Archive for June, 2010

h1

some things looking good, sort of

June 30, 2010

We leave tomorrow for Lee’s hometown, but I’m hoping to get one more post beyond this one up today. Then we’ll spend the long weekend with relatives there — mostly Shasta, but also some of her adoptive family, plus also apparently she’s been challenged to a game of pool by the half-brother Shasta knows but who doesn’t otherwise have a relationship with us — and I know it’s going to take a lot out of her. So we’re talking about that proactively and I’m gearing myself up for a long drive home where she sulks and fixates on things. Is that a bad attitude to have? If things go better, I’ll be happy, but I think they’re probably going to seem better in retrospect and be somewhat difficult and uncomfortable (though also often good!) at the time.

Our new worker seems competent. She’s young and still very driven. (Okay, yes, I’m cynical today.) Apparently the reason we hadn’t gotten any foster care calls was not that we were blackballed but that we’d been put down as only willing to do concurrent planning (kids who are being kept in foster care while plans are also being made about what will happen if they do end up on the adoption track) and that’s not something that comes up very often. Since we never actually requested that, we’re back in the regular foster pool with a stated preference for kids 7 and up, especially boys, especially black, ditto LGBT. We’ll see where this takes us.

Oh, and Lee is back to saying she wants to get out of the pool in October. I’d thought I’d talked her down to letting our homestudy expire in January if we don’t have a child involved with us, but apparently I wasn’t convincing enough. My plan is to let her deal with her stuff in July and then come back and pressure her on this in August. Our new worker thinks that she’ll be out to visit us in less than the required three months because she’ll be there to check up on a placed child, so that too would solve the problem.

The really good news, though, is that I finally heard from Rowan’s new worker. I shouldn’t say “finally” since I never got in touch with her while he was in the residential treatment center. But I got a little panicky once I realized he was gone and was afraid we’d have trouble getting back in touch with him. She came back from vacation yesterday and sent me his foster mother’s contact info. He’s not living in our part of the state, which is good for him, but is also not in a super-rural area. I’d have things to do that amuse me in his town if we ever needed an excuse to visit, and if his brother’s still in the same placement as before they’re now within an hour’s drive of one another. So I’ll get to call him tonight and see how he’s doing.

I’ll want to talk to his foster mother, too, so she doesn’t think we’re horning in on anything. I don’t want her to feel like we’re trying to steal him away or keep him from attaching to her. But I do want him to recognize that he can count on us and that there are people who will stick with him regardless of where he goes and what he does. I have faith I’ll be able to explain this appropriately, so I’m not too worried about it at the moment. When he was at the RTC, I was careful not to undermine anything that the program was doing. I’d definitely not want to criticize anything that’s going on in a home. All I want is to hear what’s going on in his life and let him know that that matters to us.

I was just so happy that his worker thinks we’re having a positive impact and said that he had talked to her about us and our ongoing presence in his life. He’s the first kid who came through our home and with his running away and some of the disclosures he made to me, he put a lot of pressure on us in terms of whether we have the skills and wisdom to make the appropriate choices. While I’ve felt pretty good about it, there are also plenty of reasons to second-guess myself. Just knowing that he does care, that I have gotten through, means so much to me.

h1

church ‘n’ state

June 28, 2010

Our new social worker visits today. This is also the start of Lee’s official summer, and we’ll be leaving later in the week to go visit Lee’s hometown and her adoptive sister/bio aunt Grace in the nursing home plus her bio half-sister Shasta and Shasta’s daughter Kara. We’ve been working to try to find a lawyer who deals with termination of guardianship cases there and thought we had one, but it turned out she was a ridiculous bigot so now we’re looking again.

Yesterday at church I got up and recognized the kids who’d been part of our tutoring program through the schoolyear. Lee has been sort of wanting to quit church and I keep reminding her that we got into it because we wanted a church home in case we ended up parenting a child who wanted one. (I also think it’s good for Lee to be in touch with her religion; having that weekly reminder seems to help keep her grounded.) I don’t know how we got to the point where the atheist is the one arguing for church, but I went alone.

Yesterday was supposed to be the last service in the small building they’ve been using for the last maybe five years. The building is just overfull and it means we’re sitting way too close to each other, which leads to problems. One of Lee’s complaints is that she can’t focus on the service with people getting up and grabbing fans and talking to one another and so on. In fact, when we weren’t there last week things apparently degenerated almost to the point of a physical altercation. This was yet another reason for Lee to feel sure we didn’t fit in and should stop going. I told her that I’ve come up with two churches I like (this one and the very white lefty pacifist church, where the music wasn’t engaging enough for her and plus the whole “very white” thing is a problem) and that I’m done sampling what Christianity has to offer in our area, though she’s free to do what she wants.

At any rate, the plan was that our church would start having Sunday afternoon services in a fancy, traditional church building belonging to the United Church of Christ. Since this is also an open and accepting denomination, the leadership of that church was really excited about working with a bunch of black LGBT Christians. Arrangements were made for the transition to happen the first Sunday in July. But then a few of the parishioners started worrying about what would happen with these poor black lesbians and all their kids all over the place. On Sunday their church took a vote, and since everything up to that point had been unanimous there wasn’t much worry about making sure people who were absent had proxy ballots or anything. But members who didn’t attend regularly but had been stirred up by the people who didn’t want our church there showed up and voted. And now the church won’t be able to share their space with us and their pastor was heartbroken about the racist, classist, homophobic things he heard from some of them.

So anyway, I haven’t had a church update in a while and I figured I’d make it this one. The pastor wants me to work on an ACT prep class for the teenagers, which is something we’d discussed last year. The teen I tutor in Spanish gave the sermon Sunday (in English!) and did a fantastic job. It was a children’s service and the kids were great in all their roles. I was careful to hand off the microphone to the head of the tutoring program so she could be the one who named the kids of the woman who doesn’t want me to ever interact with her children since I’m not a Christian. The awards ceremony was otherwise uneventful. So I came to the church because of potential future children and am most interested in staying because of the awesome children. I just keep hoping Lee resolves what she needs to resolve to be able to either be happy here or break things off and move on.

But hey, that can wait until after we’ve done the next trip to visit her family and deal with all the emotions that stirs up in her! Plus when we get back, she’ll be gearing up for 10 days overseas in an English immersion program, something we did together two years ago to signify the end of our solo coupled life and the beginning of our move toward parenting. We haven’t moved very far or very fast, but I’m looking forward to some quiet time with her gone and to knowing that she’ll be getting the excitement she needs. There will be plenty of time for us to work things out (not even counting the long hours in the car on our upcoming trip) and I have faith we can do the talking and thinking we need to do. I’m glad we have this kind of sturdy base these days.

h1

updating updates

June 18, 2010

I did not mean to post so much today! But we just got an email from our state worker, Elizabeth, saying that she’s resigned her position effective immediately. We have a new worker who’s much younger and whom we’ve never met (as far as I know) but she’s at least savvy enough to only show work-appropriate photos publicly on facebook.

Elizabeth also said that it’s her understanding that Rowan is in a foster home now and that she saw him in court last week, which means that one of the cases (criminal abuse or termination of parental rights) must have gone to court at last. I’ve emailed his worker to ask where I can send this letter if I’m allowed to send it and what his feelings are about ongoing contact with us, but she’s on vacation for the rest of the month. I guess I’ll find out someday!

At any rate, this explains why Elizabeth didn’t do the home visit we were owed in May and perhaps why she wasn’t very helpful to Eddie’s workers or the people from Adopt America Network who tried to get information about us from her. I’ve just emailed our AAN worker to let her know what’s up and that they are giving out outdated information about who our worker is but I don’t really want workers from other states contacting this new woman before she’s even met us! Ugh. I’m sure this is par for the course, though, and she’ll know how to deal with it.

So that’s what’s up for now, or as of this moment at least.

h1

secret admirer

June 18, 2010

Now that I’ve made my big maudlin post, I can talk about the details of what’s going on with us now. We haven’t had any updates on the little reader and whether we’ve made the next cut, but our Adopt America Network worker is pursuing that match doggedly. She also had some unexpected news for us yesterday.

It turns out — and I really don’t know any details about this — that she got a call yesterday from a social worker who had seen our profile in the past. For some reason, we’d stuck in her mind. Now she has a boy on her caseload who’s now free for adoption and while she doesn’t know him well yet, her thoughts jumped to us. So she called to ask whether we were still looking. And we are! We don’t know anything about this boy or anything about his worker and this isn’t a decision that would be made overnight or probably even in the next few weeks, but it feels greatly reassuring that we made a positive impression on somebody.

One of the things I initially liked about foster care adoption as opposed to domestic infant adoption was the sense that we wouldn’t really have to sell ourselves. Sure, the point was to find families for children, but I thought our homestudy would be sufficient to explain who we are and what we’re about and social workers could make their decisions based on that because that’s what they’re used to doing. Except then it turned out that our homestudy was pretty junky and I didn’t really recognize us in there, and ever since then we’ve been working on correcting errors and writing cover letters that explain the mistakes and also make us look appealing, choosing photos that show our house and have both of us in them and looking semi-decent. I’ve had to work hard at selling us, and I’ve been resistant to that.

But a lot of what’s going to make this work is probably networking. Rowan came to us because I knew his worker at the time from having gone to high school with her. Claudia suggested we work with Adopt America Network because she knew me from this blog. Now with her connections as a matching specialist for AAN and our AAN worker’s relationships with others around the country, apparently our “story is being told,” as the marketing folks would say. And it’s taken a lot of work to get that story written and for me to get over not wanting to write that story (and, um, get over my conflicted feelings about blogging pseudonymously instead of being open and findable here on the blog) but it sounds like things are finally coming together for us.

On the other hand, the ever-optimistic Lee is now saying that she doesn’t get her hopes up anymore, that she never thinks anything is going to work out. I guess it’s nice that we’re keeping it balanced. I am thinking that I won’t have to fight with her about whether to renew our homestudy or let it lapse next January; we’ll have to do it because there will be a child in our home. I guess we’ll see!

h1

missing children (part one)

June 18, 2010

This is the post I’ve been trying to write since our trip to see Lee’s birthmother Leah. Well, this is the part of the post that doesn’t concern them. I’ll try to finish part two this weekend. I’m not sure I’m saying what I want to say or that everything is coming out right, but I’m ready to just write this now and keep going.

On the Sunday morning of our visit, before heading over to Leah’s house for a lunch she’d cooked us, we went to the memorial to victims of the Oklahoma City bombing and while Lee was a little skeptical about it as a tourist destination, we both ended up finding it extremely moving. There’s a field of stylized chairs, each dedicated to a person who died there, and each row of chairs represents the floor that person was on at the time of the bombing. Children’s chairs are about half the size of adult ones, most of them spread out along the floor where the daycare center was but some in other places too.

Oklahoma City bombing memorial -- a field of chairs beyond a reflecting pool

I couldn’t stop thinking of those children, that they would have been about the same age as Rowan — the teen who stayed with us and didn’t want to be adopted but is still part of our lives and heavy on my heart lately — most just a little older. I thought about how they would have been the same age as Henry Granju, though of course I couldn’t know that I was thinking that on the day before his death. I was a teenager myself at the time of the bombings, but now my focus is on the teenagers who would have been if only things had gone a little differently….

I hadn’t always been a regular reader of Katie Allison Granju, though I’d followed her writing on and off over the years. But once she came out with the story of her son Henry’s addiction, had the story forced out of her because he was beaten and suffered an overdose and this catastrophe that took his life a month later meant she could no longer be silent, I became a constant reader. I felt a connection to her that I hadn’t previously recognized.

I’m missing Rowan a lot these days. I’m sending out a letter to him today but I don’t know if it will reach him because I don’t know if he’s still at his residential treatment center. I’ve called a few times and they’ve never told me he wasn’t there, but they’re having problems with the phones and I’ve never gotten through to his building either. He was supposed to graduate from the program in May. (Well, he was supposed to graduate in January, but then he ran away from our home at Christmas and they realized he needed more time to work things out.) I know he doesn’t want to live in a family. I know he wants to be emancipated when he turns 16 this fall. I don’t know where he’s going and who’s going to care for him. That scares and saddens me, even though I know it’s not good for him to stay at the RTC forever.

Rowan isn’t an addict, thank goodness, but he’s done some scary and unsafe things. I know his default is to run away when he’s faced with something he can’t handle or process. (I do think that with us he was running away to try to get some resolution with elements of his past more than he was running away from us and his situation with us, but I also know the fact that he felt comfortable with us was a huge trigger for him.) It’s easy not to run when you’re wearing a uniform and under observation all the time, not to mention at the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere. But soon he’ll be back in civilization, if he isn’t already, and I have to just trust that he’ll have the tools he needs to deal with his problems head-on rather than take off on his own.

I thought of Rowan every time I read about Henry in the hospital, now when I read Henry’s mother’s reflections on his life, and though I never knew Rowan as a sweet little boy or a needy infant I see him in those photos and stories too. I don’t want Rowan to go through what Henry went through, except the truth is that he couldn’t because he doesn’t have family who love him and would stand behind him, hold vigils at the hospital and hold the police accountable for an unwillingness to value victims of violent crimes who are themselves drug users.

The Granjus have set up a scholarship fund in Henry’s memory to help families who can’t afford drug treatment programs for their children. This is by no means a criticism of that worthy fund, but this too makes me think about Rowan and about all the unparented children who are going through these sorts of things alone and don’t have parents to support them or help them find help. There are still social workers and resources available, of course, but I think about the sad things I’ve read about rates of addiction for foster care alumni.

I didn’t go into older child adoption wanting a teen. I thought early school age, maybe 6-11 or so, would be best. And we’re still sending our file out on children in that range, so I don’t know what will happen. There’s a need there, for sure, and if we can meet it for the right child we’ll do that. But my heart is with the older kids now. I’ve seen how incredible they can be and how heartsick it makes me to think of all the other Rowans out there. There’s always a place for him in our hearts and our home, and he knows that, but at this point I do believe we’ll be matched with someone else, that we won’t just give up when our homestudy expires.

The Survivor Tree at the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial

I’ve never seen a memorial to the children who die or are forever changed because of abuse or neglect or the behaviors and mental/psychological states they take on in response to abuse or neglect, because of drug use and the violence that surrounds it and the institutionalized violence of the drug war, because of use of alcohol or the results of prenatal exposure to alcohol. There was a tree at the memorial site, though, The Survivor Tree, that made me think of Rowan and Henry and LeeLee and all the other children I’ve known just as faces and names on the home-finding emails that come day after day after day. Apparently no one thought much of this 100-year-old tree until it was the only one on the grounds to survive the blast, though it was twisted and scarred, littered with shrapnel. But it’s there now, looming gently over the rest of the memorial, still there. And it’s in my mind and in my heart, like Rowan and Henry and the others still are.

h1

we’re number something

June 12, 2010

I still haven’t gotten to write up all I want to about our visit with Leah. Lee finally sent our photos out in today’s mail so Leah can see the pictures I took and the similarities of face and posture between the two of them. Lee was complaining that there were no photos of me, but I gave her plenty of chances to take some and she declined, so that’s that. Anyway, I’m thinking about what I want to write and fighting through a sinus infection AGAIN, so I’ll get to it eventually.

We got news on Thursday, though, that makes us happy. On the Monday after we’d heard we’d been turned down as a match for Eddie, we started looking at waiting children again. One was an 11-year-old boy from Eddies’s state and region. And while I never look at videos when there are video links (thanks to tv stations that profile older children available for adoption) because I’ve ale ays been afraid a video would be too heartbreakingling appealing, this time I looked because I wanted to know how this boy’s name is pronounced. At any rate, the pronunciation is nice and he’s absolutely adorable and was talking about how much he loves reading in very thoughtful and impressive terms. So I fell in love, and apparently so did Lee. we’re excited about him in a way that we haven’t been about other kids — although at this point I have different emotional responses to any I feel especially drawn to — and we’ve both been holding extra hope for him as we send out our file on many other kids.

So on Thursday we found we’d made the first cut for him. More than 30 families showed interest and we’re in the top ten. But because his siblings have been footed within his state, they want hi to be adopted by a family that will value openness with them, which of course Is easier to do if you’re close by, which we aren’t. But at least we were able to say that we have unlimited free along distance calls. Lee has her summers off work, which gives us more time to travel. I’m comfortable with the technology that would let us keep a blog with pictures and stories about what he’s doing. And we were able to say that we’ve just gone to see Leah, that at the end of this month we’ll be driving most of the way to this kid’s state so that we can spend time with Shasta, who was only a few years old when her bio half-sister Lee saw her last.

The next step for this kid is that these 10 families will be culled to three. While of course we recognize why a local family could be preferable, we really hope we’ve made the case that we’d be good. Guessing based on how things went with Eddie, those three families will get to read about this kid’s health and adjustment and what brought him into care in the first place. Then the workers will make a decision about which family is best, and after another month this kid could be moving in with his new family. At this point, I guess there’s a 10% chance it could be us.

It sounds kind of silly to say that it’s an honor just to be nominated, but that’s how it feels. I really, really hope our file is strong enough that we can make it through to a match this time (and this time especially) but we also know that the point of this process is to find families for the kids, not to find kids for the families. We just have to hope and trust that eventually we’ll be right. And because I already adore this child and and his sweet imagination, I hope he can go home to a permanent placement soon, whether it’s with us or someone else. And I’m glad, too, that we might be the ones for him.

h1

tiring

June 6, 2010

I’m writing this while I lie in bed. This has been an incredibly difficult weekend, and to top it off I’m sick again with some sort of sinus mess. Lee just sent me back to bed because I look so wretched. She also patted my forehead and asked what she could do to help, which meant extra because I’d spent part of the weekend wondering whether things between us were irrevocably broken. It turns out that our underlying love is as strong as ever, but we certainly have work to do still.

If I were talking about a child, it might be easy to say that Lee’s birthfamily visits — Leah last weekend and her sister Shasta in about a month — have left her dysregulated and that she’s incredibly stressed out about the end of the school year. I suppose if she were a child I wouldn’t have quite the same suspicions about her hormones going haywire, but yeah. And then there’s me, not getting enough sleep and feeling sick and being completely wiped out at the end of each workday. I didn’t have the patience or the kindness I needed. And so we ended up in meltdown.

“I’ll have to be mature forever, so I just want two weeks where I can do what I want and have fun before everything is boring for the rest of my life!” is probably the kind of thing a child would say too. But with my partner I can’t very well insist we have 10 hugs a day or that she talks to me if she’d rather go sulk at the hardware store. It’s just different, even when there are similarities.

So we’re doing pretty well now and we’ll get through this like we get through everything else. I’m almost afraid to post this because I fear people will read it and think we don’t deserve to be parents. But you know, we’re human and we disagree and get on each other’s nerves sometimes. But we also love each other very much and have that to fall back on in the difficult times. This weekend was tough, but things are already getting better and I’m so grateful for that.

h1

obvious

June 1, 2010

I expect this will be the first of several posts about our trip this weekend to visit my partner Lee’s birthmother Leah, but I also want it to stand as my contribution to this year’s Blogging for LGBT Families Day. It’s going to just be a lot of snippets, impressions that don’t necessarily fit together into a nice, cohesive whole. Because, well, that’s where I am right now and also because life is like that.

We had a great trip, though I know parts of it were emotionally hard for Lee and she went through a range of emotions throughout the days we were there, though she ended up feeling very positive. (I assume this was the case for Leah, too, who called to say she missed us already while we were still at her local airport!)

Being in crowded airports and out on the streets of the city with Lee and in restaurants with Lee and Leah reminded me again how she and I — an interracial lesbian couple — don’t “read” as a family. This has been on my mind since reading Weaving a Family and getting my own thoughts tangled in the concept of the “not-obvious” family created by transracial adoption. Lee and I have that already, and I’m also thinking about John Raible’s talk in which he suggests that it’s hard enough on kids who are being adopted transracially that it can be really unfair to saddle them with white same-sex couples as parents too, creating not only the non-obvious family but one that’s hyper-visible.

The two teens who have stayed with us (Rowan as a potential pre-adoptive placement, LeeLee for a respite weekend) didn’t seem to bring out worries for me about who matched where. Rowan, like me, has long pale limbs and dark hair and a sharp chin; I’m sure anyone looking at us together would have figured he was my child (or maybe my brother; we’re only 15 years apart but I do look old!) and then made some guesses about how Lee fits into the picture. With LeeLee, who identifies as multiracial and I suppose looks ambiguously brown, I remember the teen I tutor at church turning to Lee and saying, “Is she your daughter?” and then immediately asking me the same question. People wanted to figure us out and make us into a meaningful story, which is why on several occasions we’ve been asked if we’re sisters, because the fact that we have glasses and are similar heights and are together most of the time counterbalances the other fact that she’s on the darker end of the black skin spectrum and I’m quite obviously a pale white woman.

But when there are no children around, people don’t have much reason to figure out how we go together. People who wheeled their suitcases around straight couples were trying to walk between us. When our shuttle driver asked why we were in town, I was the one who said “visiting relatives!” but didn’t expand on whose or why. That same driver was the one who ferried us around much of the weekend and eventually took us back to the airport. After he’d dropped Leah off at her house and we’d said our goodbyes, Lee got back in the van and explained that this had been her biological mother. We had a long, good conversation with him about that, about a connection he has to an adopted adult who may be out there somewhere looking for him.

Throughout the weekend, Leah was very careful about not using the word “daughter” or “mother” to describe herself and Lee, because they use those words differently. Leah (as I understand it) sees herself as Lee’s mother just as much as she’s the mother of her other two children, the older of whom was raised by her parents and now has no contact with her and the younger of whom she raised and talks with her daily. But Lee’s always wanted to make a big break between her mom (biological paternal grandmother/adoptive mother) and Leah, her “biological mother” as the kindest term she can muster. Lee had been using “relative” to describe Leah with the shuttle driver until the moment she disclosed the true nature of that relationship.

At one point, the three of us came across a woman Leah knew from church. Lee and I nodded politely at her but didn’t introduce ourselves. Leah didn’t introduce us either, and that’s probably partly because they’re not at the “this-is-my-daughter’s-mother place in the adoption. There’s no good way to say, “This is my daughter, or she used to be my daughter but then she was adopted and now I’m not entirely sure what she is to me, but we’re here this weekend figuring it out! Oh, and this is her partner, Thorn.”

Yet that sort of complexity isn’t homophobia; it’s just complexity. When Lee came out to Leah it was in part to hurt her feelings, but it seems then and now Leah fully accepted Lee as who she is — sometimes hurtful and hurting and certainly a lesbian! — and was wonderful and welcoming to me, as was her husband. She was genuinely sorry that our match with Rowan didn’t work out and glad that he’s still a part of our life. She’s clearly sad that she’s missed out on grandparenting since none of her children have children, but she wasn’t trying to give anyone a guilt trip about it either.

In some ways, I was outside their world while Lee and Leah talked, reminisced, shared stories of preferences and memories. I was sitting there looking at them, seeing the same slender figures, the same strong cheekbones. And yet both of them kept acknowledging me as the reason that this could happen, because they needed someone who would be a catalyst and push Leah to be able to be honest about some of the negative situations that influenced her decision to relinquish parenting rights to Lee’s bio grandparents (something Lee had never before understood) and to push Lee to see how biological family can be important and how respecting her own birthmother could be a good way to encourage any children we might parent to feel whatever they feel for their own bio/foster/previous adoptive family connections. I was not a part of the obvious, matching family, but I was a piece of the larger family that let this meetup occur.

We’re sending out our homestudy file on more children (and we’re both obsessed with the same child and unreasonably hopeful about him, I admit). As always, I don’t know what will come of this. But I do know that at lunch yesterday Lee talked to Leah about someday bringing our child to visit her, about how Leah could be a good grandmother. Leah had already said that she thought this visit would never happen, that she felt so blessed to be a chosen part of Lee’s adult life. None of this may be obvious family, legally sanctioned family, but we’re family nonetheless. It’s what we’ve got and we’re making the most of it, making it work with who we are and what we are. And I’m in favor of that.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 43 other followers