One Less Lonely Girl

Patience, love, and strength–that’s some of what it takes.

Nothing Gilded, Nothing Gained-Period Drama on Paper at Middlemay Farm

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It’s been a year since our foster girl first pointed out she could kill me with a steak knife–and it wasn’t the last threat on my life. Each time she casually mentioned killing me I casually responded that I had no fear of death and if she wanted to kill people she’d end up in a jail for evil kids who all wanted to kill each other. I said, “Go for it if that sounds like fun.”

It occurred to me today that those threats ended some months ago. She hasn’t picked up string beans off the floor of public restrooms and eaten them in a long time either. My big fear before picking up M last year (the week of the all important county fair) was that I’d find her unattractive. Yes, I’m that shallow. She was cute but a wreck. She was eager to be taken home (by…

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Camp for Siblings Split Up in Foster Care

Did you know that over 70% of siblings placed in foster care are separated from one another and have limited ability to interact?

In some cases, programs like the one above provide the only opportunity for these siblings to connect and develop a bond that has proven to be critical in positively impacting their life’s path.

From someone I know who is involved in this program:

This summer marks our 10th year of offering our Camp to Belong, MA program, a week long camping experience in the Berkshires, and we thought it was an appropriate time to celebrate this milestone.  I hope you will consider attending our 10th Anniversary Celebration which is designed to be a night filled with good food and drink, lively entertainment and also provide you with a glimpse in to the experiences our campers enjoy during their week at Camp to Belong, MA.

If you live in the Boston area, you can register for the event by clicking on this link below. There are also opportunities to promote your socially responsible business. They are looking for sponsors!

Register Now!

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What Happens After the Headlines

A thought-provoking post. If you’re not sure the blogger is correct, look at the image!

Fla. social worker finds unlikely home for troubled foster child – CBS News Video

This CBS evening news story really touched me.

Fla. social worker finds unlikely home for troubled foster child – CBS News Video.

Here’s a 2nd article:

http://young.house.gov/press-release/representative-young-congratulates-eckerd-adoption-specialist-connie-going-angel

Children Aging Out Need Help

The situation for children aging out of their systems can be very bleak!

Blogger Donna makes an appeal to help a girl who is aging out of the system because she’s TURNING SIXTEEN YEARS OLD. Here is a link to her post. No, this isn’t the U.S. Kids around the world age out of their country’s systems, and the situation can be incredibly bleak for them. If you can help Ally and others like her, please click the link http://reecesrainbow.org/59838/ally

Why I Am Recommending “The Fosters”

by Luanne

If you don’t know, The Fosters is a brand new ABC drama about a contemporary family brimming with diversity.  The family includes parents Lena and Stef, a lesbian couple; Brandon, Stef’s biological son (his father is Mike, Stef’s partner at work–she’s a police officer); Jesus and Mariana, twins adopted by Stef and Lena, Callie, a foster child, and Callie’s bio brother Luke, also a foster child. The executive producer is Jennifer Lopez.

As you would expect with a network drama featuring teens and children, the actors portraying the kids are adorably cute/beautiful/handsome.  Their house is perfect for them. Their school is ideal (on the beach). The two moms are gorgeous. And they probably don’t get a lot of the stuff about foster care and adoption just right. It’s not a slice of life. It’s a drama with heightened plots, dialogue, and characterizations.

If you want to read thoughtful conjecture about what is wrong with the show’s presentation of the subject, you will want to catch Robyn’s review at The Chittister Family.  In fact, I highly recommend it.

Nevertheless, I am going to give the show a recommendation. I have rarely seen a depiction of a foster child in the past that is positive.  What I have seen are attempts to demonize foster children–to show them as somehow contaminated by the system and therefore “worth less” than a baby who has never been “in the system.”  I’ve seen both adopted and foster children (and adoption and fostering) as joke punchlines.

What I haven’t seen before is a depiction of foster children as real children with real problems who are worthy of love and attention.  That’s why I like this show: it reminds all of us that there are hundreds of thousands of foster children out there who need society to step forward and “claim” them as valuable members of this society.

I admit that I’m a sentimental person, and the show tugs on my heartstrings.  I found myself weepy during both episodes.  No excuses.  It’s a sentimental show at times, but that’s ok with me because the whole idea is to capture the hearts of the audience for kids who need people like Stef and Lena in their lives.

If you haven’t yet started watching, you can watch the first two episodes for free at the following link. It will also give you a written overview of the show.  Enjoy!

http://beta.abcfamily.go.com/shows/the-fosters

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.

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?

A “Fair” Way of Encouraging Foster Care Adoption?

by Luanne

Have you ever been to an adoption fair?  If you haven’t, maybe you’ve seen one on the television news.  You know those tear-jerker short stories they run to make you feel good about watching their network?  It would be one of those–designed to make soft hearts feel that something is being done for foster children looking for forever homes.

But are they a good idea?  I’m sure there are pros and cons.  It’s good to encourage prospective parents to consider adopting older children and sibling groups. Nothing like having someone in your face to press home the fact that it might be possible to make the lives of these kids better.

I get an image, though, of the puppies and kitties which are brought to Petsmart on Saturday morning to find them homes.  That glass case of tiny kittens curled up together is an adorable sight, but look closely, and the cats are overwhelmed and frightened by what’s going on.  They get picked up and put down and there are swarms of strangers looking them over.

But at least cats aren’t being gawked at and handled by their own kind.  I can’t even imagine what it’s like for a human child to go through this experience.  After all, most of them are old enough to understand that they are being inspected and evaluated by strangers.  Their deepest hopes and fears are stimulated by the event.

The Christian Science Monitor published an article by Alicia Morga entitled “Adoption fairs are speed dating for kids. Families need ‘arranged marriages’ instead” a couple of years ago (March 4, 2011).  In the article, Morga describes her own experience with an adoption fair.

When I was ten years old in the early 80s, I participated in an adoption fair. My family of thirteen – two parents and eleven children – was dismantled when my youngest brother died of malnutrition. I became a ward of the state of California at the age of three. By the age of ten, I was a veteran of several foster homes and, with my options dwindling, was residing at a group home – a sort of juvenile hall with the décor of a dentist’s office – where they stick the “hard” cases.

Being Hispanic and older, my stock was depreciating fast, so my social worker lined me up with about 20 other kids at an adoption fair held at the Los Angeles Arboretum.

There among the trees and in full view of the Queen Anne Cottage, at the time also the backdrop for the popular television show, “Fantasy Island,” a carnival atmosphere was devised. There were popcorn, games of chance, and games of skill. Couples and families looking to adopt milled about. Ricardo Montalbán, the star of “Fantasy Island,” was rumored to be making an appearance.

The goal of the fair was clear to me, even if it wasn’t explicitly stated; I was supposed to sell myself. I stood next to a tree and did my best to appear good.

For a while no one approached me, and I watched other kids attempt to entice the Adopters with strong throws or pretty smiles. The fair encouraged mixing by holding games of leapfrog and partnered up Adopters with foster kids. Finally realizing, similar to a game of musical chairs, that parents were being snatched up, I waded in and leap-frogged a woman while launching a charm offensive on her husband.

I was all good manners and lots of smiles. The husband was brown like me, so I stood close to him hoping he would see himself in me and she, being of a lighter hue, would see what she liked in him in me. We made small talk while I walked the fine line between being pleasing and being obsequious, being engaging and being obnoxious, being energetic and being frantic. We spent about 40 minutes together.

The couple called my social worker a few days later and expressed interest in adopting me. Technically I was given a choice about whether I wanted to accept them as a placement. I say technically, because it’s hardly a choice when your social worker is telling you to get with the program or you’re going back to the group home.

Before I knew it and before the adoption was finalized, as is typical, I was moved into their house. It was pretty clear early on that things weren’t going well. There were red flags. But much like when you move in with a boyfriend, breaking up becomes harder to do. Plus, in the immortal words of my social worker, this was “my last chance.”

Turns out I “chose” adoptive parents who were wholly incapable of handling a ten year-old stranger in their home, much less their lives. I was a child, but I had already had a whole history – one that didn’t square with their expectations for a cute young girl, but was more akin to a distrustful, jaded old maid. It was a choice for me that resulted in some very difficult years until I turned 18 and moved out.

I’m not sure what the answer is because obviously it’s important to find homes with loving adoptive parents for children who need them and want them.

What do you think about adoption fairs?  Are they a positive development, a necessary evil or an evil which should be abolished?

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