Thursday, November 29, 2012

Shirley's Story

Today's National Adoption Month story is an inspiring reflection by a family who didn't expect to adopt, but ultimately ended up forming a meaningful and permanent bond with both a sibling group and their biological mother.

Shirley's Story

"Back when my oldest son was in high school, my sister asked me if we had ever thought about becoming foster parents.  We were so busy with our own kids that I didn’t consider the thought, but the seed was planted.  I started working at school as a paraeducator (teacher’s aide) about that same time, and I knew about some of the kids that were in foster care.

Later, I presented the idea of becoming foster parents to my husband.  Our daughter was in eighth grade and the others (we had two boys and five girls until we adopted) were out of the house. So, here we sat with a quiet, almost empty, five bedroom house and Katie (our eight grader and only one home at the time) was excited about the idea.

We got our license in June of 2007.  We got the three kids that we have adopted a year and a half later and have had them ever since.  

I can remember a conversation that I was having with my sister at one time earlier. I said to her, “Don’t you think that a child would be better off taken out of the birth family’s home?” and I will never forget her answer. “That is all that child has ever known and that is all they want, no matter how bad we think it may be," she said.

That comment has stuck with me throughout the years, and it is so true.  No matter how good of a life we think we can give these children, it may not be what they truly need or want.  

The birth mother of the three children we eventually adopted had gone away for intensive rehabilitation due to domestic violence and drugs.  When she came back, I could see she was struggling, getting back into the same crowd, not showing up for appointments, making excuses why she couldn’t call or do visits as expected. 

It was very evident that she loved them and they loved her. I could see so clearly what she needed to do to get her kids back, and to me it was so simple. I would ask myself all the time, "Why couldn't she put them first?" I told my social worker once what I would do if she was my daughter. And he put it into perspective for me, reminding me that she may not have had a mother who supported her. That is when I started having empathy for her situation. I would tell prospective families to keep an open mind. Don't be judgmental, and be open to a birth family's differences for that is all the kids know and they love their parents. I always try to think that if it was my daughter in that situation, I would want someone to help her out.

Eventually, we asked her if she would ever think about giving us guardianship or letting us adopt the kids.  She was very appreciative that we would do that for the kids and would give it some thought.

We eventually did adopt them, and after adoption, their birth mom continues to visit once a week for approximately an hour. This has helped tremendously in keeping the kids stable.  She has expressed her appreciation for what we are doing for her kids many times.  We had an adoption party the day of the adoption and she came before the big crowd of people showed up. 

She had voluntarily decided to terminate her parental rights, and about a week before the termination court date she and I sat down with the kids to tell them.  

I think she said it perfectly: “This isn’t the perfect solution, but you will only have that many more people to love you. Shirley and Ed will take good care of you."

And she is so right. If we can keep working together, they will have a whole tribe of people to love and care for them.  

The ultimate goal for my whole family is to make a difference in the life of a child, in this case being, the lives of our three special children!"

- Shirley


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