Friday, June 20, 2008

Adding More Kids

The whole time Chet was growing up I had a deep desire to parent more children. However, Chet's needs were so intense that i could not see how i could fairly give other children the time and energy that they would need. We had friends who had a child with severe emotional and behaviorial issues and we saw how the younger sister had a situation which I would call "benign neglect." She received the basics but almost in a perfunctory way as the needs of the elder brother constantly sucked away the time and energy of the parents. I didn't want that for other children. But as Chet became a teen some of the issues that would preclude other children changed. There were no longer frequent rages. He could do some things (like dressing) himself. He would eat food that was put in front of him, albeit in a manner less socially normal than others and in general he could stay safe without our constant supervision. In some respects, we had it pretty easy. He had his homeschooling time with us but spent a lot of time reading or watching movies. He no longer wanted to hike with us as much as in the past. We were on the cusp of an empty nest.

And we weren't ready for the nest to be empty! Maybe partly that it felt that the nest was never really "full." I know Chet loves us, but he is fundamentally unable to really show that love most of the time. He gives a hug every night before bed but honestly because it is rote. Something we taught him. He has never learned to let others share, to spontaneously ask "are you OK?" etc. Aspergers tends to make emotional IQ very difficult to develop and this is profoundly true for him.

The summer that Chet was 16 we saw a Wednesdays Child segment on TV. It was a freak thing. We didn't typically watch that, but there we were, and there were 3 of the cutest children I have ever seen, 2 girls and a boy. The boy was 5, the girls 8 and 9. We called the next day. It was rather surreal how quickly things happened. Chet's adoption journey took so long but kids in foster care, particularly sibling groups are I think moved along much more quickly. We had to take a state mandated training and that was set up quickly. We filled out paperwork and the house was inspected and deemed safe for 3 more children. Ironically that inspection happened 9/11/2001 It was very strange to know that something horrible was happening to so very many Americans on a day that was so joyful for us. The homestudy was pretty quick as well,our welcome books were made, and by December we were set to meet the 3 children. They were all in separate foster homes and we agreed to visit the day after Chet's adoption day. We felt it was unfair to him to visit on his adoption day; that day was always special to us and should remain "his" day even though as a teen he no longer wanted any kind of real recognition of the day. The kids were a long way away from us, the closest was 90 minutes. We met Robbie first. He was 5. He was somewhat shy but enjoyed coloring with us and showing tree ornaments that he had made for us. He hugged us tightly when we left.

From there we went to see Fiona age 9. (* I have changed the names due to confidentiality reasons) Her foster home was in a truly scary area of town. The neighborhood was run down and the foster mom openly said she never let the kids play outside for safety reasons. Fiona seemed thrilled to meet us, and again played happily with us. She was in a home with many children and seemed to have a special affinity for the youngest of the children, perhaps because in her birth family she was often the primary caregiver.

A long drive then to see Faith in a therepeutic foster home even further away. Her foster mom was fairly hostile to us initially. She said Faith was afraid of a lesbian couple and a WHITE family and didn't want to meet us. She implied we had damaged the holidays for Faith and it was clear that she really wanted to adopt Faith herself. Still the visit went well with Faith and we found her to be a delightful child. She and I especially seemed to connect well. On the long drive home we talked over and over again about each of the children. We were so excited and couldn't wait to bring them home. But we desperately wanted to bring Fiona home first because we felt her situation was the least safe of all the kids.

There would be more visits first before that could happen. A group visit where the kids and our family all gathered at Faith's foster home for an afternoon of games and fun. With the exception of some outbursts from Fiona, the day went well. Chet was with us for that visit and worked hard to try and get to know 3 people in a short period of time. The children began to visit for afternoons and weekends at our house. We found that they had a hard time following directions when all 3 were together but did much better individually. We assumed that was because when they were together in the past, they HAD to make decisions for themselves.

We saw more signs of outbursts from Fiona. Her paperwork had indicated some tantrumming issues which we were not concerned over much about. No one indicated what a "tantrum" was and in our ignorance we imagined what we had seen with Chet. Her present foster mom said she was occasionally "pouty" but nothing more serious than that. Little did we know that foster mom had privately told the agency to move Fiona due to behavior problems and they had begged her to keep her till the adoptive placement happened. Blissfully unaware, we moved Fiona to our house permanently in early January.

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