Sunday, November 13, 2011

Q&A: Birth Mom Terminology

Christa's Question:
You know, as I go through the process of adoption I wonder what we should call our birthparents in front of our child. To say "birth" mother would raise questions about birth itself and at Ty's age I wouldn't want to explain the birds and the bees. "Biological" seems too big of a word but even "first" mom doesn't sound right. It implies you're second and may also imply there would be more moms to come after you, like a third and a fourth mom, at least from a child's way of thinking. "Real" mom to me is inappropriate and something I would never use because to me we're both real. Neither mother is fake. My social worker recommended using "biological" but I was wondering whether you and Ben struggled with the same ideas of introducing adoption terms to Ty. 

When Ben and I first dipped our toes into adopting waters, we asked a lot of the same questions and I don't know that we had answers pre-Ty. For me, adoption is such a progressive process that continuously changes the way I view my family and the world. Ben and I are super laid-back people and we decided from the beginning that the topic of adoption would be wide open conversation in and out of our home. Rebekah and her family are an extension of ours and we talk about them often.

When it comes to adoption lingo, I believe that it, truly, comes down to security. If you are secure in your role as mother, than there is no threat in terminology. We did ask Rebekah in the beginning of our friendship what she envisioned Ty calling her. It was her idea to use "Miss Rebekah" and whether we called her Ty's birth mother or first mother, she didn't have a preference.

Today, we use them all interchangeably. Because Ty understands Rebekah's place in his life (as much as he can at 2 1/2), when him and I talk about her, I simply say, "Miss Rebekah". If I'm talking about Rebekah with friends I call her by name, but if I'm talking about her to someone that doesn't know our story well, I most often refer to her as "Ty's mom."

The use of Ty's mom, used to bug some people around me, but I have never been threatened by it. She is Ty's mom and deserves to be referred to as such. Calling her mom, doesn't make me feel any less the role.

When Ty talks about Rebekah, he often says "My first mama," which I find completely endearing. It warms my heart every time I hear those words. For me, it represents a well-rounded kid that understands his beginning, as well as his present.

So far, Ty has not experienced confusion. He loves Rebekah because we love her and talks positively about adoption because we do. Open dialog and God-centered confidence make the complications of adoption a natural topic in our home.

If you have a question, feel free to leave it in the comments or email me directly. I am certainly not an expert, but will write openly and honestly from our experiences so far.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Family Assessment - Take 2

I am so encouraged.

I was thinking about apostle Paul tonight. He was imprisoned when he wrote about the peace of God surpassing all understanding [Philippians 4]. Although my life pales in comparison to his, I am walking in that same, steady, I-can't-be-shaken peace.

I am so thankful for God's mercy that he would allow us to experience such peace.

We completed our family assessment tonight and it went really well (because we're pursuing a foster license we had to have a new one done). Our case worker has been a complete God-send. I met her through the start-up adoption agency I was helping out with, earlier this year. Where every other agency said "no", she advocated for us and returned a "yes". It was made very clear during our PRIDE training sessions that unless we were open to fostering children, our application could sit untouched and unprocessed for up to a year. One trainer actually said, "Families unwilling to foster are, unfortunately, not a priority."

I'm not here to dog her comment or agency, because I get it. I did a tremendous amount of research when I was involved with the start-up agency. I understand the money, I understand the need, and I totally understand the lack of staffing versus the number of cases that come through our state.

Understanding, however, didn't make the process of pushing our adoption application through any less frustrating. A process that could have taken months, has only taken us a few weeks - beginning to end. I believe it's the favor of God. He's driving this bus, we're just sitting in the front seat, keeping our eyes out for signs, unsure of which way He'll turn.

What seemed scary even a few weeks ago, doesn't hold up, tonight, and the unanswered questions seem, oddly, less necessary.

As we signed the last few pieces of paper and talked about the types of kids that could one day call us "mom" and "dad" our hearts were widened.

Even though we're pursuing adoption, without fostering, we are in track for receiving a foster license. We've been encouraged to do this from many different angles and believe it puts us in a better position of taking in kids sooner in emergency situations. This topic, led by our case worker, forced us to answer the question of whether or not we'd be open to housing children whose parental rights are on their way to termination, but haven't been terminated.

Because the peace of God has moved in, we said "yes" without flinching. Our case worker confirmed that we understood the risk.

We do.

We trust God.

I know some people will wonder why we're okay to do this, but not foster. It's not really a topic I want to pick apart, but I will say that we're walking in the path that God has called us.

When our case worker left, I looked at Ty and said, "What do you think? Will Miss _________ be able to help find us brothers and sisters for you?"

Ty's reply was, "No, Mommy. Jesus will bring them to me."

I didn't bother explaining that God often uses people to do his work.

I'm praising God, tonight, for our case worker's kindness...
For little Ty's intuitive heart that has begun the pursuit of his Savior...
And, most of all, for God's total and complete goodness that is every shade of beautiful.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My God Will Come Through Always

People claim to know God, but they deny him by the way they live.

Not my words, but Apostle Paul's [Titus 1:16 NLT]. My heart is undergoing some pretty big transformation - and I'm only a week in. I've heard my share of good messages, but recently I attended a conference and listened to John Bevere speak on extraordinary living. The shaking that took place in my heart was so violent, particles are still mid-float.

I have been distracted this year for various reasons, but God has been growing passion in my heart at an alarming rate, and it is time to focus my energy on His voice.

I made drastic changes this week.

It is not coincidental that we're knee deep in the foster license process at this time. Last week, we finished our ninth session of PRIDE training, submitted all the necessary paperwork [it sounds so easy stated this way!], and have our home study visit on Monday.

We have experienced a fair share of frustration during the process so far, but I believe that God has given me supernatural faith for this time; for His purpose. Unlike the roller-coaster of emotions I felt during domestic adoption, I am undaunted by the foster adoption path before us.

Do you love that Kristian Stanfill song as much as I do?

Oh, My God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength, always
I will not fear, his promise is true
My God will come through always

If I believe that my God will come through, there any reason to be anxious?

No way.

I can't focus time on my fears or failures, because there's work to do. I have to trust God that His purpose will be multiplied in the life of my family.

There are 460,000 children in the U.S. foster care system.
114,000 of those kids are waiting for an adoptive family.
And 30,000 kids in the U.S. "age out" of the system every year.

What really drove these statistics home, this week, for Ben and me, is the fact that Michigan has approximately 10,000 churches and 4500 kids waiting for adoption. If half of those churches could produce one adoptive family, all the children in Michigan waiting for a home would have one.

Our hearts are on overload. In our first go-around, here, we're willing to take a sibling group of three. But God is stretching our hearts. What about the sibling groups of five or six? What about the eighteen-year-olds that never have "family"? When you allow God to move...boundaries are obliterated. I'm coming to Ben saying, "We can care for a baby addicted to cocaine" and he's coming to me saying, "We can care for teenagers in the independent living program."

What we can't do is adopt 114,000 kids [smile].

I am praying very specific prayers, right now, because I don't want to trust in my own abilities anymore. I don't want to cap God's power in my life, or put a limit on what's possible.

And I certainly don't ever want to be accused of denying God by the way we live...