We paced about the house, watching anxiously out the window for the car. Finally, it arrived. We could tell it was them because the car was going slowly. As it pulled in the drive way, we cautiously walked down the front walkway to greet our new house member. She bolted out of the car and exclaimed “I can’t believe I get to live here forever!!”
A year’s worth of things have happened in the 7 months that Mary has been with us:
Thanksgiving (spent at our home this year with family coming to visit)
St. Patrick’s Day
Mary’s Birthday (a huge event celebrated with friends and family!)
End of school, start of summer camp
My Birthday (coming up soon)
And we have had some other milestones as well, such as loosing a couple teeth and a visit from the tooth fairy, acomplishments in school, report cards, school pictures, as well as a myriad of hand done pictures, drawings, paintings, books and notes! We have lived a lifetime in these short months and it has been wonderful!
In the mean time, there was still work to be done legally. We didn’t enter into this thinking that we would adopt Mary right away, rather that we would foster until her birth parents could get themselves together. But the state had different plans. It wasn’t long before they moved to change the foster care goal from reunification to adoption. We didn’t initiate it, the state did. We were surprised to learn that the state had been involved far longer than we thought. We learned a few more horrifying details of her past life, and knew what we had to do. There was no doubt that the occasional visit (which were scheduled monthly but didn’t happen that way) was difficult for Mary. Although she didn’t act out as some children do, her school work suffered. We noticed right away how her quality of work took a nose dive. The artistic child turned to scribbling and destroying pictures she had drawn. Her overall behavior became a little out of control, and it was months before we saw the happy child again. And the weekly phone calls were difficult too. She would usually talk for just 5 or 10 min. Once we had to end the call because her birth mother burst into tears on the phone and saying things that a 6 yr old just doesn’t need to hear.
During this time, we spent time praying about adoption. We had made it through the first battle of getting her placed with us and now the next battle loomed: how to go about adoption. We met with a mediator on a couple of occasions, and even one round table with the birth parents to come to an agreement for open adoption. We felt that this was the best route given that we have known the parents for so long, and didn’t want to gamble that a court could order more visits per year than we were prepared to deal with. Naturally, they didn’t want to give up their rights, and I felt, in a way, criminal asking them to. It’s a difficult place to be; wanting to have this child, not wanting to hurt the parents, wanting to protect the child, not wanting to hurt her by taking her from them. Millions of emotions that go back and forth. Wondering on some level if it is the right thing, but knowing on every level that her needs are paramount. Our agreement was achieved, and we successfully drafted a plan that we felt kept Mary’s interest at the front.
After 1 or 2 more court appearances, and a foster care review board meeting, Mary’s birth parents signed away their rights in court in March. It was a bitter sweet day for all of us.