Baby Meggie was born with seven or eight questionable substances in her blood, from nicotine, to morphine, to cocaine. She was a seventh child born to a 25-year-old felon. Every sibling had a different father.
Jenn was born with thirteen questionable or illegal things in her system. She was severely addicted to heroin. Her grandfather paid her mother to abort her, but the mother took the money and used it for more heroin. Jenn suffered from withdrawal symptoms for three months.
Jay has a chromosomal abnormality that could mean anything from nothing to complete disability. He was abused for his first four months of life and spent his fifth month sedated in the hospital.
Jason’s father was a child abuser who heard Satan giving directions in his head. His mother was mentally disabled.
Naomi’s mother is homeless.
Nina’s father is unknown.
Maggie arrived just eleven months after her sister. Born into poverty, she failed to thrive and was hospitalized.
One of the birth mothers was HIV positive throughout pregnancy, labor, delivery and breastfeeding.
Part of our society would say that these children never should have been born. They tell us that babies like this have no …
A few months after our second foster baby left I bought a charm bracelet. Yesterday I added a charm. This time I didn’t go alone to remember and grieve. I brought my little ones with me to remember and celebrate a baby we loved.
I asked, “Which one reminds you of Jason?” My five year old pointed to the elephant “because it’s a boy and Jason is a boy.” (Apparently all elephants are male?) The seven year old liked anything pink. My two year old just wanted to touch whatever he could. I began to doubt the wisdom of bringing them.
Then, “we should get the heart charm because we love him.”
I noticed the tense she used, not loved as I had said, but love. Removing this baby from our home didn’t place our love for him in the past. We can still love him, just like we still love Meg and Jenn.
“The heart is perfect, Katie,” I told her.
I didn’t add it to my bracelet then, with the small ones clambering for my attention. I waited until later when I was alone. We stopped at a park and the little ones ran off to play, to run. Blond, red, and brown hair shining in the sun. Sundresses whipping in the wind. Shrieks of laughter. Calls for mama to join in. Life continuing so free and bright as …
Today I went from being the mother of seven to being the mother of six. I’ve been here before; it doesn’t feel any better this time, doesn’t seem to get easier. Maybe there are foster parents out there who get used to this. How could they keep doing it otherwise? But, that doesn’t seem to be me.
A month ago we had the first overnight. Baby with his birth mom. Me at home rocking in an empty chair beside an empty crib, clenching my arms to my belly as if to keep myself from coming apart. Then two nights. Then three, four, and now --gone. A baby inexorably pulled from the only family he has ever known.. A baby we brought home from the hospital at just two days old nearly a year ago and told we would adopt.
I was out with the four youngest at a store recently and people stopped me repeatedly to remark on how full my hands were. Yes blessedly full, blissfully full, but for just a little longer. Next time those people will see me with only the three and make the same remark, not realizing just how empty these hands truly feel.
We’ve never done it this way before. Our first two foster babies were here one day and gone the next. There was no gradual transfer. It was horrible, but the …
“Ms. Varblow, this is N---, licensing worker with Washtenaw County. I’m calling to inform you that a formal complaint has been filed against you.”
“Oh, really?” I rolled my eyes. We had been told to expect false claims by unhappy birth family, but I had thought we were doing pretty well with those we’re currently working with.
“I am required to read the charge to you: Code 9---, Hindering Reunification: refusing to return phone calls and hanging up on the caseworker on the phone.”
A stunned moment of silence and then the torrent, “Excuse me? I have never hung up on anyone in my life, and I’ve returned every call from the caseworker within 24 hours. You can check the phone records. That caseworker and I have never even talked to one another in unpleasant voices.” I went on in this vein for a while.
What a slap in the face. We bend over backward to have a positive relationship with the birth family. I count the birth mother a friend. Doing everything I can to help put the baby I love into a different home is not easy, but I do it. I want him to have the easiest transition he can. Instead of gratitude and compassion I get defamation of character. I was irate: How dare the …
I took two year old Jay into the nursery this evening for his jammies and story. Matt was already there with eight month old Jason. Jay saw the baby and began to laugh and crow happily, trying to jump from my arms. Matt set Jason in the crib. As soon as Jay was changed, he leapt from my arms to climb in the crib with his brother, yelling, “Hi, hi!” as he kissed, patted and hugged the baby.
Much of our day looks like this, Jay loving on the baby, the baby smiling and cooing back. We even call Jason “your baby” when we’re talking to Jay. When a child is in foster care and a new baby is born needing to go into care, the baby is placed with the sibling whenever possible. This is what happened with Jay and Jason. The system recognizes the sibling as the closest relative after the parents.
Watching these two bond, I understand the reasoning. They get to be true brothers. They share a room, stories, and toys. Jay sits on my lap and “helps” spoon feed Jason. But, watching them together gets harder every day. Because as they draw closer, the end draws nearer. You see, while we are adopting Jay, Baby Jason is being reunited with a birth parent soon.
Funny that tearing two siblings apart …
Baby Jenn’s birth mother had been addicted to heroin for six years when Jenn was conceived. Halfway through the pregnancy Mary* finally told her parents. Her dad gave her five hundred dollars to abort the baby, but Mary used the money for drugs and hid her pregnancy from her parents until she was in labor.
Jenn was born full term with thirteen different illegal substances in her system. She was addicted to heroin and began to scream and shake within hours of birth. The doctors immediately transferred her to a hospital with a newborn intensive care unit. Mary tried to make an adoption plan for her baby. She signed all the appropriate papers with an adoption agency, but with no birth father sign off, Jenn went into foster care.
I was called in when Jenn had been in the hospital for two weeks.
“I have another baby for you,” our licensing worker told me over the phone. My sister, who was helping me clean the attic at the time, began jumping up and down.
“Say yes, say yes!” she whisper-yelled.
“We’ve just been hit with so many newborns this month,” the licensing worker went on. “We’ve run out of homes for them. But I thought of you for this one because you’re willing to adopt. …
Betty: So fill me in on all these kids I see around here.
Me: Well, the one in the mismatched shoes is mine; so is the one trying to write on the wall. The kid on the table is mine, and I left a few at home. Those four are my sister Jane’s. This one belongs to my sister Terry.
Betty: Okay, now which one of these is Jane’s real kid?”
I knew immediately what she meant; Jane adopted three of her children and had one by birth, but I didn't like Betty's phrasing.
Me: Real kid? They all look pretty real to me. Jane hasn’t played with dolls in years.
We both laugh like what I said was quite witty. I look pleadingly at Terry to rescue me, but she is redirecting the wall draw-er.
Betty: What I mean is that she had one of them the normal way…
Me: There are lots of normal ways to have a child.
Betty: But, which one is hers?
Me: All of them.
She must have decided at this point that I was really dense because she finally spit out what we both knew she was getting at all along.
Betty: Which one is her birth child?
I would have just told her, because it’s no secret who is adopted and who was born into the family; it’s a nonissue, but I was a little irritated by the long lead in.
When he looks at me he doesn’t see pale freckled skin; he sees his mama. When I look at him I don’t see caramel brown skin; I see my son.
Well-meaning people (of different races) have commented that it might be best if we did not adopt our foster son because he is half African American. They tell me that it would be better for him to be “raised with his own kind.”
They advise me on how to raise a black child:
“Don’t dress him in overalls.”
“Don’t feed him watermelon or corn on the cob.”
“Don’t call him ‘bubba.’”
“You’re not styling his hair right.”
And they warn me:
“He won’t know his culture.”
“He’ll talk like a white person.”
“He won’t be prepared for racism when he encounters it.”
“He won’t fit into either white society or black society.”
You know what? They could be right. We are German-Irish and look it. He is all-American: black, white and native. Being a different race from everyone else in his family may be hard for this little guy.
But, you know what would be harder for him? Being ripped away from the family that loves him.
We are the only family J. remembers. He has lived with us for over a year and a half. He looks at me and he sees his mama. He looks …
Today, I sat in court with tear filled eyes as Baby J.’s birth mother chose adoption for him. Just like that, in less than fifteen minutes, he was legally a ward of the state, the first step in the process of our adopting him. As we left together, she asked if I was okay. In the elevator I thanked her for giving him, us, this chance.
A few minutes later, I closed the door of the car, and the tears came. Great gulping sobs. Joy because, by the grace of God, our baby won’t have to leave us. I’ll always get to be his mom. I’ll get to watch him learn to run, and teach him to read. I’ll be there when he is sick or scared or happy or mad. His future suddenly looks safe and secure.
Yet, so much sorrow is intermingled with that joy, because he has come to us at such a cost. Another family torn apart. Another mom who he will never call mommy. Her arms will ache to hold him, but he’ll be gone. The tragedy of our fallen world, so real, knowing that losing his birth family is what is best for this little guy.
And, I’m humbled that God’s best for J. is our family. Despite our flaws and brokenness, God has seen fit to once again bless us immensely. Gratitude overflows that He …
Newborn Meggie came into foster care because her mother tried to sell her. Meggie had seven illegal substances in her blood stream. When the attempted baby sale was stopped, the mother threatened to kill her and the hospital staff that intervened, “If I don’t get my payday, no one else can! I’ll kill her before you can have her. I’ll kill all of you!”
Meggie was the sixth child born to a crack addicted felon who didn’t have custody of her other children. Any sane person could see that the parental rights should be immediately terminated with no attempts made at reunification. Meggie bonded to our family, like any new baby would, and we were all set to adopt her. Then the judge on the case ordered her moved from our home when she was five and a half months old to be nearer the woman who tried to sell her so that they could be reunited, though the mother was in prison (again) at the time. Two weeks from now, this same judge will decide Baby J’s fate.
J’s case is horrific. I keep a lot of the details to myself, but those in the system who are privy to them wonder why they even tried to reunite him with a birth parent in the first place. Policy said they shouldn't. The …