Sunday, November 30, 2014

adoption awareness.


I have spent National Adoption Awareness Month (aka November) trying to understand more about the workings of the Department of Social Services. It has been an emotional month.

I keep hoping there will be a great story. I anxiously await any of the former foster youths to tell me, "foster care made such a positive impact on my life." Or a caseworker to tout the efforts their county has gone to in order to serve vulnerable families. I want to hear a foster parent tell me, "DSS has been phenomenal. They have gone above and beyond to help these children." 

I wish that was the case.

But, as it turns out, foster children who make it out of this broken system and into the world as a functional adult seem to do so in spite of the system. And reality is that it is nothing short of miraculous when foster children become anything other than a frightening statistic, void of healthy family connections.

Caseworkers that genuinely seem to care about the kids move on to other jobs instead of fighting illogical policies and policy-makers, too burned out to continue.

I have wondered, a few times, if the entire social services system was out to destroy families and hurt children. The Department of Social Services. Often vilified. Frequently reviled. Unpopular and detested. The entire system is under-funded, overworked, and overlooked.

I want to blame some person or some entity for the current catastrophic state of failure that I see permeating from social services. A government system that desperately needs to be a well-run, well-oiled machine has a wrench in the gears.

I contemplate a solution daily, because a solution is clearly needed.

As much as I don't want to admit it. The solution is simultaneously hugely complex and annoyingly simple.

Complex. 
Emotions. Reigning in our natural, organic humanity is hard. We don't want to be annoyed, irritated, inconvenienced, or hurt. We have no intention of purposefully putting ourselves in positions of difficulty. And fostering or adopting can put a complex emotional strain on the most stable of adults.

Getting past the emotional complexity is going to have to be a choice.  At some point, if this (or any) crisis is to be solved, we MUST choose to put ourselves into a state of inconvenience. We must choose to lose our ego to a larger cause. We must exchange our faineant existence for others' needs. Not because our life depends on it, but because someone else's does.

We must learn what sacrifice really means, and it isn't giving up your soy latte on Saturday.


Sacrifice - an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.
   

Simplistic. 
The simple solution is usThe functional adult members of society. The non-felonious, hard-working, responsible, human, grown-ups. We CAN fix this.

Population of Children Legally Free Foster Children Waiting for Adoption in America: 110,000
Population of adults in America: 242,542,976 (dataceneter.org)

Based on purely numbers, all I see is an easily fixable problem. Even if only HALF of the adults in our country are appropriate parents, that gives us 121,271,488. Even just a FOURTH of adults would more than cover the need for foster families and adoptive families (60,635,744). 

In fact, we only need about .05% of the adult population of America to adopt ONE child in order to put state adoption workers out of a job. And that is the objective, right?

The Truth.
The truth is that the social services system is horrendously broken. It is aggravating to navigate. It is heartbreaking, overwhelming, and exhausting. However, at the end of the exasperating process is a child. A child. A human being. Worthy of respect, care, discipline, love. Worth every ounce of annoyance. Deserving of family. Needing an advocate. Screaming for a voice in legally-mandated silence.

The truth is that we are the solution to this madness. We can offer a voice to this muted, marginalized population. We can give of our time, our money, our hearts. We can offer our family to those without. We can choose to sacrifice what makes us comfortable in order to offer a modicum of comfort to these invisible children.

The truth is that this month has ZERO meaning without us, the adults, making choices that directly, positively impact the foster youth population. Complex or simple solutions hold no importance without willing adults choosing to act. We hold the power to vote, to speak, to demand, to choose what is right. 

It is the last day of National Adoption Awareness Month. I hope that all of us have gotten a bit more aware. But more than that, I hope that this awareness compels us to act.
To change the life of a child.


It is National Adoption Awareness Month. 
If you would like more information about adoption please email: 
thesometimes8irons@gmail.com





















Sunday, November 2, 2014

waiting every Sunday.

Today is Orphan Sunday.

I will spend today being generally grateful and heartbroken.

Grateful for all the preciousness in our house.

Heartbroken for all of the little lives without a family.

In honor of today, please take a minute to view/read about children still waiting.

Domestic. 
There are thousands of foster children in the U.S. that need a family.
You can view some of the children waiting at: adoptuskids.org.

I am not legally allowed to post pictures or profiles of these children. (I already checked) but I can link you to some of the profiles.

If you can handle large family life check out THIS group of seven. 
Or THIS group of four. 

If you prefer to pass the baby-stage check out THESE brothers.
Or THESE brothers.

If you just love babies check out THIS adorableness.
Or THIS sweet girl.  


International. 
Meet Emil.  This little angel is the same age as my eldest son, but looks like a toddler.
He is 15. He has Down syndrome and Cerebral Palsy. When he is 16 he will be ineligible for U.S. adoption. Chances are slim to none that he will be adopted in his own country.
He has a very large adoption grant, over half of his expenses are already covered.
And yet he is still an orphan.


emil


Meet Matthew. He reminds me so much of Auggie.


And Maureen

Maureen


Today, just like yesterday, and just like tomorrow, on non-orphan Sundays, and every Sunday from now until they are adopted, age-out or die, these children will still be there. Waiting
For a mom. A dad. A sister, brother. For someone to see their value.  
Perhaps today, that someone is you

Interested in foster care and/or adoption? 
Email: thesometimes8irons@gmail.com 






Wednesday, October 1, 2014

it's complicated.

Right now, in my state, there is a disaster of a social services system.
There is good ol' boy politics at play.
There is red tape.
Complicated bureaucracy at its worst.

There is insufficient accountability for what is done and not done that directly affects one of our most unprotected group of humans.

Foster Children.

The South Carolina political world has proven to be all narcissism and complication.

What I have witnessed is a group of cranky legislators looking only for political gain. I have heard lots of plans, promises and preaching. Law makers shouting about their disgust and disappointment in a social services system gone awry. But having little substantive plans to fix it. 

We have multiple problems at play here. 
But one of our largest, and in my opinion, easily fixed, is the issue of caseworkers. 

Caseworkers. 
Caseworkers are underpaid, overworked, and then hugely criticized when their absolute best efforts are mediocre. But what else could they be?

In one county, according to our DSS Oversight Committee,  ONE caseworker has 114 children on her caseload. One human keeping up with the paperwork and visiting that many children is a physical impossibility.

Which leads to...

Huge caseworker turnover. 
I was told it takes nine months from hired to working-a-caseload. So, one caseworker quits. Then the already-trained (and already overburdened) caseworkers take over his/her cases for nine months. And that is the best case scenario. It would only be nine months if they hired a new caseworker on the same day that the first caseworker quit.
When you give caseworkers double, triple (or more) what their caseload is supposed to be and pay them less-than-half of what their private-sector comrades are making, of course they quit.

Which leads to....

Tired caseworkers.

Which leads to...

Inadequate supervision by caseworkers. 
They are in a high-stress job. With traumatized children. With angry parents. With little support and very little compensation. So children can fall through the cracks and go unnoticed. Or worse.

Which leads us back to cranky legislators complaining once again that nothing has changed,
yet doing nothing to change it.


Legislators. The lawmakers. The people promising a better future.

I want to know: 
A better future for whom? Only the non-foster child?
Or is it possibly, only a better future for the legislators' political career?

It seems the future for foster children is only fictitiously improved. And the reality of
this "improved future" is just a figment of some legislators' imagination meant to temporarily soothe the masses long enough to get elected for another term. 

Shame on you. Shame on me. For not doing enough to change what we know needs to be changed.
For not calling to task the decision-makers. For not demanding less political complications and more common sense. For not being the voice that these hidden children so desperately need.

As functional citizens, isn't it our job is to speak for those who cannot?
And let's be very clear, the entire foster care populace is legally banned from having a voice.
They cannot speak publicly. They cannot vote for or against the ones making decisions that directly impact them. Their stories cannot be published. They are a population of virtually invisible children.

Foster Children need a voice. 
They need less empty politics and more logic in action.
These children need trained, compensated, rested caseworkers.
They need families, compassion, love...
They need you. And they need me.
Why is it so complicated?





































Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pictures and Perspective.

I love pictures.
I love to capture life's little split-second moments that leave my mind so quickly.

I need evidence on days that are tough that they aren't always that way.
I need reminders of where we were and hope for where we are going.

So, yesterday I charged the camera.
And started taking pictures...I did some practice while Adam and Asher were getting clean...
Adam looked more like a bubble-monster in one of them.

     





Then I started looking at the pictures I never deleted.
And I found this one...



This is a picture I took of the kids before we adopted our two teeny boys.
Before we knew Auggie was not available.
This was when we were getting one new boy.

This picture shows only one tuxedo shirt meant for Auggie...
This empty shirt was a place holder for our boy that wasn't home yet.
What makes me smile is that in my paperwork-induced stupor, while preparing for Auggie...
I accidentally ordered TWO of these tuxedo shirts.

I was feeling inspired.
And sentimental.
So we did this:





It seemed like everyone was in a quasi-acceptable-for-pictures mood...
And the teeny boys had handled tuxedo pictures rather well.
So I told ALL the kids to get their "family" shirts on and we would try and get pictures of everyone.
Let's just say it went downhill from there.

I wanted to get a picture of the teeny boys being held like potato sacks by TC...
Adam was not amused.
Asher was.








Sigh.
So then we decided to try and get the biggest boys and the smallest boys...
Asher (who is not affectionate) for some reason, for the first time ever, was determined to give Adam a hug...while on Judsen's shoulders. 
Adam, who wants to hug everyone all the time, did NOT want to be hugged.





That didn't work so well either...and the teeny boys were getting annoyed, so we gave them a break and moved on to the middle boys...Joseph and Corban.
Now, keep in mind, Joseph and Corban are silly boys. 
So silly, in fact, that I could not get a normal face out of either of them.
Not. ONE. Not one single one. 


  


  


So...moving on...to the girls.
Who are just so obedient. 





I tried to sneak in a couple of shots of Adam wearing a hat while the bigger kids were getting set up for our next round of pictures...He was not interested.



I quickly gave that idea up.

Now to attempt a picture with everyone in it...
Please be advised that my standards have dropped.
When Judsen was our one and only, I took him to a place and paid a photographer to make funny faces and take perfect pictures of my clean child with ironed clothes and slicked-back hair.
How times have changed.
Here is the craziness that followed...





Not pretty pictures...but we are getting there.
I could feel it in my bones.
Good kid picture...here we come.

And then Asher barfed on TC's head.

Poor TC. 



And everyone laughed.
Even TC. 
And lucky for all of us, TC is not a sympathetic barfer.
Nigel cleaned them up...




And my hope for a non-barfy, slightly-clean picture with everyone looking in the same direction died.
Right there. 
I gave up.
And got a little cranky.

Why can't these silly kids just look in one direction (of MY choosing), with eyeballs OPEN
and not puke on your brother's head. 

I just put the camera away.

Get some perspective.
This morning, the kids went and pulled out the camera and started looking at the pictures...and all I heard was "Ohhh, I looove this one!" and "This one is so funny!" followed by hysterical laughter. 
And that's when I realized, I have trouble with perspective. 

I am a perfectionist. I am Type A. In the extreme.

I wanted perfect pictures.
With 8 children.
Feel free to laugh.

My kids' picture comments reminded me that I might have been wrong.
Maybe.

Because what was captured on camera yesterday was not just wild children looking in the wrong direction and puking on one another...

  

It was silly.


Or maybe just completely ridiculous.


It was sweet.




It wasn't perfect...it was better.





It was real.
















Sunday, August 24, 2014

mr. dawkins and definitions.

This week on Twitter InYourFaceNewYorker said:

"I honestly don't know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down Syndrome. Real ethical dilemma."


And Richard Dawkins replied with this:


"Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice."

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Adam Update.

Adam is ON THE CHARTS FOR HIS AGE GROUP!
And the whole family did a happy dance.
He was in the 2nd percentile for weight at our last check-up.
Yes, that is small...but who cares!?
ON the chart is a BIG deal!

Adam is learning by leaps and bounds.
He can sign...please, thank you, food, more, and cracker.
He babbles but doesn't speak quite yet.

I think he has a ridiculous sense of humor.
He will babble "mamamamamamamamaaaaa."
And I, being insanely excited, will smile encouragingly. Saying, "Yes! Mama!"
And he, being a bull-headed Amerikrainian (that I know is torturing me on purpose) 
will giggle and say "Dadadadadada!"
Every. Single. Time.

Adam hates cake.
I was so excited to make his first birthday cake.
And here is what happened....

Me: Adam, try your birthday cake! Want a bite? It is sooo yummy! You will love it! 
Adam: AAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! (wiping mouth furiously, crying, and dry-heaving)




Adam likes me to carry him around.
Every second of every day.
I have been putting him in the baby carrier on my back.
But he doesn't like that either.
He much prefers to ride around attached to my front.
On the occasion that I do have to put him on my back...
He sweetly, kindly, (screechingly)  lets me know that he does not approve by leaning waaaaay over and hollering at the absolute top of his lungs...
just in case I wasn't sure how he felt about his mode of transportation. 


Why not just put him on the ground? 
Well, when I do that he attaches himself like a barnacle to my leg and cries big, sad tears. 
It is pitiful.
And so far, I just cannot stand it.

And in the land of adoption-bonding, Adam actually liking me (even in a loud sort of way) is a good thing. 

Adam is settling right into family life.
He knows which ones of us are suckers (me, Joseph, TC) 
and which ones of us aren't (everyone else).
He seems to recognize that we are his family. 
And he belongs.
And that is all adoption is...
A place to belong.





Please leave any questions in the comment section 
or 
email: thesometimes8irons@gmail.com