy at all. I think he was happy, and thought it was about time, darn it.

I've decided that being "engaged to be adopted when the parents get around to it" is too stressful for the older boys, especially Evan. So I am going to make definitely plans, and not wait until Gary is ready.

Gary says he wants to be adopted after he turns 18 in October. That is close enough that it would make sense to wait, EXCEPT what he really wants is to be adopted when he would be leaving the agency anyway, which is after he graduates. In his plans he graduates from an on-line high school in October, 2010. I agree it is possible, but I'm not going to make any plans for that. Since he could easily not graduate until May 2011, I'm going to move ahead on the older boys.

The agency typically pays legal fees when their kids are adopted. The social worker said that she would check to see if that is true even when the "kids" are 22, 23, and 26. We will do it either way, but I'm not going to turn down financial assistance.

Next I have to contact the family lawyer and get some questions answered.

I think it is possible to adopt Carl even if he can't be here physically, but that does not sound like fun. He tells me that he needs some lead time to arrange to be gone, but he can be here whenever. I want to do it when Andrew will be home.

So we are on the road.


Gary admits to feeling tired, but denies that he is sad or angry or anything. The permanency hearing is in about a month, and I know that it all stresses him out. He should see his therapist soon (same one he was seeing when he first came to us), and hopefully he can talk about it there. I've wondered if adopting the older boys without him will make him feel left out. I can't know for sure, of course, but I have decided that by adopting the older boys now I am at least making it clear that we are serious about adopting him. It will happen, and it will happen when he is ready for it, and not before.

My theory though is that he can't really think about that until after he is done grieving his first family and he can't finish that until the hearing is over and he knows absolutely that neither parent is going to show up and say they want him. He knows that won't happen, but I suspect he needs to go through it before some part of him stops hoping.

For those who don't know us, I want to assure you that we will always encourage the boys in any efforts they make to contact or develop relationships with their first families. Always.

And I have decided that I will let Evan decide whether he will be adopted by just Roland or by both of us. When I think about it in the abstract, I am convinced that the ethical high road is the one where just Roland adopts him. Evan's relationship with his mother, as I have said before, is complex. He tells me that I have been "more of a mother to him" than she has, and I think he is being honest. On the other hand, she IS his mother.

However, I will let him decide. Evan isn't an abstraction. He is a young man and I will let him decide what he needs. I won't deny him something I am giving to the rest of the boys.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Guest Post: Advice Sought

I received the following as an email this morning. I've made one short reply, and now have permission to post this for your response. Please give any support/thought you can.

In subsequent emails, the writer asked for a list of appropriate reading materials she could get for the young woman.

Thank you from her and me!


I've been reading your blog for quite a while. I'm a foster mom and had something happen this past weekend that I need some advice on how to handle.

My husband and I have been fostering a teenage girl for the past 1-1/2 years. She has been in and out of residential a couple of times during that time because of some pretty severe behavior issues but we are currently having her home on weekends and working toward bringing her back home soon. K is 17 years old but emotionally much younger. She has suffered severe neglect during her childhood and has severe abandonment issues. She is parentified, having had to care for three younger siblings over the course of a couple of years while mom was drinking. At one time before she was in our care, she disclosed being sexually abused but then retracted stating she said it for revenge purposes. Recently she said she thought it was real for a long time but now thinks it was just a dream.

This past weekend, she was home, using our computer and my husband found that she had searched on YouTube for "girls kissing and grinding." He asked her about it and she said one of the other girls in residential had told her to look it up. He simply told her it was not appropriate to use our computers to look for sexually explicit videos. About 5 minutes later she came to us and told us that she wanted to explain. She said she has been confused about her sexuality but she thinks maybe it is because she has been so confined and has lived with so many other girls for so long. She admitted to "experimenting" and then quickly added that she was "over it now." She was obviously scared and teary eyed when telling us all of this and admitted being afraid we would hate her. We assured her that we loved her no matter what but that she wasn't allowed to search out sexually explicit material on the computer. She came to me alone later and again said she was worried what we thought about her. I assured her that I was more concerned about her mis-use of the computer than I was about her sexuality. We talked at length about her confusion and I encouraged her to talk to her therapist about it but she was very hesitant to do that. She said she thinks it is just something that happens to girls when they are so confined with other girls. She suggested that a couple of the girls she lives with have made sexual advances toward her and she went along with it. I tried to validate her feelings and assured her I would be supportive of her either way. But this is new territory for me and I really wasn't sure what to say. There were tears and hugs and then it was over. It wasn't brought up again the rest of the weekend.

We have never suspected K of being lesbian. She has always shown an interest in boys. So this was a shock to us. We feel like we handled it pretty good. I hope. My question is where to go from here. Should I let her therapist or caseworker know what she told us? Should the residential staff know what's going on with the girls? Or should I leave it up to K to tell? Something about just leaving it up to her doesn't feel right because I don't really think she'll tell anyone else.

Thank you for any suggestions you can give me. I appreciate your blog and how open you are about sharing all the emotional ups and downs in foster parenting. Now I appreciate you even more because I really need support in handling this new little twist in our fostering experience!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Update from Sis

Sis is in a turmoil, of course. She is working out some plans. She has contacted BIL's sister and her husband. They are not surprised and have agreed to let BIL live with them for at least a while. BIL has been seeing a therapist and admits that his behavior has been abusive. He believes he needs to change and wants the change.

Sis is confused and trying not to fall apart.

She has turned down my offer to stay here or to send Nephew here for any length of time. A lot of Nephew's anger is directed at Brian. It is not that he thinks that Brian is the cause, but Brian got everything that Nephew wanted. He is deeply jealous and sometimes when Nephew has been jealous he has hurt people. Nephew is working on those issues, but Sis thinks that separating Nephew from everything, including his therapist, and putting him here would be a very bad idea.

I am sad that I can't be more helpful, but I know that Brian and Roland would not have been happy living with Nephew, so I am also relieved. Gary would not have been happy either, but he has a different perspective. He is willing to live with someone who makes him crazy rather than have that person go into the foster care system. Brian and Roland would agree theoretically, but ... well, they have less experience living with people who drive them nuts.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Help for my sister

My sister lives in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Some of you have read her story here. The update is that her husband may be unexpectedly coming home from Iraq in less than four weeks. This is not good.

There will be a restraining order so that my BIL cannot come near my nephew, but Sis is frightened. She has been going to school full-time and doesn't have a job. She is looking but not confident that she can find something that will support her and the kids. She is not confident that BIL will continue to support the family voluntarily. The therapist has suggested that one option is allowing her son to go into foster care while she and her daughter continue to live with her husband. I don't think that is an option she can CHOOSE, though it might be a possible consequence of things she does not plan on choosing.

I've thought about letting her ship him to me for at least a while. Given that he did fire a gun in Brian's general direction (18 months ago, true) and has a good relationship with a therapist THERE, I don't think that is ideal.

I know some of you are in Minnesota. If you know anything that could be helpful, please contact me. Let me know if Sis can contact you directly.

pflagfostermom at gmail dot com

Update: Sis is contacting a couple of BIL's siblings. Though Nephew and BIL will both be angry that she "told" what was going on, she will do it. She is confident that these siblings will believe and understand. Her hope is that one or more of them will allow BIL to live with them so she and the kids can stay in the house.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

coming out of denial

Thursday the agency worker came for a monthly visit, but it was perhaps more serious than before. She wanted to spend some time just talking with me and Roland about adoption. We were clear that we want to adopt Gary, that we would happily adopt him now if that was what he wanted although we genuinely appreciate the support we get from the agency. Gary says he wants to be adopted after he is 18 (which is when he imagines that he will graduate). If he is sincere in that, I am happy to wait also.

She needed to know about this because along with the notification of the termination hearing she got some 60 pages of paper work for her to fill out. I don't know exactly what it is, but it is part of the adoption stuff. The worker talked to someone at the state office who seemed to think we were full steam ahead on the adoption, and that it would likely happen this Spring. The agency worker wanted to know if this was what we wanted or if it was a runaway train. I told her that I had tried to be honest with everyone, but that some of the momentum might be my fault. Though I think the advantages to Gary weigh on the side of waiting, if anyone asks me if I want to adopt him the answer is yes. I think though that much of the energy is coming from the state worker who seems to be so excited about being part of the adoption of a 17-year-old that he isn't really listening.

After talking to us she took Gary out to lunch. They were gone a while and he came back looking spent. The agency worker told me that she was going to talk to the state people and tell them that we did not want them to push adoption. None of us wanted to do it right now. She didn't tell me what Gary had said, but I think he had been clear that he didn't want to do it now.

We all talked briefly about whether it made any sense to do the TPR. I forget exactly how the conversation went, but the worker said something that made me think that it was important to Gary. I said, "I was always jealous of my mom because she got to divorce my dad and I didn't." The worker understood that sentiment and said to Gary, "And you get to divorce yours." Gary agreed, with emotion. It was a small emotion, but the most he has been willing to show regarding the TPR process. He took a step away from "I don't care what happens" to taking satisfaction in it. He is a child who has been abandoned in more ways than one and this time he is doing the leaving.

And the dam of denial broke.

A psychology professor once reminded me that denial is a good thing. It protects us from feeling and thinking things that we are not ready to think or feel. We need that protection or we could not cope. The feelings will come when we are ready for them. (Herein lies one of the great rewards of parenting traumatized children. Helping them feel really safe means allowing them to feel the rage and pain.)

Since Thursday Gary has had a hard time sleeping. He has, thank all that is good and holy, been talking to his social worker and given her permission to talk to me. He desperately wants to know who is biological father is. He doesn't know if his biological father even knows he exists, but Gary wants to know who he is. He wants to know which American Indian tribe he comes from.

He feels adrift, unconnected. His feelings of guilt for things he has done, things that precipitated him losing his place in his family, are once again haunting him. He does not feel worthy of being loved. He thinks often about just leaving on his 18th birthday next September, living a life of wandering, not being connected to anyone. Though he continues to talk to his girlfriend, she is not currently his girlfriend. He can't bear to have her tell him that she loves him when he is so unworthy. He texted his social worker yesterday morning and said that he is willing to go back to counseling.

The social worker talked to me on the phone while I was out taking Andrew last-minute shopping before catching his plane. She wanted to make sure that I was not going to have a hard time with Gary talking about feeling like running, unworthy of love, and unconnected to us. I told her that I was relieved that he was feeling. The denial bothered me more, and it renewed my commitment to hold off on adopting him. He needed time to grieve his first family before joining a new one. She said she was going to try to find him a counselor but that though they did work with some in Our Small Town, probably the best she could find would be in The City, would that be okay? I reminded her that I had a history of working with GLBT kids, all of whom had counselors in The City. Evan and Carl's therapists' offices were on the far side of The City, 45 minutes one-way. If she would find the right therapist, we would take him.

[And this, is what I mean about appreciating the agency support. I will not deny that that monthly check makes everything easier, but it is knowing that if the kid needs a therapist they will find one -- and the right one -- that I really appreciate.]

I caught up Roland. I told him that I officially didn't have permission to tell him, but I wanted him to know. I suggested that he try to give Gary a little extra attention without looking like he was being prompted to give him extra attention.

When I got back from dropping off Andrew I went to Gary who was at his computer. I told him that his worker called. He said he knew. I assured him that everything he was feeling was normal and good. He nodded and let me hug him.

Last night when no one was up but the two of us I asked him if he wanted to talk. He said no.

"Would you tell me if you did?"

"Probably not."

"Well, that sucks."

"Yeah. It is just the way I am."

"You know you can tell me and I will listen."


"You can also ask for hugs."

"That's what girlfriends are for."

"And mommies."

And he gave me a small smile and a big hug.

I don't think the next part is going to be easy, but I think we will get through it.