baby development

Friday, January 26, 2007

Yay Me

At Weight Watchers last night, I got my 10 pound star. In 3 weeks, there is now 10.6 pounds less of me. That feels flippin' awesome. AND that also means I met my New Year's resolution to get below 250. I am now below 250. Whew! My reward will be a mani-pedi. It's been too long.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Process - And Some Explanations

A wonderful reader asked some terrific questions - and I wanted to answer them here:

S/he wrote:
We will foster to adopt. We did not realize we may go thru 3 maybe 4 or more placements till we have a couple kids to adopt. 2 years ago we left the process-because we were afraid to loose the kids back to the family. If we chose the list for just kids "ready to be adopted"--the social worker said they are few and far between and we may wait a very long time.

My response:
We were "foster to adopt" also, and knew from the start that every placement would be a risk. We had met people who had many, many children come and go from their homes before one stayed. But on the other hand, everyone we met who had done foster care for some time and wanted to adopt eventually got their chance to become a forever family. It was not uncommon for people to foster children for two years or more. On the other hand, I met people whose first placements were eventually freed for adoption, so it seemed like we truly had to trust God and our social workers.

We chose not to wait for a child "ready to be adopted". There are people in our county who have been waiting for 4 years or more because they are not willing to risk children leaving.

We were very afraid. And we mourned every time a child left our home. Four children came and went. The first newborn baby stayed 23 hours, a 2 month old and her 4 year old brother stayed 10 days, and another newborn stayed 4 days. We were blessed with quick decisions by the state to send children to relative placements. It did not hurt any less. We loved every child as if they would become ours. In the end, we are better for having done that, and those children were loved passionately.

As I Believer, I must remember how many times in the Bible, it says "fear not". It doesn't mean I don't - but it does mean I don't have to.

We asked our workers to screen placements with us very carefully. They knew we wanted to adopt. Every placement we took had "signs" of eventual TPR - incarceration, drug use, or history with the cabinet. Still, it is no guarantee. Workers did their best to see that we got children with a likelyhood of staying. They did the best they could do with their "guessing" and looking for all the "red flags".

S/he wrote:
She told us there is no subsidy for fostering/and or adopting from the system unless they are special needs!

My response:
All foster parents receive a subsidy to provide for the child, regardless of the child's status. Some states are very, very low - GA, AL, and MS for example, and some are higher due to recent changes by the state legislatures (KY for example). Our per diem for Cookie is $19.70 per day. It goes up a few dollars for teenagers. This is the basic rate - it is also higher for families who are specially trained to take medically fragile children.

"Special needs" definitions do vary widely, as does the interpretation. In our state, children over age 3 are automatically defined as "special needs", and all minority children are also defined that way. Our child is defined as special needs because of drug exposure. However, we received the very same stipend for ALL the children we cared for - even a little perfectly healthy white newborn. You will too. If you tell me what county you are in, I am fairly skilled at finding out information (my career is research education!).

Our subsidy for Cookie will continue until she is 18, or finishes college. On February 1st, it will become an "adoption subsidy" instead of a foster care per diem - and instead of a daily rate, we will receive a flat $600 per month to meet some of her needs. Our workers try to get this for everyone who adopts. Even though Cookie is perfectly healthy and even advanced, we will get the adoption subsidy because of how she came into foster care. I do not know anyone who adopted from foster care in my state who does not get a subsidy. It is very uncommon for a child in foster care to not have some issue that can be used to label them as "special needs".

S/he wrote:
They said they will pay for the adoption with their lawyer for us.

My response:
This is very common, although the attorney has to be hired by you, otherwise it is a conflict of interest. The attorneys often will direct-bill the state and work hard to keep their fees within the limits of what the state will pay. These people are angels! Our state will pay up to $1000 of the attorney fees. Our attorney only charges $75 an hour above this, and there are costs for things we may end up paying for once we go over the $1000 limit. We have taken the advice of another adoptive mom and are getting her a new social security number with her new name so there can be no back-tracking. There are some costs associated with that, that others might not have.

S/he wrote:
The special needs category for Pa. is: age 5 and older, a sibling group, or serious medical or physical disabilities. We are asking for 2 children age 0-3 preferably healthy, so basically we are led to believe we'll be receiving ZERO! I read one of your notes on your subsidy and we don't hear anything close! Was it like this for you also initially???

My response:
I've looked up information on PA out of curiosity, and it looks like your subsidy should be even higher than ours. My advice is find another foster parent with experience in your county. You WILL get a subsidy no matter what. We couldn't do this without it! BTW - we did not find out the amount of the per diem until the very last day of our training sessions to become foster parents (and no one dared to ask - no one wanted it to even look like they were in it to make money). We were shocked to learn it was so high - especially knowing there are many states that only provide about $10 a day or less.

We also get WIC (Women, Infants, and Children - sucky name that is due for a change) and that is a God-send that will provide formula until age 1. Now we get milk, eggs, cheese, juice, and peanut butter for Cookie. It doesn't amount to near as much as the cost of formula, but it is so worth the effort to sign up for it.

Our daycare expenses are also paid for (the daycare direct bills the state) because we are both employed full-time. In cases where one parent is not employed, daycare expenses are not provided. We have been blessed to have Cookie enrolled in KinderCare - in an accredited facility with a curriculum, and a center director who is also a foster parent (in addition to at least 2 of Cookie's teachers who are also foster parents as well and many kids in her classes who are foster children).

Lastly, they will give you a medical card to get health care for your foster children. After the adoption, we can keep her medical card so until she is out of college we will never have to pay for any health care short of elective (like orthodontics or a dermatologist to treat teenage acne).

S/he wrote:
We had to show our financial statements (for our license)to prove we have gainful employment and can pay our bills---but we thought the foster care system subsidy was not based on the family income. ??? Are they just trying to be "tight" with us?

My response:
The subsidy are not income-based. If they were, many of us in the "middle class" would be out of luck! My husband and I both make a good living, and we still get the same subsidy everyone else gets.

We did have to provide financial statements for both steps - even to adopt we had to fill out the same forms. They told us in the foster parenting classes that they want to know you can provide for this child even without the subsidy. They certainly don't want a child coming from a home where the power and water were off regularly to a foster home with the same poor conditions. They want proof you can pay your bills and that your home isn't about to be taken away from you, and that you aren't a paycheck away from being evicted.

And we have debt like most other Americans - consumer debt, student loans, and car payments. But we proved to them that we can pay our bills and take care of a foster child until the subsidy check arrives. (This is actually very important in our state as checks seem to arrive late all the time for some unknown reason.) We put Cookie's subsidy into a separate account, and keep track of expenditures like clothing because the social workers will ask to see receipts. We are required to spend at least $25 per month on average for new clothes for her (not a problem, you can imagine). We try to save enough to spoil her rotten with expensive and wonderful clothes, shoes (like Pedipeds - how awesome are these shoes??), and excursions like going to FL for Christmas. These kids really deserve no less than the best anyway.

For adoption, our finances were even more important because our daycare expenses will now have to be paid up-front by us and reimbursed by the state. So even though we eventually get everything back, that money has to be free to go on a journey each month.

As a final note - dear readers - Please know we realize that our adoption has been atypical in how fast it has happened. We also never let a day go by where we do not thank God for the Commonwealth of Kentucky for its forward-thinking legislature who provides resources and supports for foster parents. Likewise, we are blessed with a Foster Parent Association as well as Adoption Support of Kentucky right here in our city. In fact, many training classes are held less than a mile from where we live - and childcare is usually provided during training classes to keep our license current. We know that many of you living in other states have to struggle to get resources for your foster children, and we are deeply sympathetic. It is a crime to put these children into foster care and not provide the necessary resources to the foster parents to give them an adequate level of care.

There is a chance we will do this all over again once the adoption is final - and if Cookie ever decides to sleep through the night (another story altogether). If we do, it will only be because we have the kind of social workers in Lexington and the resources in Kentucky that make it all somehow bearable and worthwhile.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

February 1st Can't Come Soon Enough

That's the day we get to meet our attorney face-to-face to sign the petition to adopt. Once that is filed with the courts, we get to wait to see when our court date will be. Hopefully, we will get March 2nd and not get bumped to April 6th. Either way, things are rolling quickly.

To all those adopting: get referrals from others who have gone before you - it pays to hire someone "in the know". Social workers said they could not tell us who to use, but did tell us who to ask to get names, and once we hit on the right one - then they said "that person works with us all the time, and is very fast" - clearly, we had struck a chord.

I had heard that once we had an adoption worker, that the pace of things would really pick up. I continue to be amazed at how quickly everyone is working on our behalf, and how very little we have to do now in terms of the documentation.

In my next post, I want to answer some questions a wonderful reader from PA left. They are important to answer, and I think my answers will tell you why I feel so blessed that God sent us to Lexington, KY - for more than just jobs. Clearly, our daughter would be here - and resources and blessings unimaginable from the most unexpected of places - the state.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Christmas 2006

There are so many pictures - all taken by my dad while we were in FL for Christmas. I'd love to share them all, but there are over 400 of them. He's quite the photographer, and I may never take her anywhere else again to have her picture taken, and instead fly us down to FL so Grandpa can capture the Cookie on film. Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Coolest Question To-Date...

...came late yesterday in an e-mail from our adoption worker who had just received the fee letter she needed from our attorney in order to finish putting together our contract. She asked:

What would you like Cookie's full legal name to be upon adoption?

You could have knocked me over with a feather I felt so faint upon reading that. It was so official, so legal, so...beautiful.

I immediately sent my reply:

It will be Mia Elizabeth Ourlastname.

(She will be named Mia because Michael's initials are M.I.A., thus, she will be named after her dad.)

I admired that line in the e-mail for a spell before sending it on its way.

I swallowed hard, and felt my eyes grow wet. I blinked them away and went back to answering other e-mail.

Sometimes, the joy is in the little things along the journey. I pray that when she is 13 and acting like a brat, that I remember moments like this when my greatest and most important goal in life was to ensure that she be my daughter forever.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

We Got the Presentation Summary

This morning, we had a lovely visit with both our R & C worker and our adoption worker. The adoption worker gave us our copy of the presentation summary. It contains lots of family history, Cookie's birth certificate, original social security card, and a copy of her Biodad's mugshot. That will not be going in the lifebook, though it will be tucked away deep in the files for one day when she is adult enough to handle it (and if she ever asks if we have a picture). I did not read the presentation summary. I'm just not in the frame of mind to go through Biodad's arrest records, or find out what all happened to Cookie's two brothers. It is what it is, and I'm at peace.

Now, our attorney needs to send a letter indicating her charges, and the adoption worker can finish putting together our contract. She will then come by in about a week so we can sign it. Our contract will then begin on February 1st as adoptive parents.

At that point, Cookie's monthly subsidy will come from another source, and her daycare will be paid first by us and then reimbursed by the state.

The attorney has to appoint a guardian ad litem who will come out to the house and put together a report to submit to the court.

There is very little that we will need to do except get some things from the presentation summary to the attorney - along with copies of our marriage liscense and a few other documents.

Our judge for the case only does adoptions one day a month - the first Friday of every month, so February is out. So, we are hoping for the first Friday in March (March 2nd). At worst, the adoption will be final on the first Friday in April (April 6th).

Most days I still cannot believe we have a daughter.

At the end of this semester (sometime in May) we will reassess whether we are ready to put our names back on the list for placements for foster-to-adopt. It will necessitate Cookie sleeping through the night for the most part, and Michael getting a lot of writing done this semester in anticipation of tenure. Finding the time and energy to write with a toddler running around everywhere has been nigh unto impossible.

So far, so good folks. We continue to be blessed by your prayers and God's remarkably fast answers to them!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Presentation Summary Completed!

I just heard from our adoption worker, and the Presentation Summary is now finished! She is just waiting on copies of things right now, so she will be coming out to our house on the morning of the 16th to give us everything. We had already scheduled our quarterly visit with our R&C worker for foster care for that morning, so instead of taking yet another block of time off work, we're all going to meet at our house for one big visit.

The Presentation Summary will include every bit of information and paperwork the state had on Cookie and her entire family, her hospital records, birth certificate, social security information, and things I'm sure I have no clue about.

At this point, we've had to learn a lot about trust and faith. We've had to put our trust in Kendra (the adoption worker) that she knew what she was doing, and would do everything correctly and efficiently. We've had to put our trust in unknown and unseen people gathering the paperwork for the Presentation Summary. We've had to have faith that everything would happen when it was supposed to. We'vd had to give up any worry about the process.

I still attempt to worry, but when it's all outside of your realm of control, it's a lot easier to sleep at night knowing you took care of everything you needed to do, and that God and his crew are handling the rest.

Thank you, Lord, for this excellent news. Thank you, Leann, for completing our Presentation Summary so quickly. You do God's work, and I know you know that.

The Latest "Story"

As his schedule affords more flexibility than mine, Michael is often "out and about" with Cookie in tow. Together they are a beautiful picture - a contrast in size, and shape, and color. He's 6'1", a soft, cuddly, shaved-headed dark man with skin the color of a good cup of dark roast coffee. Cookie is 23 pounds of porcelin cherub doll with fluffy strawberry blonde hair and a turned up tiny nose. Together, you can tell they are very much in love as father and daughter. But to the unaware, their father-daughter relationship might be, well...confusing.

Earlier this week, Michael returned with Cookie to the pediatrician for some Ominicef to treat the ear infection that will not go away (while I was at work). While waiting for her Rx in the pharmacy, Michael and Cookie encountered a woman and her young son, and Cookie and the little boy took to playing together while Michael and the nice woman chatted. After a spell, the woman began to look confused, and got quiet and turned to Michael and asked with a wrinkled up brow, "Is she yours?" Michael, always the polite one of the two of us, answered that yes, she is his and that he and his wife were adopting her from foster care. "Aaaaaah", the woman replied, looking as it things suddenly fit. But then, according to Michael, the woman looked somehow extremely puzzled yet again, and silence fell between them. She then turned to Michael again, and with a deliberate strong whisper, asked, "Is your"

(This is the point in his recounting the story to me that I almost peed my pants.)

"No", he replied, "She's white."

The woman seemed astonished at the new image of family that whirled around in her brain. Rocks the mental images, doesn't it?

I like the differences that the three of us offer. I like the image of a black man caring for his baby daughter - we need more of these - from men of every color. I like that we are all separate and distinct as individuals, yet very united as a family. There have been challenges, and there have been looks, but so far people seem to have enjoyed having their expectations shifted, and their realities altered. It's good for the soul, don'tcha think?


Tuesday, January 02, 2007


OK, here goes...

This year, I am going to:

Remove more clutter from my home than I bring in to it
I have already begun working on this. I sold my baker's rack on cheapcycle for $15. When I got it last year, I thought it would be cool, but it ended up being a dumping groud for various ish. There is now a nice clean space where it used to be, and my eating area looks much nicer.

I gave away 2 grocery bags full of Cookie's old infant toys and a play mat. While it was tough to get rid of some things, it felt good to know someone else who truly needed them would put them to good use.

I also sold a toddler tub seat for $3 that Cookie hated being in. Ever try restraining an active 1-yr. old in the bathtub? It isn't a lot of fun, trust me.

Tonight someone is coming to pick up her old walker and baby tub.

So, I am $18 richer and my house is already less cluttered.

Extend more effort into getting ready for work (i.e. dress nicer, apply makeup before leaving for work)
Today I wore a new bright blue sweater and dress slacks and actually put on makeup. I put a freah coat of red glazing on my hair over the weekend, so it has a nice punch of color as well. I already feel better.

Join Weight Watchers (for what could be the 39th time)...I am not setting a weight loss goal. Rather, the mere act of going will be an accomplishment. As a small goal, I would like to move the "big clunker" (as mom and I used to call it) on the scale so that I weigh under 250. If you haven't stroked out and stopped reading already, know it's a big deal for me to reveal how much I weigh. While I don't want this to become a weight-loss blog, it's all related to the life changes in many ways. I've become lazy in the exhaustion of fulfilling the various obligations of life, and this has got to change. When I graduated high school, I weighed about 140 pounds. By the time I got my AA degree, I was probably 160. The first time I got married (age 22), I weighed 180 or so. By the time I got married again, I was probably 220 or 230. The last time I got weighed at the doctor, I weighed 260-something (it fluctuates like crazy with my PCOS). I used to be a very pretty girl. I used to actually feel pretty - even sexy. Now, I just feel frumpy. So, if I could get below 250, it would be a huge start. I now have my daughter to think about - and I'd really hate for kids to make fun of her because of her fat mommy. I will be joining on Thursday night, and I may even begin a sister-blog about weight-loss if I can find the time.

I will get Cookie to sleep in her own bed.
Co-sleeping has been a wonderful, joyful, intimate experience, but now Cookie is almost 2.5 feet long and 23 pounds and is taking up a lot of bed, and moving around a whole lot more in the night. Now that I am loosing sleep, it is time to begin making more of an effort to transition her to her own bed, and eventually a toddler bed.

I think that's plenty to work on without stressing myself out even more than I already am. If those things get accomplished, I will have done a few good things in 2007 that will make my life better and perhaps even the lives of those around me as well.