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And one more makes three-Adoption part 4

Hailey 2005In 2001 we  moved to a smallish town in Central Northern California for my husband’s job but we knew that another reason we were there was to add to our family.  We couldn’t go through the same agency again as we had for our last child, because of their policy, if you already had 2 healthy children you were unable to use LDS Family Services unless you were to find a birth mother and refer her to the agency.

We knew of no one who wanted to place their child so I started looking elsewhere.  I began asking around and talking to people.  My neighbor across the street at the time, Amanda, was a foster mom of 3 kids at the time and had her hands full…..a foster mom?  I knew that being a foster mom meant there would be risks of taking a child  in to our home, caring for it, becoming emotionally attached and possibly losing the child to it’s birth parent.  Of course no one wants to have their child taken away from them, so why wouldn’t a parent do everything possible to get their life together so they could have their child back.  I also knew that ‘older’ kids were in foster care and they could perhaps come with some baggage and I was afraid of that. I felt ill-equipped to help kids with an unsettling past.

My neighbor Amanda had a brother and a sister that had been placed in her care. I will refer to them as P and B.  Just a couple of years apart and the cutest little kids but their front teeth were rotted out and they had been dumpster diving  for food for who knows how long, and had been living on day old donuts from a bakery.  The girl, B.  was younger than her brother but had to have a special surgery for her teeth because they were so bad.  Both would sneak food whenever possible and eat as much as they could at a sitting until they threw up.  Amanda told me she had to explain to them several times that there was no need to eat so much, there would always be food for another meal. The poor kids were terrified of not knowing if there would be a next meal. Their living situation was deplorable.  Their young birth mom was barely in her twenties and had been kicked out of her parent’s house and she was a drug user-probably why she got kicked out. She would bring men back to where they lived, inside a makeshift fort of pallets, down by the river-bottoms and the kids saw a lot of abuse. P had to be the man of the ‘house’ at six years of age. And he was very protective of his mom, even while in foster care.

Knowing these details about P and B’s past, I wasn’t quite ready to think about foster care.  I decided to look into private adoption 10’s of thousands of dollars were required to adopt privately. Hmmmm…..that was out.  I remember reading in the news paper of a little baby in the Sacramento region had been abandoned at a hospital.  I actually found the number and almost had the courage to call it. I prayed and prayed to know what to do. Finally, I decided to go to a local adoption agency and get some more information.  I had seen a sign that said, “Foster Parents Needed.”  While turning left into the agency’s parking lot, a car side-swiped me, causing minimal damage, but shaking me up pretty badly and I decided to go to the agency another day.

When I did go back, I got some paper work but just had that odd feeling that something wasn’t right.  Soon after, my husband and I went to church and had a conversation with someone we had known for almost 6 months.  He told us he was on the board of directors of Children’s Hope, a foster care agency.  His testimonial of what a good thing foster care was, helped settle my mind of trying to adopt by first being a foster parent.

We got our paper work filled out within a few months but there were stiff requirements for foster care.  Our home had to meet inspection, most of which were things we should have had done any way. Things like, locking up all medication, OTC as well as prescriptions, even if they were refrigerated, they had to be in a locked box.  All cleaning products had to be removed from the inside of the house and up on a high shelf in the garage.  A fire extinguisher installed and all smoke detectors had to be demonstrated that they worked.

Once we got everything completed, the phone started to ring. “We have 2 kids that need a home for a few months….we have a baby that may or may not come tomorrow, can you be ready?…..we need a place for a young boy to come for a respite from his current foster family (the family was wanting respite from him…..) We told from the beginning that we didn’t have to say yes to everything we were called for.  Most of the calls didn’t pan out.  They would put us on high alert and then something would fall through.  We were called for a little girl who was 4 years old (one year older than our second daughter) and living with her Grandma.  Her name was Tayler.  Hmmmm, how would we do that?  (Our last name is Taylor).  It was a small detail so we agreed to meet her and go forward. Tayler came to the house and played  Barbies with our two girls but Kalle, our second daughter was a bit jealous of the attention Tayler was getting from our oldest daughter, Rylea.  A few days later Tayler attended Rylea’s  baptism and she was a sweet little girl, but she wanted nothing to do with me.  She didn’t want to sit by me or play with me and would barely look at me.  I’m a very involved mom, talking to my kids and playing with them and teaching them things about colors and shapes and telling stories and singing songs and this child was not interested at all.

The agency was very excited to place Tayler with us.  Her bio mom had consented and the Grandmother knew she couldn’t continue to care for this lively 4-year old. It was decided that Tayler would be placed in our home on a Monday night.  When Monday morning came I was grouchy with Kalle and ornery while doing the household chores. I was in an awful mood and I didn’t know why.  As the hours ticked by and I kept thinking about having Tayler in our lives, I realized how unexcited I was, how I was dreading this and I didn’t know why.  This is NOT how someone is suppose to feel when they are about to bring a child into their home to make part of their family!  Finally, the screaming in my head got too loud for me to bear and I called my husband.  I asked him how his day was and he said, “Oh fine.  I’m kind of in a bad mood.”  I told him I had been in a bad mood too and that I had felt uneasy about doing foster care for Tayler.  He immediately agreed and we both decided that this feeling meant it wasn’t right.  I called the director of the agency and told him we couldn’t go forward with this.  Wanting to have Tayler placed, he counseled John and I to use the wisdom of Solomon in the Old Testament and to continue to ponder this decision.

Despite the pressure that had been put upon us, we called him back a couple days later and told him we were sorry, but we would not be moving forward with Tayler’s placement.  I felt really bad, because I knew we had another child out there, but it wasn’t Tayler.

We learned very quickly after that experience that we could and should and did specify to the caseworkers that we wanted to foster a baby, between the ages of birth to a year.  Yes, we would be willing to take a special needs baby and we didn’t care which gender.

It took a bit longer but several months later we received a phone call that a 3 and 1/2 month old baby girl needed a home and the parental rights had been terminated.  And so it was that Hailey came into our lives.  Hailey was different.  An independent baby but was constantly crying and needed consoling for no apparent reason. Reading through her case file, I understood that her bio mom had a rough life of abuse and drugs and alcohol and mental health.   And I became very sad because deep down I knew that this situation was going to be hard…..later.

I’ve always been sort of a dare devil with confrontation-well passive aggressive confrontation that is.  So the Saturday before the first Mother’s Day that we had Hailey I did something very daring. I wanted to see what Hailey’s bio mom looked like and was she really mental?  What would our future hold for us?   I had her bio mom’s address and I took my next door neighbor with me (I found out 2 years ago-2011, that my neighbor went to school with Hailey’s bio mom and she never told me) to take the bio mom a gift.  My neighbor sat in the car as I pretended to be a flower delivery person and presented Julie a bouquet of flowers and a wrapped plaque that read, “Remember that you are always loved.”  Her tiny first floor apartment was deplorable.  Filthy smells and old food containers and clothing and grime everywhere.  But I smiled and asked for her after I knocked on the opened door.  She presented herself and took the gifts looking puzzled.  I turned on my heel, walked down the sidewalk and walked a block back to the car before I realized I didn’t give her the card!  So I snatched the card, walked back and apologized for forgetting it and really tore out of there the second time.  Inside the card, I had thanked her for letting us raise Hailey and signed it from our family.

Years later, I saw her at the dollar store and she took a second glance at me but I pretended I didn’t recognize her.  Now that Hailey is almost 12, she would like to have more communication with her bio mom.  She started asking questions about her when she was about 3 years old and every year around Christmas, Hailey misses her.   I have come to realize over the years, that part of my journey through this adoption process is that I will possibly be sharing these kids with their first extended family.  And as time has gone by and Hailey has asked questions and has wanted any pictures or letters from the bio, I decided to frame a picture I had of her.  It sits on Hailey’s desk. Because I willingly bought this frame for her and put the picture in, Hailey knows it’s safe to talk about her with me.  I do not feel threatened.  I’ve seen recent pictures of the bio mom and this 12 year old picture (approximately) looks nothing like her now. Years of struggle and not so wise choices have led her down a rough road and she looks older than she is. But I do know that in just a few short years, Hailey will want to meet up with her and I’m okay with that.

Chelle 🙂

 

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