Archive for September, 2011


adoptions and legal kin

September 27, 2011

Last week, we went to see Mara’s guardian ad litem, the lawyer who will be writing to the judge to express why adoption is in Mara’s best interests. She seems quite convinced that adoption is the best outcome for Mara, but is also worried that we’re not able to offer Mara the best outcome because we’re not both able to adopt her. So she grilled us about what we were doing to make sure I wouldn’t be disenfranchised if we broke up, then later called Lee back to ask how long we’d been together and talk about it more. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that she’s saying these kinds of things and they’re truly issues in the lesbian community and the larger community. (Does she ask straight couples what they’d do if they divorce? I guess it doesn’t matter since they’d automatically have to see a judge for custody stuff.)

Then while we were in her office, Rowan called. His phone had been confiscated for most of the prior month and I haven’t been able to get back in touch with him, so it may be again. What he had to tell me is that his adoption is already done, so things must move much faster where he is. I’m a little bit heartsick because I know he sort of regrets it and I think he was coerced, and of course I’m a little envious because if he were going to join any family forever and legally I’d want it to be ours.

The twist there is that joining our family legally means having no legal familial connection to me. To some extent, I know that’s been a solace to Rowan in the past and maybe also now. It seems low-pressure and genuine that Lee and I love each other and have formed a family without paperwork from the government attesting to that. Similarly, we love him and consider him family despite knowing that there are no laws tying us together, and I guess now there never will be. He liked the sense that we were serious about being a family of choice (because it’s our only option, granted, but also because it’s sort of how we think of ourselves) and that was reassuring when he didn’t really want to feel he was somehow replacing the family he grew up with by plugging in Family 2.0.

So I’m conflicted about not being able to adopt Mara and conflicted that we/Lee didn’t get to adopt Rowan, but I’m also glad that I’ve gotten to play the roles I have in both their lives. They have both had extended family relationships prior to entering care that go beyond the nuclear family, and so being part of something a little different is not exactly new for them. In Mara’s case, most of her siblings live with an aunt, I think her mother’s half-sister biologically. Her youngest sibling lives with Samara, who was her mother’s stepsister, half-sister of her half-sister, if that makes sense. I don’t know if there was a legal marriage that made them stepsisters, but I know that the state doesn’t consider Samara kin in the same way it does Mara’s aunt. So the older siblings are all in a permanent guardianship, basically equivalent to adoption in practice but without any termination of parental rights or changes to the birth certificate. The little sibling, on the other hand, is in a temporary guardianship, more akin to foster care. Samara has raised this almost-three-year-old since birth and yet because she doesn’t have a legally recognized familial relationship to Mara’s mom, there’s no official permanency.

I don’t know how Mara will feel about the different kinds of legal and non-legal relationships in her two families as she gets older. I don’t know entirely how I feel about them except sad. Getting to read Mara’s file as we officially went into pre-adoptive placement tells me that Samara was present for her birth (and listed as her mother’s sister, which is clearly how they view each other) and it makes me glad that I’m building a connection with Samara so that someday Mara can know more of her past, her family, her story.

But anyway, Rowan’s adopted and we’re never going to adopt him. I’d mostly gotten used to the idea that he’d never want us to adopt him, but still thought he’d come live with us eventually. (He still might; he’ll be 18 in a year….) We should get the date for Mara’s adoption finalization very soon, and the date itself should be fairly soon. I’ve had to tell Lee to stop asking me how excited I am about the adoption, because in fact it makes me sort of queasy and weepy that I’ll be standing there in the court with all the other spectators as Lee adopts Mara. I’m thrilled that Mara’s becoming a legal part of our family and I do absolutely consider myself a mother the same way Lee is, but it still hurts. It’s doesn’t hurt Lee, has never particularly impacted her, but that’s where we are. Oh, and we’ve started inquiring on a kid or two out of state, teens who are having trouble finding homes. We haven’t gotten any fostering calls that have worked in terms of timing or space, but that’s more likely to happen first. Change is coming, I know.


at home at home

September 2, 2011

We’re back from our vacation. Crossing the border by car into Canada and back to the US was totally smooth. In case anyone else needs to do it, we had a copy of Mara’s birth certificate (short form), the official letter from when she entered our care in October saying that she has been placed with us, and a notarized travel letter saying where we were going and when and how to contact our worker and her supervisor. Those last two travel with us any time we leave the region (well, with a different travel letter every time) and so it really wasn’t a lot of extra paperwork, though I’d also brought the TPR file and a few other pieces of documentation from her case in case we were questioned. Nope, though, it was easy and we were waved through and had a fantastic time with my family and Niagara Falls and more.

It really was wonderful. Mara was charming and verbal, opening up to everyone. It helped that she already loves my grandmother and is comfortable with my two brothers and the one’s girlfriend, plus my dad, so she had a built-in group of people she knows and likes there. Still, she really impressed me and just keeps on impressing me. As she gets closer to 4, she’s getting taller and more self-assured. We’re seeing more and more glimpses of the teen/adult/big girl she’ll be and while that’s occasionally terrifying it’s also exciting.

Yesterday we filed the paperwork that really gets the adoption started. Lee’s lawyer will be filing it early next week. The wait will be about getting a guardian ad litem assigned and then having him/her visit at our house and write a report saying that this adoption is in Mara’s best interests. (I’m choosing not to think about what would happen if the report didn’t say that, which is one more joy of being a queer family in a too-conservative state.) The lawyer thinks that adoptions in our county are done first thing in the morning on a work day. We’re planning to invite my parents and the three families that were references for us, one of whom includes Mara’s little best friend. They’re homeschoolers, so it should be feasible to have them at least there and then we can all go out for lunch or something. Lee is all about celebrating the adoption and I think Mara is young enough that she won’t feel terribly mixed or hurt about it, but I don’t think we’ll do annual celebrations of it in the future or anything like that. I do think that eventually she’ll feel more pain about being separated from her family legally, whereas now it’s mostly about being physically removed from them and unable to get the contact she’d like.

We’ve also been talking with Mara about the prospect of adding to the family that lives with us. Lee is worried about the impact on Mara of having kids come live with us as foster placements and then return to family, but I pointed out that in her experience, every sibling (biological or otherwise) she’s ever lived with has disappeared from her life, so the weirder part would be a sibling who stayed. I hope we’ll be able to provide that someday. I’m feeling ready to parent more, in between the moments where I feel unready to do anything except curl up and get some sleep or something. Mara agreed that it made sense to move her playroom up to the third floor, where Lee and I also have our “play” rooms, and turn the big bedroom (current playroom) that’s next to ours into a room set up for two kids. Our preferences, not all of which have to be met, are to have either a singleton or a sibling group of two, girls, school aged, black or black/multiracial, and from our community school system. I have justifications (personal or political) for all of these, but they’re also all negotiable.

I’d tried locking the door between our room and what will be the new bedroom just to make sure it worked, but then Lee woke or half-woke and was worried that Mara would for some reason try to come in through that door and tried to unlock it, breaking the old-school key off in the lock. After a day of Lee obsessing about the problem, we now have a door that opens and locks and a set of skeleton keys that work in a lot of the cool old locks we have. And I’m planning to lock that door anyway and put some sort of dresser on the kids’ room side so that a door from the parental bedroom won’t seem threatening. We’ve still got the bunk beds from when we were preparing for Colton (whom we first met a year ago, yikes, and who seems to be thriving in his foster home as he starts his last year of high school) and I’m planning to put them back together this weekend, though that’ll mean buying a new bed for Mara since she’s been sleeping in the solo top bunk.

I don’t know if we’re really ready for foster parenting or for parenting multiple kids, but I don’t think anyone really knows. Our relationship is as good as it’s ever been, which means every once in a while there’s bitterness because she didn’t hear me say what I thought I said and I don’t think she was listening or remembering or whatever, but we know how to roll with it and we don’t let it affect Mara. I just know that there’s a need for good homes and it’s a need that’s not being met. We have room and now experience and definitely interest, so I want us to be as ready as we can be. I think the next stage of our lives is coming soon. Meanwhile we have a long weekend to do plenty of lounging and cleaning and moving and redecorating. I think we’ve gotten good at all of those this summer, and it will be interesting to see how we all transition to fall.


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