pre-placement needs

Foster License and TWO Kids? Madness!

Sorry loves,

When there isn’t much to discuss, the posts are few and far between. Since last time, quite a few things have happened, just not terribly much in the adoption world.

Foster license: 2 weeks ago, we submitted our paperwork for our foster license. We are still waiting to be assigned a licensing person to complete the license and schedule home visits.

WHAT?! We’re finally getting our foster license? What madness is this, you ask?

How about some backstory, hmm?

A little over a month ago, I was called about a child fairly close to being legally free. The problem is that once she is legally free, she will be going to a pre-adoptive home. We are not currently one of those as we don’t have a foster license.

So a month ago, I called Our Kids and spoke to Donald about getting the paperwork for said foster license. I’ve been told repeatedly for months that we need to get it but have shied away for several reasons. It would appear now that the only way we will actually get a child in our home is to be licensed.

It took about 2 weeks to get our acts together and fill out all the paperwork.

2 weeks ago, we submitted our paperwork for our foster license. We are still waiting to be assigned a licensing person to complete the license and schedule home visits.

elephantChild 1: In mid-December, we met a beautiful little baby (Babycakes) and I fell very much in love with her. She is my friends foster child and in need of major surgery. She is far from legally free for adoption, but that didn’t stop me from cuddling and snuggling with her on multiple occasions. Fast forward the next several weeks of visiting, snuggling and generally loving on Babycakes. She is ridiculously cuddly and such a little love. And then her foster mom was told how large the family was and that they hadn’t been ruled out to adopt her. Then the family started visiting.

At that point, we realized our journey with her was futile and we’d be better off just loving on her but not in a potential adoptive parent type of way.

littleladysifChild 2: About a month ago, a 3 year old child (SIF) was brought to our attention by someone at Our Kids. I contacted her case worker to get more information. We texted and called back and forth frequently and then on Tuesday, CW called me to ask if we were still interested in SIF. If we were, would we be willing to go to court on Thursday (yesterday) to appear before the judge in order to get a court order for visitation. This was needed due to SIF not being legally free for adoption.

So we made our arrangements and went to court. I was a bundle of nerves and Husband was, as expected, calm and collected. We took the train downtown, found the courthouse, and met the GAL and CW’s supervisor. The both told us a little bit about what was going to happen and to basically stay quiet unless the judge speaks to us. Great. I can be quiet.

Court began late, but just sitting and watching everything unfold was very interesting! Mom and grandma were there which apparently threw a wrench in the plans. SIF has been in foster care since August and mom hasn’t done much for her case plan so this was supposed to be a TPR and request for visitation for us from what I understood. Things didn’t quite go that way.

Mom decided that she wanted to parent and take care of what she was supposed to do 6 months ago. Dad is still missing and everyone is trying to track him down. Everyone agreed to allow her. But they also scheduled mediation and a trial. We’re debating attending those as well.

In the meantime, we will follow her case and stay in touch with CW. Our contact at Our Kids will keep us updated on her as well.

And we work on our foster license, keep cleaning out the kids room-turned-storage room and prepare to be parents.

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Ballerina Update

ballerina

I cannot go into great detail here about Ballerina, but I do have some information to share. Also, I’m referring to her as “Ballerina” as, even though she is in a Heart Gallery, the system doesn’t like their kids names and photos being displayed all over the place. We were told today that 90 days post-adoption, we can post anything we want about her including her new name.

But for now, what we know so far…

Therapists meeting, 5/15/14:

She is beautiful and smart and athletic. She’s [REDACTED] years old and would fit in really well with us. She plays video games, isn’t outdoorsy, and not religious. She’s a straight A student in [REDACTED] grade and wants to stay at her current school. Wants to be a doctor, very studious, totally driven. Her parents are both deceased and she is still dealing with that, obviously. She has an older brother but they’re not very close. She lives in a group home so there are no parents present which means there is no consequences, rewards, etc in place. She loves archery (thanks to Hunger Games) and ice skating.

We spoke to them for just over 2 hours then spent the rest of the day discussing what we learned. We spoke with OKB and discussed our next steps at length. Husband and I made the decision to move forward so I set up a meeting with her case worker and case manager. Yes, we asked every question on our list and then some.

Case Worker/ Case Manager meeting, 5/21/14:

I took 3 pages of notes, they gave us a bunch of information and now we have a decision to make. The next move is up to us at this point – moving forward and meeting Ballerina or deciding we just can’t handle this child and situation at this time based on what we know. We have a lot to contemplate especially with the big NFPA conference coming up. We told them we’re going to it, but also her CW is going out on maternity leave any day now. We will continue to deal with the CM and a replacement CW.

Due to full disclosure, we have her mother’s known history but not her father’s other than very basic information. Her parents were together for many many years and loved each other deeply. After her father passed away, mom had a really hard time. Ballerina has hit puberty (scary thought, but we’ll get through it together) but isn’t boy crazy and doesn’t have any interest in dating. (Wonder how long that’ll last!) She is very attached to her teachers and the staff at her school, but we are being encouraged to change her school if we choose to do so. She is super tech savvy and very attached to her laptop and cell phone. And she’s a klutz and drops stuff and trips all the time. Um, are we sure this child isn’t related to me? HA!

One of our favorite tidbits was learning that she already dresses modestly for a teen girl – no booty shorts or tight clothes – as that would’ve been amongst the first things we would change when she moved in. She told CW and CM that she wanted young, fun and hip parents. Amongst the coolest things is that she will have a brand new name, social security number and, essentially, a new identity. We will give her our last name, but IF SHE chooses to do so, she can select a new first and middle name as well. I don’t think she should, but it’s ultimately her decision.

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Questions to Ask

ballerinaSooooooo…. we are meeting Ballerina’s therapist (TH) Thursday morning to ask him questions. So. Many. Questions.

Actually, we have a huge list that I need to better sort by the person being asked. I have questions for Ballerina herself, for TH and for her case worker. I’m not sure if it’s normally done this way, but we’re meeting with the adults in Ballerina’s life before we meet her to ask them all the details and go over any concerns we may have. Honestly, I think doing it this way is genius! I would never want to ask someone in front of a child about their history of abuse, why they’re in care, what their background is, etc. I would think it would cause a bit of a backslide to hear it all again.

We are meeting him Thursday. If we choose to move forward, we will then meet Ballerina’s case worker and the CW’s supervisor. And then, and only once we’re all satisfied with moving forward, we will meet Ballerina.

Here is the list I’ve compiled, in absolutely no order and unsorted. You’ll notice there are several duplicates as all I did was copy and paste all the input into a single file.

Why she came into care?
What trauma did she go through?
Does she have specific triggers?
Past diagnosis?  Current diagnosis?  Medication, Name, what for?  How many mg.?
In regards to treatment what issues is she still struggling with in therapy?
What are her treatment goals?
What challenging behaviors does she exhibit?
What is the most challenging/ inappropriate/ negative behavior(s) she has exhibited if any?
Do they know her likes and dislikes in hobbies, food, etc..
What are her strengths?
What are her social skills
Is she afraid of the dark
What triggers her outbreaks
Any habits does she have?
Is religion important to her? Which denomination does she identify with
Does she have a healthy appetite?
What is her history of abuse?
Does she want to be adopted?
Birth parents- both mother and father present?
Does she want to keep in contact with adult relatives?
What circumstances brought her into care?
What are the most important things you want us to know about you to make you happy and part of our family?
What was she told is the reason shes in care
Does she have a history of stealing, lying, pyromania, etc
What are her medical issues – physical, mental, emotional
How does she feel about adoption
What are her likes and dislikes
Does she have any hobbies
Is she creative
Does she like comics
What are her favorite shows, movies, music
Does she want to go to college
What does she aspire to be when she grows up
How has she been at forming attachments in foster care?
What things are the most important to her
Why did the child come in foster care
Does she have siblings and do they need to maintain contact?
Are there any other relatives that the child would like to maintain contact with
Is there any maternal or paternal history of mental illness, like depression, bi polar disorder, schizophrenia
Does she have a history of sexual abuse? If yes, has there ever been any sexual reactivity?
How many placements has she been in since being in foster care?
What were the circumstances of her failed adoption/ placement?
Is she on an IEP?
Is she developmentally on target?
What are her fears about adoption, if any
Has she ever expressed what she is looking for in a family?
Birth parents. – How long before their rights were revoked or they were TPR’d?
History of foster homes
What happened to end her last placement
Ice skating- How often does she get to go? Would she be interested in lessons?
Is she on any medication? Why? What is her diagnosis?
At school – Does she have friends? Many? Who does she hang out with?
How are her grades?
What does she do after school?
Has she has been in other trouble or is therapy due to foster care?
Does she like dogs? Cats?
Allergies?
Does she have siblings?
How many placements? Why did they fail?
What reasoning or discipline style does she respond to best?
What is her learning style?
What are her challenges at school?
What therapies is she receiving? What are the goals of the therapy?
Is she willing to transfer to a school or does she wish to stay in the same school.
How many different homes has she lived in?
How many potential placements?
How old was she when she was put in care?

Many many thanks to everyone on FB, twitter, at work, via email and, of course, here for giving us a chunk of these questions. You are all my rock stars!

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And then there was this….

My phone buzzed yesterday around 4:15pm. I glanced at it, saw our ACW’s name flash on the screen, and started having breathing problems.

Subject: PRIDE ADOPTION HOME-STUDY

Good afternoon,

This is to inform your ARC memo has been approved. We will be forwarding your PRIDE Adoption Home Study to Our Kids. Our Kids in turn will ensure that a copy is sent to the other Full Case Management Agencies for the purpose of matching available children to you family. Lastly, a copy of the original approved adoption home study will be mailed to you.

Regards,
[ACW]

And with that, our home study was approved.

approved

I had the overwhelming urge to throw up all afternoon yesterday. While I know we still have a long way to go with the matching process, I am SO HAPPY to have this part done. I immediately posted about the approval on FB and have been feeling the love since yesterday afternoon. My friends, I love you all and cannot wait to introduce my child to you even if only virtually.

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ARC Meeting Recap

This morning we had our Adoption Review Committee meeting!

Husband took off Wednesday night from work since we had to be downtown in the morning. We had yummy dinner last night and relaxed watching TV and playing video games.

This morning, we woke up early and were ready to leave the house by 8:20am. The ARC was set for 10:30am. We drove to the metrorail station, parked on the roof of the garage, then got on the train heading for Government Center. We arrived so early that we found breakfast at GC and hung out taking our time eating.  I wasn’t sure exactly how to get to Our Kids, so after walking outside twice, I asked a police officer to point us in the right direction. My GPS isn’t that accurate on the walking setting.

We went on our way and it was only about 3 blocks away. The walk was super easy and really nice. He talked about trying to find a job in the GC area so we could ride the train together. I see couples doing that and even taking their kids to school on the train. We found the correct building,located the gate to walk in and then I fell.

Yup – I faceplanted right outside the building. I twisted my right ankle and ripped up my left knee. By some miracle, even though I landed flat on the ground, I didn’t skin my hands, rip any clothes, break my sunglasses or my phone. I was holding my phone, texting and walking and was sure it – or at least the case – was going to break. Nope, it was perfect. But oy was I in a lot of pain. He said I cried out as I fell. In my mind I yelled the F word really loudly as I hit the ground. Note to self, texting and walking is just as bad as texting and driving when you’re a klutz like me.

I sat for a few minutes then he helped me stand. I wobbled for about a minute to catch my breath and stop shaking then started walking since we were getting close to the time we had to be there. We checked in with security and went upstairs. We had to wait for about 40 minutes, but our ACW’s supervisor came out to let us know is was going to be a little while since they were running a little bit behind schedule. Great, no problem. I sat there with my foot propped up on my laptop bag. I saw 1 person I know that I was introduced to via email and then met at several events.

When we were taken back to the conference room, we met the panel: Paula, Allyson and Becky (via phone call). Paula explained about the review process based on both our background and on the state of things these days. She asked us questions if we had any concerns. Then asked why we decided to adopt and a little bit of our background.

She said the reason we were there was 2-fold:

  1. bc husband had a blip from the FBI on his background check. He explained what it was from and that it happened 22 years ago. He elaborated where I’m not going to in this blog.
  2. bc I was in therapy for anxiety. I told her the reasons behind my therapy, which I won’t go into detail here as there are people that could get hurt if I write about it. I told her about my learned coping strategies, that I’m still in touch with my therapist, and that the last year was spent doing a lot of pre-adoption and parenting type therapy.

After we answered the questions, she told us what happens next. We don’t get the results today. (I actually knew this coming into the ARC since I asked a friend what to expect.) They will write up a report, hopefully by tomorrow afternoon, and submit it to the administration. The administration will read the report, check out our file and then give us the approval or denial. They couldn’t tell us if we were approved, but it seemed like we were. However, we’re waiting for the actual official approval before I jump for joy.

She did recommend, though not mandate, that due to our backgrounds, we look into parenting class at either FRC or one of the other agencies. It would help us to make new parenting choices and not fall back on what we grew up with.

After the meeting and we said our good-byes, husband and I were leaving when Paula came out to catch us. She said from the sound of things, her family and upbringing were a lot like mine. We chatted for about 15-20 more minutes about different things like getting firmly entrenched in the local foster/adoption community (that I am and just A-D-O-R-E!), finding friends with parenting strategies we want to emulate and asking them about it, and reading up on as much as we can to learn about foster kids problems, attachments, etc. Regardless of how prepared we think we are, we’re not. And rather than fall back on not ideal parenting strategies, we should start now forming behaviors, etc for our children.

She’s amazing. Seriously. She’s one more amazing person that I’ve met along the way in the past year.

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Next Step…

I was informed yesterday by the psychologist that Steve’s evaluation will be sent to our agency today.

HUZZAH!

This was the only thing in the way of getting before the Review Board. Once it’s turned in, they will schedule a date for us to present our case for why we want to adopt. At least I’m guessing that’s what they’ll ask. I really don’t know.

After going before the ARB, we should be approved for adoption. There will be nothing else in our way… I *think* but honestly who knows as things have a way of popping up after we’re told we’re finished.

I understand that the actual matching process is a PITA, but it will all be worth it in the end. We will be matched to a child, not a child to us. Meaning, whichever of the 6 agencies has a child within our parameters will review our home study to see if we fit into the kind of parents and family that would be best.

We’ve had #Fletchling’s bedroom furnished and ready for occupancy since October. October! And have not been able to use half of our apartment since then. Yes, that is, in fact, 5 months. This weekend we decided to empty out our storage unit and bring everything back home to either keep, donate or trash. It’s going to go right back into this huge empty bedroom for us to work on until we’re at the sleepover stage with the hypothetical child.

We decided to adopt April 2013. Tomorrow this process has taken an entire year and we’re still awaiting a completed home study.

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A Real Update!

It Takes a Village to Adopt a ChildFrom every single amazing foster parent, adoptive parent, child advocate, guardian ad litem, volunteer, and the many others I have met since we began this journey in mid-April, I have truly learned that it really does take a village. And along the way, I have made some great people that I happily call friends! (And future sitters maybe… *grin*)

I feel like I’m on a whirlwind journey with all that I’ve learned lately about the foster care system in Florida – or at least Miami-Dade county – lately. A few weeks ago I attended the Our Kids Town Hall meeting and was able to meet some of the judges and a magistrate that rules over the foster care and adoption courts. Also, the CEOs of most local agencies were there for a Q&A session which got a little heated in my opinion. Today I attended my first association meeting and it was, in short, AMAZING! Magistrate Steve Lieberman was there and spoke for the better part of 2 hours. He asked us questions, we asked him questions, and we all learned a little more about wading through the legal system.

I came home super amped up to join the legislative committee to change the laws and statutes and talked nonstop for about 20 minutes telling Steve everything that I learned. To become a Guardian Ad Litem. To volunteer to redo SFFAPA‘s website. To basically do anything that I can possibly do to advocate for kids lingering in the foster care system.

The update you’ve been waiting for is that we’re still stumbling over all the roadblocks they’re putting in front of us. It really feels sometimes like they want us to fail. The latest is having our back up caregiver (essentially the person we would leave our child alone with) had to all of a sudden get background checked and fingerprinted. Um, we gave our ACW her name and contact info in October. On January 30 I received an email stating they needed her to do everything. Even though her job makes her infinitely qualified in the eyes on the FBI and court system, they required her to come in and get fingerprinted. After talking about our entire process with her, she wasn’t even going to argue her background. She went in and got it done on February 7. I must have asked them like 3 times for the results which took until February 25. Ours took about 3 days.

I must have emailed our ACW and her boss a dozen times asking if they needed anything else and was assured that they had everything. In this case, I’m actually glad they refuse to pick up the phone since there’s a paper trail.

On February 6 we were told that Steve needed a psychological evaluation based on a few things in his history. We expected this and weren’t worried. On February 10, at my email prodding, we were told they would refer him to a psychologist and await the recommendation. The same day they requested a letter from my psychologist detailing my therapy and information about my discharge from her care. She revised the letter she submitted IN OCTOBER with a sentence about ending my therapy. On February 20, we were finally told to find a psychologist on our own, tell them why the eval was needed and that, OH YEAH, we needed to pay for it.

Now, have you ever gone to a psychologist without insurance? Do you know how much they cost? We didn’t either and neither did my friend OKB at Our Kids. I called both numbers our ACW gave me, bitched on my FB page, and gave the quotes to OKB. We are so fortunate to have such an amazing group of supporters as someone I’ve known a long time but never met Steve said she could help. Within days, everything was arranged. Right now we’re awaiting for her to submit the report to FRC but know it can take some time as he had to fill out a ton of forms after speaking with her.

By the way, the quotes from FRC’s recommended psychologists were upwards of $2,000 and $450.

Oddly enough, having things in our own hands right now make me feel better since we aren’t waiting on FRC to grace us with an email likely requesting more crap from us. Once the evaluation report is complete, we will have the date to go before the Adoption Review Committee set.

All in all, I am still hoping to get before the ARC by the end of March. Hoping. Who knows how long these people will take.

As of tomorrow, our home study has taken exactly 6 months and isn’t completed yet.

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Short Update

Hiya,

Things are better than the last adoption post. I was overreacting and am well aware. We ended up meeting with our ACW* last Saturday and went over a few more questions. She was at the house for just shy of 2 hours which included walking around the house and seeing all the changes we’ve made. We’ve fully furnished Stormie‘s bedroom and moved Steve’s desk into our bedroom. Thank goodness the rooms are so large bc otherwise, all this furniture wouldn’t fit.

At the foot of the bed are 2 3-shelf bookshelves that he can use as a side table from the bed itself. They fit perfectly under the curve of the footboard.

I hung a shelf in the laundry room for the chemicals and cleaners.

We are going back in today for more questions. Honestly, I don’t know why they’re not all done at once like a couple from our PRIDE training, but c’est la vie. Maybe she’s required to see us a certain number of times. Whatever the case, I’m not sure.

* She made sure we realized that she is not our case worker and merely the person performing our home study. Once she finishes, we won’t be interacting with her again unless she happens to be the CW for our matched child.

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Furniture, Check!

My child has furniture!

We made the decision to use the nice sleigh bed frame in our storage unit for him/her so we just need to clean and set it up and buy a queen mattress.

Last night we went to RoomsToGo to a new couch and area rug for the family room and a dresser to match the bed frame for our child.

There are already 2, 3-shelf bookshelves in the room and we’re moving the couch from the living room into the bedroom for a reading area or whatever s/he wants it to be set up as.

This weekend we’re cleaning out the rest of the office including moving Steve’s desk into our bedroom to make it over as a bedroom. I will probably spend a lot of time in there just reveling in the fact that a little human will be living there soon.

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Moving Right Along..

It Takes a Village to Adopt a Child

Why yes, I do plan on using this for all my progress posts

More updates from the list of requirements

  • Drivers license’s DONE
  • Social security cards DONE
  • Marriage license DONE
  • Current lease DONE
  • Paystubs to show we’re gainfully employed – Mine are DONE, we either need to print his or note it in his bank statement
  • Tax returns for the last few years – just need to make the copies
  • Bank statements for all our accounts – Have for mine and our joint account
  • Lola and Phoenix vaccine records – need to make appointment for his annual then get printouts for both
  • Steve’s divorce decree
  • Physical’s for us both – need to make appointments
  • Employment verification for us both – mine is DONE and faxed back already. I emailed our ACW to let her know.
  • A voided check DONE
  • and a few others, plus all the forms and signatures required in the inch thick packet.

Also, I emailed one of my closest friends about the reference and need to mail her the form. Also, Steve’s mom will fill one out so I need to mail it to her as well. My aunt will probably do one as well. Now to contact the others and mail those off as well!

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First of Three ACW Visits

It Takes a Village to Adopt a Child | credit: Becca FletcherWe had our first home visit with our ACW on Saturday!

When I spoke to her last Friday, we set up our appointment for yesterday afternoon and getting our fingerprints done Friday.

One thing she mentioned which we both – actually a few classmates too – questioned was the need to get things done within 90 days and if not, we’ll have to have stuff run again (abuse reports, domestic violence reports and fingerprinting). The reason not being that we won’t have new fingerprints or anything like that, but rather so they can ensure that nothing has changed in our background – criminal or otherwise. OK, explained that way it makes a whole lot more sense!

We sat and answered her questions and she answered ours for about 90 minutes. After that we gave her the tour of our home and yard. I had to hold Phoenix so he wouldn’t bolt out of the middle bathroom so she could take a look at it. She was amazed at how large the child’s bedroom is and that it has a private bathroom and massive closet. We pointed out where the furniture was going and how we were moving the desk currently in there into our bedroom. We then selected the next date she’d come out to ask us more questions and show her the hopefully furnished bedroom.

From the list in my last post, we still need the following items before her next visit:

  • Drivers license’s DONE
  • Social security cards DONE
  • Marriage license DONE
  • Current lease DONE
  • Paystubs to show we’re gainfully employed
  • Tax returns for the last few years
  • Bank statements for all our accounts
  • Lola and Phoenix vaccine records
  • Steve’s divorce decree
  • Physical’s for us both
  • Employment verification for us both
  • A voided check DONE
  • and a few others

She left a huge packet of info for us to begin filling out and signing. There was some informational info in there as well about the process, etc. We also need 5 personal and professional references. We have 3 in mind and need to select the other 2. Oh and also ask everyone if they’d be willing to write a letter for us.

We learned that she won’t actually help us with the placement of our child. Once she completes the home study, it will be passed to her supervisor for final review and approval. If there is anything that needs further explanation, we will be referred to the Adoption Review Panel. If it gets approved, he will pass it along to Our Kids and I will make sure my contacts there have it as well. They will then work on matching us with the best possible child so we can begin the informal setting dates, day visits, and eventual sleepovers.

Aside from these visits with the ACW, there really isn’t much going on. We have to work with the process and let it work for us.

All we can do is cooperate and wait patiently and try not to look at the little munchkins on the photolisting sites.

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Fingerprinting! And other good news..

This afternoon we are venturing to downtown Miami to get our fingerprinting done. For some odd reason – I’m sure it’s been explained but still – we have to go to our agency main office in order to have this done. So yay! We also get to finally meet our case worker as up to this point all our contact has been over the phone and via email.

I’m totally hoping we see our awesome teachers while we’re there! In fact, I emailed them last night to give them the heads up that we’re going to be there and to let them know that on Saturday…

We have our first Home Visit!! Um, with our Adoption Case Worker (ACW) as opposed to the one during our PRIDE training.

Yep, Saturday is our first home visit and she’ll be asking us eleventy billion questions from the Life Stories we turned in. When I mentioned them, she said she preferred to do it this way and then incorporate the written outlines later. Uh, OK. Glad we took the time to write them then.

We have to compile a bunch of documents, not limited to:

  • Our marriage license
  • Current lease
  • Paystubs to show we’re gainfully employed
  • Tax returns for the last few years
  • Bank statements for all our accounts- 3 months worth
  • Lola and Phoenix vaccine records
  • Steve’s divorce decree – the NC court website isn’t very user friendly 🙁
  • A voided check for the monthly stipend

This will be the first of 2-3 visits and will last about 2 hours. She said it is more of an informal meeting and to walk through our house. We don’t need to have everything child-proofed, have the office converted, or all the medication and chemicals locked up. It’s going to give us time to ask her all the questions we both have since up until now, we’ve not been able to ask an adoption person these questions. Well, not exactly. The awesome folks at Our Kids are crazy knowledgeable and we couldn’t have made it this far without their help.

By her next visit in a few weeks, we should have the bedroom furnished with “whatever [we] would buy as parents to furnish [my] child’s bedroom.”

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