Thursday, March 27, 2014

How to adopt from a disruption

Recently there was an article on Reuters discussing adopted children being "re-homed". The clearly not objective reporter described the multitude of ways adopted children go to new families, whether through disruption, dissolution, or unethical/illegal/dangerous methods.

The article was heavy on blame and snark towards adoptive parents. While the writer thoroughly described the hell children experience, she spent almost no time on legal ways to "re-home" a child.

Since we adopted Genea from a dissolution, I'm going to describe our process. We didn't know what we were doing or how to proceed but fortunately people around us did. While I know disruption is a super-hot topic I want to stress that whether doing such is acceptable is NOT the purpose of this post. Lots of places on the internet where you can argue your socks off on that issue. Go there if you want to judge.

Legally, a "disruption" is when parents decide to stop the adoption process before finalization. Typically the child has already been placed in the family home with the goal of adoption. Most states have a waiting period before an adoption is final and it's during this time that a disruption can happen. Courts are not involved. The child would be removed from the home by the placing agency and presumably go back into a waiting status.

"Dissolution" is the legal term used after a child's adoption has been finalized. All the hoops have been jumped through and all papers signed. The child is in the home, names have been changed, birth certificate altered. The adoptive parents end legal ties with the child, they terminate their parental rights.

 Many people, myself included, use the word "disruption" to describe both.

The couple who originally adopted Genea from Ukraine came to the clinic, where I worked, for a psychiatric evaluation and therapy. That's how we became aware of her. The parents made it known they were searching for another family. There is no law on how new parents find a child to adopt. Someone thought the original parents had to go to an agency first and the agency would evenly distribute Genea's information across their list of potential adopters where she met their criteria. That is one way to do it but not required. They could have advertised her on a Yahoo message board and it would not be a problem. We let ourselves be known as people who were interested and the parents agreed to select us as the new parents. This part did not involve any professionals or legal wrangling.

The Husband and I contacted an adoption agency we found in the phone book. Actually, we contacted a few but only one called us back so that's who got our money. It was on us to select and contract with an agency, but the caseworker worked with both families.

The original parents could have contacted the agency themselves and offered Genea for general re-adoption. However, our case worker told us they would not have accepted her because of Genea's intense medical needs. It seems an agency can pick and choose what clients they take based on the needs of the child, which surprised me.

At any rate, we signed a ton of papers and received several huge packets of information. For our purposes most of the information was hopelessly outdated. We started supervised visits with Genea while we began the paperwork.

The paperwork! Oh my unholy hell. First, we had to get approved as a foster home. That's how they do it in Wisconsin. That had to be official before she could move in. In the meantime, we proceeded with the adoption process as well. Much of it overlapped, background clearances, inspections, pet vaccinations etc. The agency did our Home Study which is my opinion is grossly more expensive than it should be. 3 or 4 one-hour long visits with the case worker where she asked tons of silly, irrelevant questions and then wrote up a lengthy report. Note that the worker told us outright much of the questions were designed to get US thinking about how we wanted to raise children. Whatever.

At the same time, we were doing short little visits with Genea at the clinic where I worked. A therapist watched on as The Husband, Teena and I tried to have fun with her while knowing someone was staring at us and judging every move. They extended the length of time and frequency over several weeks until we started some home visits. Those then progressed to over-night visits.

During the same period we were doing our Parent Education time. I think it was 16 hours. The agency had given us a form to follow and we did, only to find out it was the wrong form and guess what? Outdated. Ugh. I hit up Amazon and made my own reading list. We self-educated. We did not realize at the time the depth of this foreshadowing.

Moving right along, we had to hire a lawyer to manage all the court related stuff. I was told it is customary for the original parents to help financially and usually they will pay half of the lawyer fee since the lawyer will also work with them. However, it was stressed, the lawyer will not work FOR them. In our case, he met with them a few times to help prepare them for the questions at the termination hearing. When I suggested they could chip in with some other stuff, like agency costs, the caseworker said "it's not done that way".

(personally, once I found out the costs of all this stuff I thought they should pay for a lot more but it was definitely not that way)

After about 3 months-give or take a few weeks- Genea moved in with all her stuff for good. She was technically a foster child with us and the original parents still had all their rights. The agency was responsible for her though, and we had to go through them for doctors appointments, travel, etc. It was a strange time because the other parents could change their minds and so we were sort of at their mercy. They wanted phone calls and up dates and I was okay with that. However, the mom asked once for me to take Genea to the park to play and she would watch her from her car. I understood why she was asking, and I understood I was required to do it. But I said absolutely not. We are not a circus act and if you want to push this I will have her packed and waiting for you in the driveway, you can pick her up and take her back. She did not ask again but our little phone calls, which were already tense, took a turn for the worse.

(seriously, there was no way I was going to write this without a load of my personal opinions stuffed in the corners. I am not a journalist ethically required to be objective).

In the middle of all this, the previous adoptive grandparents decided to intervene. They hired their own attorney. It was never fully clear to me what they wanted. It seemed maybe to stop the proceedings? They suggested other relatives to adopt her, wanted to maintain contact with Genea but adopting her themselves was only vaguely mentioned. While there are no grandparent rights, somehow the adoption agency and our lawyer thought they should be "heard". That if we didn't "hear" them, it could cause problems later. We paid our lawyer to respond to their lawyer, and accepted a bizarre phone call from them. They were unable to change anything.

Genea was living with us full time for 3 months before the termination hearing happened. This is where the original parents have all their parental rights severed and it's as if their adoption never happened- legally that is. Whew it was rough! They both had to testify in front of a judge, describe their adoption process and why they felt they could not keep her. Our lawyer handled all the questioning. I don't recall if we were required to attend but we did so they could point us out as the new parents. In theory, the judge would be more likely to authorize the termination if she had another home to go to, because he could have denied it.  Genea then became a ward of the state and we continued as foster parents, supervised by the adoption agency.

Note that while we were foster parents, we were not paid any monthly rate. No clothing reimbursement or whatever else foster parents get in such small quantities. There is some law in this state (maybe others) that if you have a foster child who you are going to adopt you must then re-pay the state all the money received while fostering.

Up until this point, Genea had health insurance through the original parents. Only when they were terminated were we required to put her on our insurance. I'm sure someone knows how that all works, but it's not me. She was still a foster child with us, not legally "ours", but I put her on our insurance anyway and no one freaked out. Once we finalized, she became eligible for MA.

So that's about it! We had a six month wait- and- see period where she had to be living with us full time and then we were free to finalize. We went to the courthouse after the six months had passed to request the date and get it assigned to a judge. More paperwork. Then, we did it. And after aaaaaall that, soooooo much time and energy and paperwork and money and redundancies, the finalization hearing took all of 5 minutes.

Questions? Pleasant non-judgey comments?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Newbie in the house

I have to say, Boo Boo seems to love being an only cat. He has always had other cats in his life, and sadly for him, he has always been the lowest cat in the hierarchy. The one who got beat up, had his snackie treats stolen, and got knocked out of the good spot on the bed (between the pillows). Since Bailey died over the summer, he has reveled in his aloneness. He struts around with all the authority of a mountain lion. Then he goes back to sleep because after all, he is 17 years old.

(I know, I've used this pic before but it's so awesome. Plus, he hasn't changed any).

The rest of us however, have missed having other cats around. Boo Boo is great and all, but a cat who is only awake eleven minutes a day doesn't want to spend that precious time playing. Food to eat and litter boxes to miss. I think its good for kids to have pets to interact with. Boo Boo has been here since well before any kids and survived every single one of The Screaming Years. So even if he were more active, he still would not hang out with the noisy children.

Having decided it was time to bring in a new cat, I started looking around listings. We did not want a kitten- I mean, I looooove kittens but no way would Boo tolerate such a thing. I thought someone between 1 and 7 years old. Bat Cat died a few years ago at 16 and Bailey died over the summer at 15. Boo is surprisingly healthy but still at his age we gotta' assume he's near the end and we just can't take more cats passing in our near future.

I found a cat I thought looked nice online. The shelter was about a half hour away but meh- what the heck. I communicated with the staff by email several times, packed up a carrier and went to see her.

She seemed like a nice cat. Not that interested in me but excited to be out and playing with whatever rolled her way. I had already filled out the paperwork and let the staff know I wanted to take her.

Great! They said, just bring your kids and husband to meet her and then if that goes well you can come back and adopt her!

Screeeeeeeeeeech- huh? It's an hour drive round trip and this shelter is only open 5 days for 4-6 hours. My kids are involved in stuff as well so the next opportunity to get back there would be a few weeks! Not to mention, honestly, if my kids don't like her, tough shit. And if she doesn't like the kids, tough shit for them again. I had thought I could take her that day, but that's not how it works. Argh. Ok. Moving on.

I decided to try our local humane society. There were a few possibilities, one in particular was just gorgeous.

She was apparently a head- rub addict, and was pleading through her cage for a hand to just lay there to be rubbed across. She got scared when I opened her cage to take her out so I didn't. I went and asked the staff about her. She had been adopted before and returned. The reasons were because she did not always use the litter box and the owners reported she had mood swings.


So I moved on again.

I went to a big box pet supply store that gives space to local shelters to show cats waiting for homes. When I walked in the cat room I went to the first cage with a cat in it, but heard a little sound from the opposite corner. Someone was saying "hey you! don't look at that cat there, she'll claw your face off and start rumors about you but there's a beauty in the corner who is sweeter than ice cream!". Well, that seemed like a long speech considering I was the only 2- legger in the room so I went over. There was a jet black cat with a few white markings making the cutest little meeps at me and stretching her foot out the bars, waving hi.

The staff brought us to a visiting room where she proceeded to ignore me and sniff at stuff. I spent a good 45 minutes with her and she only grazed my knees. I had toys and dangly things and even snacky treats but she was just not interested. Meh, no problem. She didn't try to kill me either so that was good.

We had a winner! The staff started the paperwork and I did mine. The shelters run a background check to ensure you're not the kind of warped jerk who hurts animals. So, what do you think came up? That's right. That. She's looking though the listing and asks me awkwardly " Uh, do you know a Mr. Fuckta.....Mr. Fucktard Moron?

My blood chilled. Of all the shit. I try to explain briefly what was listed. That I took out a restraining order (not the other way around!!!) on behalf of my daughter but he had moved away several years ago and we had not seen him since and everyone was safe. Crap, she was still giving me the googlie side eye. I explained the whole thing. Then she was giving me the look of WTF ARE YOU SERIOUS. Yep. Background check passes.

So! She is 2 years old. She had babies about a year ago and they were all placed but she spent the next year in shelter, unadopted. Poor little thing! We tossed around a lot of names. We have a thing where we name our cats with a "B", so we had Banana, Bindi, Brooklyn, Beruca Salt,  and Brandy. We had just gotten mail from the vet addressed to Mr. Boo Lastname and thought that was hilariously hilarious. That caused us to toss around a few other choices that would make for fun mail and we came up with "Barackabama". Also fun would be watching my Dad's head blow off his neck and roll away ha ha. Ultimately we (I) decided that would be disrespectful. Bindi it is!

And she is the nicest little cat! She purrs super loud and with voice, she sounds like a pigeon. She loves to play with the kids who are so far reasonably behaved. In fact, we demanded they be supervised 1:1 with her until we could see they were respectful. Teena has been good but keeps trying to entice her when she's clearly worn out or sleeping. Genea however, has listened to everything. Genea has earned the right to be unsupervised and is so happy the smile is almost levitating off her face! She told her psych and my mom "I did everything Mama told me and now Bindi loves me so much"! Of course, the pink glitter icing on the cake is that Teena is still required to have an adult watch her.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Stovepipe Winner

Dun dun DUNNNNN (drama music)

We drew a name from here:

That's a juniper Fiesta Ware mug
It's Teena's turn to pick, she is very excited.
She takes her job seriously and stirs up names with great concentration.
Ok Teena, my hair is getting old. 
She makes a selection!
The winner is.....
So! Please email me your address and I will send out your book right away. My email is....
For the sad folks who didn't win, I'm sorry. There are a few people who enter every time and have yet to win. However, if you want the book you can buy it right here The Stovepipe .  But hurry- as I'm writing this there are only 4 copies left!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Stovepipe

If you have foster children, or "kids from hard places", The Stovepipe is a book that will give you insights you may not have considered.  Normally I like to give away review books, to sort of pay it forward but lemme tell ya', I wrestled with myself for several days this time.

The author, Bonnie Virag, was removed from the care of her mother at the age of four. Despite her young age, she vividly remembers and describes that day. Much time is spent in her head as she experiences confusion and sadness. The book takes us through life in various foster families, as she and her sisters grow up without roots.

The author is honest about circumstances in the various foster homes and doesn't point fingers or issue blame. She does not complain. Instead she openly describes, allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions.

The story takes place in Canada during the 40's and 50's. I was surprised to find out Canada was so progressive with social services. Case workers seemed well intentioned, but are not able to uncover the reality the girls were surviving. Almost without exception, the families who take in the children want something from them and the neglect they experience is contemptible. Having each other though, makes all the difference in the world.

So! Please don't think it must be a depressing read! I was surprised at how un- unhappy the book is. For sure there are events that might make the reader feel angry or disgusted.  However, the book is a story, a complete and rounded story of good, horrible, and all the in- between.

The Stovepipe

In spite of what I want to do, I'm giving my copy of the book away. Just enter yourself by commenting and I'll have a drawing on Sunday. Did I mentioned the book is signed? It's even signed by the author!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...