Christina and Carl are parents to 2 active little boys. They adopted them through state foster care 3 years ago. I’ve known C for a several years and have watched as she has given herself to seeing her sons learn love and family.
JC: Give me a verbal picture of your current family.
CB: Mom and Dad, two incredible boys, 4 (he’ll be 5 in 3 weeks) and 6 1/2, three cats and an awesome 14 year old dog.
JC: Let’s back up a few years. Talk a little, if you want, about the IF process and the timing, and then why and when you started considering adoption.
CB: We started trying to conceive in 2003. In 2005, our Reproductive Endocrinologist told us our only real option was IVF-ICSI. God provided, we went for it and ended up with two beautiful embryos and a negative result. Our next cycle was an IUI and I got pregnant. We ended up moving soon after and I miscarried the week we moved. We tried for 6 more cycles when I just couldn’t take the drugs. I’m not made to be a druggie, apparently.
Carl had agreed to go to ONE adoption meeting. When we left he said "No way. I will NEVER raise someone else’s child." Never say never! A few months later he got to know my awesome cousin who, at the time, had adopted seven kids. He saw her husband playing ball in the front yard with the boys and decided an adoptive father is a real dad. So, we went through the classes. At the end of the classes we decided we didn’t care if we adopted or not, we just wanted to be foster parents.
JC: Why did you choose foster adoption? What is the process of adopting through FC?
CB: Uh, the RE had all our cash. In Ohio, you can be a foster or an adoptive parent, or get certified for both.You have to take classes and get a home study. There is no cost; instead, you get paid $10/hour for the classes. It was just around 9 months from our first class to when our sons moved in. It cost nothing. Instead, we got a foster stipend for our sons, and the court costs were reimbursed. We also got an adoption stipend because the boys were considered special needs. That continues until they are 18. Additionally, we have Medicaid for the boys.
JC: Were your sons the first kids you were presented with? How did you find out about them?
CB: We weren’t really presented with them. We got flyers about kids. We had an emergency placement of 2 girls, who were 18 months and 3 years old. They were with us for 5 1/2 weeks. While they were with us we got a flyer of our boys. I took one look at it and said, "The younger one has a mullet, and just look at the list of special needs. No way, no how.” I did show the flyer to Carl before throwing it out.
Three different social workers called us about them and I said ‘NO" to the first two. The third one called and said, "We’re going into the match meeting and we’re ready to present you." I told them, ‘But we already have 2 kids 3 and under in our home. I can’t HANDLE 4 kids under 4." They reminded me that the girls were most likely going home that evening and that it just meant we could learn more about the boys. So I gave in. The girls went home that evening.
We made the "short list" for the boys during that meeting. Either we’d be the boys’ parents or one of 3 other families. We had a 16 year old girl for respite next and interviewed for them the last Friday she was with us.
The boys were legally free for adoption; the parental rights of their birthparents were already terminated. After 6 months we could file for finalization, which we did, and we finalized shortly thereafter.
JC: How long did you know about them before they came to live with you?
CB: We met the boys about a month and a half before they came home. Goodness, that was the longest month of my life.
JC: What were some of the struggles? What parts were easier than you thought, and what parts were harder?
CB: The only part that is easier than I thought is waking up when they need me. I’m a very heavy sleeper and I worried about it.
There still are struggles. However, those struggles also bring a very special joy. When we were matched Hayden was supposed to be retarded. He had two pediatric neurologists and was being tested for all kinds of things. The social workers told us he’d most likely never live on his own. Three months after moving in the child was cognitively ahead. Huh. How about them apples? So, in a way it’s easier, but the kid is seriously smart so I’m in for a run for my money in a way I didn’t expect.
Both boys were over a year behind in speech, also. They moved in a week before school started, so finding a pre-school for our eldest son was difficult, but we managed.
The hardest part has been the fits and the being different. Our sons LOOK normal, but they don’t act it. Well, they USUALLY act it in public, but rarely at home. They’re both rather violent. It’s not fun. They also have different issues; one is terrified of trying anything new. The funniest fit we have had was about trying a new milkshake flavor. Nope, it’s a new flavor; I’ll have a fit. The other one has issues following directions from ANY adult. It’s a power struggle over everything.
At first they were very confused and I couldn’t leave them in anyone else’s care or they’d freak out, thinking they were getting yet another mom and dad. That’s gotten better, thank God.
JC: Talk about the therapies and counseling they went through a little.
CB: Oh goodness, that is THE most frustrating thing! We’ve hired and fired a number of counselors. The last one diagnosed them both with RAD, said one has OCD (I disagree) and the other has ADHD/ODD (I disagree with that also). Then she said they were VERY bonded to us. She saw horrid behavior (which I don’t want to describe, quite honestly) and called it normal. Yeah. Thanks. They’ve also had speech therapy.
JC: How long did it take you to bond with them?
CB: Well, one of us bonded IMMEDIATELY, but the other one, we’re still working on it. It’s a process, going both ways. I’ve learned that loving them isn’t the frolicking in the tulips feeling I thought it would be, it’s the cleaning up throw-up, forcing a child to do something they reeeeaaalllyyy don’t want to, it’s the saying "I’m sorry’s”, the cooking, cleaning and just plain getting to know your child in an intimate way. We have the normal childhood issues, but they’re compounded and it’s forced me to explain things I wouldn’t think to explain (like how insurance works to a 5 year old. It was the only thing that stopped his dreams of our home being destroyed, knowing HOW we’d pay for everything). The bond is there, and it’s growing, but the older one still doesn’t trust that we’re in it for the long haul, or that we have his best interests at heart and the younger one, well, he just plain challenges all authority, with good reason.
JC: How do others react to your children?
CB: The initial reaction is always how incredibly cute they are (I’m not biased, they really are that cute. If God used us to create children they wouldn’t be nearly as adorable). When the fact that they were adopted and are biological siblings comes up there are a lot of "Oh, God will bless you for doing this" or “I really admire that you did that" or something else that makes it sound like my kids are charity. They aren’t charity any more than any other child is charity for their parents.
People also ask if they’re brothers or what happened to their mom. Ok, first of all, they ARE biological brothers, but I’m their mom and they share a mom and dad so they’d be brothers regardless. I understand that most are asking about their birth mom, but, seriously? Strangers ask for such personal details in front of them? I find it shocking.
Most of our family does not understand our parenting. That’s been hard because the family truly thinks we’re being mean, they don’t understand building trust with hurting kids. They don’t understand that my children will throw inappropriate fits and do things differently. I get a bit testy about that one. Our dear friends, who have gotten to know us as a family do understand, and that’s a great source of support.
JC: How did the process of adopting and bonding with your sons affect your marriage?
CB: It’s brought some of our struggles to the forefront, but it’s also helped BOTH of us prioritize better. They come first and that’s final. We’ve also had to be a team in action.
JC: What do you want people to know about foster adoption?
CB: I’m always shocked when people say they can’t afford to adopt. There are a TON of kids available, for free. I have no clue what it’s like to parent other kids, nor do I wish to know. My son’s smiles are literally earned with blood, sweat and tears. Those smiles are the most precious thing I can imagine. It took three years for one child to fall asleep with me in the room, but he fell asleep on my lap and OH MY GOODNESS, tears of joy were streaming down my face. I love watching them blossom and unfold; they are the most amazing kids I’ve ever met. I’m just . . . well, blown away that God has entrusted their lives to us and we get to see them grow up!
Our foster daughters, well, I still miss them but there’s something special about taking care of children who truly have no where else to go. It really teaches you about serving.
To find out more about waiting children, go to AdoptUsKids.org