Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Meant to be?

I recently ranted about people saying that "everything happens for a reason". I've had many people (which I chose to assume are well meaning) that will say this in reference to our daughter (Beautiful). "It was God's will" that she be part of your family, they say. "What about everything that she went through before she got here?" I ask. "Well, everything happens for a reason..."

At this point, I usually don't know how to feel. When Beautiful is not with me, I have the freedom to just walk away without challenging their ignorance. However, when these things are said in front of her, I attempt to end the conversation quickly. Sometimes, the individual may be extremely persistent in their assertion and I feel obligated to quickly point out that I don't believe that God would engineer a situation where my wonderful little girl would have to go through hell just to get to live with us. I never want her to internalize the concept that all of the bad things she's been through was the will of God.

In a perfect world, there would be no adoption. It simply wouldn't be necessary. Children would only be born to parents that want and cherish them. They wouldn't be abused or neglected. Nothing bad would ever happen.

This is NOT a perfect world.

My daughter's biological mother (Rahil) is not an evil person. She is a product of an abusive, horrific childhood. She was failed by the same system that seemed to be making every attempt to fail Beautiful. Fortunately, in a moment of clarity, Rahil chose to remove Beautiful from the merry-go-round of the foster care system. The only way to orchestrate this was to consent to the permanent guardianship arrangement. I could tell that she didn't want to do this, as it meant ending any possibility of ever having Beautiful living under the same roof as her.

However, Rahil said that all she wanted was for Beautiful to be happy, and she knew that she was happy with us. We all agreed that the worst thing that could happen was for Beautiful to be moved, even if it was to be returned to Rahil's home, which was inevitable if she remained in care. Finally, at least for the moment, she seemed to reach the same conclusion that the rest of us had...DHS would place Beautiful back with her for a trial period, even though we all knew that Rahil was not ready. Most likely, it would have lasted for a very short period of time before the babe would be removed again. However, the effects on our beautiful little girl would have lasted a lifetime. It would have been a horrible injustice to gamble with the life of a child in that way.

I'm very proud of her for making this decision, though I know it must have been incredibly difficult. Part of me feels like that experience may have played a role in the downward spiral that has become her life. Prior to that court date last fall, Rahil was starting to finally make progress in straightening out her life. She'd gotten her first job, finally passed a drug test, and actually started attending a few of her AA meetings and parenting classes. Granted, the progress was minimal, but it was more than anyone had ever seen her even attempt.

Within two weeks, Rahil was arrested for domestic violence. This was the first of around a half dozen arrests (that I'm aware of ) in the intervening time. At this moment, no one seems to know where she is. She jumped bail and didn't appear at court for her drug charges. I worry about her. i pray for her. I pray for her other daughter. I pray for Beautiful.

Rahil was adamant that she wanted to see her, to have ongoing contact. At this point, she has never contacted us. Until she disappeared off the radar, I sent regular updates to her and her mother. I sincerely hope that she will one day be able to have contact with Beautiful.

I think the only people that understand my feelings on this are other people in the adoption world. In real life, people seem to find it odd when I refuse to let them bad mouth Rahil. Some even get angry when I tell them that I think contact with between the two could be a good thing. People seem to believe that, since Beautiful was only 1 when she moved in, she will eventually forget that she had a life before our family...that the reality of how she came to exist and how she became part of our family will simply dissolve. They seem to expect that she will never want to know...that it will be a non-issue.

The truth is, though, that she will have questions. She already has questions. At 4, she doesn't know how to articulate her concerns but it's clear that she fears that we might not always be there. After all, we were the 3rd foster home, plus being removed from her biological family twice. She occasionally asks about "that girl"--the only way she ever refers to her mother. When she has nightmares about things that happened to her...things she doesn't remember when she's awake...she asks me why someone would do that to her...why they didn't love her. When she internalizes all the bad and assumes, like most abused children, that there may be something wrong with her, it breaks my heart. I hope that someday she can hear her mother say, in her own words, that she does love her. That the bad things that happened are not Beautiful's fault. I tell her, but I know that it will mean more if it comes from her.

As the child of an adult adoptee, I've watched as my mother tried to process all of this. She had contact with her biological mother most of her life and none with the father. I've seen how the two dynamics have affected her and the results of reunions during adulthood. I sincerely believe that appropriate contact is best and hope that my daughter can experience that.

Regardless, though, I will continue to be there for her and do whatever I can to help her become the best person that she can be. Because she deserves it!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Death Penalty

One of my professors made a comment last week that I found intriguing, so I thought I'd share.

He said that, if an attorney really wanted to abolish the death penalty, they should put all their energy into reinstating the guillotine. Arguably it is the most humane of all the options because the executee (made that word up) feels the least pain with this method. However, it is horrific to watch and might make those that witness it decide that execution is barbaric. After all, he argues, it's not hard to convince the guy who's about to be put to death...it's the people who support it so much they want to witness it.

No matter how you feel about execution as a political idea, when you think about it, he has an excellent point.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Thought for the day:

How does one reach the proper balance of idealism and realism? Is such a phenomenon even possible? If one does reach such a state, will it last OR will the two competing perspectives constantly pull the individual in opposite directions?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Adoption

Three years ago, when we accepted placement of our daughter (Beautiful), we knew that she may not stay with us forever. We'd been through all the foster care training, so we understood that we were risking having our hearts ripped out and stomped on. However, we accepted that risk in order to help an amazing little girl that was having difficulty finding an ICWA compliant home. We vowed that she would be a part of our home for as long as child welfare allowed her to be, and part of our hearts and family forever.

Three years later, her biological mother (Rahil) consented to appoint us as H's permanent guardians. Naturally we were happy that this unexpected development meant that Beautiful would never have to leave our home. Beyond that, though, it was the first time that Rahil even wanted to meet me. We spoke and I had real hopes that she might be able to get her life together, which meant that an ongoing relationship between her and Beautiful would be possible. Unfortunately, we have not heard from her since and no one seems to know where she is.

So, why pursue adoption when the guardianship secures Beautiful's permanency in our home?

This is a question that we have been asked many times, and one that we have discussed and struggled with.

When we agreed to the guardianship, we thought that would probably be the end of our court hearings and such. However, there were many things about this type of arrangement that we were not aware of at the time. Speaking with attorneys in the months that have passed, we've learned a lot about the legalities and have decided to pursue the adoption in order to provide Beautiful with legal protections that she will not have if she remains a ward of the court.

A "ward of the court"? Yes. As long as she only has "guardians" she remains a ward of the court until she reaches the age of majority. This means that Rahil, as her legal (biological) parent, keeps all her rights in tact but has no real obligation to fulfill any of the legal obligations that generally go along with that. This, of course, gives her complete access to Beautiful's information and documents. While Beautiful was in foster care, there were supposedly protections to keep Rahil from interfering with or obtaining these things. Even then, however, we had issues with Rahil changing Beautiful's address to her own. The county health department that discovered this was concerned that Rahil might be trying to claim her as a dependent and draw benefits that she was not lawfully entitled to. Indian Child Welfare was more concerned, though, with the fact that she would be able to find us. Because we live in a rural area, all health providers keep finding directions in their file. As it turns out, because Rahil is the legal parents and Beautiful no longer has the protections afforded by the "foster" status, no office is allowed to refuse her this information. This is of particular concern because of the violent, drug soaked spiral that has been Rahil's life of late. I sincerely hope they are overreacting.

As Beautiful's guardians, we have all the responsibilities of caring for her. We have many of the rights, but not all. Of course, this was not explained to us when we agreed to this arrangment. As it turns out, we cannot have any information from Beautiful's foster care file because we "are not legal parents". Because the case was headed towards termination of Rahil's rights, child welfare compiled a medical and social history for Beautiful. It is supposedly made up of background information for her to have as an adult, so she'll have some facts when she's ready for them. Well, since we aren't legally entitled to them, they can't be released to us on her behalf. This means that she may never be able to obtain them. We may be able to subpoena the file as part of the adoption case. However, if we are unsuccessful in getting this information, Beautiful may never be able to get it. Her only other recourse would be to request that a court unseal the records, once she turns 18. As most of us know, courts aren't always inclined to do so. So, since we were given none of this information at placement, though they are legally required to give us some of it, Beautiful will have NO background information about herself without that file.

Another concern, which many people dismiss, but we take very seriously, is the question of what will happen to our children if my husband and I both die while they are still minors. We have a guardian appointed for our sons who is wonderful and loves them dearly. However, because Beautiful is a ward of the court, we have no legal authority to appoint someone for her. She would automatically be returned to the foster care system. I've looked at all of the angles and, even if we chose another guardian, I can't find any way that would give all three kids a guarantee of staying together. Adoption is the only way to fix that legal problem. I know that we are young, but nothing is guaranteed. I have known lot of young parents that have died and left children behind. It is a very real possibility and we would be very irresponsible to not do whatever possible to protect our children legally. ALL of our children.

As for her relationship with Rahil, her recent convictions for violent crimes raise concern about visitation. However, we are keeping the possibility of communication open. Prior to her disappearing, I continued to send updates. If I ever find out where she is, I will be more than happy to resume doing so. I sincerely hope that Rahil will someday be able to put her life together and, maybe, she and Beautiful can have a relationship. However, only time will tell.

Friday, June 4, 2010

What about the kids?

Ever since I decided to go to law school, I've been experiencing deja vu. Seriously, I have had the exact same conversation over and over again, with many different people. It seems that, when people find out about my plans, 95% of them ask this question: "What about the kids?" Generally this is said in a disapproving or condescending tone. Some brave souls will even go further and attempt to explain to little ol' me just exactly how hard this is going to be for the kids. Others venture further and lament about how hard it will be for my husband to take care of 3 kids and work full time. Almost without fail, when said individuals find out that my children will stay with my parents during my husband's working hours, they drone on about how wonderful it is that my parents are willing to "raise children" again while I complete my education.

Now, I have been ranting about and discussing this with my two best friends, but have thus far spared the online community. However, having discussed this topic with other mothers in the program, it seems that we are all experiencing this same display of sexism. So, I will share my rant with you all, as well:

Granted, I have been a full-time mother most of the time that I have had children. I love it, I truly do. Unfortunately, at this point in time it makes no sense for me to continue to be. I need to be able to earn money and I'm not going to work my ass off for minimum wage when I can have my law degree in just three short years. So, my husband, myself and the children talked it over and decided that this is the best course for improving our family's situation.

These ignorant people never asked "what about the kids?" when both my husband and myself were working full time jobs. As one of my classmates, also the mother of 3, said today, "you could go to work at 7-11 and they'd applaud you for 'working to support your family', but if you try to go back to school to get a better job and life, you're being selfish and abandoning your children". And, for the record, I do know how hard it will be for my husband. There was a time when I was a homeschooling mom, while working a full time job and being a full time student.

During the time that my husband and I were both working night shifts, our children had to stay with my parents, just as they will while I attend school. However, now that I'm in school instead of working it means that my parents are raising them? WTH? And, if one more person asks me if my husband will "babysit" while I take classes, I will scream. It is not babysitting. They are his children too...it's called parenting!

Granted, my being away from my family for most of the summer is a huge departure from our normal routine. I've never been away from my kids so, yes, it is hard. But it will be worthwhile in the end. These mean spirited, judgemental jacka....sorry where was I? Oh yes, these wonderfully well meaning people act like I'm locking the kids in a closet and forgetting about them for 8 weeks. Hellloooo people, we have phones, webcams, etc...they can talk to me everyday. Besides that, they will be coming out here for part of the time. That's not really the point, though. My complaint is this: none of these people, not one, said any of these things when my husband traveled for work. There were times that he was gone for a couple months at a time. None of these supposedly concerned people asked him whether or not I'd be able to take care of the children while he was gone. He was never lectured about how it can be hard or damaging to the children to not see him everyday. He was never accused of abandoning his family. No, he was praised for trying to make life better for us.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

And so it began...

The original blog heading, explaining why I started this whole thing:


Due to continued whining and nagging by those who wish to live vicariously through me (and I love all of you), I have acquiesced to the demands that I blog about my life and our family’s trials and triumphs as I embark on this journey of law school, while embracing all of the challenges that go along with balancing that with our already complicated family. ***This blog has a "sarcasm alert". Read at your own risk***