Our Family’s Story
September 17, 2012 by Guest contributor
This post comes from HRC Member Victoria Green. Victoria and her partner Theresa were recently honored as “Angels in Adoption” by Sen. Lisa Murkowski:
In 2007, I started talking with my partner Terri about foster care. We had wanted to have kids and were considering our options when I finally convinced her to sign-up for foster parent classes. I had been a foster parent in rural Alaska for a few years and facilitated the reunification and placement of 10+ kids over that time.
Upon completing the class, we sat back and wondered just how long it would be before we would be contacted about a possible placement.
We would have loads of time to get things ready because, we assured ourselves, it would take a while to get all the paperwork completed and appointments scheduled. Little did we know that our phone would ring within two days and it would change our lives forever.
The call came from Alaska’s Office of Children’s Services (OCS) asking if we could take two children for a “temporary” placement - one and a half to three months.
It was two girls, Kelle - two and a half and Mercedes – five. The girls were the oldest of a sibling group of four that was coming to the end of their time in emergency placement and needed placement immediately.
We had thought about one child – we hadn’t really discussed the possibility of two! But we decided to go for it and take the girls temporarily as the plan was reunification with their parents.
Unfortunately, we were not able to bring home the two younger siblings, Alison - almost one and a half and Leo - only six months. They were both behind on their immunizations and therefore unable to attend day care. Both Terri and I worked full time and there were other families able to take them so the two pairs of siblings were divided and sent to different homes.
We began scrambling to fix up the house to accommodate two little girls. We bought toys, pajama’s, Disney movies and night lights. We painted the room and made welcome signs for their bedroom door with their names.
It was a hard transition for them – being away from their brother and sister and having to live in a stranger’s house. I can’t imagine anything scarier to a child.
The first night we made “camp” in the living room – we piled pillows and sleeping bags and put in Finding Nemo to make it more fun - all the while imagining how nervous they must be. We had two dogs and two cats that camped out with us and instantly loved the attention the girls gave them.
I took a couple days off work to spend time with them and get them adjusted to their new “temporary” home. Over the next couple weeks we settled in and the girls adjusted to their own room and run of the house. Months went by and next thing we knew it was July, time for the girls to be reunited with their family.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned and the first of many extensions happened. We found out we had a new case worker – they had to start from the beginning getting familiar with our case and start from scratch with the case plan.
Another few months went by, another case worker, another start of another plan.
Weekend visits, visits with a parent in custody, missed visits, lots of empty promises, confusion reigned supreme with everyone - the system, the kids and with us, the foster parents.
It was heartbreaking to watch as the kids were pulled back and forth - all the while wondering why. As the frustration and lack of information continued, it started wearing on our relationship as a couple.
We were coming up on 13 months of a “temporary placement” that was supposed to last only three months. It is hard because you want to move on with your life, to build a plan for your family, but you never know when things will change and the kids you’ve grown to love and care for will be pulled from you – as they have been from others in the past.
We kept on going. Another case worker, another court date, another case plan, another attorney… Another dance party in the living room and another movie night with popcorn and sleeping bags on the living room floor. Another school year.
Finally, after about 18 months, OCS told us that the children were all being placed back with their parents. We packed up their things and drove them across the state with the promise of visiting and always being there for them if needed. During this time, we built a relationship with the parents. They shared with us their issues and their intention of keeping us in their lives to always keep track of the girls. And we promised to be there for them.
In December 2008 I deployed with the Alaska Air National Guard and was overseas for almost 3 months. During that time the parents split up, the Dad moved to Anchorage and moved with the kids into a local shelter. A month later the kids were all back in foster care and moved to a respite home.
During that time, I contacted the new case worker and fought for the ability to contact the kids with phone calls from overseas. I called them each day to talk to them and try to encourage them as much as I could from so far away. Terri visited when she could and we maintained communication with the case worker to ensure that when I returned, if they were still in care, I would be available for them as a permanent placement option.
I returned to Alaska in March 2008 and by April the girls were back in our home. This time we were a permanent placement with the case plan for adoption.
A few months later, all four children were adoption eligible. Alison and Leo were in a home that decided they could not go through with the adoption so they were placed back into the foster care system - where they had been for over three years.
I had lost my mom a couple years earlier and just lost my Dad that year. I couldn’t have made it through without the love and support of my sisters and brother. We relied on each other during the hardest time of our lives, losing not just one but both parents. I couldn’t have imagined going through that at such a young age, and without that support.
I made the decision to take all four kids!
The entire process had caused a change in my relationship and I was pretty much on my own at this time. As I took the kids and moved in to my own house I became - more or less - a single mom to four energetic balls of chaos!
In September 2010, I adopted Mercedes and Kelle, and in January 2011 I adopted Alison and Leo.
Since then our lives have been amazing, frustrating, comical, stressful, fabulous, scary, wonderful and educational! And so much more! I can’t imagine life without them now. They have grown and blossomed into these amazing little people that challenge me 24 hours a day, in more ways than I could ever imagine!
My partner and I have been working on rebuilding our relationship and I have taken more parenting classes than I ever knew were out there. I have an entire library of just about every book on parenting ever printed!
Every day I encourage people to look into foster care, and have helped folks trying to make their way through the system. It is a battle at times, but when you look ahead and envision the difference you can make and the difference these kids can make, it is definitely worth the effort.
Our children have been with us for two years now and we have become inseparable. The tears, the laughter, the understanding that I am totally scared to death to think that I will have four teenagers in the house at one time and the amazing feeling of how much they (and I) depend on our “happy thoughts” every night as we go to bed makes me realize that if I had to do it all over again, I would – in a heartbeat.
June 16, 2013