Archive for August, 2010

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delicate question

August 30, 2010

First off, I’ll say that things with Rowan went very well. Lee and I are still processing some of the things that annoyed her and she now has a different perspective on it. I’ll probably write more about that soon. On the Russ front, we have a teleconference tomorrow with all the big players and then I think we’re cleared for the next step, which is good because our plane lands in his city Thursday night.

I think I said already that I had an hourlong conversation with his lawyer, who’s the only person left who’s been involved with his case from the start. He obviously cares deeply for Russ and wants to stay part of his life even after adoption. He had a whole lot of great insights for me and I’m very grateful we got to talk, incredibly grateful that Russ has had an advocate who cares so much about him.

There’s one thing, though, that Lee and I are talking about and will definitely discuss more once we finally meet Russ. See, apparently his parents are both short and angular, pale, straight-haired. His sister and brother are too. But Russ — the oldest child — is tall, rangy, with a round face and curvy features. His hair is tightly curled and his skin is tan year-round. His lawyer suspects that Russ’s biological dad might not actually be the person whose name he bears, the person who is his younger siblings’ dad, the person who singled him out for particular mistreatment when he was young. In fact, the lawyer thinks we might be matched with the biracial boy Lee always wanted after all.

So where does that leave us? We’ll be guessing, probably, once we see him, but guessing doesn’t get you very far. We were already going to talk about how people will read us as a family, the expectation being that they’d be more likely to think he’s attached to me than to Lee. That may not actually be the case, I guess. And now it all gets more complicated, and it’s not something we’ll want to discuss without talking to his counselor and his social worker and talking to each other a lot. But I’m throwing this out here for any of you readers who might have had experience with a similar situation. If Russ is in fact not white, will he know this already? Will it have been mentioned? Is having a black mom going to bring it into focus more often? If he is biracial and doesn’t know it, how can we talk about this with him in a way that’s fair and respectful to him and his family but gets him the information he needs? I’m glad we get a long time to think about this before it comes up (if it ever needs to come up; by which I mean not that we’d hide anything about Russ’s own story and history and culture from him but that it might turn out that his dad was his only dad and this isn’t a relevant issue) and yet I do definitely want to use that time to think.

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day of rest

August 29, 2010

Lee and Rowan are asleep in their bedrooms upstairs, but I got up when the animals started making noise so I could feed and calm them. The dog is recovering from minor surgery and I should probably have put her e-collar back on her (and called her a conehead, since those go together) but instead I just let her sit on the bed and look out the window while Lee sleeps.

Soon I’ll get showered and make breakfast. Then the three of us are going to church together, after which Lee will drive Rowan back to his foster home. I’ve been calmer today and didn’t even peek into Rowan’s room to make sure he was still there, though I did look up at his window when I had to run out to my car to look for something, and even if I had been worried he’d run away, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to do so and then close the screen from the outside. Plus I’d inadvertently kept him up late last night (Who knew Hoop Dreams was so long?) and so I know he was ready to sleep.

For me, it’s been a real pleasure to have Rowan around. We haven’t given him a whole lot of freedom — when he’s left the house, it’s been with us — but we explained our rationale there, that we’re expected to report back to his social worker and I’d rather say he didn’t have a whole lot of options but he excelled than that he had chances to fail and did, plus Lee and I are both still a little jumpy about the whole running-away thing. He’s seemed very calm and relaxed here, was pleasant and enjoyable at the farmers’ market and the park. I don’t think he’s been tempted to run, especially since he understands the consequences, but it’s still something we think about.

For Lee, things didn’t start so smoothly. Rowan and I tend to talk directly about things, he and Lee have a more teasing relationship. For her, this felt like a frustrating kind of butting heads, and I guess she’d forgotten this element of their conversation, though she’s often the one to instigate it. So she was frustrated, but she was also struck by what I’d consider grief. When we talked last week and I said I wanted to make sure she’d gotten over her anger or hurt about his running away and all that went on during his last visit, she was sure she’d come to terms with it. But it turns out that when he told us at Christmas that he didn’t want to be adopted, something in her changed and she wasn’t sure it could change back. She was deeply hurt by that and sort of disengaged.

After Lee told me this yesterday and said that there was no way she could handle two teens like this, I reminded her that we weren’t in fact signing on for anything right now. All she needed to do was interact with Rowan in the moment. We’re just doing respite this weekend, not signing away the rest of our lives. Long-term, we’re going to have to figure out what works best for all of us. I do think we’ll go on having Rowan visit for weekends even if he never lives here permanently (and Lee agreed) but all we have to do now is enjoy the weekend and get through it. After that, she felt a lot better and ha da lot more fun with him, so she thanked me for talking to her about it. This is a topic we’ll have to revisit, though.

I know I’ve written many times about what I see as attachment difficulties Lee has. She loves people genuinely and deeply when she first meets them, is charming and gregarious, but then as she gets to know them more she tends to feel let down or as if they’re not as good as she first thought they were. She’ll often say that she’s “over” a certain friend, though in many cases that sends her off to spend more time with them instead. It takes a lot of work to get to know her well and to keep pushing through her defenses. And for this reason, I think parenting will mean I need to remind her sometimes that it’s not about her. She knows on some level that Rowan wasn’t trying to hurt her when he explained why he didn’t want to be adopted (and I don’t think his feelings about us as people changed much between then and when he told us he does want us to adopt him) but once she felt that hurt, she was cut off from the warmth she’d felt before.

I don’t know what this is going to mean as we keep going. I know Lee and I will have to do a lot of checking in with each other and supporting each other. I have pretty strong emotions too, at times, and she’s not always good about dealing with that. All of this is stuff where therapy should help, but I was really amazed by the difference in how generally annoyed and bad-temperd Lee seemed (though not in a way Rowan really noticed) before our conversation and how completely she relaxed after. I’d asked about her mood in the morning and she’d been sort of snappish about it, so I need to remember to try to talk about what I think may be triggering the mood if I want to get a better response.

So that’s what’s going on with us right now. It’s been a great weekend, and Lee would agree. While she and Rowan were watching a movie he’d brought because he’d told her about it at Christmas and wanted to share it with her, I talked for an hour to Russ’s lawyer, who’s known him since he came into care. So now we know a lot more about Russ and were able to have a good experience with Rowan. I’m thrilled and excited our life is working out this way.

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upcoming

August 26, 2010

My book-review post yesterday was really a wreck. Who cares what I got out of the book? I’m going to reread it and then write something better, because I’ve been feeling bad about it ever since writing it.

Also yesterday, we called Russ’s foster dad again. Lee has been freaking out that the bunk bed I toiled over for ages and ages (not that I’m bitter!) would be too short for him if he is as tall as we think he is (though if you trust his paperwork, he’s lost 4 inches in the past year; that’s about how things go in fosteradoptionland) and she wanted to know if he’s in a twin-sized bed now. Lo, that’s exactly what he’s used to! So now she doesn’t have to worry about that and maybe can move on to something else.

Russ’s worker is supposed to be meeting with him today. I imagine they’ll talk about us. It turns out he wasn’t supposed to know about us yet, so I’m assuming it was his foster dad who told him. The foster dad had also suggested we get permission to talk to him on the phone, but his worker said that’s not standard and that typically we’d first talk to him whenever we have our first in-person meeting. Since that’s only a little more than a week away (yikes!!) we don’t mind waiting.

And then there’s Rowan. His worker visited him yesterday and I got an email late last night asking if we’d take him for respite for the weekend. He claims he’s frustrated in the home he’s in and that he’ll run away again if they make him stay there. He knows he can’t come stay with us yet and he didn’t seem to be pushing for that (apparently the respite was his worker’s idea as a way of buying some time while she looks for a new home for him) but he wants to be somewhere else while he waits for us to be ready for him, if we can be.

Lee and I are both a little annoyed about this turn of events, though we’re willing to take him for the weekend and I actually think it’s a good thing for the three of us to practice being together in this house before Russ becomes a part of the mix. I was the one talking to him, but I let him know how concerned Lee was about his running and got a solemn promise that he won’t run and some brainstorming about alternatives if he’s taken with the inclination. So this part seems like a good thing.

But we’re frustrated because we think Rowan is basically manipulating his worker. When we saw him last weekend, he looked happier and healthier than we’d seen him basically ever. Yes, he hates being out in the country, but he’s clearly making the most of it. And, y’know, things seem dramatic to teenagers that are plenty survivable. I realize I’m sounding unsympathetic. After all, he’s been through a lot with the implosion of his family, his separation from his brother, his time in residential treatment centers, now a foster placement he doesn’t like. And yet I also know he doesn’t like his worker and wants to make her life a little more unpleasant, and we suspect this push to move now — or else! is maybe a way for him to feel like he has some control and she’s the one who has to scramble and be uncomfortable getting things done.

In any event, we told Rowan’s worker that we think he’s being overdramatic but that we’re willing to do respite, so tomorrow we get to spend four hours on the road picking him up. The plan is to stick to our normal schedule — do the farmer’s market Saturday noonish, grill out for dinner, then church Sunday morning, then take him back home after. There will be plenty of downtime for him to challenge Lee to a game of ball in the park or spend time chilling out with the radio on in his room with the animals. I hope it will be a good weekend. I’m sure I’ll make time to write.

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book review: Substitute Me

August 24, 2010

Hey, let’s talk about something that’s not about adopting teens! Except I’m actually still going to be referring to our situation, because as our focus has shifted from being an interracial same-sex couple hoping to adopt a black or black/multiracial child to a same-sex couple matched with a white teenager with another waiting in the wings and part of our family of choice, I’m thinking about all things racial very differently. Because of the way the laws work in our state now, we had to choose which one of us would be the legal parent and we chose Lee. That means that if all goes well she’ll be a black woman transracially adopting a white boy. That’s very different from the standard narratives of transracial adoption and it’s a complexity we have to think about and talk about a lot still.

So anyway, that’s the baggage I’m bringing into reading a new book that’s being released today, Lori L. Tharps‘s first novel, Substitute Me. N.B. I won my copy of the book from the author’s blog, though I’d bought and really enjoyed her previous book, the memoir Kinky Gazpacho, to the point where I bought Lee the shirt featuring that title so she could wear it proudly in Gazpacholand.

At any rate, the way our story connects with the story of Substitute Me is by way of black caretakers for white children. (Tharps capitalizes both racial terms throughout the book; I’ve chosen to capitalize neither here.) Protagonist Zora is, like me, 30 and a bit aimless. She’s dropped out of college but gone to culinary school, been an au pair in Paris but then moved back to her hometown, Ann Arbor. Now she’s moved to New York City and, lacking other options, decides to take a job as a nanny for a little boy. She is black; the boy and his parents are white. This matters. It matters in terms of her self-image and how she thinks others view her, in how her employers think of her and think of themselves as racialized people. And it matters in the specific ways the relationships between the three adults change, evolve, break down over the course of the story.

I realized when reading it that I haven’t talked to Lee about what she’d do if people thought she was a hired caretaker for her own child. Given that we’re talking teens rather than babies and that nannies are not common in our neck of the woods anyway, I do think it’s more likely that people will guess she’s a stepparent. I don’t think she’s brought any racial discomfort into the idea of being a black woman caring for white children in a country where that dynamic has usually involved a vast power/privilege/economic differential, since that won’t really be the case for us. But reading this book made me approach the issue more thoughtfully so that I’ll be more aware of any comments we might get down the line.

All this and I still haven’t reviewed the book, have I? I enjoyed it! It’s clearly a first novel, a bit creaky in parts and not the kind of polished prose that I like best, but for beach reading or to listen to on a commute it would be perfect. It’s rare (in my perhaps too-limited experience) to read the much-maligned frothy women’s literature and get any deep discussion of race relations and power dynamics. I wish the characters in this book had gone even deeper, but they did have insights into their lives, did change and grow. I know it sounds like I’m very tepid about this, but what I’m saying is that for what it is it’s very good in the ways that matter to me. If you read here, you might like it too. If you don’t read here because I’m so needlessly wordy, you’re probably even more likely to enjoy it but will never find out thanks to the whole not-reading-here thing.

I’d actually like to give the book a reread, especially once people online start talking about it. I think it’s a great jumping-off point for discussions about women and work, who does what in a relationship, how discomfort with racial stereotypes can me ignoring rather than confronting them, the difficulties in employer-employee friendship (and if such a think is even possible), what makes a relationship strong and keeps it healthy. I enjoyed reading it, as I said, but I think it would be even more fun to use it as a way to get to the things about it I find more interesting than the workings of the plot, and I’m grateful that I and others will have it for that.

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Russ’s worker responds

August 24, 2010

(As an aside, I’m thinking I should change Russ’s blog pseudonym because I think people are having a hard time remembering who’s Rowan and who’s Russ. I’ve been playing around with Nymbler, which is how I typically get pseudonyms here, and so far I think the best option it gives me is Ellis. Moss? Leo? Pierce? Hart? Hugo? What is it about the names I’m putting in that make the outputs so much hipper than they are?)

So anyway, after hearing from Rowan’s worker and our worker, I went ahead and emailed Russ’s worker in his state. I laid out that all of this was totally tentative and we don’t want to make any long-term plans or move too quickly on any of it. I just wanted to let her know that while the plan would be to move Russ in with us as an only child, there’s a good chance he’d only have a few months of that before the family would grow.

Rowan’s worker is very sweet and definitely an advocate for him. She responded to say that she’s always hoped we’d adopt more children and she’s glad that other workers are starting to see the same promise in us that she does. But she also wanted to know why I think that Rowan and Russ might be able to live together successfully. So I wrote back what I know about their personality similarities and differences, how I see some of their strengths complementing each other. And I wrote that I know it will be difficult and unpleasant at times, too.

When it comes down to it, even though Rowan was here in our lives and our hearts first, the commitment we’ve made to him is that regardless of where he is we’ll care about him and be in touch with him and be a support for him as best we can. But the commitment we’re making to Russ is adoption — that he will be a member of our family and we will prioritize him and his needs in our life. Russ’s worker was clearly relieved to hear that we’ve thought this through and she’s very supportive of placement even with the possibility of a more complex future.

And I’m sure much of this seems ridiculous from the outside. If we had no children at all three weeks ago and were thinking about closing our home and just keeping our homestudy current for Rowan, how can we leap from that to saying that we think we could manage two teenagers? I don’t really know the answer except to say that Russ’s information convinced us he could be a good fit with us. And Rowan is Rowan; he just fits. If we’re really in this for the kids as well as just ourselves, we have to be willing to see how far we can push ourselves to see if we can help both boys get what they need out of life. It may turn out that it’s not feasible for us to handle both of them, but I don’t think fear of that is a good reason not to at least try and find out what we can handle. As long as we’re doing it with honesty and full disclosure toward everyone involved, I think we’re doing the right thing. We’ll just take things slowly and puzzle through it as best we can, which is really what we’ve been doing all along.

And wow, it’s really difficult to write about this. Maybe it’s partly that I’m out of the habit of writing, but I think it’s also just that everything is weighty and complex. But my weepiness has lifted, maybe traded in for the steely resolve that has let me come up with at least two plans to outsmart the Ikea piece that really just doesn’t fit properly. Really, I just feel very peaceful and excited about our future. I’m sure I’ll freak out and break down eventually, but for now I get to enjoy the blissful part before the hard bits take over. I’m okay with that, and glad we have good support from all the involved social workers. That makes such a difference!

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Rowan’s worker responds

August 23, 2010

After writing my last post, I did email Rowan’s worker and carbon copied our worker. His worker wrote back pretty promptly and was glad we’d gone to visit him (good, because I hadn’t gotten explicit permission from her even though I know we have general permission to see/contact him) and that we’d talked about adoption stuff.

Apparently she and Rowan have been talking for several months about what he would need to do to succeed in our home. (It would have been nice if we’d known that, but hey, at least it means she took us seriously when we said we were committed to whatever he needed long-term.) It’s very obvious to me from phone conversations with him and in seeing him face-to-face that he’s done a lot of introspection and had some major personal growth beyond the adorably wispy facial hair I forgot to mention in the last post. So I’m willing to believe that Rowan understands why being with us freaked him out before (the area; not having the skills to deal with anxiety that his RTC program thought he would have by then; maybe also gay stuff) and that he’s actually made progress working on that.

She didn’t say it quite this way, but I get the impression that his foster family is not interested in adopting anyone now. They’re older and are focused on fostering and on being grandparents. So the fact that he wouldn’t want to be adopted by them when normally the first move would be to ask the foster family is really a non-starter. I’ve enjoyed all my interactions with them and think that if we do end up being his permanent placement, they’d be good partners in the transition. They’re very experienced foster parents and it’s obvious that there’s not much that fazes them.

Rowan’s worker says that his (and, I assume, his brother’s) Termination of Parental Rights documents have all been written up and will be filed very soon. There are two judges in his district, one notoriously quick and granting TPR and one notoriously slow. Regardless of which it is, there won’t be any change in his status any time very soon. His worker suggests moving slowly, making sure our family is stable, and then having Rowan do a series of short homevisits to make sure the systems we’ll have in place are going to work for him and that he can actually do as well as we all think he can here. She’s not in a hurry about this and said she was grateful that our inclination is to be slow and incrementally successful rather than risk getting in over our heads.

So apparently Rowan and his worker will talk later this week when she visits him and discuss what this all means. Meanwhile, we’ll have a meeting to get things squared away with Russ and then (assuming his worker’s able to make this happen) will be meeting him in a few weeks.

In some ways, this is what I’ve wanted. I mean, reading Russ’s file, I kept thinking, “Hmm, I’ll bet he’d do well with Rowan!” and I’ve always wanted Rowan to come back. Even though I don’t think creating artificial twins is generally ideal, I think it’s probably less problematic at 16 than, say, 16 months. As I said, I’d hoped we could do it by having Russ in our home until he’s comfortable being part of our family and then adding Rowan into the mix. It sounds like Rowan’s worker likes that plan, and Russ’s worker has already teased us about how she’d be happy to help us adopt again once our family settles down.

I have no idea what’s going to happen with any of this. Lee is terrified about our house being too small and she’ll probably want to try to sell next summer. I’m scared about the responsibility and about whether I’m capable of handling one kid, let alone two. And yet we’re both absolutely thrilled, honored, excited. It’s a weird feeling, a lot of weird feelings. But I saw how Lee and I both smiled when Russ’s worker relayed what he was saying about us. I saw how calm but happy we were when Rowan said he wanted us to adopt him. We’ll figure out what we need to figure out and make things work. That’s the plan, anyway.

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and a bigger Rowan update

August 23, 2010

We also got to visit Rowan this weekend. We hadn’t seen him in the flesh since he stayed with us at Christmas. Well, the last time we’d seen him was when we handed him off to the staff of his residential treatment center on the morning after he’d come back from running away and then I sat in a restaurant and cried and hoped it wouldn’t be the last time we saw him.

Rowan’s grown a few inches and put on some weight (which is a good thing!) and is muscular though still slight after his summer of manual labor. One one of his running-away escapades with his new foster family, he got a tattoo, but for an ill-advised and tacky tattoo a 15-year-old would choose it’s really not so bad. He was relaxed and happy and all three of us had a good time, as did my brother and dad when they were hanging out with us.

We did get a chance to tell Rowan about Russ, and he was much more excited than I’d expected. He thought it was great we’d have someone in the house and said he was happy for Russ. Later, he asked me if he could be adopted to Russ’s state and how that would work. I told him that realistically, our state doesn’t seem very good about sending kids to other states. They’re not great about finding adoptive homes for teenagers, period, though his best friend from the RTC is no longer on the photolistings, which makes me think his last placement (to be adopted by a former foster family) worked out. And realistically, Rowan is a spectacular kid and we adore him, but he looks pretty scary on paper and I don’t think there’d be a lot of families jumping at the chance to take him in.

I was sort of surprised to hear Rowan talking about adoption in such a casual way, since he’d been strongly opposed when we talked at Christmas and even more recently I’d heard him mention that the only right he felt he had was to refuse adoptive placement. We’d already told him that we’ll keep our foster license open until he turns 18, and he didn’t seem surprised by that. (I think it’s a good sign that he takes us for granted, actually, and that he’s got some specific future plans with each of us for this fall.)

What did surprise me a lot even though I’ve thought about it a million times was that Rowan asked me if we would adopt him. He said that’s his preference, that he likes us and has planned to live with us again whenever he leaves his current placement. He doesn’t want his current foster family to adopt him because he doesn’t like the rural location and especially because they’re a family that does use corporal punishment for kids who are not in foster care, which is one of his automatic disqualifiers. He doesn’t really want to have to go to a family of strangers, but I don’t think he’s choosing us just by process of elimination. Being in this foster family has clearly been good for him, but it’s also made him realize what he prefers about the way we live.

We talked to him about what kinds of things he’d have to do if he lived in our family (going to counseling, learning to deal with his anxiety, not having the kind of freedom he wants) and about how little we control about the decision on where to place him. He understands that he’d legally be Lee’s child and he was fine with that. We are not a household that uses corporal punishment, nor do Lee and I hit each other, and he says he believes this. He’s seen that we’ve made a commitment to him in a way that no one else has and we reiterated that wherever he goes, that commitment won’t change. I think he believes that too.

So, yeah, now I don’t know exactly what to do. We don’t want to back out on Russ, especially now that he knows about us. His worker and our worker both know that if Rowan needs a home, we’re committed to being that home. He does sound like he’d get along with Rowan, but in my dream version of how all this could go, before I’d even known Rowan was interested, I’d thought we could have Russ move in this fall and then maybe Rowan would be ready for a change to our custody after the end of the school year or something, the start of 2011 at the earliest. Now he’s asking if he could be with us by his birthday in October. I told him almost certainly not and explained that we don’t know that there are plans to move him, but apparently his worker has been telling him he needs to move to a home where he can transition to adoption after his parents’ rights are terminated, whenever that happens.

Maybe I’m being absolutely ridiculous in saying that we could handle two teen boys, one of whom (Russ) is 16 and one of whom (Rowan) will be within a few months, both of whom are in the 11th grade but have serious academic delays. I do think in a non-obvious family like ours it can be a plus for a child to have a sibling who’s living the same experience. We’d always talked about how if we did end up with an adoptive placement we’d certainly consider doing a second adoption. I just didn’t expect to be doing them practically simultaneously.

I don’t know what the rules are for any of this. I haven’t talked to anyone except Rowan’s ex-worker Angela about it (and she’s thrilled, because she thinks we’re great with teens and she’s always wanted Rowan to end up back with us permanently) and so I don’t know what any professionals are thinking. After Russ is placed with us, the adoption finalization won’t happen for another six months. I have no idea what our state’s rules are about how quickly you can finalize another adoption after that, but I do think they’d at least consider placing Rowan with us just because they don’t have other options for foster homes for him, let alone prospective adoptive homes.

Rowan is used to living with other kids, to having to share space and time. He and his brother were sort of a unit in the family home, and then he was bounced from one RTC to another until he ended up at the good one where he stayed a year and shared a cottage with a group of other boys. Now he’s in a foster home where again he seems fairly connected to the other young men in the home. Maybe having a sibling of sorts would actually be less stressful for him than being an only child, having all the focus and attention from us on him.

And then there’s Russ, who is even more parentified than Rowan after doing a lot of the work of raising his younger siblings. Apparently in his current home, Russ tends to boss around the younger kids in the home but is good with his age-mates. But is it fair to Russ to have Rowan around if we already love and know Rowan? Shouldn’t he get a chance to have some time where he’s singular and special too, especially since an adoptive placement can be such a difficult transition?

So I don’t know what’s going on. Lee and I have talked and talked and talked and our inclination is to tell the workers that we’d like to adopt both of them eventually. Since Rowan isn’t even free for adoption yet (although that’s his official case goal and there’s really no chance he’d go to family, in part because of the criminal cases and in part because his family members have made official statements that they don’t want him back because he’s doing the right thing and testifying) I think it’s fair to assume that the process of getting through TPR and then the official adoption placement period before finalizing an adoption would take significant time.

I guess I need to email some workers today, especially because Rowan’s worker is visiting him this week and I don’t want her to be blindsided by the information that he talked to us. I hope she and our worker can advise us about what we should be doing and how we should be treating everyone fairly. (And as an aside, since we all know I love asides, we’ve also been talking a lot about how “fair” isn’t going to be a useful term since Rowan and Russ have different strengths and different histories and since both of them differ significantly from their classmates who’ve been raised without the disruptions they’ve experienced.) But we’re working on this, and sooner than I’d expected.

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a little Russ update

August 23, 2010

On Friday night, Lee called Russ’s foster dad in his far-away state and the two of them had a good conversation. We didn’t learn a whole lot new about Russ, but it was still exciting to be closer to actually meeting him and learning for ourselves. In fact, it turns out we’re closer than we’d realized. Russ knows about us and has apparently been talking a lot about life in our state and what he’ll do when he’s here and so on. Wow.

We were supposed to have a conference call tomorrow with all involved parties so we can make our commitment official and make sure we have all the information we need to do that, but his worker seems to be saying that this could be delayed thanks to scheduling conflicts. Either way, we’re probably pretty close to talking to Russ on the phone. We exist for him and he’s excited. We’re excited!

So that’s why I spent much of last night putting together a bunk bed. Well, it’s not a bunk bed yet until I get the upper part entirely assembled tonight, but it was too much work for one person (Lee was great at holding things when I needed her to and she hammered in all the slats, but assembling furniture together is not good for our relationship) and so I took a break instead of finishing. That room looks so different from how it did before and I think the bunk beds will really push it over the top from spare room to teen bedroom. (Though we chose very neutral colors for the walls, not really teen-friendly stuff per se, and he’ll just have to deal with that for now I think.)

It’s hard for me to believe it’s only been two weeks since we were chosen. Many things are obviously in the works already and I’m looking forward to more! I have all kinds of complicated things I’m thinking about (whether to take parental leave and homeschool until there’s a break in the local school calendar to minimize disruption and get a better sense of where he is, whether we can have Russ moved back a grade to improve his chances of success, why I have more sympathy for his mother than I would have guessed initially, how tall he really is since his yearly reports differ in implausible ways….) and I’ll write about some of them eventually.

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overprepared?

August 19, 2010

In the to years between starting classes and being matched with Russ, I’ve done a lot of preparing. The odds were good that I was going to be parenting transracially, so I made sure I did a lot of reading on transracializing families. (We sort of have a head start since we’re already an interracial couple, but I think the impact on kids is different than it is on us adults.) I put myself out there by being active in our very black church because I thought it was important for me to practice being a minority.

I don’t regret any of that work. I’ve made some good friends through church, challenged the church community and myself by participating as an atheist, and I don’t think any of my research and reading was a waste. However, now here we are facing the prospect of Lee being the one who parents transracially while Russ is part of the majority racial group in our home and our community, and I think those issues are quite different.

We’ve also learned from reading his file that his mom was a proud atheist and raised him without any religion. It’s possible that he’s picked some up through his time in foster care or just generally due to evangelical outreach or whatever, but there’s a fair chance that he’ll be on my side in that mix too. I think this bothered Lee more than the racial side of things, though we’ve been talking about the potential complexity of being a non-white parent of a white child. Lee really wants her child to know about her God and hadn’t realized how important that was to her until this point, I guess, or had just taken it for granted the way she sometimes doesn’t think about my beliefs and seems surprised that I don’t pray.

Anyway, we don’t know what Russ believes, but we’ll probably go along with our plan of making sure he’s educated about world religions as much as possible, something I think is good for all kids. I can explain why I’m polite about what people believe even when I think it’s nonsense. We’d have had these conversations with Rowan, who’s a Christian, but with him we also had conversations about specific Bible quotes that he finds useful and also a bit about religious abuse.

I’m just thinking out loud here. I think everything I’ve done to prepare is going to pay off in some way, even if I don’t end up using all the advice directly. I know the reason I was able to handle Rowan’s running away as well as I did was that so many times I’ve read blog posts about other teens running away and I saw how others had behaved and what had worked and what hadn’t. I was able to look past the behavior to see the fears and disordered thinking driving it and so I wasn’t hurt by it the way Lee was in part because I had already prepared myself but also in part because I’d just read about that sort of thing so many times that it seemed unsurprising. And now that we’re months and months past it, he’s starting to talk about it more with us and work things out, and I appreciate that too.

Anyway, we got to read Russ’s psychological profile and the professional writing it gave a list of books (mostly attachment-related) he’d recommend Russ’s adoptive family read pre-placement. Most of them were titles other than the ones I’ve read by the same author. So I did sort of sigh that as in so much of the rest of this prep I’d done my homework and had it turn out not to be the right homework, but the reason I’ve been reading and blogging and so on is that I want to be as prepared as I can because I don’t think there’s ever enough readiness. So I’ll add more books to the list and work my way through them along with the rereading I’ve been doing even though I have no idea what I’ll need next.

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addendum on Rowan’s foster family

August 18, 2010

I just want to say quickly how grateful I am for the placement Rowan’s in. When I said he sounded good, I’m sure it had a lot to do with them. From what I can tell just from phone contact, they’re an older couple with a mix of bio and foster (and adoptive maybe?) kids in the home, maybe all teens. They are clearly patient with Rowan, kind to him. They kept him working all summer and now he plays ball with the kids across the street every night. I’m so glad to know he’s in a place where people care about him and speak of him fondly.

I’m extra grateful, though, that they aren’t threatened or bothered by our ongoing presence in his life. Apparently it’s not the norm around here for former foster parents to keep in touch with their former foster kids, and probably even less so for situations like ours where it’s not as if we were living together a long time. But his foster family clearly recognizes that he doesn’t have a lot of connections in his life and that every little bit helps. They seem completely open to our staying part of his life, and I appreciate that. Even knowing he’s in a good place, I like hearing from Rowan himself what’s going on with him. I also think talking to me has helped him, too. I’m so glad that they’re trusting enough to allow this.

So I’m happy that this weekend I’ll get to meet them and thank them in person. They’re doing what they should (in my opinion) do, keeping the child’s best interests in mind and acting accordingly, but I’ve seen so many other things in Rowan’s case break down that I’m sure their involvement is a huge plus for all of us involved.

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