Tag Archives: foster parenting

Some Last (Written) Thoughts About Bill by John E. Stack

 

Bill has been out of our house for a little over six months and our lives are so vastly different now that we only have one child.  That is on child living in the house.  We have opened our house up again for a new child that has been displaced from their parents and their home.  We notified our agency about a month or so ago that we thought we were ready, but whether it is by the decision of the agency or just God’s will, we still have an empty nursery.  The one thing our agency may not understand is the longer our nursery stays empty, the easier it is to let it stay empty. 

 

For those of you that are reading my writings for the first time, or maybe have forgotten, Bill is a young boy that my wife and I took into care.  We work as foster parents and Bill was our twentieth child.  Bill was a micro-preemie and weighed only one pound twelve ounces at birth.  When we met him, he was up to a little over four pounds. And about two and a half months old.  He was the smallest baby we had ever seen, much less held.

 

We went through a lot with Bill.  He had about every type of therapy you could imagine.  It seems like my wife was running to appointments about three to four times a week.  Bill had a very difficult time gaining weight (not a problem that we have in common).  Since he was very tiny at birth, the doctors wanted him to gain as much as possible as quickly as possible.  Along with being tiny, Bill had (has) sensory problems, particularly with food textures.  He was also very, very active.  Finally, the doctors decided that if he was gaining any weight, it was better than losing it (in his case).

 

Well, approximately two and a half years went by and we began working a permanent placement plan for Bill.  His birthday was rapidly approaching, and he would soon be three.  I guess the Department of Social Services went into panic mode.  If he was still in foster care at three it would really mess up their statistics.  Normally, a transition lasts three to four months.  Bill’s was less than five weeks.

 

Bill’s new parents have had him for the past six months and his adoption recently went through.  We get to see some real cute pictures of him and his new family.  We don’t believe that he is fully bonded with his new mom and dad, but it shouldn’t take much longer.  Once they are ready, we will skype and if that goes okay then we will try for a short visit.  We think they are going to make it.  They may have some rough roads to travel, but we all do once in a while.

 

How are we doing with all this?  Do we miss him?  You bet.  Our house has never been so quiet.  I don’t think a day has gone by where we don’t mention him in a conversation.  He is very much missed, and not by just us.  Family, church family, friends, workers in stores we frequent all ask how he is doing and say how much they miss him.  This life we live affects lots of people – more than we ever knew.

 

Some ask, “why didn’t you adopt him?”  Our response is usually, “why didn’t you?”  You know, it was never in our plans to adopt, but we didn’t know God’s plans for us.  Now that we do, I wouldn’t change a thing.  Will God put that in front of us again?  Only he knows.  Plus, we are getting kind of old to be stepping out like that again.  So, for now, we wait to see the next step in his plan for us.  We never know what to expect!

 

 

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, Olivia’s Sweet Adventure, and the soon to be released (hopefully) Secret Lives (of Middle school teachers).

Hey, by the way, if you enjoyed, this share it with a friend or group of friends.  We are always in need of foster or adoptive parents and some of these posts may inspire them to step out of their comfort zone and change someone else’s life.

If you really, really enjoyed this, click on the link and check out some of the great books published by Indigo Sea Press.  That too could change someone else’s life.

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Bill – Not Quite the Last Chapter by John E. Stack

 

Well, it finally happened.  Bill has been placed in his forever home, and he now lives several hours from us.  His new parents said that they will stay in touch, but you never know.  Even though we still have a seven-year-old, the house is so quiet.

 

A week after I wrote my last blog, Bill went to visit for four nights and the following weekend we delivered him for the final time.  Unlike all the other transitions we have ever done, we did a parking lot transfer.  In other words, as we unloaded his things from our car the social worker brought the final paperwork and told us we could go.  We had hoped to talk for a few minutes and say good-bye, but we quickly hugged, said our good-byes and left.  She made a visit a week later and couldn’t figure out why he was having a tough time – clueless.

 

The only thing I can compare the feeling to is the loss of a loved one.  Bill lived with us for two years and nine months.  The loss feels tremendous.  Everything we do, everywhere we look and most everything we see reminds us of that laughing little boy.  He was such a lively part of our lives.  But that time is now over. 

 

We pray that Bill comes to accept his new mom and dad.  We pray that his new mom and dad have fallen so much in love with him that no matter what manifests, they will love him enough to keep him.  (Yes, adoptive parents have the option of returning kids if things get too tough.)  And, maybe one day they will re-establish contact with us and at least send us updates with a few pictures.

 

Many have asked us if we will continue to be foster parents and we always answer that we do not know.  That decision belongs to God.  We do need time to heal and for our family to reconnect.  We will renew our license, but we will wait to see where God leads us.  That will sound strange/weird to some people, but many will understand.

 

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I hope that this first Mother’s Day was the best for his new mom.  I know that she has anticipated this day for years.  Today was a dream come true.  We are so glad we had a hand in this.

 

Being a mom is not instinct, it has to be learned.  Girls learn to be moms from watching their own moms.  Pretty much any lady can have a baby, but it takes someone special to be a mom.  Blessings to all the moms that happen to read this. 

 

 

 

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

 

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It’s Not Really All About Bill by John E. Stack

Bill came into foster care two-years and nine plus months ago.  Bill was a micro-preemie weighing less than two pounds at birth.  We met him at two months and he weighed a little over four pounds.  He has been my daughter’s little brother since.  His dad was given almost two years to get his act together, but other things were more important.  Most parents only receive one year to work their plan.

Time has moved on and months have passed.  The more we experience, the less we like dealing with Social Services.  At first, it was a real dog-and-pony show.  For those of you who are not familiar with this term or have never been in the military, it means we are going to tell you what you want to hear and pretend that we are doing everything in your best interest.  We have really got our act together.  In regards to Social Services (some, not all) and adoption, we get “if we transition back home we will probably take four months” or the transition to a new home will be slow so that Bill suffers no trauma.”  “This all about getting Bill into the right home and we want to keep him in the local area.”

 

What these things translate to are “Bill has been in the system too long and we need to get him placed now.”  “My boss and the transition team decided that we know what is best for Bill (most never met him) and we think a fast transition will work best.”  “I have too many kids on my case load and if I place him, then that is one child we no longer have to worry about.  Even if he is re-homed (put back into foster care), it will go into someone else’s case load.”  It’s not really about Bill.

 

We had a family that was real interested in adopting him until the case-worker and her boss tried to force the family into a transition of 3-4 weeks.  The family thought that they and Bill needed to have a longer time to transition.  They were told that if they didn’t want to do this, then someone else will be found.  So, they backed out in the interest of the child.

 

Another family was found in another part of the state.  We were given no information, such as names, visitation dates, length of transition, etc.   We did get a call saying that they (social services) would pick Bill up on a specific day and transport him to another town to meet his new family.  Let me rephrase this:  they were going to have a stranger pick Bill up and take him to a strange place to meet someone he did not know in order to see if he will be a good fit for their family.  Then another stranger would bring him home.

 

We were trained to believe that a transition needed to begin in the place the child was most comfortable.  For the past several adoptions we have been involved in, they all began in our home.  We had the adoptive couple in as friends, maybe shared a meal and got the child used to the other couple.  We would have some day visits, then maybe an overnight or two, then over the weekend, and so on.  Eventually, the child spent more time in the other family’s home than in ours, so the final move was really easy.

 

Bill went almost three weeks between his first and second visit.  The first visit was for one hour, the second visit was for eight hours.  Due to his confusion, Bill now hits, pinches, bites, throws tantrums, and screams.  He doesn’t know whether he is coming or going, but neither do I.  After about a week and a half, it was time for a third visit – pick up on a Friday and return on a Monday.  Even the family thought it was a bit much.  We did get to meet the adoptive family when they brought him back.  We feel that they will be a good match for him and can tell that they are already in love with Bill.  They wanted to know if all transitions went like this and we had to tell them that we had never experienced a transition like this before and we had no say so.

 

 Bill will have another visit or so and the transition will happen at the end of the month.  The couple seemed like a couple that we would really like to get to know.  Maybe we will be able to in the future.  I have to think back to a saying an old friend used in regard to something done wrong that actually turns out right – God’s will will be done, even if he has to use the devil to do it.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

 

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Transition by John E. Stack

If you have read very many of my blogs, you would know that my wife and I are foster parents.  We work with medical critical babies. We care for them, help them feel safe, and try to help them get ready for their transition back home or to their forever families.  We have had babies live with us for as short as two weeks and up to two and a half years.  Currently, we have a little boy I will call Bill.  You may have read about Bill in some previous blogs that I have written.  He has been a part of our lives for quite a while.

Bill’s life is getting ready to start a new chapter and we are excited for him, but also sad because of the changes.  A special family has been identified to become his forever family and if all goes as we hope, then in a couple of months Bill will have a new mom and dad.

Bill was a preemie, with some medical problems.  The doctors didn’t have a very positive outlook on whether he would have a normal life or how well he would be able to function.  They figured he would have at least some learning disabilities.  In every aspect of his life, Bill was delayed.  Bill was followed by four or five doctors of various specialties.  This meant lots of appointments, lots of blood drawing, and lots of therapy.

In the meantime, Bill was tied up in court.  His birth mom and dad refused to get their acts together.  They talked a good talk, but they refused to follow the plan that the court had established.  After two years, the parents lost their rights.

Well, because the court process is so slow, the Department of Social Services did not start looking for adoptive parents.  They did keep asking my wife if we had found someone.  Finally, my wife told the social worker that finding adoptive parents was not her job.  Anyway, my wife started praying that we could find someone in the local area that would want to adopt.

We are firm believers in prayer.  We have seen too many children far exceed the doctor’s expectations.  We’ve also seen the expressions on doctor’s faces when the child they said would never walk, ran across the floor.  God is still in the business of miracles and we get the pleasure of watching them happen.

Bill is still small for his age, but is now running and jumping.  You can’t understand everything he says, but he likes to talk and asks questions all the time.  Bill loves to sing and everything is classified a drum, and anything can be used as a drum stick. (He plays in time with any music we listen to.)  And, he has a girlfriend, who is about his same height.

Once we were given the okay to really look for adoptive parents, Suzanne changed her prayers a little.  This time she prayed that she wanted a good Christian family that would be willing to adopt Bill, that would understand some of his issues, someone that had previously raised kids, someone that would help foster his love of music, and finally, she wanted to have someone approach her and say that they believed that God had placed the desire to adopt Bill on her heart.  Talk about asking God for specifics.

About three weeks later, a lady at his preschool asked Suzanne if she could talk to her about Bill.  Preschool was what my wife considered her last gift to Bill – the opportunity to be separate from her and gain some independence.  She said that several weeks before she felt like God was pushing her toward Bill and she had really fallen in love with him. But, within the past week she felt that God wanted her to adopt Bill.  She had talked it all through with her husband.  Then she looked at Suzanne and said that she felt that God had placed it on her heart to adopt Bill.  This was one of the few times my wife was left speechless.

After getting some information and a little small talk, my wife had to leave.  As she sat in the car, she felt amazed at what had just happened.  She really found it hard to believe that the lady had used almost the same words that she had prayed.  Then it seemed like a small voice said in the back of her mind – isn’t that what you asked for?

Miracles happen, sometimes we just need to ask.  We are pretty sure that all of this will work out and Bill will get his forever family.  Meanwhile, we work transition and short visits, waiting for all the paperwork to happen.  It is bittersweet, but he deserves the best.  He has been through a lot, but we believe it will be worth it in the end.

 

Have you ever considered an adventure in foster care or adoption?  Check it out.  It could be the most blessed ride you have ever taken.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

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The Waiting Game by John E. Stack

Back in January, I posted a writing about having to say goodbye to “Bill,” the baby boy who is now a toddler that we have in foster care.  Bill came into our lives when he was two months of age.  He was born at 26 weeks, was 12 inches long and weighed about one pound twelve ounces.  He was the smallest baby we had ever seen, much less taken care of. 

We knew that he was extremely attached to my wife and I and that placement was going to be difficult.  He had been in our family for around eighteen months and we were also very bonded to him.  Bonding is very important to a newborn.  If they don’t bond with a caregiver, then it will be almost impossible for them to bond with an adopted family.  So, the children we have in foster care are treated just like they are one of our own.

Now it is the middle of June.  Bill has now been with us for 23 months.  Every month when they were supposed to have the case heard by the judge, it was continued until the next month.  And continued, and continued.  Last month the courts shut down to close out the year and for vacations.  Now his court case is supposed to happen in July.  I can’t mention the particulars, but Bill will reside in our home until the court makes a decision.  This will be around six more months.

No one seems to think about the children who are put in this type of situation.  Not only do they lose contact with their birth families, but then they have to be separated from the people that have been their family since they left the hospital. 

Bill will not accept the change so easily.  If the courts cared about the welfare of the children, this mess would be resolved within about twelve to fifteen months.  Much after this, the baby will suffer trauma from separation and feelings of abandonment.  More than likely Bill will have to undergo therapy of some type to make it through the full transition.

People believe that babies do not remember things that happen because they are so young.  Not true.  We fostered a newborn baby girl for about 10 days until she was placed with her adopted parents.  We had received her at three days. Around a year later we were invited to her one-year birthday party.  Her mom got her up from her nap after we arrived and explained that she was starting to be afraid of strangers, so not to be disappointed if she started crying.  As soon as the baby heard my wife’s voice, she lifted her head and went straight to my wife.  She had remembered my wife’s voice a year after she left our home and she was only two weeks old at the time.  Yes, babies remember.

We’ve thought about adopting Bill, but we don’t believe that would be fair to him due to our ages – we are both in our sixties.  That would also mean we would need someone to take legal responsibility for him if something were to happen to us.

So, again we wait.  We wait on a court system that is not really concerned about the children as long as they are in a safe place. Our home is a safe place, but not a permanent safe place.  Also, to adopt Bill would mean that we would probably have to stop foster parenting, and we do not want to do that, yet.

I just wish that the court system would hire enough judges so that cases would not have to be continued multiple times. I wish they cared about other’s children like they care about their own.

Right now, I’m frustrated.  Frustrated at the system.  Bill has brought a lot of joy into our home.  He is funny and a lot smarter than most think.  Do I regret any of it? No, not in the least.  We fully believe that we are doing exactly what God wants us to do.

Have you ever considered being a foster parent or adopting?  I encourage you to check it out.  It is a tough job, but the blessings are uncountable.  Pray about it and take a step out in faith.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure. Also, to be released sometime this summer: Cody and the Great Zoo Escape, and Secret Lives (of middle school teachers).  

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Let’s Make It About the Children by John E. Stack

Mary likes to party. Mary likes to smoke. Mary likes alcohol and consumes several drinks a day. Mary likes anything for a buzz. She will take illegal drugs. She will take prescription drugs. It doesn’t matter the combination, as long as she gets a high. Mary is also pregnant, about 8 months. She has never been to an OB doctor, so she’s never had any pre-natal care and really doesn’t know her due date. Besides, she doesn’t want anyone telling her what to do or not to do. To her the baby is just something that happened because she had sex.

When her baby girl is born and drugs are found in her system, DSS will step in and put the child into foster care. Mom will go back to doing all that she was doing before the baby was born, except now, she will have the Department of Social Services watching her. She will be given a plan to work and regular court dates that she must attend. The goal of the courts will be to reunite her with her baby and if possible get her off drugs.

The baby will be addicted to many of the drugs that her birth mom continues to use: cocaine, heroin, the various prescriptions and she will have traits associated with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Due to these things her heads will be small, her eyes will look different, and her ears will be really low set. These are just a few.

After a while it will be evident that she has ADHD, and is developmentally delayed. She may have seizures associated with withdrawal and will have to take special drugs to help stop the seizures. More than likely the doctors will follow her closely to keep check on her development. She will probably need both physical therapy and occupational therapy. Her mother’s actions will affect her for the rest of her life.

How do I know these things? I’m a foster parent and I help take care of these small ones. We hear the screams of the babies as they go through withdrawal, we spend time with them in the hospital when problems arise, and we get up at night to feed, calm and clean them up. When the therapists show up we are the ones who help the baby progress and make sure they get the exercises done. We also take the babies to see their parents once or twice a week, if they bother to show.

My wife and I love what we do. We feel that God has brought us to this place in life and we can’t imagine doing anything else. But, I would love it if the birth parents were held more accountable.

When children are placed into foster care, it costs the state money. The more problems a child has the more money it cost the state every month they are in foster care. Due to the back up in the court system the average length of stay for a child in foster care as gone from one year to two years. There are approximately 8000 to 9000 kids in foster care in North Carolina. If the state has to pay $1000 per month for each child (foster care payment, agency administration, etc) that is over $9 million per month and going from one year to two years just doubled the budget for this part of social services.

Birth parents are given a year, sometimes 18 months to get their act together. Many take longer. They do not have to pay child support, buy diapers or formula, or provide anything for the child. But the state keeps playing their game. If DSS doesn’t cross every “t” and dot every ”I” then the lawyers convince the courts the birth parents need more time. When do the rights of the child come into play? If a parent can’t get their lives together in 6 months or at least make a real good effort then the courts should terminate the rights. Laws need to be changed and judges need to be tougher.

I feel that if a child is born addicted, the mother should go to jail. If a couple has a child in foster care, they should be required to be on birth control. They should not be allowed to keep having babies if they have any in the fostering system. If someone has a child in the system, they should be forced to pay child support or go to jail. Yeah, the jails are over-crowded but something must be done. If Mary had given her child drugs after it was born she would go to prison, but she can make the child addicted before it is born and nothing happens. When is it going to be about the children?

What is the problem with long term foster care? Both the child and the family become bonded and very attached. It has to happen or the child will not thrive. After a child is removed from foster care either to go home or to be adopted, it takes 2-3 months for each month in foster care for the child to fully bond to the adoptive parents or birth parents. This is tremendous stress on the child and can cause emotional problems. The children can become failure to thrive, lethargic, pull out their hair, scratch until skin bleeds, etc. It usually takes 3-4 months of transition time to move a child from foster care.

These children need a home where they can be cared for – a forever family. People that will love them, feed them when they are hungry, buy them decent clothes to wear and give them hugs. And, parents that will tell them that they are someone of importance.

The truth is that we need more dedicated foster parents. You do not get paid a lot to do the job but you do touch lives, and change them. You get your heart broken, a lot. But, the needs of the next child that comes into your life soon fill that void.

North Carolina is in dire need of foster parents. If you have ever considered fostering or adoption, please take time to check it out. It is the toughest job you will ever love.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

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Bittersweet 2

Back in January I published a blog post called “Bittersweet”, about foster care and the pains of separation. This is a continuation of that story.

Mary’s new mom and dad were selected officially in January and it wasn’t long before visitation began. Mary immediately stopped calling us Nana and Papa and started calling us Mama and Dada. We had talked about her new mom and dad but never thought that at 15 months she would begin to understand. Anyway, if we would say “can papa pick you up?” she would respond with, ”No sir! Dada.” She would then hold up her arms so I could pick her up.

We began with seeing the other family at church and introducing them as our friends. We met on Wednesdays to eat our evening meal together. Finally we went for an overnight, and, all went fine. Each time she went to visit things seemed to get smoother.

Even when we tried two nights at a time, she did okay, but was really excited when she came home. We did this several times. All indications were really good that she was adapting to her new family. She had even started calling them mama and dada. We were back to being nana and papa.

Over time, we transferred all of her toys and clothes, delivering the last of her things on Saturday.

Her new mom, dad and big sister are so excited that she is there, but could not believe all the stuff that came with her. Now we have to back away for a couple of months so that she will fully bond to her new family. When we come back into the picture she will be mad at us, but at the same time she will be happy to see us.

In the meantime, we will have some rough times missing her, especially, our 5 year old. To her, that was her little sister, even though she knew the Mary wasn’t staying forever.

She and her new family will also go through some rough times. There will be new schedules to get used to, a new room to sleep in and then there is missing her first family.

But, we know that it will be okay in a little while. Mary was able to bond with us, so her being able to bond with another family will be okay too. The struggles that we survive only help to make us stronger.

Right now there is a big raw hole in our hearts. We are starting to miss that happy little girl. God will mend our hearts because we now have other things we have to deal with. We have a little boy that might need surgery.

Oh well, time to go because I have bottles to wash and papers to grade.

By the way, there are over 8400 children in foster care in North Carolina alone. Of those, over 2000 boys and girls are waiting to be adopted. You could change the life of a child. Or, if you know someone that is a foster parent, they are always in need of diapers, wipes, date nights, etc. If curious, just ask them how you can help.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

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Bittersweet by John E. Stack

Have you ever had someone move away, a child grow-up and go away to college or lost a loved one? I have and it is tough. No matter the circumstances, you go through a grieving process which ultimately tells you that you are not the one in charge.

I’ve shared before that my wife and I are foster parents and in the last seven years we have fostered 20 babies. Of the 18 that have left our home all but one was adopted. Each child that leaves our home takes a piece of our hearts with them, and it is tough going through the grieving process time and time again. We talk and think that we just can’t do it again, and then we are called by the agency and we say yes one more time.

Almost a year and a half ago we got a call on a baby girl, I’ll call her Mary. Mary looked pretty normal but we started noticing small things. On her first check-up we mentioned those to the doctor. After lots of tests it was determined that she probably had severe cerebral palsy. Her joints were very stiff and she had a swallowing problem. The doctor made some calls and soon we were scheduled for Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy. She was fitted with leg braces and we were given exercises to do with her between therapy sessions. The talk was that everyone was doubtful that she would ever walk without assistance and that by the time she was two we would probably have to order a motorized wheelchair for her to be able to get around on her own.

Up until she was around ten months she took only formula and had very little movement. That is until ten months. We had tried several times to get her to eat baby food with no success. All of a sudden she was ready to eat. Within a couple of days she rolled over. By the next week she was moving around the floor. She spent a couple of days actually crawling, but that wasn’t fast enough. Within a week she was pulling up and cruising the furniture. By the time ten and a half months passed she took her first steps.

A month or so ago we traded her leg braces for orthotics that fit inside regular shoes. The braces were just slowing her down. Now at fifteen months, she runs, jumps and climbs just like any other toddler. She still has a swallowing problem, but we are working on that. God allowed us to witness a true miracle in Mary.

Now the bittersweet part. A family that attends church was selected by the agency to be her new adopted parents. They had met her at church and fell in love. Everyone is excited. She is going to a great family and we couldn’t be happier. We are now getting ready to start the transition period where she leaves our home and moves to theirs and it will take about 2-3 months. Here is another little one that will continue to pull at our heart-strings until a big chunk of it goes with them. One of the best things will be is that we will get to watch her grow-up. I know that God realizes how difficult this can be so he allows our hearts to mend – until the next time.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

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