November is a time to raise awareness, celebrate adoptions and share our stories.
On November 1, 1995, President Bill Clinton set forth proclamation 6846 for National Adoption Awareness Month. The declaration supports adoption awareness, recognizing all parties from the beginning to the end.
“For many people across the United States, adoption provides a means of building and strengthening families. It places children into loving, permanent homes, where they can flourish and grow up … “
And one day, we answered the call, blindly jumped in, and held on for the ride. Our family chose adoption as part of our journey, but the process has been so much more.
In 2010, a situation came up and a family member needed help, and in the worst way. While difficulties came and life happened, we stepped up with very few questions and little knowledge of the process. Suddenly, we went from a family of five one day to a family of seven the next. It wasn’t too long before the process became so much more than just a helping hand; it was a full-time job inside of our full-time jobs.
Hurry up and wait
While waiting for our next steps, we held the role of kinship family, also known as relative placement. But closeness to one relative and not the other posed significant challenges. As the days turned into months, the court set a recommendation that we move forward by applying for a foster care license through the state. Doing so would help us access benefits and programs that could assist with basic needs such as food, clothing, and medical care, all basic requirements for our almost four-year-old.
Now known as TIPS-MAPP
A 30-hour in-person group training is the first step towards a foster care license. The class looked at everything– our relationships with family, friends, even each other. They reviewed the stability of our home and marriage, along with a home study that feels like a final exam.
It takes on a different perspective of parenting, challenges things that we thought we knew, and brings to light so many things that we didn’t know at all. We shared our life, home, and time with strangers from DHS, social workers, Four Oaks case supervisors, attorneys, the court, and even the children’s biological family members for more than two years.
Reality Vs. the other Reality: Mine, Ours, and Theirs
It is not easy. We rearranged schedules, sometimes planned but a lot of times not. There were court-mandated appointments for both the girls as well as the family. We had to move holidays to accommodate everyone’s needs on all sides to be “fair.” We assisted with transportation for visitations to keep moving forward, but often those visits fell wayside, while other times we sat waiting for a visit that never came. Even though we felt we were giving all we could, it was not working out any longer, and we were getting tired. Every time something happened, their little hearts would break, and we were the ones trying to hold it together.
Every few months, we would use a vacation day to sit in a courtroom where it seemed like we heard the same things over and over while never moving forward.
And then all of a sudden, one day, it all changed!
Far beyond the 18 months that we initially believed and a long way from the permanency goal once set, we had our day in court in January 2013. We adopted the girls, and now we share the same last name.
We Built A New Village
As a household of nine, we are blessed with seven beautiful daughters aged twenty-four down to three. We have a “normal” family, with the occasional teenage antics, toddler pearls of wisdom, and young adults who know where home is if they ever need it. We have different opinions, and though we don’t always like each other, we always find strength together.
While writing this paper, I realized that even though I do not read every newsletter anymore or follow all the resources on social media, I still find myself questioning some of the processes. Every day we live through the lessons that this journey has given our family, all the fears, tears, struggles, laughs, milestones, and in the end, we have each other, and we are still writing our stories.
Though opening your home may not be an option, there are so many other things you can do to be a part of something so big, and it all starts with opening your heart.
“Belonging to a family is a natural and vital component of life, and every child deserves to be a member of a loving and nurturing family.” – Ronald Reagan.
Iowa Department of Human Service (DHS)
Four Oaks – Main
5400 Kirkwood Blvd SW
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Four Oaks Foster and Adoptive Family Connections
Cedar Rapids Area
Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parent Association (IFAPA)
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