So, it’s been a while. Lots has changed.
We are still living in Palm Beach county and I’m about to celebrate 3 years at my job. Steve has about 3 semesters left on his Ed.D. degree.
Aaaaaand we are expecting our little rainbow!
Hello! So sorry for the delay in posting this. I’ve literally been carrying the piece of paper around for almost 2 weeks but haven’t gotten around to typing it up.
This was another great class! We had guest speakers – a couple and their 3 adopted children. The children were all half siblings and were 4 days shy of their adoptiversary and becoming a family. First the parents sat with us, told their story and answered questions. Then the kids came in – they’d been in the playroom with one of our teachers – to answer and ask questions and pass out cupcakes. Our class is 3 hours, and they were with us for about half of it.
Mom had quite a few tidbits to share with us both about adoption in general, and about their family struggles. The children had lots of issues including not wanting to be adopted, move in, or accept their new parents. In the end, they almost immediately referred to the couple as mom and dad once they moved into their home.
After the family left, we switched back to regular class stuff learning about sexual abuse and behaviors, safety guidelines, and the signs of abuse.
75-85% of children in foster care experience some form of sexual abuse or exposure.
All adults are abuse reporters – foster parents, teachers, family members, adoptive parents, therapists, etc. Even if it is revealed well after the fact, any abuse must be reported so the abuser can be held accountable. The majority of abusers are close family members or friends, which is both sad and disgusting to me!
We also need to think about safety as we will have a teenager in our home within the year – hopefully! We have to change our habits to remove computers and phones from our bedroom to set an example. Right now, his desktop is in the kids room, my laptop is on the couch or dining room table, and we keep our phones in the room to charge and act as alarm clocks. If we institute a “no tech in the bedroom” rule, then I will need to buy 75 alarm clocks apparently. I may have a problem waking up.
But anyhow… if our child does disclose abuse to us, we need to reassure him that it’s not his fault and that we believe him right off the bat. We will have to monitor his friends – even before disclosure – to ensure safety, set boundaries, and keep an open dialogue. Above all else, we cannot react badly and must be non-judgmental with any revelations he has. How I’m going to do that though… I’m not sure. My facial expressions suck for sure and can’t be controlled most of the time.
I have been a HUGE FAN of Lauren’s Kids for many years and have been sporting their license plate since the day it went into circulation. If you’re unfamiliar with them, they are an amazing organization founded by Lauren Book, a victim of childhood sexual abuse by her female nanny. They educate, advocate, and raise awareness for children’s sexual abuse prevention around the globe. They’re one of my favorite charities to support and love that they are South Florida locals.
Hey friends! So sorry for the lack of a post from this week’s class. I am off to New York for the weekend for work tomorrow very early and am trying to get all of my MPA homework finished before I go. This means no time to gather and spew my thoughts from class just yet.
However, there is no class this coming Tuesday (Halloween) so I will for sure have the post up by then!
Our last class is November 7th and then we will have our home study scheduled and be well on our way to finding our teenager! <3
Read our Palm Beach Journey so far
Absorb yourself in the Miami adoption attempt… it’s not pretty!
For class every week, we have journaling assignments to turn in along with a few of these “special projects” like a letter to our child, photos of our home, pets, and ourselves, and our individual life stories. This past week we turned in 20 photos and the below letter.
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3
Dear Forever Son or Daughter,
We are SO EXCITED to meet you!
We are Steve and Becca. We live in Boynton Beach and have a small dog named Lola.
Education is important to us as Steve is currently getting his Doctorate and Becca is finishing up her Master’s degree. We will do anything needed to help you succeed in whatever path in life you choose be it college, technical school, or heading right into the job world.
We are big fans of comic cons and attend them as often as we can. We also love to travel and would love to go places you’ve always dreamed of visiting. We are annual pass holders for Walt Disney World, so expect some trips to the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT and the other parks. We can’t wait to plan family trips!
As far as other things we love – working out (running, biking, and swimming), nature hikes in the local parks, and long drives to explore the area (we are still relatively new to this part of Florida). Personally, Becca likes to knit, sew, read, and bake. Steve likes to draw, collects comic books, learn everything he can, and occasionally play video games. We cannot wait to get to know you and your favorite things and hobbies.
We have 6 nephews… your future cousins – 2 grown and living in West Virginia near Steve’s mother and brother, 2 grown and living in Alabama with Steve’s sister and brother-in-law, and 2 babies living in Homestead. Steve’s family are spread around the East Coast in Florida, West Virginia, Alabama, and Ohio. Becca’s family are all pretty much in Miami and Homestead. We have friends across the country that are also very excited to meet you – even if virtually. We don’t see the families that often, but expect that will change when there is a new grandchild in the family.
We cannot wait to get to know you and welcome you into our family.
Your future family
I loved the class last night. It was all about behaviors, traumas, and managing behaviors. We went over the meanings and reasons behind certain behaviors and several questions to ask ourselves as parents of these traumatized children.
Is this a growth or developmental stage?
Is this an individual or temperament difference?
Is the environment causing these behaviors?
Does the child know your expectations?
Is the child expressing unmet emotional needs?
Patience and repeating the message over and over again are necessary.
Validations and acknowledgements are so critical.
Most children in care are developmentally delayed.
Seriously, our child is going to be so bored at our house. We have nothing fun to do here and no kids in the area that we know. We really do need to find some friends with teens for him or her to hang out with.
The first bonding a child does after meeting the family is with the family pet more often than not. A pet does not judge and will love unconditionally. The teachers actually encouraged us to get a family pet and adopt it with the child. Um, no.. Not right now, thanks. Lola is enough of a handful.
We also discussed grief. Children (well, everyone) don’t follow the stages of grief in order and can easily be triggered and revisit the stages at any time. While in the grieving process, emotional outbursts, withdrawal, aggression, and attention seeking behaviors are all super common. Also, kids have very little if any control over their brains while grieving. Their actions are usually not premeditated and are impulsive/ “emotionally hijacked.”
Another thing I’ve thought about a lot was confirmed – kids can either be in the “honeymoon” phase upon move in or be super problematic. Either there’s smooth sailing and everything is peaceful, or the kid acts out and is horribly behaved. Expectations are often that they will be sent back or kicked out. aka… HORRIBLE! They said to absolutely not give up at all. At. All.
Behaviors – there’s both positive and negative attention with behaviors. Literally we were told to IGNORE negative behaviors as long as they didn’t injure themselves, another person, or destroy property. Um, what? We really have to come up with a good system for consequences and behaviors. With a teenager, ignoring bad behaviors might not go over as well as with a little one. The thought process was they would eventually give up the negative behaviors and that paying attention to positive behaviors would strengthen them. Basically praise positive and ignore negative. Maybe… we’ll see. Again, teenager.
This afternoon we scoured the Florida photo listings of kids 10-16 and picked out a few that we want more information about. They were pretty much all 14-15. We still have no preference of boy or girl at this point. It’s going to really depend on the child.
Hello! This week’s adoption parenting class was about normalcy and cultural competency and trying to not abruptly change the child’s life. After all, they were already torn away from their bio family, foster families, extended family, and so many other people. Fortunately, she will be NOT be coming to us directly from being torn away from her family, but there will still be plenty of damage to work through to assimilate into our little family. Hence why we need to be fully committed before meeting her in person.
Class last night started with everyone telling the story behind our name. There were several with family and religious names, a handful that didn’t have a story, and a couple cheating stories thrown in as well. It was amusing!
We learned the following about teens in foster care:
Back to the allowance thing, chores are an acceptable way to determine the amount, but money for school lunch and movie funds are part of it as well. And foster parents must keep track of how much they give. It seems like a good number of our class are leaning towards older kids as this spiked good conversation – plus jokes about mandatory allowance and where was this when we were growing up?!
Later in class, we were all given a bucket of beads. Each color represented a different racial background and we had to select beads that represented us, our parents, siblings and children, our extended family, our close friends and coworkers, and our neighbors and community. Ours was pretty much 60% Caucasian with about 30% each African American and Hispanic.
We split up into groups a few times to brainstorm on questions about culture, normalcy, and our response to dumb question. We might’ve gone super sarcastic with our questions as they were from the adopted parents viewpoint.. In my group, we had these questions:
And bc we missed This Is Us last night due to class, we watched it today. I basically cried through the entire episode. I mean.. really?! This entire season is about adoption OF A TEENAGER!
I’ll be honest, I felt pretty disconnected from class this week. I just want to get this whole process over with. I told the story of Ballerina to a co-worker today and it brought up all kinds of horrible feelings about a CHILD in foster care making decisions for herself and the people that should protect her… well, not doing their job. Is our future child dealing with this somewhere? Man, I truly hope not. 🙁
This was a really emotional class for me and many others. The teachers discussed attachments, commitment, and partnerships – with our child, case workers, with foster parents, with biological parents, and everyone else. We will have support of everyone within the system even post-adoption for several years OR until our child turns 18.
One of the exercises in class was a meditation where the lights were dimmed and we were walked through what it feels like to have your family, belongings, and life ripped away from us to never get them back again. Another exercise was writing down 5 things that make up our life and help to define who we are. Then slowly they were taken away – all but one. These were both to show how difficult it is to be a foster child. By the time we would even meet these children, they will have been minimum of 1 year in foster homes.
We were told that kids that are close to aging out at 18 can opt to extend their foster care to age 21. This gives them the opportunity to not age out and be turned out on their own, to keep their health coverage, and so many other things. But above all, to have a family, even if temporary, that can give them some stability, love, and guidance. And hopefully get rid of part of their attitude from bouncing around in foster care.
Bc who wants to adopt a teenager with a shitty attitude?
We want to make him or her feel loved and cherished and know that they won’t be shuffled around from home to home and family to family. We want our child to know what it means to be able to love and trust the people that take care of them.
We learned that we must be 100% committed to the child before meeting them in person. Let that sink in.. We were all a little taken aback by this. I mean, how can you be fully committed to someone that you have never met? Photos and a blurb online aren’t enough for this!
Let me back up a second… We have been given a piece of paper (at the bottom) with photo listings from every county in Florida and the national boards. We have to sign a paper (below) stating that we know the search is our responsibility. Once we identify a child that we want more information about, we will let our case worker know. If we are a good match, we will be provided with all of their records, photos, and learn absolutely everything that is currently known about them during the full disclosure process.
After reviewing this information, we can still say no and keep searching. If we say yes, the visits will begin. They will be slow at first and will eventually result in overnights, weekend stays, and then the child moving in to our home. After moving in, there is a minimum 90 day period before the adoption is finalized. This seems fast, right? In 90 days, anything can happen. Or can’t.. Honeymoon period and all that.
Basically, after the full disclosure, we need to be 100% committed to the child bc there is no going back. This seems daunting and a little scary, truthfully. But once we meet them in the setting of “we plan on adopting you,” saying no afterwards is just another devastating rejection for the child.
Much like with Ballerina, an older child is able to also decide if we are cool enough to meet and be our child forevermore. This is going to be a totally mutual decision for the 3 of us – and allllllll the support that we have to ensure the perfect fit.
Last night’s PIP class was on TRAUMA. We identified types of trauma that the kids deal with throughout their lives and especially how they came into the system.
Quite frankly, it was a deep and meaningful class full of emotions. On our drive home, we discussed how we wish we had taken this class before our last one to better understand the process.
The teachers spent about 20 minutes discussing the differences between fostering and adoption and may have changed the minds of some of our classmates. They hammered the fact of very very few children under age 8 being available and most being over age 12. Again, they pushed the fact that we, as adoptive parents, are the very last in a long line of potential parent figures. See the diagram at the very bottom.
There is absolutely no sugar coating with this agency.
And I love that. <3<3
I was asked the other day what the timeline would be for a child to be in our home. Well, if the home study process (which began last week) really does take 6 months, then it can be as few as 6 months and as long as.. well.. never.
Hubby and I were discussing potential children on Monday. I asked what happens if our best match is a 15-year-old. He said fine. I asked would it be a boy or girl. He asked if it would be a teen mom which then led to a whole conversation about teen mom + infant making us basically instant grandparents at 41 and 46. Honestly, I would not have a problem with that as long as she stayed in school and went back after giving birth. We would figure out how to take care of the baby around our work and school schedules as well as help her with her homework.
But, I digress. We have no idea who we will match with or how many pregnant teen moms there are in the system. I kinda want to email our case worker now to ask..
Back to trauma, they also made sure to tell us children can heal over time. They can overcome their traumas within reason and accept love as it’s meant to be given without abuse and neglect. Also, we were told to not expect a scholarly child or one that acts their chronological age. It is entirely possible that a 15-year-old child will act 10-12 years old or even younger.
Other effects of trauma are sleep problems, moodiness, trouble learning, misperceptions of danger, trouble trusting anyone, unsafe feelings, physical illness, and trouble adapting to change.
5 more classes to go. We have a list of all the paperwork and assignments due for each class including our individual life stories, journaling assignments, fingerprints, background checks, physicals, and so much more.
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