Saturday, September 23, 2017

Human

Just 'cause I predicted this
Doesn't make it any easier to live with
And what's the point of knowin' it
If you can't change it?
You can't change, can't change it


140 days until Sweetie turns 18. One Hundred and Forty Days and I will no longer be able to advocate for her. This month, like every month before this over the last several years, I attended our monthly meeting. Driving there I felt the familiar nausea and anxiety that I have experienced every month.
 This meeting she showed up late, stayed in the hall for 10 minutes talking on the phone and then once she did come in she continued texting. Never even acknowledging my presence. The whole purpose of our meetings are to help her. 7 adults sat around this table, all in disbelief as she ignored us. She didn't want to hear what was going on. Eventually her case worker asked that she put her phone up because she was wasting all our time. She had her normal nasty attitude, arguing with everyone in the room about pointless things, in attempts to not face the conversation that needed to happen.... Again! Over the last year every meeting we have been trying to prepare her for discharge from the program on her 18th birthday. Last month, I was so excited that I found a great solution... the Job Corps. They would provide housing, job training, education, provide health insurance and assist with job placement. Sweetie shot that down and refused to even entertain the idea. She also stopped working with her wrap around services, so they are terminating their services. The Wrap Around Services helped her with life skills, job skills, educational goals, bring her to Medicaid to extend her coverage and find housing. She will no longer have help with that, which means these things will most likely not be accomplished. Her behaviors are really flaring up and the treatment parent is done with dealing with her. She is going to try to stick it out for us. But she really doesn't think she will make it. I am doing my best to not panic about the path that this would throw us down with the courts. I have no control over how this will play out. I can only pray that Sweetie can hold it together and begin to work on a plan for when she turns 18.
Sweetie has completely sabotaged every form of help for the last 6 years and continues to do so. She has no plan of what she will do on her 18th birthday and she refuses to realistically discuss any options. And it makes me sick to think that she will most likely end up homeless. Every homeless person or prostitute that I pass while driving sends a shock of panic and sadness through me. As every day passes I find myself facing more guilt and doubt. Over analyzing every step and wondering if I really gave enough. My head knows that I did, but my heart is struggling. I have sat here for quite a while trying to find a positive spin. But her future appears so very grim. Sweeties diagnosis are difficult ones, the worst being Borderline Personality Disorder. Statistics show that approximately 70% of people diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder attempt suicide and out of those approximately 10 % succeed at their attempt. Just rereading that makes my heart ache for her. She did not ask to be neglected and  abused. She didn't ask to be passed around foster care. She didn't even ask to be adopted by us. She didn't ask to develop severe mental illness. However, she has been given 6 years of being offered every form of treatment that has been known to help treat her disorders. She only needed to want to get better. And sadly, I wanted that for her more than she wanted it for herself.
And no matter how hard I tried all the love, therapy and prayer hasn’t change her outcome.
I may have slowed the progression and I did keep her safe, but now when she turns 18 she is in the same situation as her sister who ran away before we could adopt her.
I flash back to the beginning of our journey when the social worker told me not to adopt this child, that she was unadoptable. That we would end up relinquishing her if we did adopt her. I remember how angry I was. But also how naïve and prideful I was to believe I could fix her . Would I do it all over again? Insanely, I would have to say yes. She may not have allowed me to be her mom , but I did become one heck of an advocate. This journey also weeded out people in my life and replaced them with amazing , strong, real friends that get hard things anc love me (hot mess and all). I have come to rely on God so completely, because I simply am incapable of doing it alone. Incapable of loving her unconditionally without God's grace for her and for myself.
So, I have no clue what will happen over the next 4 1/2 months. I don't even know what will happen tomorrow. And as hard as that once was, I am becoming more comfortable in that space of not knowing.
Friends, please do be praying for our girl- for something to click and for God to continue protecting her. And for Cris and I as we face the grief of losing our daughter (even though she will be walking the earth). Thank you all for being along on this journey.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Derailed





I want to preface this entry by saying I still love adoption. I think it is one of God's designs to correct some of the brokenness of the world. I have adopted 2 children. One is a story of how I imagine God designed it. It is a story of miracles and joy. My other child's story is one of soul wrenching pain.
Both are stories of redemption and both I would do again in a heart beat. And with all my heart I believe that both children were brought to me by God.

Today I am struggling with my eldest. 5 1/2 years go we were matched with a cute, spunky 12 year old girl. We had just come off the hardness of losing Baby Leah and we just felt that this child was meant to be ours. We received her profile and I was just heartbroken with the situations in which this child had survived. We knew she had issues but we were naïve in our thinking that enough love, therapy and prayer could fix her. I knew I could fix her. I studied every book I could get my hands on about Reactive Attachment Disorder. I attended conferences, listened to Cd's and podcast. I even started to see an attachment specialist before we even made our first communication. I knew everything there was no know. We set up safety plans for our house, put chimes on doors, cameras in shared areas of the house. I was ready, I should rephrase that, I thought I was ready.
Since that day I have had to come face to face with my "Savior Complex". In all honesty I thought I could fix this child. Over the last 5 years we experienced so many insanely difficult times. And I kept pushing, trying to find yet another kind of therapy that might work, a new medication a new program anything to help me fix her. But this past year it hit me like a slap to the face, it is NOT my job to fix her. It never was. I am not Christ. I still have to choke those words out. I am not the Christ. That statement was one of the first I remember our pastor saying when he first came to our church
When I heard them, I was like ok , I get it, we are not Christ... yeah, yeah, yeah... let's get onto the music already. I have to say my church has some pretty awesome music. So I packed that message away with the hundreds of messages I have heard through out my life, not realizing now a year or so later it would be a statement I make almost daily. I am not going to rehash the details of our trials over the last few years. Basically a ton of crazy behaviors to push us away because accepting love was too scary for her brain to allow. some of it documented in this blog but most not.
But everything came to a head this year when Sweetie started communicating with her biological father. The same man whose rights were terminated. Once that communication started her behavior towards us got worse again. We sat in family therapy session were she threatened us that if we did not disrupt our adoption to her, that she would make DSS reports and have the remove her from us. We told her we would not dissolve our adoption. And she stuck to her word and the accusations started again. We have been on this ride before and knew what to expect. This time it was scarier because we have Spartacus and DSS could remove him as well as her.
So month after month me we keep showing up and jumping through what ever hoops are placed in front of us. But the closer to 18 she gets the worst she gets. Her behaviors are still challenging and she is on her 3rd placement in the last year. She is on her last home that will accept her now and the foster mom is already ready to give up. When this happens all hell will break lose for our family. The agency will try to force her home. The only words she says to us are rude comments and cutting us off. She does not want to come back and honestly we aren't willing to with how unstable she is. She is at times dangerous and we will not put our 2 year old in danger of being hurt. Bringing her home would be neglectful toward him. When we reject her coming home we will be brought up on charges from DSS for Neglect and Abandonment. We will be punished because there is nowhere for her to go. So we will end up in front of a judge and he will determine her fate.
The agency she is with now has been trying to relinquish her so she can be in foster care until 21. Giving her a chance to work on herself.  That makes sense, but if we do that we will automatically be charged and the judge will be harsher on us. If we wait for the agency to run out of placements because of her behaviors we still face DSS and charges, but we have a better chance of the judge waiving charges, So, things are a complete mess. I have to give it to God every day! I have to remember he is bigger than this and that Sweetie is still capable of being healed. So, for now we wait. I strangely am at peace of what ever happens. In my heart I want to foster and adopt several children. But God may have different plans for me. Friends I ask that you keep us in your thoughts and prayers. The rejection can be so unbearably hurtful at times. And I am struggling with secondary PTSD from the years of trauma inflicted on us. The system shouldn't be this complicated. But it is almost impossible to navigate.  Please join me in praying for 2 things. First for healing for Savannah, that she will feel God's presence in her life, Secondly pray for a very direct pathway for her to transition into adulthood. There is so much more, but my brain hurts from the 3 hour meeting today.
Thank you for supporting our little family.  I don't know what we would do without all of our friends that love us and our girl so unconditionally.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

She's Gone, But You're Here



The day I left the hospital with Spartacus 9 months ago I was contacted by a mom I know in the adoption community asking me to provide respite care for a couple weeks for their adoptive daughter while they waited for a bed to open in a group home.
After spending almost a month in the hospital with lil man, it was the last thing I wanted to do. But I know from Sweetie how hard it is to have an unsafe child in the home while you wait for an opening in a higher level of placement so I agreed. So per the mother's request I drove over an hour away to pick her up and brought her into my home. For privacy sake I will call this child Sparkle. Because that is what she has done. Sparkle came from a hard beginning of life, but in much different ways than kids in our system. Sparkle was born in Africa and lost both of her parents at a young age and was then adopted into the US by one family, who then rehomed her to another family. In my opinion Re-homing is a form of human trafficking. This is a short video about that.

The family she was rehomed into a very large family made up primarily of "adopted" kids, most from rehoming situations. That is a big part of her story and why the next 9 months became so complicated.
Assuming what Sparkle's family had told we was the truth, I was expecting a manipulative, lying and abusive child. My husband and I, as well as our home are prepared for children like this. We have camera's and alarms on doors. We have lived a therapeutic parents for so long now, it is part of who we are as people. I expected Sparkle to honeymoon for a while and thought we might get lucky and it would last the couple weeks until she got into a group home. I assumed her family had already taken necessary steps like a psych eval and that the group home was recommended by a licensed professional. When Sparkle first came to me, she wanted to emancipate from her family. She didn't want to tell me why. I talked to her about how difficult the process was and was able to talk her out of trying to emancipate.
So, I did what I should do, I worked with Sparkle on accepting that going to the group home was in her best interest. I talked to her about the homes I have seen and been to. I talked about how their programs worked and how she would be in a safe place to work through all the things she went through in her childhood. After some discussion she agreed that it would be a good thing to do.
She was still a bit nervous so I suggested we visit the place and meet the team who worked there. The day we went to visit this "group home" was awful, the place had so many reflags that I immediately begged her family not to send her. I did some research and found the home wasn't even a licensed home and practiced very non therapeutic practices. I begged and pleaded with the family. I prayed for God to open their eyes. But they wanted her locked away in this place until she was 18. They told me many times that they didn't want her. I even offered to take guardianship instead of sending her to this place. They did not listen to my pleads. Everything in my being screamed that we needed to help this girl. I consulted with some mentors and prayed about it quite a bit and then my husband and decided we would try to help her emancipate. At this point they had not communicated with their child at all and sent minimal support. Once the emancipation was filed they stopped any support. Over time more and more information came to light that just proved she needed help desperately and I promised I would do all I could to help her. About 4 weeks before her emancipation hearing, her family picked her up to take her to the "group home". At the first hearing the judge removed her from the group home and we became her legal placement. We went back and forth to court multiple times. Unfortunately, she could not be emancipated because she couldn't get a job. She was unable to get a job because her parents would not release her social security card. In the 9 months she was here, they would not support her schooling. So she was left without an education. One of her friend's mother homeschooled, so she put together a curriculum for her so that she could work on her schooling. Her education had been previously serious lacking. Months passed and I never saw any of the behaviors the parents reported.
A psych eval was scheduled and that found that she is a normal teenage girl. In order to keep her from having to return home, they turned the case into a DJJ case for running away. In which she never did, but it was the only thing that would keep her from going back and being sent right back to the "group home". It has been a horrible mess of legal issues and torment on this poor girl. Too much to even begin to write about. Meanwhile her family never contacted her. Instead of attempting to work on relationship with her, they put their efforts into trying to destroy the reputation of anyone who tried to support her. It has been so incredibly on the 3 families who have been supporting Sparkle during this. One even being chased out of her church. As part of the DJJ case she is now under the care of DSS and their model is reunification, even if that is not what the plan of the judge is. The family has spread so many lies and manipulated so much that Sparkle was ordered to go to a bordering school for 2 weeks and we are to have absolutely no communication with her. The family has convinced DSS that the I have manipulated Sparkle into doing all of this to rip their family apart. That she is doing all of this because I want her to. Her plan was not even to end up here. I have always been the one who would sit down with her and do pros and cons bout any decisions. I even told her as an adult I would pick the boarding school because it really is a good program and that she will get free college after that. But I understood that she wanted to be with her friends and close to her siblings. I trust God has a special plan for this child. She is strong and smart. She has represented herself against a lawyer and her family in several court appearances. I am so proud of her. She goes back to court in 2 weeks and the judge will talk to her about how she feels the school is and at that point make a final decision on her placement there. I am not upset about the school, it truly is a wonderful opportunity. But my heart hurts as I got to be a part of her being torn away from us today sobbing. For 9 months she has been part of our family. She has been listened to, she has seen how I live out living like Jesus. She has come to know God in her own terms, not in an adults. My heart truly grieves for her tonight because the last thing she said to me is "There can not be a God, he wouldn't let this happen".  I am working on a Beth Moore Study called " A Woman's Heart" and something she said in it sticks with me... This is God's plan A for us. He already knows our path. He has already been there and  he is there in it with her now as he is here with me know. Anytime you open your home and your heart to a child that is not yours, there is a very high chance you will have your heart broken. But as Ann Voskamp states in her book The Broken Way it takes breaking of anything for anything to grow... that even the mightiest of oaks was once a cracked tiny seed. Even our beings are made of broke cells that divide over and over again, creating us. My paraphrasing may be slightly off there, but you get the point. God does break us to make room for him. He breaks our hearts so that it can be capable of expanding to hold more love. He lends me these children for a bit of time so that I may water broken seeds and fertilize. And they often get repotted to thrive. They are ultimately his children and that brings me peace. So tonight I sit here staring at a beautiful painting Sparkle bought me for Christmas with her own earned money. I am grateful for my time with her. She has helped me grow in Christ and made me more accountable as a Christian. There is nothing like a teenager to make sure you are practicing what you preach. I am not the biggest on the preaching part, but she made me better at the practicing part anyways. I really care that she sees Christ love in me. I know I may not get to talk to her for 15 months until she turns 18. If that is God's plan, I will be ok with it. I can't wait to see what this little seedling grows into with the proper care in this boarding school. I imagine she will be a mighty oak, strong, able to withstand the most fierce of storms. For now I sit here, she is gone, but God, well my friends he is here.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Changes Come

Changes come, turn my word around.


After a year sabbatical, I am returning to blogging. I should begin with sharing why I stopped.
Sweetie has always known about my blog. She has read it at times. Last December she used it as a form of triangulation between her therapist and myself. Even though there is no identifying information she tried saying the reason she can't trust me is my blog. I knew it was a manipulation so she didn't have to work on her issues during her session but I still decided to take it out of the equation and just stopped. I originally planned on taking a few month break and then life hit warp speed. I will do my best to wrap it all up in as few words as possible while still giving proper attention to key events of the year. I want to put a disclaimer. 2016 was awful, really agonizingly awful. But in the complete mess that was 2016, God was ever present.
The first 3 months were pretty status quo. Driving often to Winston Salem for meetings and visits with Sweetie while she was in her IAFT placement. She did fairly well while there. But visits home were always a challenge. Spartacus had his first birthday and we celebrated with a Hungry Caterpillar  birthday party. It was a lot of fun with many people packed into our small home.
Then April happened... My husband headed to his hometown of Portoviejo Ecuador for a 2 week visit. Spartacus started with a high fever of 102.9. I took him to the doctor but they couldn't find anything and ruled it viral. During the week the fever persisted and I called multiple times but there were no other symptoms, so they said just keep him comfortable with Motrin and Tylenol. Then Spartacus' jaw swelled up on one side, we headed back to the pediatrician and she thought it could be the mumps or an infection of the parotid gland. She put him on antibiotics.
Within a day, his jaw swelled up even larger and he spiked a fever that was over 104, so I headed to the emergency room. After bloodwork and an ultrasound, he was admitted and they found he had a growth in his neck that might be infected. They started him on steroids and antibiotics.
The next day when I ran home to check on my pups and shower quickly, I walked in to find my schnauzer Boobah collapsed lying in his own urine. He had a stroke sometime during the night. A couple of friends immediately came over to help me get him to the emergency vet and I had to say goodbye to my most beloved dog. I lost a piece of my heart that day. As challenging as my life had been to that point, that was the worst moment of my life. I immediately had to head back to the hospital. We were in the tiniest little room that didn't even have a real window. The nurses were so sweet and managed to arrange to get me a hospital bed instead of the crib. That way I could sleep in the bed with Spartacus. I brought in my oil diffuser, my favorite quilt and music. That night I laid in that hospital bed in the little room with lights out with only the glow from the diffuser. The air smelled of lavender, roman chamomile and blue tansy. Soft music played, I had a playlist I had made for a friend whose daughter had brain surgery still stored, so it was the perfect music for the moment. In that little closet of a room, it felt like there was only Spartacus, myself and God in the whole world and I was truly at peace. I am so grateful for that little room and those hours of being held by God.
Meanwhile, my husband was still working on trying to get back home. It was a several hour drive to the nearest airport and then he was on standby for a flight home. Once he arrived he was in such a complete state of depression and anger that I had to kick him out of the hospital because he was yelling at people. And then 2 days later on April 16th a 7.8 earthquake hit Ecuador and his home city of Portoviejo was devastated. The building Cris was staying in and should have still been staying in was destroyed. If he was there he would have died. Immediately, I connected the fact that had Spartacus not been hospitalized, I would have lost Cris. Over the next 3 weeks we were in and out of the hospital 2 more times with Spartacus and this growth that became infected with MRSA. We sent 26 days total in the local children's hospital and Spartacus underwent 1 minor surgery to try and drain the infection and then a major one. A pediatric neck specialist was brought in to remove the growth that was now the sized of a baseball, his lymph nodes in his neck, part of his parotid gland and clean out the MRSA infection. Spartacus was a trooper through all of it. Every single day we were surrounded by people who loved us. We were brought meals, toys and coloring books for me. Friends who worked in the hospital came at all hours to check on us and or pray for us. I can not tell you of another time in my life, that I ever felt so well loved. While we were in the hospital with Spartacus, Cris lost his job for taking too much time off. He was told if he didn't come in for work the day of Spartacus' surgery that he didn't have a job. A few days later the truck team he normally drove with flipped on the highway and seriously injured the man who was in the seat where Cris would have been sitting. Again, God used something really horrible to save Cris. Sweetie's reaction to everything we had gone through was extremely hurtful. She stated that we deserved all of it. And then she went back to non-communication with us. Pulling further and further away from us.
The day we were getting discharged from the hospital I received an email asking if I would provide respite care for a teen for 2 weeks. Being me, I said yes. This has turned into a long term placement and a crazy legal battle for this teen, which has resulted in her being placed with us as her court appointed placement. Cris losing his job lead to Cris and I started our own business and it has been doing well. Normal ebbs and flows, but doing well for a new business.
In the middle of all this we moved to be closer to our support system and I was hospitalized twice with MRSA on my face. And then a couple weeks later our church community lost one of it's most beloved members in a motorcycle accident. He was the father of two of the young men I have worked with in our church youth for years. This rocked our church community. Again, I watched as our community surround his family and love them the same way that their family and the rest of the community surrounded us in the hospital. We are just so blessed to receive and share love like this.
Sweetie happened to be scheduled for a home visit during the funeral of my friend. And like every other visit we ad issues. The week after the visit in a therapy appointment she requested that we relinquish her to DSS custody. She shared that she had been in contact with he biological family and wanted to go back to them. We tried to explain that this was not a possibility because their rights were terminated for abuse/neglect and we would be charged with abandonment if we relinquished.
She did not care and threatened to start making false accusations against my husband again. Thankfully she did this in front of her therapist, because we did not relinquish and she stuck to her word. She reported us both for abuse of all kinds. At one point she was freaking out that there was gonorrhea all over her (perfectly clear) face. Stating that my husband raped her and gave it to her.  This went on for days.. She went and was test 3 times for VD and all time came back negative. AT the same time her bio family was on their way up from Florida to get her because she told them we were all abusing her and that she was being raped. Due to all this and explosive behaviors in the home, Sweetie was taken back to the local mental hospital again. I was called to be a part of admitting her. While we were there and I was being interviewed by a nurse in an office, Sweetie called DSS and reported that I abandoned her at the hospital.(While I was in the room across the hall from her). Multiple calls and reports were made to DSS by her that week and luckily, none were investigated. Last time we were investigated for false allegations that we almost divorced. This time was scarier becasue we feared that they could remove Spartacus from our home. Sweetie was than moved to a new foster home. This one seems to be good for her and she seems semi-stable. The most stable she has been in the last 4 1/2 years she came to live with us. Her plan is now to reunify with her family when she turns 18 next year and I finally reached the point where I accept that I really can not fix her, I am not The Christ. I had said that so many times before, but now my heart believed it. I have moved my relationship with her to that of an advocate. With all that is going on,I started battle symptoms of what was narrowed down by doctors to be Fibromyalgia. The constant stress from the last several years were taking a toll on my body, I started working with a therapist for treatment of secondary PTSD and deep tissue work a couple times a month on effected joints. Life began to fall into a rhythm. My cousin moved down here from NY and comes to spend time with Spartacus 3 times a week. He is a normal rambunctious toddler, getting into everything and has the sweetest personality, He absolutely loves the young lady living with us and harassing our 3 pups.
We took him on a Disney cruise with his best buddy and their family. It was a sweet break before the storm that was to come. On October 24th one of my best friends has twins at 26 weeks gestation after being in the hospital in labor for 7 days. Both girls were born under 2 pounds. Despite all odds the girls are doing well today and are almost ready to be discharged home. After spending a lot of time in the hospital, I started back to my normal busy life. I spent a good portion of the fall knitting, sewing and painting to make items for a fundraiser for a good friend's adoption from China. There seemed to always be someone having a baby or being in the hospital, so I do what I do to love on people...I cooked. I joined a team going on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. I have always wanted to go on a mission trip and the last 2 years I couldn't because of the timing. Myself and 2 other young ladies became the fundraising team leaders. We were so excited about our bake sales and other events we had planned. On November 3rd One of these young ladies passed away at the age of 29. A young woman so full of life and love for God that just poured out of her onto everyone she came in contact with. Another huge blow to my church community. And again we did what we do, we began loving on that family. The Sunday before she posted this on Facebook. It hit me, She really got it! This is how life should be lived. On a single sheet of paper she summed up what it meant to live for Jesus. And I wanted this. So this picture is saved on my phone and I look at it every day. I am committed to living this.
2 weeks to the day later was an absolutely horrendous day. That is the day that one of my sweet boys from my youth group committed suicide. A young man so full of joy, from one of the sweetest families you could ever meet. Nothing could have prepared our community for this loss that has left us all still in a fog. I can still feel the pound of my heart as I walk down the street to tell our closest friends who were very close to the teen. Being the person to break the news was excruciating. I did not want to be the one to do it, but I didn't want them to get it through a phone tree. My heart hurts everyday with the loss of this young man and the loss that our community has experienced as a whole. I miss my young friend and the carefree relationship I had with his sisters. I miss the innocence of our young adults in the youth and that they are all now not so shiny and bright. That has been replaced with deep connections and real hard conversations. There is guilt and doubt. It has drastically changed the landscape of our community forever.
As if there was not enough pain, a few weeks later another friend and member of our church lost her mother. 3 deaths in less than 7 weeks. In the 15 years prior there had been very few deaths. All 4 deaths in the last 6 months involved major lovers of Jesus and I know they are rejoicing in heaven. But those of us who are left behind are now completely changed. We were a hip, fun church and now we are weary and worn. I imagine the feeling being like that of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness  for 40 years thinking "Where are you God??? How can we have to face so much pain, layered on top of more pain?". The holidays were quiet this year. Concentrating on reflection and being in the moment with Spartacus. Finding joy in the little moments. That is really all I could bring myself to do.
Oh and I forgot, as if life wasn't crazy enough, we got another puppy. When I took our court appointed teen up to see a friend, I got to spend time with her friend's mom and the puppies that she breeds. She had a puppy that looked just like Boobah! I had to bring him home! And he is just like Boobah... I forgot how much of a chewer he was. Ugh! 

So, that was the Cliff Note's version of the last year. In 2016 changes did come and turned our world around....But while my year has been flipped upside down, I have never been more sure that God is here among us making beauty out of the mess.