Timing, ICWA, Tantrums and Waiting

It’s a hodgepodge day.

1. Timing.

Yesterday, I received a reminder of God’s perfect timing. Right in the middle of Older One’s fourth or fifth major meltdown of the weekend, I received a text. A good friend wanted to let me know that he was praying right then for peace in the boys’ hearts. Wow.  It was incredibly encouraging.

It made me pause and think about the many times I feel that urge to call someone to encourage them and text them a prayer, or that I’m praying for them and don’t because I think it’s silly or that I’ll be bothering them.  Yesterday was a good reminder.


We still haven’t heard anything back from the Native American nation regarding the boys’ status under ICWA, or the Indian Child Welfare Act. We also didn’t get any answers to our “what if” questions in our big meeting on Thursday. We only received the brush off “don’t worry about that.”

Today, I’m reading the news and see that an ICWA case from South Carolina is at the Supreme Court, where a decision is likely to be announced in the next few days regarding the reach and scope of ICWA. This case is different than ours, but similar enough to follow it closely.

In the case, a little girl was removed from her adoptive family AFTER finalization to be reunited with a biological father she never knew. My heart wrenches with the thought of that.  But, God…

3. Tantrums

In the here and now, we’re back in tantrum city. Lovely. We find waves of these intense periods every couple of months. It’s hard to identify the triggers, but we’re getting better at working through them. The hard part is ignoring the screaming at you.  “I’m just a kid.. I just want to be a happy kid!” That can be compelling, but we’re learning you have to not feed the attention monster fueling the actions.

Yesterday one of the boys decided he was done with a simple time out before it was time. The consequence? Going to his room for extended alone time (with the ability to play with whatever is up there). Just so happened that I was cleaning his bathroom at the time and was on the front row for the hysterics?  My solution? Turn the hymns playlist up on my i-Phone very loud. At least he had musical accompaniment.

4. Timing.

Waiting is incredibly hard for me. I am not a patient person. But we’re entering a long time period of waiting. I want to jump to the end. But, there’s a purpose in the waiting. As I said earlier, God’s timing is perfect.

We’re just getting started with Older One’s intensive in home therapy regime. A new school year begins in about three weeks (we’re in the year-round program) and we’ve just started new medicines for both boys. And, I’m about to start an eight-week course in childhood trauma.

So, while there’s a lot of waiting that will be taking place.. there’s certainly not a lack of things going on in our world.

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The Big Meeting

Twenty years ago, the room may have been nice. But, today it smelled like pee. High above the surrounding streets, we entered the conference room at county social services today. Half the room was floor-to-ceiling glass with ancient vertical blinds. The other half was a faded pink. A baby started screaming through the walls from somewhere nearby.

We took our seats alone on the side nearest the glass, which did wonders for my fear of heights. Across the cobbled together set of tables were three workers we had never met from the adoption resources unit and the social worker’s supervisor. On the right side, were the boys’ worker and the guardian. To our left, was the boys’ therapist. As the meeting began, our licensing worker joined us on the far side of the table.

Following introductions, the facilitator started asking questions. An overview of the case, the structure of the meeting and some formalities. One of the first questions, “where are the life books?” My wife dutifully pulled the foster care-themed scrapbooks from her Lands End tote and started passing them around the table. The mood quickly lightened.

(Someone PLEASE ask her to write a guest post on life books.)

As the books passed around the table, the oohs and ahhs over my wife’s colorful depictions of experiences — both good and bad– peppered the questions and responses for the entire remainder of the meeting. After all, this was the meeting to approve the adoption as well as determine post-adoption benefits. So, oohs and ahhs were perfect.

Over the more than two hours we were in the putrid-smelling county office, we discussed in concert with the social worker, guardian ad litem, therapist and licensing worker details of the boys’ care. We spoke of their history of abuse. We described the behavioral, emotional issues that we were facing. We reiterated our committment to providing care.

Everything lightened as the time moved forward. We laughed, we shared experiences, we told of funny moments, we listed strengths and weaknesses and we talked about our concerns for the future.

Going in, it was a meeting to approve us for adoption and determine benefits. But we really knew it would be a forgone conclusion. Our real hopes were for the maximum permissible benefits. And, the Lord was faithful in providing those.

At the end, the adoption workers confessed that they were a little doubtful we’d be so committed to these boys, based on the case files that they had recieved. However, they said, they were fully convinced that we were in it for the long haul and the best place for these boys.

Adoption approved.

(It was all the life books).

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Wow. More than a month between posts. Oops! Life just got incredibly busy.

In recent weeks, we’ve gained a better sense of the timeline toward adoption. It’s pretty straightforward… almost.

We have a major meeting later this month where we start the transition process from foster care to adoption. I’m not sure how many will be in the room, but I think there will be more than we’ve had at meetings to date. The biggest issue is on financial support post-adoption.

That’s a touchy subject for many, but I’ll just say that for us, we’re praying for as much financial support as possible. The boys will be on Medicaid post-adoption and it doesn’t nearly cover what we’ll need it to in terms of therapy, psychiatric care and more once the adoption becomes finalized.

Then, on July 1, we can go to the courthouse in the county seat and file a petition. We’ll have 30 days to do so from July 1. We may not be able to make it on July 1 due to work schedules as we’re having to take an incredible amount of time off work in recent weeks due to vacations, myriad doctors appointments and end-of-school stuff for both boys. But, we’ll get it in.

From that point, “they,” whomever they are (I’m still confused), has 6 months to review the case file, the petition, the adoption application and determine if we’re an eligible family to approve the adoption. We’ve heard that they’ve been making decisions in about four months, however.

When that comes back to us, if approved, the decision will come with a court date. That will be the day that the boys come to court, our friends and family join us and we will have the decree of adoption signed. (I also anticipate that on that glorious day, you’ll get your first look at our fine family!)

Then, we’ll party!

But, there’s a catch. There’s always a catch. I mean, really, in the system, isn’t there always something to hold things up.

In the review of the paperwork ahead of this month’s big meeting, a statement was found from a bio-relative on an obscure intake form that stated the boys had a Native American lineage. We know that there’s a Mediterranean lineage, but this was news to us.

Hear that sound, it’s the sound of the process grinding to a halt. The claim must be investigated/researched per the Indian Child Welfare Act. If lineage is proven with the Midwestern tribe that is claimed, then the tribe gets involved with our case.

We have been told that it is highly unlikely that there will be a disruption to the family, especially this close to finalization, but it’s been explained to us that in matters of child custody, Native American nations have a degree of sovereignty over children with proven lineage.

Right now, the claims are being investigated with the tribal offices. If it turns out unconfirmed, nothing changes and we move forward. If it is proven, then a.) the boys have a cool ancestry and heritage that many can’t claim! and b.) we have to wait for further direction from the tribe to proceed.  So we wait.

In any case, it looks like the adoption is moving rather swiftly.

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Sometimes I wonder

Right now, they’re poking their fingers in the dirt beneath a crepe myrtle tree at the park by our house. A moment ago, they were running free on the great lawn beside the playground.

As the warm May sun filters between the trees, Older One is alternately goose-stepping across the lawn in between moments of stretching out his arms like a plane roaring down the runway.

Little Guy is spinning and falling and laughing and running here and there in a nonsensical pattern only known to his feet I suppose. Now they are rolling, giggling and playing tag like brothers do.

In this moment, there is freedom. Freedom from memories, from expectations, from the inward struggles that have defined the past few weeks. They are five. And six. And it’s a remarkable moment.

There is another family here, with a boy and girl of similar age. And, they are leaving them alone. A huge thing. But, I digress.

To say its been a rough week would e a fair statement. To say its been a blessed week would be accurate. Like a volcano’s sudden start, the inward turmoil has bubbled to the surface, with a lava of issues and behaviors that have defined our days.

As they play, so innocently, so, dare I day it, normally, I can’t help buy wonder as I sometimes do at what their lives are going to be like. How long will there be issues? We’ve been told to prepare that it may be well into adulthood before they’ve reconciled the horror of their early lives.

But, our God is a God of healing. And I’m trusting that in surrender to Him, the memories of days past will fade and be replaced by moments like this here in the park.

God is indeed doing a mighty work, and I’m humbled to have a front row seat to the healing and development of these parts of creation.

I see Older One as an athlete, a leader, a military hero, maybe a salesman. Well, that would involve math, so no. Little Guy will undoubtedly be an architect or engineer, possibly an inventor of some great device.

But they’ll be safe and whole. They’ll thrive. And yet sometimes, I wonder what would happen if they were back with the bio parents. I don’t dwell there long. Because they’re not. They’re here.

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Adventures in Trauma Therapy

I’ve been avoiding this post for months. Each time someone says therapy, I’ve wanted to chug Pepto. It’s been a topic that has made my stomach churn. Trauma therapy for us has been the wildest ride in the amusement park known as foster care.

In the beginning, I would say even before we received the boys, we were made aware of the intense level of abuse they had endured. And, we were told we’d be getting intense trauma therapy.

After some medicaid red tape was settled, therapy began. We were assigned a team of two therapists that would work with the boys for three-four days a week. Their trauma was so intense that we qualified for a type of therapy known as intensive, in home care. That basically translates to the therapists coming to our home, church, or wherever we are when the appointment needs to happen.

The process was described to us as the “supernanny” concept. The therapist would come in, observe, float and hang out and play/work with the children and as issues happened, they would help us deal with them, but in a way that didn’t usurp our authority in the home. Then, we were told that at some point, once the children were comfortable with her, that the therapist would start pulling out the trauma.  Keep in mind the children were not talking about anything during the honeymoon period.

Then, boom. The behaviors hit. We’re talking about four or five hour tantrums. Running, screaming, locking doors, hiding. Remember “The Hardest Night?”  Yeah. That sort of stuff. Concurrently, the stories came out. So and so did that. So and so did this.  We were ‘fil in the blank.”  After a while, the awfulness of the stories became routine.

Still, the therapist didn’t begin pulling this stuff out. In fact, she continued to work with us on behaviors and triggers to help them adjust.  That was helpful, but what about the underlying trauma, the effects of all the awfulness? No, we didn’t do any of that. We spent time doing introspection into our parenting styles.

Then, the CFE hit. This was the detailed forensic exam. It began when it did because of some pretty nasty disclosures. So, while the CFE was going on, the therapists’ hands were tied. No discussion of trauma allowed. period. We couldn’t talk to the boys about it either, because the goal was prosecution. All we could do was comfort and console.

Finally, the CFE was complete and the primary therapist told us that she was going to jump into the trauma. A week later. She quit. She told us that she was leaving, but never transitioned the boys, never introduced them to a new therapist. Just left and never came back. The new therapy team was left to clean up the pieces.

We started over again in March. Get to know you games. Trust exercises. Long discussions of the backstory and whatnot. Still, no dealing with the trauma. Then, the team gave us some hard truths that hadn’t been shared before. There’s only X number of visits, then they are gone. And, despite the abrupt change in therapy, medicaid wouldn’t authorize more visits. So, we’re almost done. Still, no addressing the trauma.

That put us in a low spot. We’ve got two boys, who are the victims of horrible acts, we’re working toward adoption and we’re feeling the weight of inadequacy to handle this. We know that God has it all planned out. But, we also know that we need professional assistance to work through the day-to-day.

After some discussions with the social worker. And, the social worker discussing some things with the therapy agency, the veil was lifted. We had a pretty honest discussion last night with the primary therapist and it came to light that the previous team never told us how this whole trauma therapy works. We’ve been enlightened, and we’re good. Frustrated over the way the past months have gone, but good for moving forward. And, encouraged by the news we found out for the future.

And, since this blog is pretty long, I’ll delve into that soon enough. Skipping to the end- God has a wonderful plan and it’s coming together nicely.

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