From non-relative placement to forever mom, looking back to 2 years ago (September 29, 2009)

On September 11, 2008, a  case worker brought Lizzie to us and we fell in love.  We were contacted because we had already adopted the boys.  In the first conversation, we were asked if we would like to adopt her and advised that it would be an expedited process.  We said yes, but then things got complicated, and almost went horribly wrong.  Because we did not have a foster care license (We had adopted, but never fostered.), we were classified as a non-relative placement.  Through the year, we learned that meant that we had no rights, no financial assistance, and no idea what was going to happen next.  We also learned that there was no end to the love we had for this amazing little girl.  On September 29, 2009, after the biological parent rights were terminated, we went before a judge and he made her legally ours.  And, then I breathed again.

We were getting ready to go to the court house, like we had so many times, in the last year.  But, this time it was different.  This time the kids were coming along.  This time we were all dressed up and smiling.  This time, we weren’t wondering what was going to happen.  This time, we knew that Lizzie was about to legally become our daughter.  It had been a long year.  There were lots of ups and downs. A lot of sleepless nights.  A lot of tears.  But, on this day, everything would change.  I couldn’t guarantee that there would be no more ups and downs, sleepless nights, or tears.  But, I could guarantee that when I went to bed that night, I would be Lizzie’s mom.  And, that was going to be perfection.

When we walked into the courthouse, I couldn’t help but look around for the biological parents; even though I knew they wouldn’t be there.  But, I did see one of their attorneys. She and another attorney stopped to admire Lizzie and the boys.  They started to discuss who the kids looked like and call her by her birth name.  I was instantly upset.  Aside from my gut reaction, it was also a confusing conversation for the boys to hear.  Then I realized that after a long year of playing the game, being patient with all the changes, staying silent (because no one was listening anyway); I finally didn’t have to.  I told them that I didn’t want to hear about that on this day.  They weren’t expecting my response and I didn’t understand why they weren’t expecting my response.  But, they stopped.

We headed to the court room.  Family and friends were there.  Court house employees were there.  Our current case worker was there.  Our original case worker who no longer worked for the agency was there.  Our attorney was there and the attorney who had refered us to her were there.  Many had gotten emotionally involved.  The judge came in and the adoption finalization began.  For the first time when we stood in front of the judge, he was talking to us.  On all the previous court dates, we had stood silently, as events transpired around us.  We were there to answer questions on the well-being of the child.  We were not required to be there.  But, we were.  We were there to make sure everyone knew we were there.  But, not anymore.  Today, the judge was smiling.  Everyone was smiling,   Today, he made Lizzie our daughter.  It was a blur.  I remember trying very hard to speak slowly and clearly.  I remember trying to hold a restless Lizzie.  I remember when he said that she was ours.  I remember crying and I remember the bailiff coming to me with a box of tissues.  I remember feeling the unexplainable feeling.  It really is such a strange thing to love a child as your daughter for months and months before a bang of the gavel makes her your daughter.  But, that was what happened and it was amazing,  We left that day as a family, just like we were when we walked in, but different.  Because for the rest of our lives, no one could come and take her away.

During our year, we had met many people.  Some were wonderful, some were apathetic, and some were somewhere in between.  I had such anger towards the system.  But, not anymore.  I think that’s important to say.  It was a traumatic year and many mistakes were made.  At the  heart of it, most people were trying to do the right thing; even though, I didn’t always agree with how they were going about it.  In the end, Lizzie was protected.  And, she ended up where I, of course, believe she belonged.  It’s a complicated thing, trying to decide the futures of these children.  And, these children are reliant on employees of these agencies, lawyers, and judges to make that call.  Lizzie was placed with us.  We were told that we could adopt her, but then told, maybe not.  The boys bonded with a sister that they might lose.  And, the biological parents bad-mouthed us and judged how we cared for her.  It was not easy.  And, while it was totally about us, we had to remember according to the system, it was not.  We were in charge of keeping her safe and healthy.  The focus was whether the biological parents would complete their case plan and do what they needed to do.  But, in our case, they wouldn’t.  In the end, they wanted the drugs more than they wanted her and we wanted her more than anything in the world.  Would I do it again?  Yes.  Would I adopt from the system again?  Absolutely.  Would it drive me crazy? Probably.  Would it be worth it?  Yes!

Right after court, we went to lunch with the family.  Later, we went to dinner with our friends.  We came home and put our kids to bed.  I don’t remember what I did on September 30th.  I know it was a Wednesday.  I know William had to go to school and Brian probably went to work.  I probably bummed around the house with Lizzie and Antwan.  Or maybe we went to the park.  The only thing that I know is that I was happy.  Really, really happy.

                                                             Video of the finalization!

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