Our adoption journey was really set in motion when I first went to a DHS information presentation. After class I said to the instructor, “You talked about fostering children, what about adoption?” He told me if I wanted to adopt and didn’t want to wait two years to have a home study created, I would need to go to another agency, like Boys and Girls Aid.
So we did. I called, and my husband David and I attended a foundations class weekend.
We were completely overwhelmed with the information we learned that weekend, so we took a step back to reconsider and weigh our options. We talked a lot about the special needs that the children could have and what that would mean for our lives. We studied the list of what we would be okay to handle. We were put to the test when our caseworker began asking us interview questions. We took a deep breath and knew we would need to better prepare ourselves, and not by just installing smoke detectors in every bedroom.
During our first phone interview with a case worker I was asked, “What is your experience with special needs children?” I answered honestly that we had none. The case worker quickly ended the phone call.
That’s when I knew we needed to do the work to stand out and to be matched with the right children for us. I began reading books on adoption specific to special needs children in foster care. I attended training classes, lectures, and workshops. We began providing respite care for families, one of which we hosted for eight weekends and we still keep in touch.
David and I were in the adoption matching process for two and a half years. During that time, we had our caseworker submit our home study on 72 kids or sibling sets. We’ve had 15 phone interviews with case workers and foster parents, and we prepared family books for an adoption committee four times.
We were selected as a potential match with our children in May 2015. We did our interviews with the case worker and foster parent in June and the adoption committee took place on September 14. David was in China on a business trip when we got the call that the committee had made their decision. I had him on Skype on my computer as I answered the phone and got the news. I gave him a thumbs up that we had indeed been matched with our kids. After I confirmed again 10 more times with our case worker I hung up the phone and burst into tears. We met our kids for the first time at their foster home on September 30th.
“What if they don’t like us?” I asked our case worker days before. She reassured me our match with these children was a “great fit” and even recalled the adoption selection committee stating that “We were custom made for each other.”
As we pulled up to our children’s foster family’s house, our 11-year-old son came out to the drive way to greet us. He extended his hand and said, “Nice to meet you.” I fought back tears as my stomach did cartwheels. I was beyond nervous. Our 9-year-old daughter ran out the front door and screamed “They’re here” and ran back in. We had introductions all around, ate dinner together and then dished up the ice cream sundaes David and I had brought for dessert.
Our son lost a tooth on the candy toppings and asked, “What is the going rate for the tooth fairy at your house?” Everything was a blur. Soon we were saying good night and that we’d see them again tomorrow after school.
They were so excited the next day to see their new home and their new rooms, that we had to bring them home before we could go out for dinner. They burst into the house and started to explore everything. It was hard to keep them from opening everything that first night. Every drawer, every book, every art supply was explored. The dress-up dresser had exploded, the board game cabinet was scrutinized, the video game drawer was judged and our movie collection was critiqued.
The two and a half years David and I spent preparing for our children to join us in our home had all been worth it, all for these fast and furious moments we were sharing together as a new family. They loved everything! And it was clear, they soon would love us, too.
We spent two weeks transitioning them into our home and they moved in forever on October 14th.
I read a book about the importance of ceremonies in a child’s life and since our kids had been in foster care for five years and lived in more than five homes, we thought we needed a ceremony to let them know our house was different. It would be their “forever home” with us, their “forever parents.” After two weeks of back and forth between the foster family and our home it was time to move in. When their foster mom delivered our children to our home we had a goodbye ceremony. After she left, we had a welcome to your home and your forever family ceremony.
When I went to a court hearing in December to meet the judge who would be finalizing our adoption, I brought along a photo album of our family. We had only been together since October but had many adventures already: canoeing, camping, bike riding, hockey games and a Grandma visit. He set the finalization date for six months after they moved in: May 9, 2016.
Our case workers told us that this date probably would not happen because of the home visits and reports that need to be created and filed, then there is the lawyer and that paperwork timeline. David and I decided to try to push this through the system as fast as we could to help our kids know we are forever.
They had been in foster care for 1,615 days. Enough is enough. They needed forever now.
We negotiated with Salem’s adoption assistance office while on spring break, faxing signed agreements from hotel lobbies. We hired a lawyer based on one that would help us meet our May 9th adoption finalization date. We drove notarized paperwork to McMinnville and Newberg to meet the lawyer’s deadlines. I sent family photos to everyone we needed a ‘rush through the system favor’ from, tugging at their heart strings in hopes of us making this date.
In spite of what the caseworkers recommended, we went ahead and planned our party. We rented a banquet hall in a park and set the party date for Sunday, May 8th. Mother’s Day.
My First Mother’s Day
We had Grandma flying in from Nebraska and family driving in from Montana for the forever family adoption party. Whether or not we would be in court on May 9th didn’t matter to us, for we were going to celebrate becoming a family with all our friends and family. One week before the party, we learned we would be finalizing our adoption in court on May 9th.
Mother’s Day was a beautiful day and the catered BBQ for 82 was wonderful, and the kids all had so much fun. The next morning our ceremony was at the Hillsboro courthouse. Our families filled the courtroom benches. The kids were invited up to the judge’s desk to witness him signing their adoption certificates, pictures were taken and we were official. Finally, officially a forever family!
This July as I was blowing out the candles on my birthday cake, I had a moment of wondering what will I wish for this year? The one and only wish I’ve had for the past 20 some years were sitting next to me, showering me with hugs and kisses. A loving husband and two adoring kids. What more could I possibly wish for?
David and I, we aren’t saints for adopting these kids, for giving them a life they more than deserve, we are just two parents trying to do the right thing by two amazing young kids who have had to encounter and endure so much more than anyone should ever have to in ones’ lifetime.
I’ve had a full life, with adventures traveling around the world, physical challenges like riding my bike across the state of Oregon and wonderful friends and family to fill my heart with joy. But recently adopting two siblings, ages 9 and 11, from foster care has outweighed and surpassed anything I have ever or will ever do in my life.
I am 51 years old and feel like my life has just begun!