A New Kind of Kid
July 7, 2009|Comments (32)
Meet Cramer. Cramer is our new kid and finally one who will stay. We have no plans to sell him but instead to have him “fixed” and let him be our pet whether. As he propped his forelegs on my knee yesterday and asked to be picked up — I felt an overwhelming sense of belonging and calm. In that moment, I realized that I could tell you about what happened with our four foster children.
As you may have read, we got a phone call in early December of 2008 about a sibling group of four who were up for adoption and who matched the preferences we put in our homestudy. We didn’t have a long list of preferences:
- Age 8 or younger
- No fire setters
- No Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
- No birth parent visits
- Legally free for adoption – no foster children
- Safe around animals
- Safe around younger children
- No sexual abusers (victims of sexual abuse were fine but we didn’t want any children who acted out on other children)
We double checked on the phone with our caseworker, “You’re sure they don’t have FAS? You’re sure they are legally free and we don’t have to take them to see their birth parents?” The answer: “It’s all good. They are perfect for you. Let’s pick them up in an hour.”
We were ecstatic. I think I called thirty people in less than thirty seconds. Josh and I wept with excitement, relief, and the most incredible joy I have ever known. We borrowed a friend’s van and hit the road to pick up our beautiful new family.
Within the first ten days, we learned that only the first two of our preferences had been met. The others? Well, let’s just say that on day ten the oldest boy left our home permanently. The children entered our home and our care so that they would be safe. I know that some of you wondered why I never showed pictures of the oldest boy except for the first few days. Now you know.
Soon after, we learned that the children were not legally free and still had regular visits with their birth parents which we were expected to shuttle them to and from. These were foster children. But they were foster children with a court date. We struggled to prepare them for the court date which loomed ahead. As they asked questions, we quickly realized that we had no answers and apparently our state was just as clueless. We knew that we were only willing to adopt three of the four children but had no clue if the judge would agree to split the group.
The court date was canceled just a few days before it was scheduled to happen. The defense needed more time to prepare and the birth parent visits continued — each more ridiculous than the one before. Examples? We have lots. On one visit, the parents brought the entire family (who had not been drug tested or authorized) and on another visit the nine month old baby was permitted to crawl around on the floor of a filthy fast food restaurant. During this time, we also noticed that the baby was regressing developmentally. He didn’t meet his milestones and forgot important things like how to swallow almost daily. I made all of his meals into smoothies so that he would at least maintain weight.
As the next court date approached, the State’s attorney suddenly remembered that s/he had a conference to attend and the date was canceled. Not rescheduled: canceled. On went the visits. I took the three children to see specialists. Something was wrong with them. All three of them.
The school year was winding down and the parent visits were getting more and more abusive. Our phone calls were ignored. Our emails never received a response. It seemed that no one in the state really cared about these children. As the last of the doctor’s reports came in, we realized that the children were not going to get better and we were told that the damages could not be held against the parents in court because they were done before the children were born. Fetuses do not have rights. The children, we were told, would probably be going back to their birth parents.
Unable to cope with turning them directly over to their parents and teetering on the edge emotionally, we asked that the baby be moved to another home so he could get daily therapies and we could spend the last few weeks with our girls. I’d missed out on a lot of time with the girls because I spent my days taking the baby to the doctor. We spent the last few days with our girls coming to terms with everything. We tried to prepare them for returning to their birth parents. We feared that the children would be beaten for talking about our home for daring to utter sentences like, “Josh and Lacy baked all their bread and we got to help.” or “Josh and Lacy read to us and prayed with us.” It was then that we decided to have them leave our home a bit earlier and go to another foster home in hopes that they would transition with greater ease. We couldn’t live with ourselves knowing that the girls might get abused talking about their life with us.
And then, they were gone. The house seemed filled with their ghosts. The shifting of the toys in their room would cause music to suddenly erupt and I would find myself sobbing in front of their door — unable to walk in to quiet the toy and unable to find any degree of self control. One of their tiny socks would find its way into our laundry and I could then be found on the ground under the clothesline with it pressed to my tear-stained cheek. Josh would hold my hand — helpless to comfort me or climb out of the depths of his own pain. Were they happy? Were they safe? Were they all alone?
As we drove back from picking up the goats, I held the baby on my lap. He snuggled up to me and sniffed the bouquet of sunflowers given to us by the wonderful goat lady. I felt familiar tears welling up in my eyes. This kid: I could keep.