Back Home Again

by Luanne

I hope you enjoyed the interview in two parts of Kat Mendoza, a mom by biology, by adoption, and by fostering. Her insights are very special. We are thrilled to have Kat’s story on our blog.

If you missed the posts because of the holiday, here are the links:

Part I

Part II

This past weekend I had the good fortune to see the play A Piece of My Heart at the Los Angeles New Court Theatre.  It was the last play in their 2012-13 season. This theatre company, founded by Alex, Nathan, and Meg Burkart, is bursting with talent. DWLA’s Marisha is thrilled to be joining them!

The play was directed by Becca Flinn. The cast of seven included Marisha and  six other powerful actors.

A Piece of My Heart – Los Angeles New Court Theatre

This ensemble play is a heart-wrenching story about women in the Vietnam War (nurses, a WAC, an entertainer), and it was a wonderful way to honor our veterans this Memorial Day weekend.  I felt so proud and humbled by the thought of the individuals in our military and the veterans of our military.

Look for the 2013-14 season at the LANCT as it sounds fabulous and includes Twelfth Night, Speech & Debate, Look Back in Anger, and the musical A New Brain.  I can’t wait!

Three Ways a Mother, Part II

Interview by Luanne

“Being a foster parent means you are giving a piece of your heart away and you may not see it again.” Kat Mendoza

Part I can be found here.

On Friday, we introduced Kathy Mendoza and her husband John, as well as their foster, bio, and adopted children.  Kathy, or Kat, is a stay-at-home mom and John, who was born in the Philippines, is a federal police officer.  They have a transracial and diverse loving family.

Here is the second part of my interview with Kat.

How did you choose whether to adopt from foster care, a local adoption, an international adoption, etc.? What factors did you consider? Do you still feel the same way you did when you made the decision?

Adoption was always a by-product.  It is only the right option when it is a fit on all sides. And, yes, we feel the same because we will do it again when the situation is right. But we do not need the paper to say who is or isn’t our child.

What has surprised you about your foster children and your son by adoption?

How resilient kids are. They are absolutely no different from my step or biological sons. They are mine, and I get the same moments of pride and joy with each.

What would you like to see changed in the system?

The system isn’t what needs to change; it is society’s views of the children in foster care and the children who have been adopted. People assume something is wrong with the child. I believe that this is a cultural thing. There are cultures where it is not only more accepted, but normal to foster or adopt.

What qualifications do you think it takes to be a foster parent? An adoptive parent? An adoptive parent in a foster adoption?

Just being open. They say being a parent means having your heart walking around somewhere else, but being a foster parent means you are giving a piece of your heart away and you may not see it again.

It is supposed to be that way.  As a foster parent, you have to be open to the fact that the child may not stay.

There are misconceptions. I have actually had people tell me they were surprised we do it because we can have kids–that they thought only infertile couples do foster care or adoption.

Do you have resources that help you? If so, what are they?

We were blessed with awesome social workers.  Since we just moved and are in the process of having our license changed to a new county, I have high hopes that we will be as lucky here.

But the best support are other foster parents. No one will understand what you go through unless they have been through it. And what works in a clinical or school setting is not going to be as effective as the tried and true home methods of other parents!

Do you have a little story about your children you would like to share?

The most recent thing my oldest told me was he wished we could get his younger brother so that we could straighten him out. This is the same “child” who told me after his graduation that if it wasn’t for us he didn’t think he would have been there that night.

That same evening I watched two of my kids graduate, beating the 50% odds.  I cried from happiness.

Have you volunteered or worked with any agencies for foster children or adoptions?

I have spoken at the last class given to prospective foster parents each year.  Later on, when I would see them, they would tell me they have taken my suggestions.  These include making sure the biological parents get pictures, the kids are sent to visitations with their parents in clothes the parents send, and starting a scrapbook or Lifebook for the kids.

Also, I have held a few offices for our local Foster Parent Association. We worked to make sure other foster parents had more opportunities to fulfill their continuing education requirements and that they understand what their rights and responsibilities are.

What do you want the general population to know about the foster system and the adoption system?

It is a personal decision to foster or adopt.  I have heard so many people say they couldn’t do it, but these are the same people who have stepped up and accepted my kids without any shadow of a doubt. We have been blessed with friends and family who didn’t have a choice in the matter, but have been supportive without hesitation. More people could do it than they realize.

However, there are many other ways to help. People can mentor, donate, the opportunities are endless.

Has your experience with fostering and/or adoption affected your politics? In other words, is it a topic you watch for during election season?

I have yet to hear of any politician run on a platform covering foster care or adoption. In fact, through fostering older kids, I have seen their advisory boards push for and receive change. They ask for treatment to be changed, they lobby our government, and they have been with our governor and president when new bills were signed making the situations of the children better.

What do you think motivates you to foster children?

Our motivation is to give back, but John and I have different reasons. I had an idyllic childhood and feel I couldn’t appreciate it and value it enough if I was not trying to make the childhoods of others better.

A family took my husband under their wing when he came to this country.  By doing so they gave him opportunities he would have had a hard time copying, so he feels he should do the same for others.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Even from the unknown public we have received acceptance, for the most part. People will stop to tell me what a beautiful family I have or how cute my kids are. People have stopped me to say I’m doing a great job with my kids. I have yet to come against negativity.  In fact, the “worst” has only been good-natured curiosity.

I do correct terminology when people use the expression “real kids.” There was one time a friend of a friend stopped mid-sentence asking where our one child got his curly hair (I was in a phase of straightening my own all of the time), and we laughed because he looked at John and myself, then walked away. We figure he concluded our son was the by-product of an indiscretion. If he had stuck around we would have been happy to explain. My oldest son has been mistaken for daddy before. He or myself will say he is big brother or I am his mother. I only wish that in our culture we could look past the label of foster or adopted child as quickly as the diversity of my family has been accepted!

Also, I want to add something for people to know: teens aren’t automatically harder. Yes, they will try you, but all teens will. I know that I did with my parents! And I have run into situations where teens are easier than some younger kids, just because you can reason with older kids. You can walk through problems and emotions more easily.

This has been an amazing experience for my biological son. He asks to see his big brother and friend, and the kids I have had previously. He once told me that when he gets older he will ask God to find him a little boy that doesn’t have a daddy so he can be the daddy.

The more you reflect on your situation, the more you think of . . . .

Here’s one more.  Just the little everyday things we have taken for granted–photos, holidays, trips–they are all amazing to experience with children. Taking one of my kids on their first roller coaster ride will probably be etched in my memory forever. You get to experience everything again through new eyes. Going clothes shopping have been memorable experiences with my kids. It might be cliché to quote Winnie the Pooh, but the littlest things do take up the most room in your heart!

John and Kat

John and Kat

Three Ways a Mother: A Story of Biology, Adoption and Foster Care, Part I

Interviewed by Luanne

Meet Kathy Mendoza and her husband John.  Kathy, or Kat, is a stay-at-home mom and John, who was born in the Philippines, is a federal police officer.  The children in their family help create the diverse blend that is their family:

  • foster daughter Shy, 21, African-American, she has “aged out” of foster care and is mom to a toddler
  • foster son Day, 20, African-American, he’s in a semi-independent living program
  • John’s son Bran, 18, Caucasian & Filipino, he’s in college
  • bio son J, 7, Caucasian & Filipino
  • adopted son T, 3, African-American & Caucasian

Kat was kind enough to allow me to interview her for our blog.  Here are the results, Part I.

What kind of goals regarding children did you enter adulthood with? Did you plan to adopt? Care for foster children? Did you want to go through (or did you go through) a birth experience?

I only wanted four kids and it never occurred to me how they would come to be mine. I was always open to foster care and adoption. I did have J biologically.

I remember asking my mom why she didn’t adopt. I was her miracle baby, and I know she wanted more. I wasn’t raised with my half-siblings, so I felt I was missing out and didn’t want to have an only child.

How has your family life changed from what you expected?

I have more kids than I had planned on, and I am not done. I don’t know when that feeling of being finished caring for children will happen. I joke I am trying to catch up with my grandparents who had 21 kids!

How did you first get started on the path to fostering children?

I have always wanted to. My grandparents fostered back in the time when single moms had their children removed until they were independently stable. As I was growing up, one of her girls drove across the state with her mom to see my grandmother. I saw it as a positive experience.

My husband was not always as sure until he started working for the juvenile justice system.  The state started a program encouraging employees already working with kids to foster. When John approached me my first thought was ok, what took you so long?!

When did you first get licensed in foster care? What did you go through to get licensed? Do you have to reapply and if so what is the process like?

It will be five years this October that we were licensed. We started the previous March with the nine week classes.  During the summer we had our home study, family study, health department inspection, financial check, background checks, personal referrals, medical forms, and fire marshal inspection. Each year we are relicensed, and most of the same is done, but it isn’t a burden in any way. We also have to have so many hours of education regarding children each year.

Do you continue a relationship with your foster children after they leave your care?

Absolutely! My two oldest are mine.  We talk on the phone, text, chat online, and my door is always open! Our oldest son’s best friend has become one of our unofficial kids as well. I still try to keep in contact with a couple younger kids. Even the kids I have only had for weekend respite, I still ask about. A kid may leave my home, but they do not leave my heart! And they need to have the continued contact, no matter their age or circumstances.

What bothers you the most about the situation your foster children have been put in?

That they are in foster care in the first place! That something bad happened to them and the people meant to protect them most didn’t. That I can’t just wave a magic wand and make it all better.

What do you want the general population to know about foster children?

They are great kids who they can help. Children aren’t in foster care because they did something wrong. They aren’t in the system because they want to be.

They need support in their lives.  They need the village, and anything helps! And they are my real children (yes, I was asked that and responded they were all made of bubble gum and cotton candy).

Anything you would like to add at this point in our interview?

One special thing from my oldest son: he told me he wants to foster when he gets older, too. No matter if he does or doesn’t, it meant a lot to me because it shows the impact we have had on him.

Find Part II here.

Why Are We Using An Outdated Word?

by Luanne

I’ve been struggling with the word adoption, as well as its variations like adopt and adopted.

When you are talking about a child and the enormous emotional terrain which springs up, around, and from adopting, it seems ludicrous to use the same word to mean other things.

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, adoption means the following:

the act of adopting : the state of being adopted
Examples of ADOPTION
  1. They chose adoption because they couldn’t have children of their own.

  2. children who are available for adoption

  3. Our lawyer has handled many adoptions.

  4. our adoption of local customs

  5. the company’s adoption of new technology

  6. the unanimous adoption of the resolution by the Senate

This definition doesn’t even touch one of the most common usages: dogs and cats available for adoption.

I’m a huge animal lover, and I don’t want to mess with them finding homes.  But I feel a little squeamish about being forced to use the same word for them as for children.

On WordPress, I search for blog posts using the keyword adopt and come across posts about adorable animals in need of homes.  I read some of them and want to “like” or “comment,” and sometimes, I do, but I feel ridiculous wearing my DWLA gravatar.  Then I wonder if the animal shelter writing the blog will think DWLA is an animal advocacy blog!

Because we English-speakers adopt “local customs,” “new technology,” and resolution and bills, as well as puppies and kittens, why do we use that same word for children?

I think we need a new word.  And with a new word we can rethink the whole notion of adoption from the ground up, rather than relying on old traditions and myths.  We can make sure we do it all right this time.

Maybe that’s pie-in-the-sky, but if we start with a new word, it might just promote education about adoption in the general population.

What do you think?  Can you make up a better word?

Some cities promote "Adopt a Flower Basket" or "Adopt a Flower Bed"

Some cities promote “Adopt a Flower Basket” or “Adopt a Flower Bed”

Son’s Big Day

fostadoptfoibles’ description of ADHD is brilliant. If you know someone with ADHD you won’t want to miss this post.

fostadoptfoibles

For all his challenges, Son’s full of surprises, as is any kid, I suppose.  One recent day proved to us he possessed an ability we thought was rather scarce in his world.  Let me tell you about Son’s Big Day.

As some of you who are familiar with ADHD know, absolutely everything is fascinating.  Trouble is, it’s all fascinating, all at once, always.  The first time we took Son into Manhattan I thought he was going to explode.  We weren’t even in that exciting of a neighborhood, but there was so much stimulation occurring he literally became dizzy.  You and I might not think about it, but any kid on his first trip to the Big City’s going to be a Jackson Pollock painting.  For Son, it was a JP painting in a spin dryer.  Take, for instance, First Avenue.  All sorts of vehicles on it.  Most of us just…

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Are We Famished for Family?

The Goodbye Baby

In a recent issue of Psychology Today, Stephen Betchen, Ph.D., contributed an article titled “Why Adoptees Need to Find Their Biological Parents.” He states that adult adoptees “just seem to have an internalized nomadic notion that we don’t belong anywhere in particular. Even when we do settle somewhere we often work our asses off to prove our worthiness — just in case anyone gets any ideas about putting us back up for adoption.”

He further points out that many adopted children feel that “they need to embark on a biological search even if they had a positive experience with their adopted parents.”

Betchen, himself an adoptee, hit the nail on the head for this particular “lost daughter.” I had a very positive experience with my adoptive parents, but it’s also true that the urge to have blood relatives, DNA-related family, has always gnawed away in the back of my mind…

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It’s Time for a Blog Break!

We’re taking a blog break this week.  We’ll miss you and will try to read some blogs when we can.

Marisha is in rehearsal for a play, A Piece of My Heart (playing Leeann) which will be at the Los Angeles New Court Theatre May 24-26. Luanne has other writing projects which she needs to get caught up on.  Make it a wonderful week, folks!!

piece of my heart_1

If you’re in the Los Angeles area, you can buy tickets here to see this amazing play about six women in the Vietnam War.  Directed by Becca Flinn.

Where I’m “At” Today (and Happy Mother’s Day!!)

Photo by Marisha

by Marisha

I used to think that expectations were poison for the soul.

I used to blame my adoption for a lot of my actions.

I used to prefer to be down about it.

I’ve had a lot of disappointments and never thought I deserved better because of my abandonment issues.

Looking back on those times, I now realize how important it is to have patience.

Patience for myself and patience for understanding.

I’m 25 now–a woman–and everything has started to fall into place because I have allowed myself the time to understand my adoption and use it in a positive way. I know things will never be perfect, but my life is the best gift I could be given.

My mindset has changed and my outlook is now settling under a positive light.

Today I choose happiness . . .

All these downfalls have led me here in this moment: I am proud to be adopted. Proud to be different. And proud to share my stories and insecurities with you all.

Also, Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who gave people like me beautiful lives! My mum is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Who could hate adoption when I have a mother like her?! 🙂 I love you, Mum!

Did You Notice the Cat in Our DWLA Gravatar?

by Marisha

Our whole family loves cats.  The one in our Gravatar is our first cat, Macavity, or as we call him, Monkeybunnyratowlpig.  When we found him as a tiny kitten living under our new house, I begged my parents to keep him, although we had always had dogs.

Mac is 15 years old and lives with my parents and three other cats, Pear Blossom, Felix, and Tiger.

I found my cat, Isabella Rose, at a shelter here in L.A. over two years ago.  Here are some shots of my Izzie Biz I took this week.

Izzie in the morning

Izzie checking out the morning

Izzie in the evening

Izzie tired from playing a game of straw

Network TV Subject: A Non-Traditional Foster Family


Here’s a new show, a drama, called The Fosters about a two mom family with both bio and foster children.  The executive producer is Jennifer Lopez.

Are you planning to watch it? Do you think it will be realistic?

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