Monday, July 29, 2013

Adoption Update: Two Licenses, Hundreds of Possibilites -7.29.2013

We have just completed the final requirement for our dual foster license.  We are licensed for ages 0-4 years old and are still open to sibling groups.  We don’t know what God’s plan is for our family yet, but we are now ready for adoption or fostering – or both!  We are trying to prepare our hearts  for all the possibilities.  A quick overview of the two licenses:
Adopt Only (an adoption placement):

The children will come in to our care as “legal orphans” after months (or years) of protective placement. Their parent’s rights will have been terminated and they’ll be labeled ‘wards of the state of Texas’.

We will sign confidentiality agreements to keep case information private.  We will not be able to share much about the children’s case history or other personal information.

We will not know the age, ethnicity, gender, or number of siblings expected to join us until we are selected and matched with the children by an advocate committee. 
The children will come in to our home with a clear plan of adoption and we will joyfully commit to being their “forever family” before placement begins.

The children will live with us for 6 months (a supervised probationary period) before we can apply for finalization (official adoption).

Once the adoption is finalized, the children are legally “ours” just as our bio-daughter is legally ours. Case closed.


Foster-to-Adopt (a legal risk placement):

One or both of the children’s birth parents still have legal rights; however the court has determined that it is “likely” they will eventually lose those rights due to past circumstances or continued negligence. 

The children will have been in protective custody for a few months before becoming “legal risk” and we will be selected and matched with them just like in an adoption placement.

The children will enter our home with a hope of eventually being adopted, but mostly for the security of a consistent home environment while they wait out the legal process.

We will not know the age, ethnicity, gender, or number of siblings expected to join us until a few weeks before we meet them .  We will not know if they are going to leave our care until very shortly before it is time for transition.

During their time with us their case information will be confidential. We will not be able to distribute photographs of the children’s faces or give out other private information.

The children will probably call us Mommy and Daddy because our bio-daughter does.  According to the caseworker, this is good, healthy, and not a life-long promise of care as we (adults) see it.

If the children’s parents are able to work through rehabilitation programs or if other family members complete a home study and are willing to take the children in to their care, we will be responsible for helping the children transition out of our home and in to their new environment. 

If the children become ‘available’ (their parent’s rights are terminated or relinquished and no other family member steps up) we will proceed with adoption.  There is no expected timeline in place.  The courts have been known to make decisions in weeks, months, and years with equal frequency. 
Not knowing if the children will be with us for 6 months or 16 years sounds emotionally excruciating, but God has given us peace, and more importantly the clarity to understand that no relationship in our life is guaranteed for any length of time. Our life is but a vapor and all we have is each day, as the Lord allows.  And as He brings the day, He brings the grace to face it.  So, bring on the possibilities!
"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." - Philippians 4:13


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Adoption Update: Beautifully Timed - 7.24.2013

“Wait on the Lord. Be of good courage. And He shall strengthen thine heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord.” –Psalm 27:14

We have completed 18 hours of mandatory classes in the last 6 days.  We are on track to get our Legal risk license by the end of the month.  Last night we attended our final course.  The class  was full of foster parents, some seasoned (27 years) and some newbies (3 months)..and us(just a week away).  We all introduced ourselves and listened attentively to the instructor for 2 ½ hours. The other students shared stories of experience from their many placements. My husband and I listened, knowing we were entering this strange new world of foster parenting and only God could give us the grace to succeed. Our caseworker happened to be the assigned “monitor”, so she sat quietly at a side table organizing completion certificates for everyone.   When the class concluded everyone made a mad dash for the door, except the couple next to us. To our surprise, they approached us as we gathered our things and said, “You are waiting for children to adopt?”  We nodded.  Then they said, “We have two children in our care that are going up for adoption.  Their caseworker should be sending out a broadcast any day, probably this week or next.”  My husband asked, “How old are they?” while I stood helplessly confused.  The wife pulled her phone out and scanned across a few pictures to show us, “She is 3 and he is 2.”  My husband beamed at me and said, “Perfect!” I still stood frozen trying to process everything.  I managed to ask, in confusion, “Their parent’s rights have been terminated?”  She nodded and said, “Yes, last month. That’s why they are up for adoption.”  Oh…duh. I glanced at their picture briefly and smiled.    I was still confused.  We were there to get a legal risk license.  We had all but given up on straight-adoption cases.  What was God doing in all this?  We were helpless to do anything because everything goes through the caseworkers anyway. Oh! Our caseworker! “That’s our caseworker right there!” I blurted out enthusiastically.  She said, “Okay, well tell your caseworker that the kids should be broadcast within the next week or two so she can submit your homestudy.”  My husband and I both nodded obediently.

She told us the children’s names, birthdays, temperaments, and how loved they are.  I finally asked, “Why aren’t you adopting them?”  They both laughed and the husband said, “We’re too old!  We’re worn out.”  The wife added, “They are really good kids, they have been wonderful, but we just can’t commit long term to them.  They’re too young and we’re too old.”   My husband listened with a huge grin.  We chatted a little longer and then waved goodbye. We approached our caseworker awkwardly as she packed her briefcase to leave.  “Um….those people said they have two children….for adoption.  The parent’s rights have been terminated and they should be broadcast next week or something.”  She said, “Oh, okay. I’ll keep an eye out.”  

On the drive home, my husband and I mulled over our “chance meeting”.  How weird that they approached us like that.  Do you think those are really the children God has for us?  Well, then what would the legal risk license be for?  More kids?  I guess if we would have never come to this class, we wouldn’t have met that couple.  It just seems to good to be true. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what comes of it. If God has chosen them for us, He will work it out.

The next morning I emailed our caseworker all the info (names, ages, location) we had received the night before from the children’s foster parents, so she would be prepared to recognize them when they came through on a broadcast in the next week or so.  I was a little nervous that she might miss them and wondered if we should have exchanged names and numbers with those foster parents (which I was too busy looking dumbfounded to do).  I pondered it all again and again, finally asking God for clarity.

I received a phone call an hour later from our caseworker: “Hey, I wanted to talk to you about those kids you told me about last night.  Their broadcast already went through last week.”  I sighed, disappointedly.   Then she continued, “but, I actually thought they would be so perfect for you, I submitted your home study for them last Thursday.”  “WHAT?  You’re kidding me!” 

“No, I just saw them and thought they were so perfect for y’all I didn’t even call you to ask. I just submitted for you. In fact, I ran in to the caseworker yesterday and she said they hadn’t made a decision to narrow down for the top 3 yet, but you were still being considered. I guess they received a lot of home studies, so it is taking a while to go through them all. I told her to keep you in mind.” 

God’s irony is always beautifully timed.  Even if we are not selected for this sibling group, this was surely not wasted on us. We will continue in His work.  We were told to wait on the Lord, so we did. We were told to be of good courage, and we were.  He promised to strengthen our hearts, and He did.  And so, we are commanded again, to wait on the Lord, so we will.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Adoption Update - Faith Means Getting In - 7.15.2013

When asked for the definition of faith recently, my husband was given several vivid illustrations of what it means to really “believe”.  It was through this revelation that the Lord drew him unto true salvation.  One of the examples of true, biblical, active faith was described to him in this anecdote:

Picture a circus tent, with thousands in the stands watching a high wire act.  The wire is stretched across two towers 50ft in the air.  The performer climbs one of the towers and rallies the crowd, “Raise your hand if you believe I can walk across this wire without falling.”  Everyone in the audience raised their hand.  The performer takes a few steps across the wire and covers his eyes dramatically challenging, “Raise your hand if you believe I can walk across it blindfolded.”  The crowd cheers and raises their hands again.  The performer then carts a wheelbarrow up the tower stairs and says, “Raise your hand if you believe I can walk across the wire blindfolded while pushing this wheelbarrow.”  The crowd cheers again, raising their hands and shouting, “You can do it! We believe in you!”  Then, the performer looks out in to the audience and asks, “Who’s willing to get in the wheelbarrow?”

In the book of Hebrews, faith is described as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  In other words, we have to believe God’s promises enough to take action, enough to sacrifice, or enough to get in the wheelbarrow.

I love how God works…always in the details, and yet with a greater plan than we can even imagine.  Last month when the 4-page list of this season’s Foster Parent Training classes came in I folded it up and set it aside (rather than throwing it out immediately like I did the last 5 times we received it over the last 2 years), with no purpose (of my own) at all. 

Last week, when our caseworker came for our annual fire inspection, she hardly stepped foot in the door before laying out the same proposition she had suggested on her visit a month ago…and the time before that.  “I’d really like to change your license to legal risk.”  Every time before this I had recoiled at the thought, I had stood firm and refused.  “We can’t do that to Tessie.  We can’t handle that emotionally.  We can’t take that risk. We want adoption only…”

But, this time when she suggested it, I had found my heart softened to the idea.  I listened to her reasoning and asked a lot of questions.  She said we would need three additional classes and then she could change it over and get working on a placement right away.  She asked me to talk it over with my husband and get back to her on Monday.  When I presented it to Charlie he was surprisingly receptive to it and said he would seek God’s will in the matter and give me a solid answer by Monday morning.  Sunday we had unexpected visitors at church. They had travelled over 50 miles to come to the service, had a large beautiful family...and 5 adopted children.  The parents were gracious enough to answer every question I bombarded them with during our brief lunch visit.  One of the first things they advocated was opening our home to legal risk or foster-to-adopt.  I knew God had brought them in to our life at this exact moment for encouragement and comfort.  Their experience was invaluable.  I couldn’t wait to tell my husband all the new information.  But, before I was able to relay any of the counsel I had received from our new God-given mentors, Charlie turned to me in the midst of a busy family gathering that afternoon and said, “We have to do the legal risk. It’s what God wants.”    Yay!!! And yikes!!  Although the Lord has taken us on many surprising twists during our journey, we had stayed in the “safe zone”. Our trust was still in the system.  A “straight adoption” meant no risk –the birth parent’s rights have been terminated and the children are legal orphans.   An LR Placement means it is “likely” that the parent’s rights will be terminated (hopefully soon), but there are no guarantees.  They will place the children in our home with the intent to adopt, but family members can still come forward to “claim” the children until finalization (which is another unknown).    God has given us a surprising sense of peace about this and we have come to understand that there are no guarantees in life…and any hope of one (adoption safe zone) is just an illusion anyway.   We understand the risk.  We could get “attatched” to children, and they could go “home”.  We could get our heart broken in a “loss”.  We could get our hopes up and be disappointed.  We could also help to heal hurting hearts.    We could provide safety and consistency to those who have never known it.  We could die to self and give love unconditionally.  We could share God’s word.  We could teach our daughter to give, obey, and love without any expectation of reward.  We could trust whole-heartedly in God’s plan and God’s provision.  And we could bring glory to Him through this test of faith.

We believe the Lord has asked us to “get in the wheelbarrow” as we pursue a legal risk license.  He has not revealed what His plan is in this yet, but only that He is asking us to do it in faith.   We know that Charlie's faith is new and my faith is small, but we're want to see mountains moved for God's glory, so we're getting in.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” –Hebrews 11:1


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Adoption Update: A Season of Silence - 7.10.2013

Sometimes God answers prayer with silence.  Days, weeks, months of "inaction".  During these times we ask, "Where are you, God? What are you doing? Why aren't you answering my prayers?"  We were just there, asking, "Where are the children You have for us Lord? Are they ready for us?" And God's answer was, "You're not ready for them."
It has been unusually silent during this season of waiting. No phone calls, emails, or visits from the caseworker. Just silence.  And now I know why. Now I know, without a doubt, that God's hand has been our covering during this time...In His infinite wisdom, He has carved out these moments in our journey, to divert our path, to put it all on hold, and to save my husband's soul (Read His Testimony Here). 
And now we're truly ready to move forward, united in Christ, empowered by the Spirit, and faithfully waiting for God to bring the rest of our family together.