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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Part 3...Thinking....

Sorry for the delay.  The last couple of days have been busy.  Lets see, where was I in the story...

Oh, we had heard back from some of the case workers about children we had inquired about.  One was a little boy in Texas who was just over 2 years old with a number of developmental issues.  We almost made it to the final three pool.  Many agencies and foster care systems select the three most likely families for a final in depth evaluation in order to choose the best family.  So making it to the final three is a really great step.  Around the same time, we were in the final running for a child through Spence-Chapin, an infant with FAS.  She was a beautiful little girl, and we were excited about the possibility of adopting her.  But we were not the family selected for her, which was about a month later.  Soon after that we were called about an infant boy through Adoption Star who had holoproloencephaly, but he would need to be picked up the week, and we did not have the funds available for the placement fee at that time, as the fees for his adoption were higher than we were prepared for (around $6000, about twice what we were prepared for).  With infant adoption, even special needs, even with reduced fees some adoptions are more costly for a variety of reasons. 

Soon after that the case worker from the Texas foster care system contacted us again.  She said that the chosen family had turned down the little boy after getting his full disclosure information packet, and  they were again selecting potential families and wanted to know if we were still interested in being considered for him.  We said yes of course, however a couple weeks later we learned we were not chosen again.  Around that time, we had heard about a baby boy in Louisiana whose issues I can not recall now.  We sent in our home study and had some conversations with the case worker, and she with our social worker.  We did end up in the final running for him, but were not the family chosen.  Hurricane Katrina hit about a week after that.  I remember praying that the chosen family had been able to get there, so that he was with his family during that stressful time. 

An Aside:  That is one of the problems with the adoption journey.  You invest a little piece of your heart in each child, even the ones you don't inquire on.  But you rarely, if ever, have a chance to learn what happened to them.  Some kids in the foster care system that I have watched for a long time are still there, their pictures and descriptions being updated periodically, growing older and older without a family to call their own.  Hopefully they have not been moved too many times.  Multiple changes in family is NOT good for children.  So I just continue to pray for them and hope that they are well and that a family match will be made for them soon.  Often it is not that there are no families willing to accept them.  More often, it is the case of overloaded case loads, or case workers that have decide that only a particular family will do, and so they bar matching based on a prejudice (family needs to make a certain income, family needs to be the same race, family needs a stay at home mom, family must have no other kids, family must be experienced, must be a two parent family, must be a particular religious denomination, must be a certain age, must be in a certain locale, etc...), without giving the child a chance to know the love and stability of family.  While there are laws in place to protect children from the preconceived notions of caseworkers, it is hard to get them enforced.  So some kids sit in foster care while literally hundreds of families have expressed an interest.  On the adoption boards, it is heart breaking when you see a child that so many have expressed a desire to adopt, but they are rejected by the caseworker for no real reason.  And for years the child loses out on having a good family.  While I believe that the foster care system is far better than some alternatives (like institutionalization, which is not as bad in this country as it is in others), there is just so much bad practice, poor oversight, caseworkers and such that like the power and have forgotten about helping the kids, and so much bureaucracy that paperwork trumps the needs of the child very often.  But it is a necessary function to keep kids safe. There are GREAT caseworkers out there, great supervisors, great, caring compassionate people in all levels that DO care for the kids and have to fight with the system they work for to ensure what is best for the kids.  I have been honored to meet and work with quite a few of them.  It is a system worth fixing.  Okay, off my soap box now.

So, anyway, where was I, oh yes, after we were not chosen for little Lucas, we continued, as we had been, sending out our inquiry forms to any child's caseworker we thought we were a potential match for.  We were in contact with The Cradle out in IL about a beautiful baby girl with Apert Syndrome.  During the process, one of the people I talked to was surprised I had not seen her picture, so she told me the link to go to.  She did not, however, tell me that it was a private link, as most of the agencies I had been working with had a handful of public photos with the child intros.  She was such a beautiful baby, that I shared her picture on an email list as I child I was hoping to adopt.  But when the agency found out, there was a lot of backlash, and we were taken out of the running because of it.  I never thought to ask, as I had not run into many private pictures before that from the agencies I had been working with.  And the few times we were given private photos, it was stated right up front that they were private and not to be shared.    So that miscommunication ended that exchange. 

During that time we were contacted again by the Texas case worker.  For a third time, (once before we were in the loop and now twice since) the family who was selected for this little boy backed out once they got his full disclosure packet.  There were doing another family selection and wanted to know if we were still interested, and to make sure that we understood what global developmental delays, product of a consanguios relationship, prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol, and a benign cyst in his head meant.  She was tired of people saying they were ready to parent him and then when they go the reports and such, realized he had more issues than they realized.  So I said yes, we understand what that set of issues could mean for his present and future, and yes we were still interested.  We moved on to the next level of selection and went to the three family committee (or rather our social worker got all of the information together and went to the meeting as out representative as is usually the case).  A few days later we got a phone call.  Our family had been selected for little G, who was now 2 years and 7 months old.  The information packet with pictures and his full disclosure was being sent to our social worker for our review.  (and we were told it was private info not to be shared until we signed an intent to adopt and the process was fully underway).

So about a week later we got a call from out social worker and went to her office, expecting a thick folder with his disclosure, after all he was only 2years 7 months old, how much of a folder could he have.  When we arrived, she told us to sit down, and had an odd look on her face.  First she handed us a stack of pictures and a letter that had come with it which was summary of his issues essentially.  He was quite cute.  Then she walked into her office and brought out a huge stack of papers, over 1500 pages.  THIS was his full disclosure.  half of the bulk of it was redacted reports of the early CPS visits, the allegations, the court findings, etc...  Both from before he was removed from his home and after.  There were the reports from the foster home she had been in and why after only a few weeks the foster parents requested that he be moved.  This little guy, at not even three years old, had gone through so much.  First his conception was not a consensual one, and was a very traumatic even for his 14 year old birth mother.  As she had no way out, she turned to drugs (primarily any pills that a 14 yr old can get her hands on and alcohol) to deal with the painful and trapping situation she was in.  He was actually fairly healthy when he was  born, and was sent home with his young mom to home that was really not a safe place for either of them. My heart continues to go out for his birth mom, even today.  She has walked a hard and rough road so young. The initial CPS call had been before he was born, but the findings were unfounded.  During the first year of his life there were over 5 visits to the home.  By the time he was 13 months old (when he and his mother and her sisters were removed from the home) he was emaciated, did not crawl, or walk, or talk, and had only two reactions when he came into foster care--if offered a bottle he would suck it down as fast as he could, and if someone raised their voice or their hand, he would visibly flinch (something he still does to this day).  He did not play with toys, did not interact with other people, and as one foster parent described him "was like a wild animal". 

G had bounced through five foster homes before his parental rights were terminated.  He learned to crawl around 22 months old, and walk at 2 years 2 months old.  He started to say words around that time.  An MRI revealed an anacroid cyst in his head (left side), and genetic testing ruled out a number of possible disorders.  He was diagnosed with PDD-NOS when he was 2, as well as his global developmental delays, hypotonia (very low muscle tone), weaker right side, and potential minor genetic issues not screened for due to his beginning.  We read every page (1500 pages...) of his full disclosure packet.  We could understand why he had been turned down by four families prior to us (one was a former foster family before they started family selection), his paperwork was daunting.  But we talked about it and decided that we felt we could handle his issues.  So a week  after we first got his information (it took a few days to read it all), we sat with our social worker and discussed his issues, and then we signed the intent to adopt and set it back to Texas.  That was in early October.  A couple of weeks later we had a conference call with both social workers, his foster mom, his speech therapist, his occupational therapist, and his physical therapist.  We asked a lot of questions and got more concrete information about him as a person, not just a report on paper.  We even got to hear him on the phone for the first time.  He was only saying one or two words at a time, but he had a cute voice.  His echolalia was evident, as he would repeat what his foster mother said.

 We arranged to go down to meet him in person and spend time with him a couple of weeks later.  So November 2nd we flew to Texas, and spent 10 days with him, mostly at his foster home.  His foster mom was great.  She was the one who had gotten him into early intervention and worked hard with him on his developmental growth.  We learned of his incredible fear of water, his love of pushing buttons, and his sweet smile.  We even got permission to have him a couple of nights at our hotel, and took him to the zoo.  He was very overwhelmed by the zoo at first (and by the fact that he really had only known us a week), but after we sat quietly by the duck pond and fed the ducks with the quarter machine duck food, he started to relax and was able to enjoy himself.  We took him to a couple of playgrounds, which he had never been too, and he loved it.  It was a great "get to know you time".  I wish we could have taken him home then.  But alas the process is long.  We had to wait on paperwork and such.  We also got to meet with his doctor while we were there, and got information to take back to the doctor we had chosen at home.

When we left, we had high hopes that he would be home for Christmas.  Late in November, while all of our paperwork was in process (interstate adoption can actually be harder than inter country adoption, as I heard from someone in Belgium and someone in Canada, it was easier for them to adopt a child from the US than it is for someone from a different state to adopt a child within the US--something is wrong with that picture).  We got a call from the international agency we had been working with.  Our dear, dear Rustam was available again.  Upon further medical testing, the family decided NOT to adopt him.  So he was available.  So of course we filled them in on the in process adoptive placement, and as both parties were agreeable, we made the snap decision to get our dossier translated and sent to the region in an effort to try to bring our boy home.  The next day, we went over the new reports, some dated earlier than the ones we had previously, but with different information on them.  We felt jerked around by that point with the whole international adoption issues, and since we had G firmly in process and he was coming home soon, we did not want to jeopardize his adoption by chasing a ghost.  So we went above the agency's head to their parent agency, told our story and our concerns, asking for clarification of the information we were given and the discrepancies.  We still wanted to move forward, we just wanted to make sure it was real.  We got a reasonable explanation back from the parent agency, and were satisfied with their response.  however, the subsidiary agency got very upset with us for asking our questions above their heads (questions that they had been asked but could not provide satisfactory answers to).  They terminated our contract, and thus we lost Rustam again.  In hind sight we could have fought the hard fight and tried to get accepted through the parent agency to try to bring him home, but as it was, our funds for adoption were low, and though we could get a second mortgage on the house to do it, we really had to focus on G in Texas, as he was a sure thing, and Rustam was not.

So we again grieved for Rustam.  But we had to focus on preparing for G to come home.  We had a travel date of December 22nd to bring him home.  So our plan was to fly down on the 22nd, get all the papers signed, stay in Texas, with him with his foster mom, for Christmas (rather than rush him to unfamiliar territory right before Christmas, and then come home after that with him.  We were awaiting final confirmation of the travel plans, when on December 19th we got a call that said that a judge blocked the adoption because he did not think the child should be placed out of state (enter the joys of ridiculous financial incentives given to the state for placing children in state even when the agency has gone to extreme measures to place him in state without success, and thus turned to out of state to find a proper home). 

So began the most ridiculous and expensive part of our adoption journey.  There was no way that this boy, whom had been given up on by so many people, and had spent the past two months with daily phone calls, videos, photo albums, and his foster mom preparing him to move to our home, there was no way we were going to allow some short sighted stuck up judge to deny him the family he had been being prepared for.  So we fought, we called our adoption lawyer in NY, who could only advise as he had no jurisdiction in Texas.  Then we called every lawyer we could find in the greater Houston area.  Well, A did most of that work, I was focusing on my job a lot during that period as we were very busy at work, focusing on my job kept me sane, and it was our primary income to support our hopefully growing family.  most of the ones we talked to said they felt our pain, yes it was unjust, and not right, but they would not take the case.  The Texas agency had been told not to talk to us--though not all listened, because they hated the injustice, and they explained to us that it was a good ole boys club, and if they stepped on a judges toes, they would be "punished" by the judge ruling against them in the next few case brought to court, thus messing up foster care placements and adoptive placement just out of vindictiveness (of course they said this off the record, and I respect their need for privacy and the protection of their positions). 

We finally found a lawyers ballsy enough to take the case, and who charged an exorbitant fee.  A's niece was a new lawyer fresh out of law school and got us some information that we passed on tot he lawyer in TX.  Then on the adoption lists, I got some information about the Child Placement Act of 1994, which states that you can NOT be denied placement merely because of geography (out of county, out of state, etc...).  So the judge's ruling was illegal.  We passed this paragraph of a huge, multi page bill (so easy to miss), on to our lawyer in TX.  She was able to get the judge to recuse himself from the case (which saves face for him and fixed the problem for us as it went to another judge who was aware of the fight).  The legal costs topped $9,000--so yes we did take out that second mortgage on the home.  We were told that most of the time people just give up when they are denied.  And if we had not already "lost" so many kids we had been preparing for through the international adoption process, we might have been more likely to give up.  But it just was ridiculous NOT to fight against a prejudice and self-seeking judge.  He later claimed, for the record (trust me we heard about some things he said off the record (primarily about our family make up) that make me realize he is NOT a good man), that he had not realized so many attempts had been made to place in the state, which was not true as he was told that at the hearing in December when he denied the placement. 

That new judge said that he trusted the agency to make the right placement for the child.  So they contacted us and within 10 days, I was on a plane to Texas.  i spent a week with G so that he could get to know me again, and so I could try to explain snow to him as it was February and he had never seen snow like what we get up here--Texas was balmy to me in February (A had to stay home and work as we did not have the funds for both of us to be out of work and both fly down).  To make sure everything was by the book, the state requires an overnight visit in the prospective home prior to final placement.  That is usually waived for longer distance adoptions, but with all the issues the agency decided to make sure it was done.  So a caseworker flew back to our state with us, inspected the home as required, G spent the night while the caseworker enjoyed the bed and breakfast that was down the street.  She came over in the morning and we signed all of the final papers for his placement.  We got the normal six month post placement, pre-adoptive time shorted to five months, and were able to finalize his adoption in our own state.  July 31st was his finalization day.

So that is how Gonzo came to be our son.

I know this series of posts is entitled thinking, and you can think a lot more thoughts in a short period of time, but it take days to try to write it out. I will continue this story, as it is pertinent to what I am thinking about.   But right now I need to spend some times with my boys.  They are playing Monkey Ball on the game cube right now.

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