Tag Archives: foster care

For My Sweet Adia – Wherever You Are

About a week ago, I began listening to the songs on my iPod in alphabetical order. I came across a song I hadn’t listened to in a long time.

Adia by Sarah McLachlan.

It was released about 5 years after we gave up our foster daughters. The first time I heard it on the radio I had to pull over into a parking lot. I was sobbing and couldn’t drive. It was about my “Adia” – that sweet, innocent and damaged 6-year-old girl who lived in my home for almost a year.

She still lives in my heart. And this song is for her.

“Adia I do believe I failed you
Adia I know I’ve let you down
don’t you know I tried so hard
to love you in my way” – We tried. We really, really tried. And you and your sister seemed so happy with us. But court date after court date after court date – the judge would not sever your biological mother’s rights. Even though she was still turning tricks. Even though she was still using. Even though she bounced from apartment to apartment. He kept giving her another chance. And while he was giving your mother chances you were being held in limbo. Wanting to attach to us, wanting to know that you were safely where you belonged.

“Adia I’m empty since you left me
trying to find a way to carry on
I search myself and everyone
to see where we went wrong” – We held on as long as we could. Yet, I still feel guilty. I still feel as if I should have done more to keep you safe. At the last court date, when the judge gave your mom another 3 months (again) to get her act together I burst into his chambers. I shouted, “We’re offering to pay for their college education and you’re telling me I’m going to be paying for their prison term. ‘Cause that’s were these girls are headed if we don’t find them a safe, healthy, permanent home!” He told me if I didn’t leave I’d be held in contempt. I sulked out of the room, defeated.

“there’s no one left to finger
there’s no one here to blame
there’s no one left to talk to, honey
and there ain’t no one to buy our innocence” – But he didn’t live with us. He didn’t see the night terrors. He wasn’t missing steak knives and scissors. He didn’t find the food you hoarded and hid in your pillow case or your backpack. He wasn’t there to clean the feces off the bathroom wall after every supervised visit with your mother. And he wasn’t there when all of that behavior died down about a week after that mandatory, monthly visit. He couldn’t hear the laughter and silliness return. Those three glorious weeks when you and your sister almost magically turned into two lovable, normal, happy little girls again.

“Adia I thought that we could make it
I know I can’t change the way you feel
I leave you with your misery
a friend who won’t betray
pull you from your tower
take away your pain
show you all the beauty you possess” – I want you to know – sweet, amazing girl – that at the time we accepted you in our home I thought it was the perfect decision. I thought that we could make it. And then, when we had to let you go, I thought that was the right decision, too. I’m crying, now, as I write this – even though you left almost 17 years ago. I still think about you. I still wonder how you are. I still pray that you feel more joy than pain. And I hope you know how beautiful, how lovely, how amazing you are.

“’cause we are born innocent
believe me Adia
we are still innocent
it’s easy, we all FALTER,
but does it matter” – And I still get angry that such an innocent, amazing, sweet  little you was abused by your mother’s boyfriends, discarded by your mother and tossed about the court system. Property. Because of biology. When what you really needed was love and caring. And there are plenty of people out there willing to give it.

But humans aren’t perfect.

Our system isn’t perfect.

And you. Innocent you – who didn’t ask to be born in the first place – had to suffer for it.


Filed under Be-Causes, children, Music

We Are All Simply Wonderful

Writing yesterday of our sweet little foster girls had stirred up so many sleeping thoughts.  We had them in our home for such a very short time but they made an amazing impact on my life. And if they took only one thing with them when they left – just one thing – I hope they know how wonderful they are.

“The person that you were has died
You’ve lost the sparkle in your eyes” – I have a picture of Ashley. The light hits her in such a way that her eyes are highlighted. A flash of light across her face and you can see so much in those beautiful blue eyes of hers. But not good things. Horrible things. Terror. Fear. Insecurity. Mistrust. A sparkle that is sinister. Eyes so old with a heart so young. She saw more horror than I had ever seen in my 30 years.

“Now you wanna bridge the gaps
Now you want that person back” – I saw good flashes in her eyes, too. When she’d remember she was just a child. She was supposed to sleep at night cuddled up safely with her teddy bear – not worrying about who was going to creep into her bed and do unspeakable things. She was supposed to love to laugh – not cry silently so as not to wake her sister after it was all over. She was supposed to play with dolls and crayons – not accompany her mother to the store so they could pull off their next ruse. She was supposed to watch Sesame Street and Barney – not Hellraiser while her mom was “at work” in the next room with her “client.”

“You don’t know what you wanna do
You’ve got no pull to pull you through” – Lost. Not knowing who you are at age 6. Energies completely spent and you’ve only graced this beautiful Earth such a very short time.

“Say “I am”
Say “I am”
Say “I am wonderful”” – Look in the mirror, Ashley. With those big, beautiful, blue eyes that have seen too much. You are wonderful!

“If what you’ve lost cannot be found
And the weight of the world weighs you down
No longer with the will to fly
You stop to let it pass you by
Don’t stop to let it pass you by
You’ve gotta look yourself in the eye” – I have no idea what happened to them after they left us. I can guess. I’d love the best case scenario – they were placed in an amazing home, adopted into a forever family and thrived. But I imagine the worst. She was an older child and more “damaged.” She was separated from her sister and continued to bounce around from home to home – never attaching, never forming lasting relationships. She’s lost her will. She’s let love pass her by.

“Say “I am”
Say “I am”
Say “I am wonderful”” – Please Ashley. Please say you found a forever family who loves you. Who helped you with your demons. People that could see just how wonderful you are. And helped you to see it, too.

“Cause we are all miracles
Wrapped up in chemicals
We are incredible” – It’s amazing to me that we all start out the very same way. Innocent. Small miracles. Pure little blank slates. And then a twist of fate changes our entire being. “But for the grace of God go I” How did I dodge that bullet? Or my children? My own childhood was not great – but terror and horror? Never. Why Ashley and not me?

“Don’t take it for granted, no
We are all miracles
Oh we are” – All you parents out there…cherish those precious little souls that you are in charge of. Hug them close every night. Tell them you love them every chance you get. Tell them they are wonderful. Because they are.

“Say “I am”
Say “I am”
Say “I am wonderful”
Oh you are” – Simply wonderful. Yes, even you. Each child out there. Each and every adult. We are all amazing, wonderful beings.


Filed under Be-Causes

The Word ‘Parent’ Is Also A Verb

par-ent (per’ ent) n. 1. One who begets, gives birth to, or nurtures and raises a child; a father or mother.2. An ancestor; a progenitor.3. An organism that produces or generates offspring.( The Free Dictionary)

“An organism that produces or generates offspring” – I like that noun definition of the word ‘parent.’ It shouldn’t be the only way to define the word but it’s a valid definition. It’s the way the courts should view the biological creators of the pitiful, damaged and precious offspring cluttering up our foster care system.

While in the midst of adoption and waiting for our child, our social worker convinced us to keep foster children. It was a heart wrenching experience. Two little girls were placed with us who experienced every kind of neglect you can imagine. The abuse included physical and sexual by both the mother and her many boyfriends. Ashley was 5 years old, just about to turn 6. Jennifer had just turned 3. Two precious little souls. Lost. Because our court system couldn’t find a dictionary that contained the full definition of the word parent.

The girls were precious. But they were a handful. Nightmares that contained scenes from the Hellraiser movies. Food stuffed in toys, shoes, pockets and play purses. Knives and scissors tucked under pillows. Missing silverware, mostly knives. Stealing small items like candy and gum from stores. Feces spread over the bathroom walls after every supervised visit with the birthmother. Crying jags that could last for hours. Precocious behavior. Gorging themselves at mealtime.

I read back what I’ve written and I wonder why in the world we wanted to adopt them. Handful seems like such a mild word to describe them if you just look at the difficult times. But there were so many good times. The laughter that would finally appear a day or two after a visit with the birthmom. The sense of pride when good behavior was recognized and rewarded. The cuddles and giggles. The sweet way that Ashley took care of Jennifer – a little mommy at age 5. The way Jennifer idolized her big sister. Taking them to parks, The Nutcracker, even the mall merry-go-round was such a treat to them. They took nothing for granted. They soaked in every experience with relish.

At that time in my life, while my music tastes were broad, I typically only listened to alternative rock and classical. Ashley, on the other hand, at age 6, LOVED country and pop. Suddenly I was listening to “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus and Whitney Houston’s rendition of Dolly Parton’s song “I Will Always Love You.” One of Ashley’s favorite songs was “Save the Best for Last” by Vanessa Williams. One day, while running errands, the song came on the car radio. Ashley squealed, “Turn it up, Mommy!” We sang together at the top of our lungs. But we were almost home and the song wasn’t even half over. I kept driving. Ashley said, “Mommy! You missed our street.” I told her I thought she’d want to finish singing the song. “Oh, Mommy” was all she could say. I looked in the rearview mirror and she was crying. I was worried – afraid I’d done something wrong. (Our lives were so different now: creating structure, daily schedules, anticipating worry and fear, etc.) I stopped the car to make sure she was ok. She said, “Mommy, that’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.”

Ashley had been in and out of the system since she was two. Jennifer didn’t know anything else. And because Jennifer was young, sweet and not as ‘damaged’ (although, she was our ‘poop artist’) there were plenty of people who wanted her in their homes, hoping to eventually adopt her. Ashley was older. More guarded. More devious. It was harder to see through her coat of armor. By the time they reached us then had been in more than 8 homes. Their stay with us was their longest.

The birthmom was a mess. Alcohol. Prostitution. All she had to do to get her children back was: 1- go to AA meetings, 2- maintain ONE household, and 3- hold down ONE job. That’s ALL she had to do. You take away my children? I’d move mountains to get them back. She, on the other hand, continually skipped her AA meetings. She moved from apartment to motel to friend’s apartment. She quit or was fired from 5 jobs in the 10 months that we had her children. And every time the case went up for review (once every four months) the judge gave her more time to get her act together. Every. Single. Time.

And this was nothing new. He was giving her second, fifth, umpteenth chances every time her review came along. Always the same answer, “We’ll give you four more months.”  And we had enough. The tug and pull. The string of good days and then the monthly visit with the birthmom would tear apart all of our progress. It would take days to get back on track. It was hard on us. But it was damaging to the girls. It was wrong.

par-ent (per’ ent) v. 1. to bear or rear children. 2. to act as a parent to ( Wordsmyth)

We were parenting these precious little beings the best way we knew how and we were seeing joy, love and progress. And every few months a court system, that only saw biological ties to another human being, told us that DNA was more important than a safe, loving home. Kissing boo-boos, calming fears, sharing joy, nurturing little souls was secondary to genetic coding.

At the last hearing we were privy to, the judge, as expected, gave the birthmother “four more months” to get her act together. I was livid. As foster parents we didn’t have a say. We stood out in the lobby waiting the decision. When our social worker told us the news I stormed into the judges chambers. I blew past the law secretary and into his office as he was taking off his robe. I said, “We’re offering to pay for their college education. But you’re telling me we’re going to have to pay for their prison term instead! This is unacceptable!” All he said was, “Get her out! Get her out!” And I walked out. I was shaking and had no idea what else I would say.

I found out later from a friend who is a CASA volunteer that I could have been thrown in jail. I wouldn’t have minded. If it could save one more child from an inadequate, ineffective foster care system? I wouldn’t have minded at all.


Filed under Be-Causes, children