Thursday, May 26, 2016

It's Official

I am so behind on writing this post, and probably everyone that follows this blog already knows, but…

It’s official.

It still feels so surreal- in part, perhaps, because I didn't really expect it to happen then and there. I assumed that the judge would want some time to deliberate after hearing our case, but one week (almost exactly), my son officially and legally became my son. 

In reality, he’s been my son for 20 months, so, in terms of our day-to-day life, very little has changed.

His name changed, which is really exciting.

But we still wake up and scramble to get ready for work/day care. We still come home and play with all of his trucks. We still spend a lot of time snuggling, reading, and laughing.

And I still love him as much as I did when I first laid eyes on him. (Actually, I love him as much as I did when I received the first phone call about him.) That love has evolved and become more nuanced, of course, but it is still so big it overwhelms my heart and brings me to tears if I stop and think about it. (Seriously.)

I just feel so, unimaginably lucky.

It’s amazing to think back to 2 years ago- when I questioned my decision to be a foster parent and wondered if I was really ready for the commitment. At the time, I had no intentions of adoption. I signed up with an agency that didn’t even do adoptions! They were strictly focused on foster care, and so- I thought- was I. I knew it was possible I might have the option to adopt a child in my care at some point down the road, but I was in no way expecting it to actually happen. I remember saying to friends, "I mean, I want to be able to think about it if adoption ever becomes an option, but I really doubt that would happen any time soon."

Yet here we are today.

It’s amazing how much love can change our lives. And change us.

I really am forever grateful.
He has a face!
Here we are with our lawyer, the judge who made it official, and just celebrating life. 

Us with my sister and mom. J was pretty focused on the trucks driving by.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

One Week. Maybe.

Well... we're one week out.

Hopefully.               Maybe.              We'll see.

A lot of people have asked me how I'm feeling with our court date being so close, but honestly- I haven't been thinking about it that much. Thinking about the adoption generally? The relief I'll feel when I'm J-Bear's official mom? The excitement of getting to share good news with friends and family? Yes. Constantly.

But the court date itself? Not so much. 

Really, I've been trying not to think too much about it- because I don't want to worry too much about it. Or set myself up for too much disappointment.

Even now- seven days out- things are still so uncertain.

There's a chance that- by the end of the day next Thursday- the government will recognize me as my son's mom.

There's also a chance our hearing won't happen at all.

Or it will happen, but the judge will request additional time to make her decision.

Or she will want us to gather more information.

Or probably some other scenario I haven't thought of. 

There's no telling. But I'm definitely hoping for the 1st option. 

Honestly, though, right now I feel pretty content in this waiting stage. While I certainly don't want to be in it forever, I have a sense that what I'm hoping will happen will in fact happen- it's just a matter of when. Obviously, I don't know that for sure. But I am hopeful and optimistic.

In the meantime, I've been trying to focus just on what I can control in the present. I don't want to worry so much about the "what's next" that I miss what's right in front of me. So I'm taking it day by day, trying not to dwell too much on next Thursday specifically, and feeling a somewhat surprising amount of peace.

Now, if you check in with me on Wednesday, I might be a little more like Leslie Knope.

But right now- today- I am holding up well. And choosing to practice gratitude- for my time with J-Bear, our story together, the exciting things that are yet to come, and for all the people (like you) who care about our journey. 

Thanks for venturing with us. Hopefully I'll have some more news soon.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

5 Ways to Participate in Foster Care Awareness Month

Hello, dear readers!

I’m finally feeling better after last week’s sickness- although my ear is still ringing a bit after an ear infection. Is that normal?

In any case, I’m a few days late on this, but it’s officially National Foster Care Awareness Month!

Foster Care Awareness Month began in 1988, with President Reagan, and has been celebrated every year since. According to the National Foster Care Coalition, the main goals of this month are to:
  • Raise awareness about the magnitude of the issue and the urgent and sustaining needs of children and older youth in foster care and their families;
  • Issue a national call-to-action that motivates, inspires and facilitates many more Americans to come forward and help change a lifetime for a young person in foster care; and,
  • Develop a positive framework for maintaining visibility and interest in the foster care issue to support the year-round efforts of the National Foster Care Month Partner organizations and other child welfare agencies.

Obviously the needs of youth in care, their biological families, foster families, and foster care workers extend far beyond the month of May, but these 31 days provide a great opportunity to focus our attention on this year-round issue.

At this point, you may be asking yourself, “Okay, so I know it’s Foster Care Awareness Month. Now what?” To which I would say, “I’m so glad you asked!”

It’s hard to know what to do once you find out a month is dedicated to raising awareness for something. And, let’s face it, that’s pretty much every month of the year. Honestly, each month is dedicated to commemorating a lot of things.  

So, to this one from being lost in the shuffle, I wanted to create a list of tangible ways you can participate in Foster Care Awareness Month.

So, without further ado…

1. Wear a blue ribbon- and be prepared to talk to people when they ask you about it.
Pick up some blue ribbon from a local craft store, pin it to your shirt, and voila- you're set!
  • If anyone comes up to you and says, "Hey- what's that ribbon for?", you have a perfect opportunity to correct their grammar. But instead, stay on focus and use it as an opportunity to tell them about how over 400,000 children are currently waiting in our foster care system. You can talk to them about foster care in your area, you can tell them about ways to get involved, you can even talk to them about a specific issue within foster care that concerns you- like kids aging out of the system. A little blue ribbon can be a great catalyst for conversations and awareness. 
2. Learn something new about foster care/the needs of children and families.

3. Share what you learn with others.
  • Easy enough, right? Share some of your new-found knowledge on your Facebook, Instagram, blog, in your conversations. However you can spread awareness and share information- do it. Because it matters!

4. Read some of the stories of foster care.
  • If you have an Instagram account, search the hashtag "#knittogetherbyadoption". There's an account that started a Photo-a-Day challenge for the month, asking foster families to share their stories day by day. People are sharing things like why they're involved with foster care, how they got involved, the joys and the grief that come along with that invovlement, etc. (I've been participating, and I'm much better at updating Instagram than this blog, so if you want more frequent updates, you may want to check there.)
  • The Archibald Project is a global orphan care advocacy organization. This month, they are sharing the stories of people involved with different areas of foster care. I'm pretty excited about it, and there's a chance they are featuring my story next week, so be sure to check it out!
  • This is one of many blogs out there written by a foster parent. You could find lots of other great ones, and take the time to read and engage with them- leave comments or questions! I always love answering questions about my experience with foster care, and I dare say anyone who takes the time and energy to share theirs in a blog (even as inconsistently as myself)  probably feels the same way.
  • This isn't reading, but here's a short YouTube video that shares some stories from foster care. I'd imagine there are many more like this floating around in the internet. (Although, as with most things on the internet, I'd imagine not all are great/accurate. So be warned.)

5. Get involved!

  • I’ve already written a list of ways to get involved with foster care, but one extra thing you could do this month is write a note to your local CPS office or a Child Placing Agency. Guys- those people work hard. Some CPS workers have the unenviable job of removing children from their homes- sometimes in the midst of dangerous situations, and sometimes after hours (or in the middle of the night). As you can imagine, that is a an emotionally draining responsibility. And while the CPS system is certainly not without its flaws, many of its employees are investing so much of themselves in an effort to keep children and families in our communities safe. I doubt they get a lot of thanks for it, so imagine what it would be like for them to receive a nice little note in the mail! I bet that would go a long way for a worn-out office.

So, now that you have some ideas, go out and participate! Get yourself a ribbon, peruse a few blogs, spend more time on Instagram... Whatever you choose, I hope you learn something new about foster care this month, and I hope that something gives you hope and encouragement about the future for children and families in your community!

How will you join in Foster Care Awareness Month? Or how have you already gotten involved? Tell me about it below!

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