Monday, October 5, 2009

Essay About The First Time We Met Our Son

Special to the St. Petersburg Times
In Print: Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday Journal: Thinking about adoption, they meet a little boy in foster care

My husband, Steven, stepson Sam and I were already waiting at the park early that summer evening when their car pulled up. I was both nervous and excited about meeting this little boy whose picture I had carried with me for weeks. Six years old at the time, Chandler had been in foster care on and off since he was 2 ½ years old. That picture and the background information the agencies had given us were all we knew of him.

Erin, Chandler's care manager, introduced us to him. He smiled shyly as he quietly said, "Hi." He carried a lunch box with him, and so we all sat down together underneath the picnic pavilion. When we told him we liked his cartoon character lunch box, he explained that his foster mom had packed him dinner since the timing of our visit meant he would miss eating with the other foster kids.

He had also brought some action figures. As he told us about them, he grew more comfortable. From then on he barely paused for breath as he jumped from one subject to the next, beginning nearly every sentence with, "And guess what?"

His speech wasn't very clear so we spent a good amount of time asking him to repeat things that first evening. He was so sweet and innocent, and with his shaggy hair, his long, skinny legs, big brown eyes and ear-to-ear smile I decided he was just about the cutest little boy I'd ever seen. He was a happy bundle of energy and excitement. How in the world could he still be in foster care, I wondered. I couldn't understand why people weren't lined up at the door to be his parents.

Once he finished eating we went out on the playground. We had given him a Nerf football thinking he might like to play that with us, but Chandler was far more interested in being chased up and down and all around the playground equipment.

"You can't get me!" he yelled as he laughed and ran off again, fully expecting that I would continue chasing him. And I did. Up the steps we climbed and down the slide we slid over and over. I was glad I had worn sneakers and shorts — it had been a very long time since I had run around a playground.

After a while, we all walked down to a small bridge overlooking the water. I asked Chandler if he was okay with me lifting him up so he could see the picture in the window of the building at the bridge's entrance. He said yes, but only let me hold him for a brief instant before he asked me to put him back down. We watched from the bridge for a few minutes in hopes of seeing an alligator, and then it was time to go.

As we walked back to the pavilion, the care manager invited us to follow her back to Chandler's foster home so that we could meet his foster mom. During the drive, Steven, Sam and I were all a bit apprehensive; Chandler was the first child we had been matched with and we'd never been to a foster home before.

The home was a large manufactured house at the end of a long asphalt driveway on a large plot of land in rural Hillsborough County. From outside the entrance gate, we could see horses roaming underneath the tall trees in the fenced area alongside the driveway. As we got out of the car, we heard goats in the back yard, and we could see a pool. It looked like a good environment for this energetic young boy.

Chandler and his care manager walked up the steps with us following close behind. As we reached the stoop, the front door flew open and we were suddenly surrounded.

Ranging in age from toddler to a little older than Chandler, all of the children talked at once. "Are you going to be Chandler's mom and dad?" they asked over and over again. Caught off guard, Steven and I didn't know what to say so we simply replied, "Well, we're his friends." It was like looking inside an alternate universe as I realized these kids lived in such a continual state of transition that getting new moms and dads was a normal occurrence to them.

We met the foster mom, and I was immediately grateful to this lady who had kindly opened her home to so many children. Still talking all at once, the children followed as Chandler showed us the bedroom he shared with his foster brothers. He excitedly pointed out his bed and his toys, and then also showed us which beds and toys belonged to the other boys.

It was a short visit. As we prepared to leave, all of the children wanted to hug us and we obliged. We told Chandler how much we enjoyed meeting him and one of the older girls excitedly said to him, "I know they're going to be your mom and dad."

I knew we were going to be, too.

Michelle Schumacher is a marketing freelancer and foster adoption advocate who blogs about foster adoption at

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Recap of the 2009 Annual NACAC Conference

The 2009 NACAC (North American Council on Adoptable Children) Annual Conference took place in Columbus, OH, Aug. 12 - 16. Hundreds of attendees from all over the United States as well as Canada took part in educational symposiums, networking events, and meetings centered around advocating for post adoptive support services in their own communities.

Supported by sponsors including Jockey Being Family (who provided scholarships to the conference for 30 first time attendees, including myself) and the Dave Thomas Foundation, the conference provided the opportunity to garner practical and straightforward information from highly respected experts in the field of adoption.

One of the most integral components of the conference was the validation experienced from being among a group of people who truly understand what life as an adoptive family is really like. Solution-oriented in all respects, the conference's overall tone was both realistic and optimistic at the same time. Personal stories of the joys and rewards, as well as the just as important trials and tribulations, common among adoptive families were shared by speakers and attendees alike. Tough topics were handled proactively and directly; no topic was shyed away from, and attendees were able to reach out to speakers, agencies, and other adoptive parents for solution-oriented insight, advice, and solutions in addressing their own specific challenges.

Consisting of a very small full-time staff, NACAC is nonetheless accomplishing great things in its energetic efforts to advance the causes pertinent to adoptive families. More information about NACAC as well as the 36th Annual NACAC Conference, taking place in Hartford, Conneticut, August 4 –7, 2010 can be found at

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Letter to the Editor of the St. Petersburg Times

The following is a Letter to the Editor I wrote that was printed in the St. Petersburg Times on Monday, July 27, 2009. It was in response to a Times Editorial, "Adoption progress, problems" which was printed on Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Subject: Much Work Still to be Done

As a foster adoptive parent and advocate, please accept my gratitude for pointing out that the increase in the number of foster adoptions in Florida, while commendable, does not eliminate the work that is still to be done. Over and over research commissioned locally, at the state level, nationally, and beyond indicates the fundamental need for post adoption support services. However, both DCF and Hillsborough Kids, Inc. continue to allot a miniscule portion of their budgets to providing such services. Further, the supports that do exist are hard to access and generally for limited periods of time only, but anyone who has adopted a former foster child can tell you that the effects of the trauma these children have experienced are likely to resurface throughout their childhood, teen years, and beyond. Learning to work through or manage the often extreme behaviors they understandably exhibit as a result of their past experiences requires far more than love; it requires commitment, perseverance, and dedication on the part of the parents to become knowledgeable of the psychological, neurological, and other “whys” behind their children’s behavior, as well as students of the specific methods that are effective in parenting this population. As your editorial points out, families who adopt foster children are providing an invaluable service to the state. One has to ask why, then, does the state not in turn commit to supporting them with the resources they need in order to be successful?

Regarding ours being the only state in the country to have an outright ban on gay and lesbian adoption I say shame on us, Florida. For the sake of fulfilling our shared responsibility to provide every child with a safe, secure, supportive, and loving home, it is time to insist that political and personal biases be set aside so that all qualified residents, regardless of their sexuality, may finally be extended equal rights to adopt in the state of Florida.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New Social Network a Promising Resource for All Who Are Touched by Adoption

A new online social network devoted to all aspects of adoption was recently launched. A July 10th message from the site's founders to its members read:

A message to all members of Adoption Voices

In the last few weeks since we launched, we've already had more than 1,500 members register. Even more important, we've had great content created along with great member interaction. For example, we now have 98 sub-groups created on adoption topics.

The groups with the most members so far are:
(1) Transracial Adoption
(2) Hoping to Adopt
(3) China Adoption
(4) Families Supporting Adoption
(5) LDSFS Adoptions
(6) International Adoption
(7) Bloggers
(8) Openness in Adoption
(9) Adoption Humor and Inspiration
(10) Adoption Advocates
(11) Foster Adoption
(12) Why Open?
(13) Open Adoption
(14) Finding and Adoption
(15) Christian Adoption

The most active groups as of today are:
(1) LDSFS Adoptions
(2) Hoping to Adopt
(3) Why Open?
(4) China Adoption
(5) Bloggers
(6) International Adoption
(7) Transracial Adoption
(8) Families Supporting Adoption
(9) Kid Free Zone
(10) Adoptive Parents for Open Records
(11) How to Avoid Being Scammed
(12) Foster Adoption
(13) California Adoptive Families
(14) Special Needs Adoption
(15) Birthparents (Who Have a Positive Story to Tell)

We encourage you to join or create a group today and share your adoption voice at

Visit Adoption Voices at:

Friday, July 10, 2009

Excerpts from UK Article About Increase in Number of Adopted Children Returned to Care

Research from the UK validating the need for and importance of post adoptive support services...

July 10, 2009
Number of adopted children returned to care has doubled in five years

The number of adopted children who have been returned to care homes because their new parents cannot cope with them has doubled in the past five years.

Data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the number has increased by a third in the past year alone as parents struggle with often challenging children who have suffered years of neglect or abuse in their natural families.

Going back into care after living with an adoptive family is a traumatic experience for children, and for the adoptive parents who have to accept their only chance of having a family has gone. It is also a huge cost to an already over-stretched system with the children likely to need expensive specialist care.

The increase in breakdowns comes despite a fall in the number of children being adopted. Only 4,637 children were adopted in 2007, the lowest number since 1999.

The data on breakdowns is in a survey of local authorities, conducted by More4 News and shared with The Times. More4 News will broadcast its special report tonight at 8pm.

Experts say the figures show that many children are being left to suffer at the hands of dysfunctional natural parents for too long before being taken into care by social workers. By the time they are adopted, many have severe emotional or behavioural problems.

Local authorities are not obliged to keep any data on adoption breakdowns and the vast majority of those contacted by More4 News had no figures or only partial records. However, according to the numbers kept by 92 out of 450 local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales, 57 children were returned to care in 2008-09 compared with 26 in 2004-05. If the pattern is repeated across the country, it means more than 250 children were returned to the care system last year.
The figures are also a reflection of the changing face of adoption. Before the 1970s, most adopted children were babies born to single mothers, but today more than three quarters have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect. The increase in alcohol and drug abuse among parents is also a growing factor in care proceedings, with parents often being given several chances to break their habit before children are removed.

According to data provided to More4 News by the local authorities, last year only four per cent of adopted children were babies, with the majority aged between one and four. A quarter were aged between five and nine.

Adoption UK, the charity which supports adoptive families, said not enough was being done to help parents to care for a challenging child.

Jonathan Pearce, of Adoption UK, said: “The figures starkly illustrate the difficulties and complexity of modern-day adoptions from care and also highlight the lack of support for adoptive families in their challenging task of being therapeutic parents for traumatised children.”
The charity says the system is still too preoccupied with the intense and lengthy approvals process for would-be adoptive parents, rather than preparing them in advance and helping them afterwards.

Case study ‘I had naively believed in love’

Initially, the adoption seemed to be going well. But Kate discovered that Alex, whom she had adopted when the child was four, had an attachment disorder and heard voices.
“She never left my side, ever,” Kate says. “She couldn’t watch television, she couldn’t play, she didn’t want to play with other children. There was nothing that she could do by herself.”

Alex’s behaviour deteriorated rapidly and she began to torture the family cat. She tried to kill her rabbit. Social services had warned Kate that her daughter’s background was “as bad as it gets”. Alex’s natural mother was an alcoholic and a drug addict.

“I naively believed that with enough love and enough attention and security we could make it all better for her,” Kate says. “But it became a nightmare caring for a child who isn’t attached to you.”

(All names have been changed))

How Social Media Will Help Our Cause

Last night, I attended Social School, a seminar focused on bringing attendees up to speed on why social media is an essential marketing tool. Prior to attending, I had a Twitter account, Facebook, etc., but wasn't sure how to use them to promote this blog.

As discusssed in some of my previous postings, this blog focuses on 3 goals:

1) Be a voice of encouragement for those who have adopted through the foster care system during their toughest moments by telling the stories of other families who have gone before them.

2) Encourage others to foster and/or adopt.

3) Advocate for increased availability of post adoption support services.

After attending Social School, I now know how to search for others who are passionate about sharing helpful info. with other foster adoptive parents (see links to resources). I also have a whole bunch of ideas on how to recruit new families (and the latest proposed legislation to lift Florida's ban on gay adoption plays a key role). Last but not least, I've also got ideas to share with HKI, Inc., the org that oversees fostering and foster adoptions in our county, on a whole new (and low cost) way to provide post adoption supports for our families (think "DIY).

Very exciting times, indeed. Stay tuned!!

Stay tuned!!

Friday, June 26, 2009

"What Would I Do Instead?"

Donna—Gram to her foster and adopted children—doesn’t remember for sure how she became interested in being a foster parent. She does remember clearly, however, how she decided to become the adoptive mother of two of the foster children in her care.

Donna and her husband, Thomas, first fostered in the early 1970’s while living in New Hampshire. Back then, Donna was a stay-at-home mom to their biological daughter, Dawn, and son, Steven, which she says made it convenient for them to take in other young children. That first stint in foster parenting ended when they relocated to another county.

The couple didn’t foster again until thirty years later, in 2004, after both had retired. Having settled in eastern Hillsborough County on an eight acre parcel of land shared with Dawn and her husband, Kenny, Donna and Thomas were inspired to resume fostering by their daughter and son-in-law, who had begun foster parenting several years earlier.

After completing their state-required Model Approach to Partnership in Parenting (MAPP) training through Camelot Community Care, Inc., the couple became licensed in January of 2005. Within days, they began taking foster children into their home. Donna and Thomas were respectively called Gram and Grampy by their grandchildren next door, and their foster children followed suit in calling them by those names, as well.

In May of 2005 then 7-year-old Carly and 5-year-old Joseph, a sister and brother sibling group, came to live with the couple. Donna recalls Joseph saying, “I don’t see no roaches here,” giving her indication early on of the conditions the children were used to living in. After being with the couple only one week, the siblings announced they wanted to stay there for good. Until that time, Donna and Thomas hadn’t considered adopting, but the children’s determination caused them to openly begin discussing the possibility.

Within a few short months of becoming licensed, the couple had eight foster children—the maximum number they were licensed for—living with them, including Carly and Joseph. Unfortunately, in late 2005 Thomas was diagnosed with cancer. In addition to a houseful of children, their daily lives now also included the regular arrivals and departures of hospice workers. Perhaps because the children’s time in foster care had gotten them used to people coming and going in their lives, there were fairly unaware of the seriousness of the situation. Carly was the only one to have any real idea of how sick Thomas was. After a long and painful battle, he succumbed to the disease, quietly passing on March 1, 2006.

Donna says that having the children in their lives is what got her through that tough time. “Things had to be done,” she says. “I had to act like everything was okay.” Even after her husband passed, she never considered giving up foster parenting. Instead, she kept busy by continuing to take care of the children as a single parent.

“What would I do instead?” she asks.

For some time, Donna continued to be at capacity with eight foster children rotating through her home. Soft in tone and willowy in stature, one nonetheless gets the impression that Donna does not tolerate much in the way of poor behavior. Discipline includes time outs, the children being sent to their room, and having privileges revoked. With foster children regularly arriving and leaving, Donna incorporates convenience wherever she can, such as using paper plates for dinner, and the children help keep the house tidy by handling such chores as doing their own laundry and cleaning their bathroom.

Most of Donna’s foster children have accepted the structure and rules of the household while they lived with her. Some, however, had been so severely impacted by their previous experiences that they proved to be a physical threat to themselves or the other children. In those instances, the children were removed from her care by Donna’s request.

As other children came and went, Carly and Joseph continued to live with Donna. The two adjusted well to their new home overall, but Joseph was prone to violence for some time. Donna notes that when he would get off the bus after school he would be uncontrollable and filled with an angry energy that led him to pick fights with the other children. She sought to understand where the behavior was coming from, and why it occurred in the afternoons but not in the mornings.

Over time, Donna learned that the dosage of a medication Joseph had been prescribed by a psychiatrist was woefully insufficient. While she continued to point out the issues to Joseph’s caseworkers, it was only through her own persistence that the dosage was eventually properly adjusted, following which Joseph’s instances of violence decreased dramatically.

While they were still foster children of Gram’s, Carly and Joseph did not have contact with either biological parent but they did initially stay in touch with three half siblings, all on their mother’s side, who were also living in Florida. As the years went on, communication from their half siblings slowly decreased. Their half-brother was eventually adopted and has not been in contact with his younger siblings since. Their half-sisters, who live with their biological father, at one point initiated scheduling a visit with Carly and Joseph. Donna recalls Carly spending most of the appointed day standing in the driveway excitedly awaiting her sisters’ arrival. Sadly, they never came and, now living in another state, they have not been in touch since.

The court’s official termination of Carly and Joseph’s biological parents’ rights took place in the fall of 2007, which meant that the children also became eligible for adoption at that time. Because National Adoption Day is in November, the caseworkers asked Donna to postpone finalizing the children’s’ adoption so that they could participate in that day’s ceremonies. On November 16, 2007, Donna finally and forever became the mother of Carly and Joseph. During the process the children chose new names for themselves, both of which honor Donna’s husband, the man who would have become their father but for his passing.

Since coming to live with Donna, Carly and Joseph have known a life of structure and routine. After school and on weekends, they spend most of their free time outside with the other children playing with the family’s horses and goats, or riding their bikes and scooters. Birthdays are large celebrations that include Donna’s daughter, son-in-law (now Carly and Joseph’s sister and brother-in-law), and their children. Gram makes a cake, and there are pizza and party favors. Typically, just family members participate.

When she celebrated her most recent birthday this past October, for the first time Carly invited a friend over to celebrate with them.

No doubt, it was only the first of many such times to come.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Adoption Community Call to Action for Orphan Film‏

Copied from an Adoptive Families magazine email...

Dear Readers,

There is a horror film being released on July 24, called Orphan, about a family who adopts an older girl who "is not what she appears to be." The film is currently being promoted, and the trailer is available at . The adoption message is extremely negative, and plays into the stereotypes of adopted children, particularly older children, as damaged.

Though we have not been able to preview the entire movie, the trailer leads us to believe the movie will send a horrific message about adoption. The adoption community is protesting the release of the film. We urge you to contact the makers of the film, as well as your local movie theater chains, with your concerns. Feel free to copy or adapt the sample letter below.

To whom it may concern:
I want to express my outrage about the release of the movie Orphan. The film plays into the stereotype of adopted children as damaged and dangerous. It discourages families from pursuing adoption, particularly adoption of older children, who are especially in need of loving homes. As an adoptive parent, I am horrified by the line in the trailer that "it must be hard to love an adopted child as much as your own." Adoption has often been misrepresented in the media, but the previews for this film are unbelievably offensive. I urge you to change the promotional materials, and to consider holding the release of the film altogether.

Contact information:

Warner Bros.
4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91522

Silver Pictures
4000 Warner Blvd. 90
Burbank, CA 91522-0001

Time Warner Inc.
One Time Warner Center
New York, NY 10019-8016

Thank you for your support.The editors of Adoptive Families

Monday, June 8, 2009

Press Release Sent to Local Media on Friday, 6/5/09

June 5, 2009


Michelle Schumacher
Plan B Events and Promotions, LLC


TAMPA, FL—Freelance marketer and adoptive mom Michelle Schumacher wants to expand awareness of the positive foster adoption stories in our community.

Schumacher and her husband adopted their 9-year-old son out of foster care two and a half years ago, and today she considers her family to be a foster adoption success story.

Early on, however, she remembers feeling overwhelmed and incompetent. “Looking back, we had no idea what we were getting into. We had a lot of learning to do about the unique issues former foster children are prone to, as well as how to effectively manage those issues.”

During the rough moments, Schumacher would seek out the stories of other foster adoptive families who had learned to productively manage their children’s special needs. “The stories of others who had been down this road before us and turned out okay encouraged me to believe that as long as we kept trying, we would be successful, too,” she says.
Persistence eventually led Schumacher and her husband to locate the resources that have helped them learn how to effectively parent their son, particularly through the guidance of professionals specifically trained in working with these children. Now Schumacher wants to help others find the same success.

Recalling how helpful the stories of other foster adoptive families had been for her, she set out to make those stories more widely known., featuring its first foster adoption success story family profile, was launched this week.

Focusing primarily on Hillsborough County, the blog will be updated regularly with additional family profiles. Hopeful that expanding awareness of successful foster adoptions in our area will likewise increase local interest, the blog also includes links to sites featuring information about how to adopt foster children.

Knowing first-hand the importance of post adoption support services, links to local support resources will also be included. “Increasing the number of foster adoptions in Florida is one of Governor Crist’s primary initiatives, and I applaud him for this effort. That said, in order for those families to also become success stories there absolutely needs to be a simultaneous increase in the support services available to those who do adopt.”

“Success will be much harder to come by if not,” says Schumacher.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"I've Been Mommy Ever Since"

Summer and her husband, Leonard, had always talked about adopting. Growing up, both had personal ties to adoption. Summer’s mother was adopted when she was two years old. When Leonard was 14 years old his aunt and uncle, who were unable to have a child, adopted his cousin as an infant. For both Summer and Leonard, their previous experiences with adoption had been positive.

The bi-racial couple already had two biological daughters. They were interested in finding a boy and, racially, they wanted a child that could fit in best with their family make up. Realizing they “didn’t want to do the baby thing again with the diapers,” they also wanted an older child.

Well aware that older children were likely to come with baggage, the two candidly discussed together (and eventually with their case worker) the situations that as a family they felt they could and couldn’t handle. “I felt kind of bad…I felt like I was going to Petsmart,” says Summer. But she and Leonard were committed to not taking in a child that wasn’t a fit for them. They wanted somebody they could relate to, and they wanted the child to feel he could relate to them.

In March of 2007 they saw the Heart Gallery, a touring exhibit featuring photos of and information about children waiting to be adopted, on display at Citrus Park Mall. They took information cards on a couple of the children profiled. The following week Summer contacted Camelot Community Care, an agency in Hillsborough County that facilitates foster adoptions.

Through Camelot, in July of 2007 the couple began MAPP (Model Approach to Partnership in Parenting), Florida’s required training program for all potential foster and foster adoptive families. Until they began the classes, they didn’t realize how many children in our area were in the foster care system, or how many were available for adoption. Summer remembers her shock at realizing that kids her daughter goes to school with could be in this situation.

That fall, the couple went through the next step in the process of adoption, which was a home study to determine if they would be eligible to adopt a child out of state care. As it turned out, at that same time a little African American boy who would eventually come to be known to them as Isaiah was living in a foster home the couple’s case manager also oversaw. S ummer and Leonard had actually seen Isaiah’s picture on the Heart Gallery. At that time he was listed as having been placed since his foster parents intended to adopt him, so the couple didn’t take his information card. But he had definitely caught their eye.

In October, Isaiah’s adoption by his foster family fell through, and he was moved into another of Summer and Leonard’s caseworker’s foster homes. In December, he was once again scheduled for “match,” the formal process by which those seeking to adopt are considered as possible families for children eligible for adoption. Knowing he fit the profile of the child Summer and Leonard were looking for, their case worker contacted the couple to see if they would like to be presented as a possible match for Isaiah.

From later conversations with their caseworker Summer and Leonard learned the match committee was firm in its position that Isaiah should have a strong African American father figure. His guardian ad litem also felt he needed to have a religious family, as church was something he had become accustomed to in his time with his foster family. Summer recalls their case worker calling to say, “They want to know if you attend a church and, if so, which one?” Summer answered, yes, and provided the requested information. They were deemed an appropriate match, and the process by which they would be introduced to Isaiah, and he to them, began.

Summer and Leonard’s family first met Isaiah on January 20, 2008. He had just turned 6 years old. Subsequent visits went well and Summer soon felt comfortable mentioning to Isaiah that it was okay if he called her mom, but it was okay if he called her Summer, too. Shortly after that, he started calling her mommy. “And I’ve been mommy ever since,” she says.

Five weeks after their first meeting, Isaiah moved in with his new mom, dad, and sisters.

Prior to the adoption hearing, Isaiah asked if he could change his name. He asked Summer what names she liked. When she told them that had their youngest daughter been a boy, her name would have been Isaiah, he said “I want that name,” and they began to practice calling him by it. Shortly thereafter, his teacher sent a note home that said, “I don’t know what’s going on but he’s telling the kids that his name is Isaiah.” Summer remembers laughing as she phoned the teacher to explain that Isaiah wasn’t crazy, and he wasn’t speaking of an imaginary friend, but that the name change was part of his impending adoption. Summer and Leonard finalized their adoption of Isaiah on May 30, 2008.

Looking back, Summer reflects that “Isaiah has been able to fit into my family as if he’d always been there,” and that he has always felt at home with them. During the year and a half he has been with them, he has not exhibited any significant delays, and he has not been diagnosed with any disorders typical to the foster adoptive population. At the start of first grade last fall he received N’s for “Needs Improvement” in every area on his report card but at a recent conference with the teacher Summer was told that he is on track in everything. Of his earlier academic performance she believes he was simply a victim of circumstance and his time in the system.

Summer says their daughters have adjusted to having a brother, “really well.” Throughout the entire process, the couple kept their oldest daughter informed about what they were doing. As Isaiah was closer in age to her than her younger sister, the couple explained that their new brother would be more of her equal. They included her in events and explained the process to her as they went through it. Their daughter was so excited that she even kept her class posted, letting them know step by step everything that was going on as her family went through the process of getting to know and then adopting her brother.

At the mention of their family sounding “too perfect,” Summer laughs and says, “It’s not been perfect. There have been issues.” She says she and Leonard have handled each situation as they’ve come. When asked if she would recommend adoption to other families Summer says yes, but that she would tell them to make sure and get all the facts. “Ask questions. Make sure you’re educated. Make sure you’re family is a strong, united family,” she says.

Since Isaiah came into their lives, Summer has become "Information Central" for her co-workers who are considering adopting, noting they often approach her to ask how it works. When she tells people about the process they are often surprised. “It’s that easy?” they ask. Summer says she thinks the process worked great, noting it wasn’t always the way she wanted it to be, but it was worth it.

Summer believes her family has been blessed. While they knew things weren’t going to be “hunky dory,” they also knew they could handle whatever came along. She has told her husband “It’s sad, what Isaiah went through,” but that she believes “he was meant for us.”

Summer, Leonard, and their three children recently celebrated the one year anniversary of the day Isaiah was adopted. Summer notes the day is of particular importance to her because, “That’s the day I sat in the court room and they told me this is my son,” she says. “I love him. He is my kid.”

While the couple has talked about possibly adopting again someday, right now they want to focus on taking the best care possible of the three children they do have. “We saved one kid’s life,” Summer says.

She adds that she knows they can’t save everyone. “But we did something.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Upcoming Hillsborough Kids, Inc. Resource Fair

Tuesday, June 23, 2009
1pm - 4pm

Booth style Expo complete with community resources and HKI internal resources. Wander through the room collecting information from each resource present. Handouts will be available for you and representatives will be available to answer questions about their program.

Learn about the many services and supports available to the children and families we serve.

√ Hear from representatives
of various agencies

√ Find out about eligibility

√ Sharpen your referral skills

√ Ask questions of the experts

√ Collect program materials

Join us at:
DCF Conference Room
9393 N. Florida AvenueTampa, FL. 33612

Friday, May 22, 2009

Our Family is a Hillsborough Co., FL Adoption Success Story

Two and a half years ago my husband and I adopted our son out of foster care. Today, I can thankfully say that while this has without a doubt been the most challenging experience of my life, it has also been the most worthwhile. Our son's presence in our family has caused us each to grow, to become stronger, and to become better, both individually and as a family. We are as blessed that he came into our lives, if not more so, as our son is that we came into his.

Looking back, as eager as we may have been to give a home to a child who might not otherwise have a family, we had very little understanding of what to expect. Florida’s mandated MAPP training program for foster and adoptive families does what it can to educate and prepare prospective parents. However, former foster children have a myriad of issues unique to this population. It has been my observation that until your child is actually living with you it is impossible to grasp the enormity of the extreme behaviors, events, and emotions likely to be encountered. As with many other adoptive families, we had no idea how to handle these issues when they arose. Moreover, we had no clear direction on where to turn for assistance.

We are resourceful people, though, and during our toughest moments I would seek out the insight and advice of other families who had travelled this road before us. Their shared experiences provided the reassurance that as long as we persevered, we too would find our way. And so we have continued to work at figuring out life as a foster adoptive family, to keep learning, to keep looking for solutions and, when problems arise, to persist in finding the support resources to help our son and our family.

Through this blog, my intention is to offer an honest look at the challenges involved in raising former foster children while also focusing on how the families profiled have successfully overcome and/or learned to productively manage their children’s special needs. Links to resources for those who have adopted or are considering adopting foster children will also be included. Questions, comments, and suggestions are welcome, so please feel free to comment and/or contact me.

Life with an adopted former foster child is filled with more ups and downs than a roller coaster. Luckily, borrowing a line from Mary Steenburgen's character in the movie Parenthood, I like the roller coaster. As you will see from the stories to follow, many others do, too!