PTSD

EN&MH: When You Hear a Scary Diagnosis

As a woman who lives daily with mental illness, I spend a good amount of time reading up on mental illnesses. I am lover of knowledge when it comes to these things. I read up on information, look up the newest studies. The mind is a fascinating specimen to study. It invites in environmental, current and past, genetic, and experiences before it finds how it will work in any one individual.

This love of the mind also becomes scary at times. The time when it comes the scariest? When I hear a diagnosis and I know the studies behind this specific mouthful of letters.

When I opened up my sons school evaluation, I read straight through it. I laughed a little at a few of the comments, ones I wasn’t surprised to see. There were a few that gave me so much hope. Then I got to the page where the psychologist highlighted what mine and my son’s teacher mentioned in our three page fill outs. And there was a lot.

The school psychologist cannot diagnosis, nor can they say what they think is going on with your child. They can simply say “these are the behaviors you said you saw” and if you bring up a specific diagnosis-say “I did see this”. I’m well aware of this; I worked in the school system and both my parents are public school educators.

But that list, of all the computer generated possibilities that came up with the behaviors we mentioned…it scared me. It stopped me in my steps. I sent my best friend a text message in tears, because could I really do this?

I had the same reaction when my older daughter had the letters RAD brought up in a family therapy meeting. Even following my own therapist mentioning discussing borderline personality disorder as something I was living with.

It’s the curse of being so intrigued by the human mind that I am on the flip side educated on statistics and worst case scenario stories. And in this day and age-I’m certain I’m not the only mama, wife, or sister who does that. With Google right at our fingertips, we can look up ODD, ADHD, RAD, whatever we feel like looking up with the click of our fingers. We don’t even have to walk away to start looking it up, with smart phones!

I don’t think there’s something inherently wrong with looking up information or being well educated on something your child is struggling with. However, at times this superhighway of information can be a little overwhelming. I want to share with you guys today six ways I manage to deal with a diagnosis that may scare me.

Make sure your source is reputable.

Y’all we all went to high school! We know that sources can be reliable or they can be unreliable. When you are reading up on a diagnosis, make sure you are reading a reliable source. There are people out there who thrive on worrying and scaring parents new to specific disorders. Take a step back from what you are reading and check to see how truly GOOD this source is. I get links sometimes to completely off the book websites with no studies connected to them. Please make sure you’re not allowing yourself to worry over something that is not really there. (Hint, if your website says “THIS CAUSED YOUR CHILD’S THIS” it is probably not reliable.)

Listen to the professionals you are working with.

I once had a conversation with a therapist who told me “Google doctors are going to kill a lot of patients, but still put me out of business.” Hear me out-I do not advocate blindly following doctors. They are human as well. However, I do advocate listening to what the professionals you have on your team. You may do this with a grain of salt, you may hear what they have to say and realize it’s not best. If that is the case, find another professional who works with your family dynamics and beliefs a little more. As a Christian, sometimes it’s hard to find professionals who share our beliefs and is willing to incorporate them in my, or one of our children’s, therapy…but that matters to us. Don’t just discount everything a therapist or doctor says because of that difference though! The best therapist I’ve ever had wasn’t a Christian! Don’t let your personal preferences or what you feel is best get in the way of hearing what professionals who have done this for years have to say.

Let yourself FEEL these feelings.

I felt a lot of guilt on top of my fears, worries, and anxieties because “I shouldn’t feel this way.” I spent a lot of hours beating myself up because I should know better. The truth is though, these can be life altering diagnoses. The alteration isn’t necessary a bad thing…but it can be something that brings up a lot of unknown fears in the future. There is a process that you need to go through after you hear these words. One of the most important part is letting yourself feel what you need to feel. Find a close friend to talk it over with, discuss how you’re feeling with your child’s therapist or find your own. It’s important you deal with the emotions before you become bitter with them. Let yourself feel those feelings!

Worst case scenarios are the stories that sell.

This is pretty straightforward. I urge you to remember that the worst case scenarios that make it to the papers or on Lifetime as movies..they are just that. Worst case scenario stories. Yes, some diagnoses have very worrisome behaviors that come along with them. I will never deny this. But a lot of those stories sell because they play right into our greatest fears.

Listen to adults living with the diagnosis.

With Autism Awareness on the front page this week, this is one that I feel the need to scream from the mountaintops. When dealing with a diagnosis, the most important voice you should listen to are those living with it. Far too often we silence adults with mental illnesses, we pretend that these disorders disappear at 18. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard an autistic adult be shut down or closed out of a conversation because they weren’t saying what a parent thought was the truth. Hearing the adults or even other children living with any diagnosis can help you immensely as a parent: IF YOU LET IT.

At the end of the day: This is the child you loved before this diagnosis.

I am an advocate for getting a diagnosis. I will never be the person who says “Well, what if it’s not that?!” A diagnosis can provide so many resources and referrals within the school system. It can give life changing assistance and accommodations. You can find therapies and tools to use to make your child happier. It will change how you approach behaviors and can make a world of difference with how you parent.

But a diagnosis will not change who your child is.

I know you may have a hard time accepting and not worrying over what you just heard, but this word will not changing who your child is.

If you are having a hard time with a diagnosis, I am here for you! Please know you are now alone in that struggle.

Dear Adoptive Parents

Adoptive Parents-Let Yourselves Be Angry.

Yesterday, as I sat in my son’s initial appointment with his new therapist, my emotions welled up. As adoptive parents, especially one through the foster care system, I should be used to this. The constant reminder of their before. Bringing up the past is a necessary evil when talking to professionals. When it comes to emotional therapy, it becomes even more important.

Sitting in the little office, I give the most basic details. I try to focus on his behaviors now and what we need help with in this moment. But as any good foster or adoptive parent knows, the history matters. It will never stop mattering.

So, there I am, explaining some of what this little Monkey went through and the face looking back at me kept falling further and further down. Finally, as I took a breath, I hear, “Wow. This must make you very angry.”

“Oh, well, I understand. Things happen and now we are coping with it all! There’s a lot of stuff that contributed to this.”

My response is well practiced. It’s exactly what I am supposed to say as the new age adoptive mother. I ooze first family love; I try my hardest to be birth family positive. The love for my children’s first mother is honest. Reading all the books about birth families and how to keep that alive in our parenting is something Josh and I strive to do. I know adoptive parents who are sososo angry about what happened in the before and we are not that family.

I answer with mostly honesty. Acknowledging the explanations of some of their past is important. It does not help anyone to vilify the first family. Then, though, I am hit with a hard truth, one that has been denied to me before now. 

“You’re allowed to be angry about what happened.”

 

This one time appointment isn’t the first time I had this said to me. My therapist insisted it for years, my husband says it often. He accuses me of being far too soft over the hardships our children have dealt with. My husband has no problem with feeling anger. I, on the other hand, try to squash that emotion as though it is a little bug in my bathroom. I have such a hard time with anger, I don’t even usually squash that little bug.

Yesterday morning it hit me though. Maybe it’s time we start telling adoptive parents that first family respect matters-but adoptive parents, you are also allowed to be angry. Maybe we can begin to encourage foster and adoptive parents to feel righteous anger over the hand their children have been dealt.

I have experienced a lot through my families, both the family of origin and my family we created now. There are stories I still cannot retell without tears. I have heard things that make grown adults cry. And I am not alone; families who have done this for decades know all these stories as well.

We encourage adoptive parents to shut off their feelings, encourage them to ignore very understandable anger.

Adoptive mamas and daddies and grandparents and siblings- this is me telling you:

Let yourself be angry.

Do not stay in the angry place, because the anger will destroy you.

But do not pent that anger up and try to ignore it. That will destroy you as well.

You are allowed to be angry that your child has suffered. I think asking us as their parents to feel anything but anger at their trauma, neglect, and abuse. If you adopted from foster care, there’s a very high likelihood your child has experienced something of the like. You are allowed to be angry that was their beginning in life. 

If you find yourself struggling with anger about this, I encourage you to find someone to talk to about it. Do not listen to the voices in the adoption community that demand you accept the before and love the birth family. You can love someone, you can respect someone, you can even accept them into your life without accepting the bad choices they made before.

You are allowed to be angry with their choices and the harm they allowed to come to your child, while being thankful for the fact they gave you the child you love. Feeling upset with the mistakes and choices they made does not mean you do not recognize the things they did right-even if the only thing it feels like they did right some days was procreate and make your baby.

I’m sure someone is not going to be happy with this statement, but the truth is, I’m sick of being told how to feel as an adoptive mom. I can love the first family; I can show the first family honor with my children. And I can be really really really angry that the beginning of my kids life will forever shape and challenge them.

You are allowed to be angry. 

7 Foster Care and Adoption Prayers to Pray - Copy

7 Prayers For Waiting Children

I was looking back through my previous posts and found that the stats on my post, “7 Prayers for Foster  Care and Adoption” are BOOMING. I had written this post about six months ago highlighting all the areas foster care and adoption needs prayer. Today, I want to share another post on a similar subject-7 Prayers to Pray for Waiting Children.

There are more than 100,000 children in foster care who are waiting for a permanent home. These children range from age 0-21, though the median age is 8 years of age. Some require extra love through trauma and developmental or emotional disabilities. Others wish to be placed with their biological siblings. I’ve talked about how to know if you’re ready for foster care adoption before.

However, maybe you don’t think you’re ready to adopt from foster care. Maybe that’s something that is not in the cards for you! I’m a firm believer even if you never foster or adopt you can help children in foster care.

Today, I want to share for my praying friends a week worth of prayers to say over children in foster care who are waiting for their forever families.

Prayers For Waiting Children:

Speediness

With children waiting for adoption, time matters so much. We’ve all seen the posts on Facebook that show a child holding a sign that says “After ___ days in foster care, I am adopted!” Those posts always touch my heart so deeply…but what hits me hardest is when I do the math.

I remember I once saw a child who had a number over 3000. That means she was in foster care, living her life in limbo, for over ten years. Ten years. That’s double the length of my marriage, y’all. Some of these kids will sit in foster care for years and years, unsure of where they will end up calling home after they age out. Pray for the courts. Pray for the speed of the social workers. Pray for the waiting families. Pray that they all move at a speed that is acceptable when a child’s life is hanging in the midst of decisions.

That families are led to adopt “hard to place” kids

Many of the children who waiting for forever homes are considered “hard to place”.  Some have special needs, some have medical needs. Others have trauma in their history-and some are just older than what most are looking to adopt. I encourage you to pray over these children especially. That families can see past what is written on a piece of paper and inquire about the child behind it. Also, pray God equips families to care for and adopt these placements.

And pray, very specifically, that more families are led to adopt these waiting children.

 Relationships with biological families are maintained (When Safe)

While this is obviously not an option for all children, when it is safe, pray that biological ties are maintained. Often children are separated from their biological siblings. Pray that families are adopting siblings separately establish and maintain a relationship when it is in the best interest of children. I would also encourage prayer for biological family members as adoption happens-this can be a hard time in their lives.

For the families fostering these children

As a forever child in a fostering family, I’ve often said that I wouldn’t trade this for the world. However, watching a child you’ve lived with for years sometimes move on…it’s hard. I’ve discussed the heartbreak of foster care before. Even when a child is moving on to another home that is good for them, it hits the foster family. Many of us(not all, because as with every demographic, there are bad foster parents) put our all into these children. Even when we know they are not going to be with us forever-especially when we know that.

I encourage you to pray for the families that will be saying good-bye. Pray healthy connections are made and continued after adoption is finalized.

Future Adoptive Parents are prepared for these Children

As I stated above, many children waiting for adoption have special needs. Not all are developmental; some are cognitive, emotional, medical or trauma related. No matter what needs they have the parent(s) who will someday adopt them may need a special set of skills. I firmly believe these are skills that are learned, not ones they acquire at birth.

Pray for the waiting families, that they learn and grow in all the ways they need to adequately assist these children. I also encourage you to pray the friends and churches these families belong to as well. The church can be a great help or hinder to foster and adoptive families. Pray they find one that is a help-or create the help within the church themselves.

That Hopeful Adoptive Families Know Their Limits

I have an entire post on this for foster care: Reasons We Say No To A Placement. When praying over waiting children though, I hope you add this to your prayers. I have heard of quite a few families that take in a child with needs too severe for their family and home and a child needs to be put up for adoption again.

That kind of strain is so detrimental for a child who thinks they found a forever home, only to move on to somewhere else again. While behaviors can change and are not always known, pray for discernment for the waiting families.

These Children Do Not Give Up Hope 

I can’t imagine what it’s like to be waiting for a forever family-and there’s a real possibility, you my friend cannot either. Pray for these children’s hearts. When you are bowing your heads, pray that they have faith God will provide. In the midst of your day, pray they hold steadfast to a hope and peace that surpasses all understanding. If you are reading through The Word and happen to come upon a verse on hope, pray it over these 100.00+ waiting kids.

Again, if you are interested in pursuing foster care adoption, I am always available to answer any questions you may have that I can. I leave you with go to website I provide for families: AdoptUsKids.

What’s another way you pray over waiting children in foster care?

The Church is Failing Foster and Adoptive Parents

The Church is Failing Foster And Adoptive Parents. 

I’ve been living the foster care and adoption life for over a decade. I’ve been a Christian my entire life and with the exception of what I fondly call “the dark years“, I’ve been a pretty active church goer in that time. At this point in my life, I can’t remember the last Sunday we didn’t go to church. Our weekends are filled with fellowship functions and the two minute drive from our home to the church is one made frequently throughout the week.

When we began fostering I found a world of wondrous support systems online-both through Facebook and Instagram. If you’re ever considering foster care or adoption, I truly recommend getting on Instagram and connecting. It’s such an amazing system of kind words, hard love, and people who truly understand.

What lacked wonderfulness, however, was this underlying theme I kept hearing in Facebook groups or Instagram chats.

The church is failing foster and adoptive parents.

I don’t say that lightly. I don’t say it as a hard truth-maybe you belong to a church that does amazing things for its foster and adoptive families; I know I do. But as a general comment, as a person who has lived immersed in the world of foster care for over a decade, as an observer of so many Christian friends feeling unwelcome or uninvited or unloved-the church needs to step its act up.
As I mentioned, I’ve been pretty lucky overall to be blessed with a church that has some active ministering going on in the life of adoptive and foster families–but we are far from perfect. In hopes of not missing any needs that should be addressed, I went out and asked in a few groups, on my Facebook page and Instagram what people thought their church did well or the church needed to know about foster care and adoption. I wanted to share some thoughts with you from them as well as from me, in hopes this may be shared with leaders and deacons in your churches. Foster and adoptive parents are parents, like any other set, but we face certain difficulties that are very different from being birth parents. (Which, I am both, so I see both sides!)

What do foster and adoptive parents want the church to know or what do we need the church to do better? I find it can be broken into three main categories: inclusion, education, and support. 

Inclusion

We all have heard that inclusion matters. For foster children, most of whom are in foster care at no fault of their own, it’s so hard to deal with these moments when they don’t feel like they belong-even within their own church. For foster or adoptive parents, who may feel unsure of their standings with friends or family because of this choice-they need to feel the church welcomes them as well.
“But we don’t make our foster or adopted families feel unwelcome!” I know, you’re horrified I would accuse any church of that. You may feel like you’re being inclusive; you say hi to the foster family or adoptive parents in church. You invite them to bible studies. You and your church are so not part of the problem in this area. But…hear me out.

How do the volunteers in your church work? In my state and others, before leaving our children with an adult the adult must be checked of a criminal background. If your church doesn’t do a background check before allowing someone to volunteer with their children(something as a foster/adoptive mother AND previous teacher will never understand): it is not being inclusive.
Is there a special needs ministry in your church? While foster and adopted children by no means are the only children with neurodivergent minds, there’s a high percentage who are. Beyond the occurrences of neurodiversity that happens naturally, there’s also sometimes traumas, experience with behaviors that are destructive and dangerous, or exposure in the womb. A special needs ministry, along with the training that would take place with it, is necessary to include your blended families into the congregation and church family. Even if it seems small, if one child is able to experience Jesus better-is that not what being the church is all about? Go into your churches and talk about the policies surrounding special needs kids. How do you handle behaviors that are horrifying and completely out of the realm of “normal”? How do you handle trauma?


And speaking of policies-in this day and age, another policy protocol is brought to light: social media. In MA, we are not allowed to post photos of our children’s faces. (We are now, but while you’re fostering you are not). Have your church leaders talked about what to do in the event of a church function-how do they handle the kids who are not able to be photographed and published? What about with volunteers? A strict policy needs to be put into place, acknowledging what is necessary to keep these children safe. And this policy must be shared with any and all volunteers who work with youth.
While there are some areas of inclusivity I mention that are steps beyond the normal treatment of biological newborns being born into the church family, that’s a comment I heard often when asking about it as well. While I’ve never adopted an infant, I have heard a resounding sigh from the adoptive community, that for many people, adding an adopted child was treated so differently than having a biological child. Essentially, the repeated thought shared with me was this, “if your church does it for a new mom who just had a baby, do it for a new family who just adopted one(or an older child as well)!”
All children are children of God and when welcoming new ones into the church-treat them equally! I heard stories of some churches making sure adopted parents got a baby shower as well, setting up meal trains, offering a respite night to foster families. While a baby shower was far outside what I needed with our foster to adopt kids, I can see where it’s a positive experience that really helps adoptive moms feel like any other mom! One thing my church did , that I absolutely ADORED, was allowing us to dedicate our kids after we finalized their adoption. Despite dedication usually happening as an infant, they went out of their way to make sure we’ve done it for all our recent adoptions. That was such a blessing on us.


There are far too many times I’ve heard of families feeling as though they are unable to attend churches long term because these matters haven’t been dealt with by the leaders in the church. Many of the issues I mention above have to do with acceptance and inclusion, but those won’t happen without….

Education.

I cannot stress this enough-the world needs to become more educated on foster care and adoption in general-but the church has an extra burden to educate themselves on these types of families. Period. There’s no room for excuses, justification, or brushing it off. The church needs to place a larger push on educating its leaders, pastors and volunteers on matters that come up within foster care and adoption.

Okay-great for me to say that right? But what does that mean?? What exactly should we educate our leaders and volunteers on?
Well, first you could start off with the basics and just go over some of the vocabulary. There’s many words or letters in child services that it helps immensely to know what they mean when talking to families involved-even the children! My kids knew who their GAL was, but do you know what that even stands for? Does your pastor or youth group leader? In our home, we’re also passionate about birth family positive language and family positive language. It’s important leaders in your church are aware of what those things are.
Education can also go deeper on issues faced specifically by foster care/adopted children. Suicide rates within the adoptive community are high-as well as the risk of sexual abuse. A plan should be in place if a child or teen-or adult-comes to a leader in the church with risky behaviors. Or they disclose facts that need to be reported. Are all your leaders aware of how to report situations or disclosures of abuse or neglect? These things are so important to have into place.
Education on challenges overwhelming our kids are also internal. Children in foster care are more likely to struggle with PTSD, traumatic memories, and mental illnesses. Volunteers must be educated in handling behaviors of all kinds-behaviors that go beyond pushing each other in lines. And the answer to acting out with these behaviors should not equate being unwelcome in the church. This brings it back to the inclusion point.
And at the end of the day, what do we need most?

Support.

Both inclusion and education go a long way in filling in holes where support is lacking. Fighting towards a diverse, understanding, inclusive and well educated group of leaders in the church creates a safe place for adoptive and foster families to go. When those things are covered, we no longer are left worrying about our child in Sunday school or policies to make sure they’re safe. When these needs are met, we are able to relax, share in fellowship, attend church, and gain what church should be about-worshipping Jesus.
There are a few other ways you can support a family during the foster care or adoption process and one I heard a few times is simply financial support. As the church-we are CALLED to help these children. If a church is unable to give money, at least it could step up and help fundraise.


As I mentioned in the inclusivity part, throw a baby shower. See what size clothes are needed for foster parents, especially if they have a high turnover rate. Start a meal train. I’ll be completely authentic here and say, making food after giving birth is nothing. Making food with two completely new to me children who tried to run away?? So much harder. Offer support in that manner.
Offer support through love, compassion, and just being there for a foster or adoptive parent.

I’ve said this before, I will say it again, this can be a really lonely path to walk. I have no doubt in my mind God put me here and is the guiding backbone to having chosen foster care and adoption. I know He called us to this lifestyle. And I am blessed by it immensely-it is only through the foster care system I have loved six children, four forever, and I count everyday with them as a blessing from Him.
As I mention in “10 Things Moms of Kids with Mental Illnesses Want You To Know,” not all of those days are easy and some of them feel so isolating. We need your support. We need you to be willing to hear us cry over things you cannot comprehend, pray for things you do not understand us requesting prayers for, accepting our families just as they are that day-because some of us change day to day.
Offer to take a foster or adoptive mom out to coffee. Ask if you can be CORI’d so you can be a person who is able to sit with them while a rare date night occurs.


Go to court with them and hold their hand on court days. Do you want to know the hardest day of my entire life as far as foster care goes? It’s not the day that we were told we were not approved to adopt a little girl we had fallen in love with. It’s not the day we watched a little boy be reunified, despite knowing it was for the best, watching our kids hearts being broken. It’s the day I had to testify; completely alone in a courtroom and feeling like no one was there for me, on my side, or even understood how hard it was to say what had to be said despite loving everyone involved in the case so darn much.

But is any of this the church’s responsibility?

I believe it absolutely is. In our walk to be Christlike, let’s not allow our comfort to come before helping those amongst us. Let us not quietly stand by the sidelines but dive headfirst into relentless love and unwavering support.

“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” (James‬ ‭1:27‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

How can you help a foster or adoptive family in your church today? What can you do to encourage your church into taking some of these action steps? Has your heart been moved to push for changes?

Keeping Our Loved Ones Alive

Keeping Our Loved Ones Alive

As we grow older and as our children grow older, our time here on earth is forever marked by the loss of our loved ones. I experienced loss as a fairly young woman, as both my fathers parents passed away before I entered high school and then my father in law passed away about 9 months before we were married. I always dealt it well and while it wasn’t “easy,” I was raised with a steady Christian belief system and had a pretty good handle on it all.

When we began having and adopting kids though, I was made acutely aware that there were things missing from their lives. My kids will only be able to play baseball in the yard or go out fishing with one of their grandfathers. My father in law wouldn’t be showing them how to hunt or shoot a gun or feeding him some of his “interesting” meals.

They are missing out on eating ice cream from the carton and tunafish from the can like I did with my Papa. And Nana would never tell them six hundred times how to dry a dish…only to come back and dry it herself. (Because 10 year old me couldn’t dry dishes right okay?) My parents camp on the lake would always be that to them: Coach’s and Grandma’s camp. They would play with the dolls for hours, never once knowing the ish you could get in if you left one out after clean up time. They didn’t get to watch Papa cut up his fish.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am acutely aware how lucky my kids are to have two full sets of great grandparents and a great great grandmother. We are so thankful every day for the experiences and familial traditions they get to live through. For our family though, it’s very important to us to keep those loved ones who have passed a part of their story.

How do we do that though?

Keep the memories alive through stories.

My husband is the best at this when it comes to telling stories about his father. His entire demeanor changes as he takes on Chuck’s personality and voice while reciting these tales, our children sitting around and laughing at each word. I’ve been with him for five years now and every time there’s a new tale of his dad. I love when we’re together with his mother, brother and sisters and they all begin to tell the kids about the time they slid down the stairs or jumped from the balcony.

Telling stories about our deceased loved ones brings them back to life as we sit around and share what we remember. For my kids, who have no memory of these people, it gives them a real picture of what their voice sounded like, how they moved and who they were.

Keep photos around for them to look at.

I’m a huge photo fan(in case you haven’t been able to tell with this blog) and I believe holding onto photos of our loved ones is a great way to share them with our kids. We have photos of my father in law with my husband and brother in law hanging around the house and the kids can identify who he is through photos. The photographs will provide even more memories to talk about. I love to pull out my old photo albums of my grandparents so they can see what they were like when I was younger.

Celebrate their traditions.

One thing I truly hope to implicate this year is the birthday blessing my great grandmother used to say at our birthdays. A sweet, short prayer, it brings back the memories of her speaking it over us and our families having it memorized. My prayer is we can bring that back into our birthday parties, as a way to honor her and once upon a time, a family tradition.

Think back to what your loved ones ate on holidays or how they celebrated them and bring those into your lives now! Josh’s family always has pierogies on holidays and now our children have them every Christmas celebration with that side of the family. It’s something we hope to keep doing, even once we no longer do it with those people. I might continue to cook the raisin gravy…even though the kids and I won’t eat it. Not Polish enough? Maybe.

Speak their names and stories on special days.

For a long time, I refrained from mentioning my grandparents on their birthdays or holidays because I was afraid bringing them up would create more sadness than joy. It was a naive thought and one that not only didn’t honor my grandparents but also didn’t ease the pain of losing them for my loved ones.

It’s so important to speak their names and stories on days you would if they were still here. We passed by Chuck’s birthday recently and I asked my husband a few time how he was handling his dads birthday as well as told the kids today was the day Grandpa was born. I purposefully try to mention my grandparents on Mother and Father’s day and I attempt to bring them up during the hard celebrations we wish they were here for now. Mentioning them on these days brings them into the picture in gentle ways and makes it more natural to speak of them.

As much as it hurts to celebrate the special days, such as graduations and weddings, without our loved ones present, I love the ways people are bringing them into their weddings again with pictures or candles or the little pictures attached to their flowers.

Seek solace in the fact that this is not the end.

2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” -John 14: 2-4

How sweet are those words as believers, who are in mourning? We know the place where Jesus went to prepare the way, the place where He went to prepare a place for us all. We celebrate those words as we mourn. And as we tell our children stories of our deceased loved ones, we are able to find solace, comfort, and joy in the fact that in their deaths, they have left this world and are residing in heaven with our King.

Obviously, none of us know the beliefs in a persons heart, but as my husband said as I talked to him about this, if a person brings their bible to their hospital bed, prays while there, and has spent a good portion of their life talking about Jesus? We can begin to assume that yes, they have accepted Him into their heart.

Losing a loved one can be hard, no matter what point in your life you are at. While it’s important to me and my husband to keep the memory of them alive, it’s completely okay to take a step back if you have to, following a loss that hits you extremely hard. There is absolutely no shame in allowing yourself the proper time to heal and mourn. And if you’re loved one has been gone for a longer period of time, there’s nothing wrong with beginning this process now, at this point, even if you haven’t had it going forever.

How do you remember your deceased loved ones?

77 Days I Held You

77 Days I Held You.

Good-byes are never easy, right? Even if you know where a child is going, there’s no shame in how hard a good bye in the foster care system may be. There’s no hiding that it will come back and hit your heart hard, even years later.

I have a love/hate relationship with social media. Mostly, I love it. Sometimes though, it reminds me of days that I would rather not be forced to remember about. One of those days is today. Our “un-gotcha” day. Reunification day. The day our family became seven again, after 77 days of being a family of eight.

My sweet boy, I often wonder if you remember anything about those days. I wonder if your memories ever pop up with a brunette woman, with a baby on her hip, running after you. I pray sometimes you do. It’s a selfish prayer, I know. It’s selfish of me to hope you remember what may have been the worst three months of your life-simply because I want you to remember me.

But…even with how selfish it may be? I do. I pray, some nights, you remember me rocking you. That your dreams are sometimes graced by a big brother and a little brother, the three of you sitting in the leaves. I wonder if you remember your favorite thing to do was pull beards and listen to me sing-the only person ever who enjoyed my voice. I hope you still are read to at night, that you enjoy your books the way you used to.

I pray that if you ever ask the question, who is this woman, you are told the truth. Not only for my sake, but for your fathers as well. I pray that he someday sits with you and explains this time. Because I am so proud of him and I think you deserve to be too as you grow up.

I pray you’re both still well. That life has been good to you all, as you grow and change and move on. I pray that our 77 days together not only shaped my life but the life of everyone around you. I often wonder what it was like for you when you first went home. I wonder if you cried for me that night, or if you felt like everything in your life was right again.

I cried for you.

Some of the tears were happy tears. Your story is one for the books. It’s one of strength. It’s one of courage and grace and redemption. I was so happy to see you leave. I was so excited to know you would spend Christmas with people who fought so darn hard for you.

But some tears were ones of sadness. Because, even as I write this now, I miss you. I miss your pretty blue eyes and your infectious smile. I may have only been your mom for 77 days, a temporary mom, one who always knew she was only temporary, but you were my son for those days. You were a child who I tucked in at night and made breakfast in the morning. I can still remember your favorite drinks. I can still remember how much you hated your diaper, but would not go on the potty. I remember carrying you into the bedroom and putting you into the crib. I remember your hugs.

Remembering you doesn’t always hurt. Sometimes remembering you ends up with me giggling. We found a hat we accidentally kept last week, while taking out the winter stuff. Princess yelled out “That belongs to Chuckie!” and we paused to giggle at our memories of you. Sometimes, remembering you reminds me of a magic that still exists in this world. A magic I forget from time to time, because foster care isn’t always these wonderful reunification stories.

But I also cried into that hat. The complex feelings of being so happy for someone, but missing them so much are enough to make anyone cry a little. Sometimes those tears flow over a cookie monster hat. Sometimes it’s from a song. But the pain…it comes in waves.

77 days. I held you for 77 days and I will love you for far more. Here we are, two years later, and I still love you so much it hurts.

I’m still praying for you, my little baby boy. Praying for you all, every day. Happy reunification day! I hope life is still glowing. I hope your still giggling that sweet little giggle. And I pray you know that you are so so loved.

Living With

Living with Adoption Loss.

This past week I shared a post about how to prepare your home for a home study through the foster care system. I mentioned in that post a friend of mine is currently attempting to adopt and her request for the list was what really pushed me to share it with the interwebs.

Another conversation with her inspired me to share this.

We were sitting and talking to each other and she made the comment, “I already love them, so I hope they are approved.” I smiled along, nodding and assuring her I would be praying with her and for the situation. Afterwards, I got home and I cried. I sat with my husband and I let tears fall for a grief she had no idea that was present. The loss of a failed adoption.

When I wrote my post on my advice to making your marriage last through foster care, I mentioned Loo. I didn’t completely go into details about how deeply that adoption falling through effected us, though. I don’t know if I did the feelings of hopelessness, anger, and grief justice when I talked about it. I didn’t in depth explain the pain of losing a dream, one you created a life around. Suddenly you are no longer planning how you’re going to set up her bedroom and what you might do for the next holiday. Your arms are empty, your heart is hurting, and your future is no longer what you believed it would be.

An adoption loss is hard. I still feel the heartache of it. I often wonder where she is today, what her life looks like, if she’s okay. I don’t know if I will ever have those answers. Once upon a time, I believed I would be the one teaching her how to drive, buying prom dresses, giving her the talk one day. Now, I don’t even know where she lives, if she’s still in our county let alone our state.

If you’re in the position of an adoption loss, there’s some things I want to share with you t keep in mind as you process this and move forward with your life-without a big part you thought would be there.

Allow yourself to grieve. While no one has died, a part of your life has left you forever at this point. Depending on where you were in the process, you may already have met and spent time with this child. We had. You must grieve the loss of what could have been. Allow yourself to feel each step of of the grief process…and when it bubbles back up, four years later, let yourself feel it again. There’s no time limit on grief; I just the other day, cried a bit over a song that came on the radio.

In whatever way you need to. Grief is different for each person. When our adoption fell through, we put off foster care for about 8 months after. Josh was very angry about the situation and I spent a lot of time in denial. Now I deal with it by writing and he deals with it by ignoring it. (Pretty much how we always deal with our issues.) And allow your spouse to grieve how it comes naturally to them as well.

Talk about it. To your spouse, to a therapist, to your friends. Don’t hold your feelings in. I shut it off a lot directly following this and it left me with a lot of undealt with emotions. I didn’t realize how much uncertainty it forced on my life until we were going through Princess and Monkey’s adoptions. While being a biological child in a fostering family brought me up to live this way, adoption loss definitely had me on pins and needles until the paperwork was signed.

Lean into God. At the time, it was so hard for me to trust in His plans. I thought He was screaming at us that adoption wasn’t in our future. Instead, He was gently pushing us further down the line to get in the position where we could add the other six members of our family-something that wasn’t an option if we hadn’t suffered through this adoption loss. That was nowhere in my line of sight during the process though. I needed to lean into Jesus and pray a whole lot every darn day just to get up and make it to work the next day.

If you have a friend or family member who you know that is dealing with an adoption loss and you’re looking for some advice on what to do or say, I threw together a small list of what you could offer to do with them

  1. Listen to them.
  2. Don’t put pressure on them to walk away from adopting in the future.
  3. Don’t put pressure on them to jump right into adopting again.
  4. Make them some food.
  5. Get them out of the house.
  6. Pray with and for them.
  7. Offer to help them deal with any items they may have bought for this child.
  8. Talk about the child.
  9. Don’t expect them to just walk away unscathed…it hurts.
  10. Give them grace is they shut you out or need to step back away from life for awhile.

An adoption loss is felt deeply. It’s not only the changing of a current situation, but it’s the changing of dreams and hopes, plans and possibilities. It’s okay for this to hurt for a long time after. An adoption loss is very different from foster care reunification or moving on to a new home. (If I were to write about that experience, would anyone be interested?)

Have you dealt with an adoption loss? What advice do you have to give?

how-to-help-a-friend-through

How to Help a Friend Through Foster Care Adoption

Hey y’all! I want to talk to you today about something you can do to help your friends through the adoption process. I’m teaming up with Becky from Three Heart Babies to go over two different point of views for helping-adoption from a private agency and adoption from foster care!

Obviously, I am here to talk to you about how to help a friend through adoption through foster care. We adopted/have guardianship of three of our kids through foster care and I also have two siblings adopted though foster care. I often get asked how to help families who are awaiting adoption and I think it’s something that we can help each other through. Please feel free to share this with anyone who is being touched by foster care adoption, so they know how to help their brothers and sisters in Christ.

how-to-help-your-friend-through-a-foster-care-adoption

How can you help your friends through foster care adoption?

Get yourself CORI’d! It’s simple. You give a few essential items of identification to the agency and they run it to make sure you don’t have a criminal record. Then you can help baby sit the kids. And every mom and dad out there needs someone to baby sit their kids on the off chance they want to still be married at the end of raising babies.

Attend court dates with them. Guys, I’m going to be completely transparent here-the worst day of our entire adoption process was the day I had to get on the stand and testify. It was absolutely miserable. And because we had five kids at home and court was over an hour from our home, I had to do it alone. Which meant, I heard parts of the case I had never heard before(the really heart wrenching ones), was questioned and cross examined, and then had to go eat lunch—alone. If you have a friend who has to go to a court date, support them through it. Offer to baby sit or go with them. You can’t go into the courtroom in most cases, but you can hold their hand while they cry into their pizza after.

img_2993-2

img_2987-2

img_2984-2

Educate yourself. I love talking foster care and adoption. The lingo is something I am at ease with after living in the world for over a decade; I know many people come to me and ask me questions about specific words and rules and guidelines. And I cherish that. But not every hopeful adoptive parent wants to have to sit there and explain every word to you as they are fighting through the process. Read others foster care and adoption blogs. Check out this post on the vocabulary you may want as you hold a friends hand through this. Look into the rules and regulations of your local agencies. Think of it this way, you wouldn’t ask a pregnant woman to explain every little part of the process to you, would you? You may ask her for advice after, when you decide to have babies. But during the process, if you want to know something, you Google it. Get on googling adoption from foster care facts. But-educate yourself, just make sure to not do it in front of the kids. Some kids don’t know the status of their adoption or termination of parental rights. It’s never appropriate to ask first family questions or about the status of the adoption in front of a child.

Offer to help with errands and around the house chores, if there are other kids in the home, offer to help out with them. Adoption is a long and hard process, but the court weeks and training weeks are extra exhausting and trying. See if you can help clean up, make meals, mow lawns, etc. Training in MA is 30 hours and sometimes there is traveling involved. If a family already has a child, it’s critical they have child care during this. Offer to help in any way they need it.

12227080_992408227504784_1290850500186794849_n

12219414_992398360839104_3589289620194359031_n

Know the difference between foster care and foster-to-adopt. The point of foster care is not adoption. SAY IT WITH ME A LITTLE LOUDER HERE. The point of foster care is not adoption; it is the reunification to a child with their birth parents or family when it is a healthy and safe situation. If your friends are fostering, please do not assume that they are going to adopt, that the goal is adoption or even that they want to adopt. We began the foster care journey with the hopes of adopting a single child. When that fell through, we wanted to simply foster and help reunify children with the biological parents or be a midway stop as they went on to forever families. Jesus had a different idea, obviously, but we never wanted to foster to adopt. It’s an acceptable question to ask, when the children are not around. (Above about educating yourself on not saying things in front of the kids!)

Don’t be discouraging or pessimistic. Chances are, if a person is far enough into this process, they already are aware of the risks. Yes, that’s right, I said risks. You can’t go through a foster care adoption site without hearing the stories. Some of our kids will never heal, some will only heal part way. PTSD, food insecurity, RAD, bed wetting, anxiety, a high chance of substance abuse, personality disorders, developmental delays, FTT….we’ve heard them all. The added bonus is that at the end of the day, they may become a teenager or adult, decide we aren’t their “real” parent and walk away. We are usual well aware of the risks when we are going through this process. No hopeful adoptive parent needs you to come tell them a horror story about a little boy who tried to stab his parents, okay?

Pray. Pray. Pray. Pray with them. Pray with them when times are rough, when they’re facing impossible choices. Pray for them. Pray for patience, for steadfastness, for faith. Pray for the first families and the children who have their lives in limbo. Pray without ceasing. If you need ideas of what to pray for a foster family, I have a post here on it!

img_2142

Remember, it’s not over until the ink on the papers dry. One of the hardest things is the waiting, waiting, waiting. Our adoption took two and a half years to be finalized…and that’s considered a quick adoption and with voluntary termination of rights. I’m on a televised interview saying this very statement the day our adoption happened-this isn’t over until the ink has dried. The system can take a long time and it sometimes can not work out the way people hoped. So if those adoptions fall through, make sure to offer support and love after. Nothing is for certain in foster care until the ink has dried.

If you’re looking at ways to help a friend through adoption through a private agency, check out this post at Three Heart Babies!

14543387_10209699086129156_548999894_n

Any other adoptive parents out there who went through foster care? What did you need from your friends then?

img_1683

Frequently Asked Questions of

Foster Care FAQs

While I joke a lot about things I’m asked about foster care being so out there and offensive, there are a handful of frequently asked questions that are legitimate concerns and questions asked by foster care hopefuls and those who are around it pretty constantly. Some of these questions are definitely on a need to know basis, others are things I have no problem answering when away from my kids and there are a few that I don’t even mind you asking the kids their opinions on-after all they are the ones experiencing this first hand!
So for all those “maybe we will foster someday” people out there, I figured I would answer some of these questions that are burning in your brain.

“You get paid to do this…right?”

Yes and no. Foster care is by no way a “get rich quick” kind of job, especially if you are giving the kids what they really need in life. However, we are provided with a subsidy amount and in MA we receive dental and medical healthcare. Some children are provided with extra subsidy because of higher needs or more intensive home/outside the home care. We are given money, yes. But it’s far from being a great pay. The subsidy helps offset the costs of having extra children thrown in suddenly and while some families can function without subsidy, most foster families do need and use it to help their family thrive. This question sometimes come across as a negative, but knowing how you will financially provide for kids is an important aspect to consider.

Are You considering foster care adoption? Read here!

“Have you ever been afraid of the kids/bio family?”

I, and 99% of the people out there who have ever fostered, would be lying if they said they have never heard one of those stories about a biological parent attacking a foster family or a child attacking their family. While we have been extremely blessed with my children’s bio families(I have said this before and I will never stop saying it), I have seen on a personal level families and children who have been dangerous. Even just recently, I was reminded to keep an extra eye on a child who had been adopted while out in a large group setting because a biological parent would (and previously has) attempted to contact the kiddo.

There’s also always the fact that many children within the foster care system have suffered abuse, trauma, and neglect. These things don’t disappear just because their home has been moved. Kids will act out and sometimes…it’s scary. I would also be lying if I told you that fear does not take part in our decisions of which placements to accept and which to turn down. We don’t accept children with sexual abuse histories older than our current children. We ask, quite frankly, if there’s a history of violence against other kids. For us, our number one priority is to keep our forever children and ourselves safe. But I would also be lying if I told you that “worry” was ever big enough to not begin fostering.

“How much say do I have in the kids we have?”

All the say!! Seriously, you have the ability to choose what placements you do and don’t take, every single time. You also have the ability to dictate the children they contact you about. For example, as I previously mentioned we do not take placements with a history of sexual abuse. We also had ge limits(that were not followed but by choice!), a limit of number of kids, etc. And we ALWAYS had the choice to say no. A lot of the people who know me probably don’t believe we said no often…but we sadly had to and we did. I have shared the reasons why I would say no in a post right here.

“How hard is it to become a foster parent?”

This one is a tricky one for me, because I grew up in this lifestyle…so it’s really not outside the norm in my book! However, there is a pretty intensive training period, depending on your state and if you use the public CPS or a private agency. In MA we went through 30 hours of training and then home studies. Homestudies can be daunting if you’re not sure what they need/entail. The agency you license through should provide you with a list of the necessary changes to make to your home.

You can read further on How To Rock Your Home Study Here!


“What if you have a mental illness? Do they ask for a psychological evaluation?”

I have never heard of any office asking for an evaluation. We are given a pretty intense history packet to fill out about our familial history, medical history, employment history, etc. We also had to have our general doctors write off that we are physically and mentally capable of caring for children. But don’t worry-if you can function, they don’t usually refuse to allow you to foster because of a mental illness! I am proof of that.

“What are the rules about posting about foster kids on social media? Are they hard to follow?”

Each and every state and agency has their own rules. My general rule of thumb is not to show faces, legal names, or too many identifying features while a child is in foster care. Some states have simpler rules, others you can’t identify the kids as being in foster care period. It’s hard because you’re loving on a bunch of really adorable children and you want to show them off. But it’s not that bad to not show faces…in fact I think it’s harder to get five kids looking and smiling at the same time!

“Can I foster as a single/gay/non married/married person?”

Yes, yes, it depends on your state, yes! I know a few parents who foster as single parents, as those in non heterosexual relationships, as a couple living together but not married. There are a few states that will not allow couples to foster in the first few years of marriage for various reasons and some states make it harder on single parents and non heterosexual relationships. In Massachusetts though, I have found most our government agencies are very open to any and all situations for parenting.

Married? Check out this post on how we kept our marriage strong through foster care adoption.


“Can I be a foster parent with a criminal history?”

Every state requires a criminal background check of those they license. Certain offenses will never allow you to be a foster parent(homicide charges, domestic abuse/battery, child abuse, etc.) However, if you have a twelve year old offense of a DUI, it’s at the discretion of your agency.

“What ways can I help foster kids if we cannot foster?”

Check out this post I wrote about ways to help with foster care even if you cannot foster! Your gifts could make a huge different in the life of those in foster care and waiting for adoption. Also, you can always pray! Here are a few weeks of prayers I have shared. Prayers For Waiting Children. 7 Prayers for Foster Care and Adoption. And 7 Prayers for reunifying families.

Foster care has been the hardest and most amazing part of my life. I highly encourage anyone who is contemplating doing foster care to contact me and ask any and ALL questions you have. If more questions come up, I will come back and answer any I can!
**Reminder, this is based off my knowledge of working within one state! Your state may be different or have guidelines we do not follow! Please contact your local offices to get specific rules and specifications for your area.**

If you want to know how to help friends and family going through the foster care and foster care to adopt system, you’re in luck! I wrote this post on how to help those families!

Do you have any questions that you want to know about foster care/foster care adoption? 

11426487_664811630319820_1249197444_n