2 moms. 3 kids. 1 amazing adventure.

Archive for November, 2011

Every Child Deserves A Family

Statistics say that the U.S. has about 405,000 kids in foster care.   Each year, about 125,000 of those children are in need of an adoptive resource.

Olivia used to be one of those statistics.

And every time I find myself getting complacent about the fight for equality for our families, I remind myself of Olivia’s adoption day.  Dawn and I were both licensed as foster mothers for Olivia.  We both had equal standings and rights (or lack thereof, in some situations) for everyday decision-making and signing of papers.  Two and a half years after she was placed into our home–into our family–I adopted her.  Even though we were allowed to foster her together, when the case moved to adoptions only one of us could apply.  While we were able to be open and out in the homestudy, only I was listed as the petitioner for adoption.  Applying with both of us as petitioners wasn’t exactly against the law, but a joint petition had never been approved either.  By attempting it, we would likely be denied.  We would risk losing our daughter.  I’m all for a good fight, but not with a potential result like that.

As we sat in the courtroom on January 20, 2006, I glanced over and saw the tears in Dawn’s eyes.  I knew that most of those tears were ones of happiness at finally knowing we would never receive a phone call saying Olivia was being moved.  Some of those tears, though, were of sadness.  With the adoption finalized, Dawn had even fewer rights to our daughter than she did as her foster mother.  She could no longer sign off on medical paperwork, enroll her in school, or have an official title in terms of legality.

It doesn’t have to be like this, though.  The “Every Child Deserves A Family Act” has just been introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.  The House version of the bill already has 80+ bi-partisan (hard to imagine in this day and age, I know!!) co-sponsors showing support.  The “Every Child Deserves A Family Act” would work to increase the number of stable, loving homes available to those 125,00 kids in need by discouraging state laws and practices that prevent otherwise qualified and eager LGBT persons from fostering or adopting.

I wonder if it might have been different for us had this been around in 2006.  I’d like to think so.  Please consider contacting your Representatives and Senators to show your support of the ECDF Act.  One way to do so is by heading to the Family Equality Council‘s website, where there is a link to a simple form that will be forwarded to the proper legislators.

Let’s work to break down the barriers for building loving families!

A New Low

I’ve been called many a name in my life.  My sister started it when she was about three and started calling me “emu” to try to upset me.  🙂  Most recently (and many times), I’ve been called a “Union Thug”  by supporters of our state governor, who weaseled an anti-collective bargaining law onto the books.  I’m not fazed by it at all.  If the best argument you can make in defense of your beliefs is to call names…well, that speaks volumes now, doesn’t it?  I witnessed a new low the other night, though.

On Tuesday evening, the kids and I met up with some of my former co-workers and attended a recall-the-governor rally.  We were there to kick off the efforts and to sign a recall petition.  We listened to some speakers get us fired up and then we marched a few blocks to the governor’s neighborhood.  His neighbors in support of the recall  had set up stations in their yards for the 3000 or so marchers to stop and sign petitions.

There were supporters of the governor in front of his home as we silently walked past.  We made our way down the block, the adults joyfully signed a petition, and we began to backtrack our route to get to the car.  As we passed the governor’s house the second time, one of his supporters pointed at the kids and said, “Don’t you know Governor Walker is making this a better state for you kids?”

I wanted to say something, but we silently kept moving.  The organizers had requested that we not speak once we crossed the street into the residential area and I wanted to be respectful of that.   And how do you think the man responded?  What does he do?  He circled in front of us and he spat at our feet.  Yes, you read that correctly.  He spat at us.

Wordless Wednesday {Moustaches}

Conversations with a Two Year Old

Moving on to something lighter today, while my mind spins in the background about that to do with my face.book dilemma…

Have I ever mentioned that I think two is one of the best ages?  Well, I do.  I love it!  I know so many people refer to it as the “terrible twos”, but I’m smarter than that.  I know it’s really the “threes” that’ll drive me crazy(ier)! 🙂

Amelia’s verbal skills and her imagination are exploding lately and it is so fun to watch!  These are just a few of the scenes from our house this morning:

We’ve had our fill of Halloween candy around here, so the candy fairy came last night.  The kids picked a few more pieces to keep in cabinet and then put the rest into a bag by the front door.  This morning, they all went running to see what the candy fairy had left for them.  Amelia examined the spoon/straw combo that each kid got.  Then she looked into the empty bag.  Next thing I know, she’s stomping across the room to me.  The bag is thrust into my hands and she exclaims, “Not even M&Ms left!!!”

When I mentioned that the high for today was a balmy 38 degrees, the big kids were excited to don their winter hats and gloves with their coats.  Amelia, however, insisted on wearing her polka-dotted sun hat with her winter coat.  Whatever.  I’m smart enough to pick my battles!   Olivia hasn’t learned that lesson, though.  Amelia kept saying “no” to  Olivia as she tried to change hats for her.  Finally, Amelia plops her hands on her head to cover the hat and says, “O-La-La, I just need poppa dots today.”

After drop off this morning, we ran a few errands and headed home.  As soon as she got her coat (and sun hat) off, she wandered into the living room.  I was changing the garbage bag in the kitchen when I hear this knocking sound over and over.  I went to investigate.  My findings?  Amelia, leaning her ear against the tv, is knocking on the blank screen.  She doesn’t notice me, so I watch for a moment.  She turns to put her forehead on the screen, peers into the  television, and whispers, “Elmo?  You play hide and seek in there?”

Oh, that girl cracks me up!

The Sons of My Heart

Once upon a time, in my pre-wife and family life, I (and an ex partner) were foster parents to two young boys.  They came to us at two and three and a half years old.   Adorable, wonderful, sweet little boys.  They had been through a lot before placement, but were strong and resilient.  They soon fit right in and we grew as a family.  In those days, foster care procedures and policies were much different from they were when Olivia was placed (and, I presume, today).   Unfortunately, much of what happened to us (and my subsequent fight to change the system) is the reason things are different for same-sex couples who are fostering in my city today.

One thing that still hasn’t changed, though, is that case workers come and go at rapid pace.  For J and N, we were lucky to have competent, caring case workers.  Right up until the last one…the one that essentially stole my sons.  The case plan for J and N had just been changed to adoption.  Unfortunately, like was the case with Olivia, only one of us could petition for adoption because they wouldn’t allow a joint petition from a same-sex couple.  I became the adoptive resource and we began the wait for the court to approve the new goal so that a homestudy could get underway.

Then we got the case worker from hell.  The first time she came to visit our home, she was obviously uncomfortable with our family make-up.  At the end of our meeting, she outright stated that she didn’t think that our “situation” was right for kids to be a part of.   Whoa.  I called the supervisor, asking for a new case worker, but was informed that there was not another available, the case worker would be talked to about what happened, and that we should not expect any more problems.  On the surface–to our knowledge–this held true.

Until the day that the boy’s daycare center director called me into her office at pick-up.  Apparently, the case worker had not been filing the proper papers for payment of childcare services.  The daycare center had not been paid in two months.  The director informed me that she had attempted calls to the worker, but was getting no response.  She asked that I call and see if I might be able to get the situation resolved.  I assumed that it was an oversight on the part of the case worker.  Perhaps she didn’t realize that it was her responsibility to acquire the approvals for payment.

I called her and left her a message.  She called me back almost immediately.  When I explained the situation, she said it didn’t matter because she was having J and N removed from our home.  The next morning.  That she had a new foster family all lined up.  And that’s when I knew we’d been sabotaged.  Children in stable placements–adoptive resource placements–are not removed without reason.  Other foster families are not lined up–not waiting for last-minute moves–for no good reason.  I questioned the worker on the details, and she informed me that there was nothing I could do.  She would be there at 8 a.m. the next morning to move the boys.

I called the supervisor, but had to leave a voicemail.  I called my partner, A, and lost it.  She left voicemails for the supervisor and the supervisor’s supervisor.  We realized that we weren’t going to get through to anyone that late in the day, and knew this nightmare was going to happen.   I threw up in the bathroom while A called my best friend to arrange for everyone to get together with the boys that night .  What were we going to say to the boys?  How could we explain to two preschoolers that they were wanted and loved by us and that we would be fighting to get them back, even while they had to go live with someone else?

The next morning, the case worker arrived.  When she saw all the things–clothes, toys, books, bikes, etc–that belonged to J ands N, she said it wouldn’t fit into her car.  It would be left behind.  I refused.  Yelled that it was bad enough that this was even happening and they sure were going to have the things that were familiar to them and BELONGED to them.  It ended up that we had to pack it into OUR car and follow her to the new foster home to deliver it.

And that was where I last saw my sons.  As I took their belongings to the porch of their new “home”, I hugged them, kissed them, and sobbed.  I drove away and watched from my rearview mirror as  the case worker held them back as they screamed and tried to run after the car.  That image is forever burned into my memory.  Occasionally, I still wake up in the middle of the night from a flashback of this trauma.

I did talk to a supervisor.  It turns out that the case worker had outright lied in the case files.  She had actually written–I saw it with my own eyes–that WE had asked for the removal of J and N.   That was dated the same month that the daycare stopped being paid.  Two months before they were moved.  No amount of explaining this untruth made it go away.  Apparently, if it’s written into the case files it is the truth.  And if it’s not written there, it never happened.  Which is why, when I tried to connect the dots with the discriminatory circumstances surrounding our first visit and follow-up calls to the supervisor, there were no dots to be connected.  That supervisor (now long gone and replaced with someone new, of course) had never recorded any of that information in the file.  And so it never happened.  Despite my repeated requests to have  J and N moved back into our home, the requests were always denied.  The pain and stress of this eventually became a major contributor to the end of my relationship with A.

With a social worker at the foster care licensing agency, I worked to have changes made to the “system”.  Today, case workers receive training on working with same-sex couples who foster children, foster parents receive trainings on working with LGBTQ youth, and sexual orientation is specifically written into the non-discrimination policies of all involved agencies.  I’m glad that these are in place, but it still doesn’t bring me my sons back.

It does bring me to my current dilemma, though.  J turned sixteen a couple of months ago and I wrote him a letter, like I always do on each boy’s birthday, and put it in my memory box with his photographs and artwork.  As I wrote, it occurred to me that he could be on face.book.  And so I looked.  And there he was.  His page has a “friends only” privacy setting, but he has a very unusual first and last name and the profile picture, while not a close up, appears to be him.  I sit with this information, but I don’t know what to do with it.  Would he even remember me?  Care to remember me?  Can I face the reality of what his life has been like–good or bad?  I’m not sure.

Photographic Evidence

In the Apple Orchard with Grandpa Jerry

My Dad came up for a visit.  We had a wonderful time…except for the stomach bug that kept his long-time girlfriend, S, in the hotel room all weekend.

Picking Pumpkins

The very next weekend we went back to the same place for the pumpkin fields.  Notice that we were all wearing short sleeves (and were too hot in long pants!) last weekend, yet had to drag out the fleece jackets just seven days later (and were still cold!)?

Action Shot

We’ve watched Olivia play some great soccer.

Darth Vader

Olivia carved her own pumpkin from start to finish this year

Haunted House

We carved some fantastic pumpkins.  My carving contribution was an Elmo for Amelia, but I didn’t even realize until I uploaded pictures that I never took a picture of it.  I hope it’s not mush when I head out to snap a picture of it in all it’s lighted glory.  I just went to check:  Yep…mush.  There will be no photographic record of the cuteness.  😦

 

80s Day at school

Olivia and Owen dressed for 80s Day at school.  Yes, I’m completely aware that the 80s Rocker wig and the preppy turned up collar don’t go together.  🙂  I wanted to turn Owen’s curls into a “Flock of Seagulls” style or use a piece of the wig to make a “tail”, but he would have nothing to do with those once he saw this monstrosity!  Olivia thought it was HILARIOUS that I dressed like this every day when I was her age!

 

Two!!

Some little sweetheart decided she just had to turn 2!!!

Trick or Treat

We trick or treated in our neighborhood after the birthday party.  Yes, it’s weird, but our city doesn’t do trick or treating on Halloween.  The city schedules it for the afternoon of the closest Sunday.  Our neighborhood does their own little thing on the Saturday evening closest to Halloween.  It is VERY strange to get used to…

Anyway, Owen is Darth Vader.  The giraffe is Amelia.  Olivia is a preteen Dracula.  Other party revelers are a candy witch  and an (older) preteen Dracula.

Halloween Lunch Menu

Olivia and Owen had a little lunchbox surprise for Halloween.

Looks Delish!

The mummy and vampire blood were the biggest hit. 🙂
And there we have it.  One month condensed into just eleven pictures.  Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Blog On…

Well, I figure I’d better make this my new motto before any more time slips away between posts.  🙂

It’s going around here.  Some days it’s going better than others, but it is improving.  The good news is that we’ve got a plan and we’re committed to slogging through this stuff together.

I’ve thought through a lot of posts in my head over the past month, but they never seem to make it to the publish stage…or even the draft stage, for the most part.  So that’s got to change.  I’m in no way delusional enough to think I can/will be able to post daily in November for NaBloPoMo, but I will take it as a personal challenge to get back on the blogging track.

I think I’ll start the easy way.  Picture post of the last month’s highlights coming up….

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