Category: Foster Care System

Special needs redefined

We social workers use a lot of lingo and many acronyms to describe the work we do in the child welfare world.

In fact, that language—most fields, though, have their own jargon—can become confusing to new families as they begin to gather information about the children we place, the foster care or adoption process and whether they want to become foster or adoptive parents or both.

One of the terms we use that people question is “special needs.” Often, when someone hears those words from us for the first time they think about children who are disabled or handicapped, probably needing special educational accommodations. This perception is not, however, what this phrase means to us.

Shared love: A potential bridge for birth and adoptive parents

Josh and I have been married for 18 years this year. We have five children, three born to us and two adopted; our oldest daughter has a son, so we’re also grandparents!

Josh owns two businesses and I stay at home to homeschool the children; in fact, we’re in our ninth year of homeschooling.

Our first adopted child was placed with us when she was 6 months old and we fostered her for 17 months before the adoption was finalized. Our second child was placed with us when she was 2 days old and we fostered her for 18 months before adopting her.

As you can probably tell, we are a busy, active family! We spend a lot of time with our extended family; in fact, the kids are very close to their cousins.

In the past, there was usually a “distance” kept between birth parent or parents and the foster or adoptive parents, but that is changing in many cases—and we think it’s a great thing, if possible in light of individual circumstances.

We met the birth mother of Izzy (Isabel), our second adopted child, when we took Izzy for her first doctor’s appointment. In fact, I had asked if we could meet Izzy’s birth mother in the hospital when we were being placed with her, but the response was that it was not a good idea. I wish now that I had pushed the idea more because at our first meeting, Izzy’s mom said she felt a little better after having met me.

I can’t imagine how scary and difficult it would be to have your newborn baby placed with “faceless” strangers. I felt it would have given her some peace if she had seen and met us.

In fact, that first meeting went really well!

We connected right away. I had been a little nervous because I didn’t have much information about the case, but had been told there were significant issues in the family. Yet, both parents were always respectful of us, kind and very appreciative of the care we were providing Izzy. She had been sleeping in her baby seat and her birth mother asked if she could hold her.

Helping to make a hard day a little more “bear”able

A few months ago, I brought up the idea to my children to raise enough money for each of us to donate a filled duffel bag to a child in foster care.

You see, most of the children who have come to our home arrived with their items in a garbage bag.

After we decided to take on this project, we shared the idea with friends. We also presented it to our Sunday School program. And what began as a project to gather enough items for six bags turned into an amazing project that raised enough for 37 of them!

Celebrating new forever families!

We are delighted to share this question-and-answer blog post with Diakon Adoption & Foster Care Case Manager Crystal Wanamaker about the recent adoptions of a large sibling group:

When did you meet the children?

I met Jayden, Ricardo Jr., and Mya the day they were referred to our agency, which was July 23, 2010. I met Ruby on Jan. 17, 2012. She was placed with her siblings two days after she was born. Jayden and Ricardo Jr. are 6-year-old twins, Mya is 5 years old and Ruby is 3 years old. The boys were adopted by the Rivera family, the girls by the Saylor family.

Time well spent

While Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are now past us, this guest column reminds us about how we should celebrate—and wisely use—our time with (and as) both parents and children.

 

It’s as if a mirror is being held up.

That’s how I often describe the early days of having our foster daughter. Similar to when you invite a guest to, well, anything—you become hyper-aware of how things look through their eyes (if you’re of the pious persuasion, try taking a friend to church—you’ll see what I mean).

Empowering the next generation of youths in foster care

Earlier this month, 60 young adults ages 18 to 24 traveled to Washington, D.C., for the 2015 Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Experience. It was a wonderful event that brought together young people with personal experience in the foster care system with their congressional representative for a chance to learn from one another.

For two days, they studied issues trending in the foster care world before meeting with their congressman and getting to work. It was an empowering experience for these young adults, and one I was thrilled in which to participate.

Having been in foster care myself for six years, I was there to share my experience with these younger “brothers and sisters” and let them know there are many organizations and foster care alumni ready to lend a hand.

An unexpected and perfect plan

The plan. We all have one. This idea in our head about how our life is going to be. My plan was wonderful. I was going to marry the man of my dreams. We were going to get pregnant soon after with our first child and then every two years or so after that we would add another little person to our family until we felt complete. Perfection right? But, you see, that was Monica’s plan, not God’s plan.

It took me until about our fourth miscarriage to realize my “plan” wasn’t going to happen. So what do we do now? We want to be parents. The fertility specialist can’t figure my strange body out! Now what? Adopt? At this moment I just needed someone to call me Mommy. And adoption felt so natural to me because it was something I always dreamed of doing later in life.

Foster parenting wisdom….a mix of love, acceptance and accountability

When you prepare a child for permanency, you come into contact with a lot of people—birth parents, foster parents, caseworkers, mental health providers, educational staff, and so on. It is a lot for a child to have so many people involved in this process. Certainly it can be hard to keep up with all of it and still manage to be a kid. There is no normalcy about the children’s or youths’ lives at this point.

Let me tell you about just one example, condensing the details considerably.

A sense of belonging…the best gift of all

While the holidays are merry for many, children within the child welfare system may not feel quite the same way. In fact, some may feel acute grief and loss.

Many of the images we see during the holiday season are of family, friends and being home. Imagine not being able to get home to your family and friends? Children within the child welfare system typically face circumstances outside their control, circumstances that separate them from family, friends and home.

“Finding futures” in the midst of a storm

It was a dark and stormy night…

While this may be one of the most clichéd first lines in literature, it appropriately describes the start of the 22nd annual Pennsylvania Permanency Conference.

The hot July night before the conference began, a quick but powerful storm ripped through Lancaster County, leaving must of the region without power including the Lancaster Host Resort & Conference Center, home to the conference. In addition to power, water usage and air conditioning were lost. It was a very long night.

A less-hardy group may have packed it in, but certainly not all of the individuals at the conference—who are dedicated to bringing together waiting children with loving adoptive and foster families. Understanding that coming together was more important than everyday amenities, conference attendees, staff and hotel employees never lost faith.

People remained in good spirits and weathered the conditions. Eventually, when electricity was restored, people were able to shower, and the conference center cooled down, the event got fully under way with the apt theme of “Finding Futures.”