Friday, September 27, 2013

OUR STORY: Adopting Through Foster Care

Ready for a different kind of story?  Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a faithful…….oops, sorry, I got carried away.  My name is Melodie.  I’m 51 years old and my husband, Audie, and I have been married 32 years and have 6 children (three biological and three adopted), and two grandsons and three granddaughters.  Whew, that wears me out everytime I say it.

An Adoption Day
2012 Christmas Pic minus 2 granddaughters

So, based on the above information, we’re no spring chickens!  And because of our age, it often prompts people to ask, “What were you thinking starting all over?” and we just smile and reply, “We’re not sure, but we figure it will either kill us or keep us young!”  That causes them to chuckle; removing any tension in the air.  But let me say, even at our age, we are still finding “Joy in Our Journey”.   We live a “not so simple life”, but God’s rewards have made it worth it!  So, before too many questions start swimming around in your head, let me back up to how our journey got started….

It was the summer of 2005, and a year I will never forget.  My husband and I loved being the parents to our three biological daughters, Ashley, Amber and Ariel.  Which contributed to that summer being so memorable.  We had just married off our oldest daughter Ashley,  when the time came for our middle daughter, Amber to move to Arkansas to attend the U of A.  I was experiencing a little bit of empty nest syndrome, but was handling it ok because we still had our youngest daughter, Ariel, at home.  Matter of fact, I was actually excited because this would be our chance to give her our undivided attention that she never really got to enjoy since she was the baby.  However, at 16 years old, Ariel was  beginning to feel smothered by my constant hovering.  I personally don’t know what the big deal was….Ok maybe following her to the bathroom was a bit much.  But to add to the list of not feeling “needed” anymore, we had just placed my mom in a nursing home with Alzheimer's Disease.  She had been living with us the past three years, during which time I provided her constant care.

The year leading up to that summer of ‘05, I cried, journaled, and prayed. I kept asking God what His plan for my life would entail next.  NEVER thinking what He was thinking. Ha!  Here we were nearing the days of freedom, and that was looking pretty enticing.  I kept reminding myself that my professional days of being a “Domestic Engineer” were about over. (I guess that’s what we get for “thinking” and trying to be in control).  But, little by little, God planted seeds and began whispering His plan to us.  Alright, I’ll admit it, I actually heard God first, then gently pointed my husband in the same direction.  Isn’t that the way it usually works?

For 14 years, I worked in a nearby school district and for five of those years I worked with kids with behavioral issues.  I loved it because I got to spend more one on one time with the kids; many of which came from “hard places”.  As I built a relationship with them, I earned their trust and they would share their stories of their life, dreams, and rough living conditions; my heart would ache.  Several of those kids were in foster care or had been in foster care.   And that’s when God first started calling me to join Him in His plan.  The next step was getting my husband on board.  It went better than I thought, and I believe it was because my husband grew up fatherless (his father died of a massive heart attack when his mom was 8 months pregnant with him).  Although my husband always saw God’s protective hand on him, and believed that God is the Father of the Fatherless, he remembered how hard it was growing up without a dad.  So, we contacted DFS (division of family services) and they sent someone out to speak to us.  It was a success!  We were in unity about what we were to do.   We had decided to be foster parents to “ONE” (we just wanted to concentrate on one child at a time) of God’s children. We also let them know that we were just going to do foster care with no intentions of adoptions.  The social worker signed us up to attend some classes for several weeks so we could be licensed.

These classes were great because they equip you in several areas, such as what it takes to be a foster parent, how to go from foster to adopt, the number of children in the system, behaviors you may encounter throughout your fostering and/or adoption process, services and resources that will be available to you, how to make a life book (scrap book) for each child that enters your home (which stays with the child everywhere they go), and most importantly, how to help this child feel safe, cared for, and loved.

Shortly after attending the classes, going through a couple of home studies and a background check (which they provide all for you free of charge), we became a licensed foster home.  Like I said before, we had no intentions of adoption, because we felt like we were too old.  Think about it, what kid would want to be stuck with old, boring folks like us? Well, needless to say, God changed our minds on that theory too.  Our first foster placement was TWO little boys that were half brothers and only a year apart. Yes, we gave in and took “two” even though we told them we only wanted one…..But we believed that is what God wanted us to do.  How did we know?  Because, when DFS contacts you about a placement, you have the right to tell them NO and they usually won’t ask you again, nor will they hold it against you.  I told them no because I had too much going on with my mom.  But God didn’t let them accept that answer and they called me back 2 more times.  So obviously God wanted us to have these boys.  

After two years of caring for them, the mother was about to lose her rights and she agreed to sign her rights away if WE would adopt them.  She said she knew we could give them a life she would never be able to.  So, we agreed to adopt them and told everyone that we were done adopting!  

“Oh Yeah?” said God, with His sense of humor, took another step to remind us who is in control. Three years later, God brought us an 8 year old girl to join our family.  We were her Second Adoptive Family. (FYI,  we’ve now learned to not make plans without consulting the boss).  We had other placements that stayed for a while then moved on but God had a way of protecting our hearts (and the childrens' hearts) and when the time came for them to move one, we received peace and trusted God because we KNEW He was in control.  And in all honesty, it’s not about us, it’s about what’s best for the Least of these.

Foster to Adopt is an amazing opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children who dream of a forever family.  I can only imagine what it would feel like to go to school, daycare, or out to eat, only to see loving families all around you.  Children in Foster Care are regular children who, through no fault of their own, had to be removed from their families due to abusive or neglectful situations.  An awesome aspect of being a foster and/or adoptive parent is that it always sparks a lot of conversations with friends and strangers.  It not only gives you the opportunity to share your journey, but has open the door to some lasting friendships.  Have you ever thought, said, or heard someone say the following statements?    

“I’ve always wanted to foster a child, but I just wouldn’t be able to give them back.” Or , “We would do foster care, but we can’t afford it!”

If so, you’re NOT alone! There are a lot of misconceptions that go along with being a foster parent and wanting to adopt a foster child.  I feel it’s important to help everyone know some truths about the whole fostering to adoption process.   And, there are a lot of advantages to fostering before adopting.  Before I give you some Facts and Truths about Fostering and/or Adoption, let me say God has done some miraculous things in our children.  There’s been growth and healing, but most importantly, they’ve all accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, making them a part of “God’s forever family”.  You will get to read more about our amazing journey with each of our adopted children at a later date. But for now, I hope I can shed some light when choosing this type of journey.  And, just for the record….. Fostering and/or adopting at our age isn’t always Fun or Easy, but the blessings outweigh it all.  Plus, at our age,  we are able to afford to go on more vacations with them,  give them a bigger family (which means more love for them), and a home and family they can call their own!  Thank You for allowing me to share my story with you.  May you ALL find Joy in your Journey!
             Facts and Truths about Fostering to Adoption: 
*  Children in the US Foster Care System: 399,546
*  Foster Children in the US waiting to be adopted: 101,719
*  Children in Missouri Foster Care: 10,100
*  Children in Missouri with No Identified Adoptive Parents: 1,400 
*  Children in Jasper County Foster Care: 524 (as if March 2013)
*  Children in Jasper County Pre-Adoption: 105 (as of March 2013)
*  Cost to Foster and Adopt: NONE - You don’t even need to be wealthy.
*  In most cases, it takes roughly 1-2 years to adopt from the FC System
*  YOU can be single or married, with or without children in your home.
*  YOU have to be at least 21 years old with a Stable Income.
*  You don’t have to be a stay at home mom to Foster a child.
*  Each child needs a bed of their own, NOT a room of their own.
*  YOU can live in an apartment, condominium, or home as long as it meets   licensing standards.
*  YOU Choose ...the ages you want to foster/adopt, the child’s sex you would prefer, the nationality/ethnicity, how many you would be willing to take at one time, whether you want children with disabilities or behaviors, etc.
*  If you want to adopt a child you are fostering, they consider you first most of the time.
*  YOU are trained to ask the right questions when you get a call about a child, so you know what to expect.
*  YOU have the right to say YES or NO when you get called about a child, without it going against you.
*  YOU get a monthly subsidy for each child you have in your home for as long as you have them.  (When you adopt them, money continues to be given to you until the child turns 18 years old) However, Money should NEVER be the reason you are doing this.
*  YOU get a small yearly clothing allowance for each foster child in your home.
*  All foster children are on Medicaid Insurance, Free Lunches at school, and
Daycare fees are taken care of if you use a Licensed Daycare facility.
*  YOU get Support, Help, Direction, and Resources when difficulties arise.
*  If the connection, or other reasons between the child and your family don’t work out, You can (if you really need to), give your case worker a written two week notice and the child will be removed from your home.
*  If you work outside the home and the child's appointments and visits with their parents, make it difficult for you to transport them, DFS takes care of it. (provided usually by the caseworker)
For more Information regarding Statistics, Fostering, & Adoption, check out the following websites: 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

PERSPECTIVES: Everyday Heros

I have a 2 year old boy who has recently discovered Batman.  This has been a whole new world for a family that only had girls for 7 years.  He is just fascinated with Batman and all superheroes in general, which has been a long-awaited dream come true for my husband living in a house full of women!  So we have the toys, books, movies, a lunch box, and even pajamas with a cape.  We have bought into his “hero” much like the rest of the world buys into their claimed heroes whether they are celebrities, singers, sports stars, or whoever the flavor of the month is. 

Kids love Batman because he willingly risks his body to defend a city he loves against evil.  My husband appreciates a baseball player who, though skilled, is well known for his charitable contributions.  Some heroes are admired because of their ability to sing, act, or play sports better than the general population.  Others are admired for their courage, skill and bravery in the face of perilous or dangerous situations.  But all are looked up to because they do something most of us feel we can’t.

I believe, however, that there are countless heroes among us in our everyday world.  People who do heroic things every day without the fame and fans following behind them or the recognition by the community for their valiant acts.  Here are some of mine.

Foster parents are heroes.  They may not look like it from the outside but don’t let them fool you.  They are the people who welcome children into their homes at all hours of the day or night.  They bathe little ones who may have not seen a tub of water in days or weeks.  They wash & de-lice hair and buy new wardrobes.  They comfort terrified children who have been taken from everything and everyone they know.  They juggle schedules filled with doctor’s appointments, therapy, counseling, caseworkers, and court dates.  Not to mention facilitating visits with biological families and taking care of their own family’s needs. Foster parents love, nurture, and provide for these children as if they were their own.  Then they often send them back home to their parents with a hope for a fresh start and better future and all while preparing their own family to welcome the next child that will come along.  These are the heroes of Fostering Hope.

Their children are heroes. Along with their parents they welcome children they have never met into their homes and lives. They give up space in their home and time and attention with their parents.  They welcome new brothers and sisters into their homes knowing there is a distinct possibility they will just be saying good-bye a little ways down the road.  These children are the heroes of Fostering Hope.

Caseworkers are heroes.  They work countless hours being advocates for children.  They deal with angry biological parents, support stressed foster families, and love on the children that are part of their overloaded case load.  They are overworked, underpaid, and too often, not given the recognition they deserve for the difficult and trying job they perform every day.  These workers are the heroes of Fostering Hope.

Children in foster care are heroes.  Resilient and strong seem like mediocre words to describe children of so much courage and fortitude.  These young ones have endured abuse & neglect that we cannot even begin to fathom or understand.  They have gone through so many things in their young lives that most of us will never experience in a lifetime.  And yet, if you look at them closely, you can see the hope that is still there.  Hope for reunification with the family they love.  Hope for a better life filled with love.  Hope that they can leave a painful past behind them and look forward to a future of endless possibility.  These amazing and inspiring little ones are the heroes of Fostering Hope.

 These often unseen and unsung heroes are the focus of a ministry called Fostering Hope.  Fostering Hope is a faith based organization that exists for the purpose of serving and supporting foster families and children in foster care.  We strive to come alongside these people that we consider to be the quiet heroes of our community.  These remarkable people who give so much of themselves time and time again.   We admire them, appreciate them, and thank God for the impact they are having on the foster children of our community that are hurting, alone, and afraid.  Our purpose is to do the small things to show them that we support them in their mission of giving children a safe, nurturing home to live in if only for a little while.

Fostering Hope has partnered with The Caring Closet to provide for physical needs that the families face when they take in additional children.  Through this ministry and the generous support of the community, we have been able to provide: over a dozen baby beds and mattresses, 5 toddler beds, 7 dressers, over 20 car seats, and countless amounts of diapers, wet ones, and bags of clothing for families in the last year alone.

Through partnerships with several Jasper county churches and businesses, Fostering Hope has, since its inception of March 2012, been able to:
            --facilitate senior picture photography sessions for 7 kids in foster care last year and is
              currently working on making it possible for 13 students this year
            --host a  reception honoring the students that were graduating and provide them with        
              a basket of gifts to help them get started in adulthood
            --host two Foster Parents’ Night Out by entertaining 180+ children so that foster 
              parents could enjoy a quiet evening together
            --treat over 70 foster families and their children to free movies at Route 66 Movie
  Theater...350 people in two showings!
--provide space for several meetings, foster parent trainings and a Christmas party for
  foster parents
--host two Foster Parent Appreciation Dinners serving 225 foster parents.
--provide appreciation lunches & monthly treat days for the staff at Children’s Division.

Now, these heroes may not be the next American Idol, football star, brave soldier or even the next masked crusader.  Their tales of courage and inspirational deeds may not cause 2 year old boys to dress up and scream that he’s a foster parent the way my 2 year old says, “I Batman” in a low, raspy voice. But daily these heroes make a lasting difference in our community that not only impacts families now but echoes into eternity.  And while the community sees the value of this cause, many still wonder why we chose to take up this mission. 

I have been asked many times why we do what we do.  How do you take care of these kids for long periods of time, let them go, and then just start all over with another child?  Do you ever think about stopping? Do you ever consider the effect it will have on your own children?   And the answer is, of course, yes. Yes, it is hard to let them go.  Yes, we have thought about stopping.  Yes, we consider daily how this mission we feel God calling us to will affect our children.  Every time a child leaves my home and my arms I think about why we are doing this. 

I posed these questions to my father after a placement left us not long ago.  Our family had a difficult time letting go of this little girl and in my moment of reflection I turned to a consistent support in my life. His words provide an answer better stated than anything I can think. He answered my question with one of his own, “Tomorrow will there still be children that are hurting, alone, and afraid?” 

And unfortunately, my answer was yes.  Tomorrow there will be children who have been victims of abuse and neglect.  There will be children who have endured horrendous things that make most of us cringe just thinking about  it.  These children need someone who is willing to open their hearts and homes and show them what true love is.   They need someone to show them what the love of Jesus looks like.  They need everyday heroes.

I have been married to my husband Zach for 12 years.  We have 3 daughters.  We have been fostering for 3 years and have had 11 foster kiddos in our home.  We are currently in the process of adopting our 2 year old son.  We founded The Caring Closet in April 2012 and have served on the leadership board of Fostering Hope since the summer of 2012.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

OUR STORY: Adopting Through Foster Care

My husband and I were told early on in our marriage that we would have little chance of conceiving a child together. It was heartbreaking news. We both wanted children and had dreamed of being parents. We were told about foster care and the ability to adopt, so we signed up for classes to at least get more information. 

When we thought of fostering, my husband and I didn’t realize how drastically our lives would change. We took the classes and after our first two, almost stopped going! It just seemed like it would not be the ideal situation for us and was very overwhelming. It honestly was a brand new world that we knew nothing about. We did decided to continue, and after 10 weeks we became a licensed foster home.

Three long, difficult and rewarding years later, my husband and I are proud parents of five children (ages 6, 5, 3, 1 and 1). Four of our kids have been adopted and one we are in the process of adopting. Our fifth child has some special needs and has once again taken us on a journey we would have never thought we’d go on. 

We feel though, all of our children were handpicked by God for us. In his timing, our void of wanting children has been filled to overflowing! Through these years, we have grown such a passion for the local children who need families. 

Lindsey Hayes and her husband, Walter, have been married for six years.  They feel blessed by the experience of foster care and plan to continue fostering once their current children have gotten a little older.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

PERSPECTIVES: Bridging the Gap

Like all foster families, my wife and I went to our training classes and learned what was expected of us when it came to our relationship with the birth parents of our foster children. We were strongly encouraged to help “bridge the gap” between them and the state by acting as a mentor and to support them in their efforts to get their children back. My wife and I felt a strong prompting that this was something that God was calling us to. Then we read our placement papers…

My heart felt like it broke in two for what our foster children had endured in their short lives.  Now there is a difference between hearing about a child’s situation while being supportive of the “bridge program”, and holding that child in your arms while knowing that child’s story and being supportive of the “bridge program”.  And that difference is ENORMOUS!

Whenever I would think about my foster son’s story, hate would boil up inside of me towards his father who was in jail because of what he had done. I also felt that those feelings were valid because, who does that to their own child?   

A broken person, a broken man… 

This was the answer that I kept hearing over and over.  But this wasn’t the answer that I received from another person, it was the answer that God kept laying on my heart. I was reminded over and over that I had no right to judge him, but as a follower of Christ, I was called to love him.

This was tough to swallow let alone digest, but it gradually took root and my hate turned to compassion and I thought, “Ok, I’m good now, I can forgive him.”  But God wasn’t done.  He used my wife to urge me to go visit him in prison, and I gave her every excuse in the book, even though I knew that was exactly what I needed to do.  After about a week I contacted the jail and scheduled a visit with Thomas. I later found out that the week before my visit, the week that my wife had been prompted to tell me to visit him, Thomas had tried to commit suicide and that he had relinquished his rights to his only child.

The 24 year old man that I met that Sunday afternoon was broken, scared and without hope.  I told him who I was, that his son was safe and healthy and even though he had made a horrible mistake he still had a future ahead of him and that future was up to him.  He told me that he had only had 1 or 2 visitors during the six months that he had sat in his cell downtown.  I encouraged him to talk to the chaplain, I prayed with him and then assured him that someone would be there to visit him every week, either myself or one of the men from my men’s Bible study group.  Two days later when I met with my men’s group, they were shocked.  Not by what I told them, but by the work that God had done in my heart towards this man.  Then like the incredible group of men that they are, without hesitation, they said that they would stand in the gap with me.

Four weeks later Thomas asked if our group could visit with a couple of the guys on his floor.  Later when we visited the other inmates they told us the reason that they wanted us to visit and pray with them was because of the dramatic changes that they had seen in Thomas.  It was unbelievably humbling to discover what God was able to accomplish through our simple obedience. 

As an update, Thomas has accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior (as have two other inmates that our group had been meeting and praying with).  They are by no means “fixed” but they have started down a positive path, which for some of them is a first. I was blessed to take Thomas to his first church service since he was released from prison recently. He raised his hands and sang praises to our Savior, who rescued him from the clutches of Death.  

I tell this story with the hope that the Body of Christ will do more than judge, watch & listen. We need to ACT. It is our duty to help these birth parents with more than a “plan,” because if we don’t, we will never have enough foster parents. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22

Seth is a devoted follower of Christ, husband and father to 7 children. He is passionate about fighting for the rights of the fatherless and encouraging others to do the same.  To find out more about his family and their journey, follow his wife's blog at

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Voice From the Courtroom: Do's and Don'ts of Being an Adoptive Placement

My name is Joe Hensley. I'm an attorney who emphasizes in foster/adoption cases. In my experience as the former attorney for the Jasper County Juvenile Office and in my guardian ad litem cases, I see hundreds of children each year who grow up without the safety and security offered by loving, caring parents.  As I tell my adoption clients at the end of their case, my hat is off to you.

I hope you will find the following information helpful:

What advice would you give to someone who is trying to decide between fostering and adopting privately? 
First, the real difference in being an adoptive placement for a foster child as opposed to adopting
privately or through an agency is that you have to at least appear to be “neutral” while the social
workers provide reunification efforts.  I am well aware this is much easier said than done.  You
want the child to be comfortable in your home and feel safe and loved.  Inevitably, you may grow
to love that child and have a vested interest in the outcome of their Juvenile court case.  That’s
normal and human.  But you can not “wear your emotions on your sleeve.”  The single biggest
mistake you can make as an adoptive placement is doing anything that can be perceived as
“sabotaging” the reunification efforts.

What has technology done to help and hurt those who are involved in foster care? 
We live in an age of incredible technological advances.  Much of that growth in the last few
years is in the area of social media.  Blogging, Google +, Reddit, MySpace, Twitter, texting and
Instagram are now household words, and over one billion people have Facebook accounts.  In
fact, like me, you probably learned about “Joy in the Journey” through Facebook.
When you become an adoptive placement, this technology is relevant to you because you are (or
soon will be) a party in a lawsuit and therefore your life could be under a magnifying glass.
While I do not want to make you paranoid, a little paranoia when you are in a contested case is
not necessarily a bad thing.  Understand that anything you post on Facebook or any other public
or semi-public website can be used against you in court.  For example, if you are a regular
Facebook or Instagram user you may love posting pictures of your adorable little boy or girl (who
doesn’t?).  I appreciate your enthusiasm.  However, I have seen this used against people time and
time again in Court, even if the person on the other side should not have been able to “see” your
post because they are not your “friend.”

What would you say are the most important do's and don'ts of adoptive placements?  
The following list applies mainly to contested cases where one or both biological parents have
not consented to the termination of their parental rights.  Contested cases are much easier for me
to manage if I can just focus on evidence for the “Attack” (for lack of a better term) and not have
to worry about “Defense.”  In other words, I do not want to have to deal or spend my time and
resources on defending you if you getting called to the stand and asked embarrassing questions.
Imagine a football team who only has to play offense.  The coach only has to worry about the
other team’s defense instead of their offense too.  The team still has to put points on the board,
but their chances of getting beat go down considerably if the other team doesn’t get to run any
plays on offense. 
So that my client’s know what behavior is appropriate, I ask them to read and follow this “Do
and Don’t” list beginning immediately and continuing to do so until the case is over:

1. DO - Immediately set your social media privacy settings to “High” or “Friends only.”
2. DON’T accept any friend requests while your case is pending unless you verify offline
they requested your friendship and you trust them.  Also, please review your online
contacts or friends.  If you do not recognize someone or cannot verify their existence
offline, then delete, block, or un-friend them now.
3. DON’T - Post any pictures of your child online on any website.  There will be plenty of
time for that when your case is over. 
4. DON’T - Customize anything (i.e. T-shirts or clothing, furniture, toys) with the child’s
picture and/or new name on it until the case is final. 
5. DON’T - Call the child by his/her new name you have chosen if your case is going to be
contested.  Caveat: Sometimes that “ship has already sailed.”  Don’t beat yourself up
about that and do not try to go back now (unless ordered to) because it will only confuse
the child.  Either way, please be careful to try not to use the new name in front of the
biological parents or other members of the Family Support Team.
6. DO - Be conscious of your public appearance and behavior.  Do not become intoxicated.
Do not go anywhere that you might be embarrassed about having to explain a photo of
you entering or leaving.  Example:  Having a drink at a bar with a friend is probably not a
big deal, but imagine being confronted and cross examined on multiple pictures of you
leaving a bar.  You may not have even had a drink, but if that is your defense, the follow
up question will be “Then why do you have to meet in a bar?” etc.  The damage is done.   
7. DON’T - “Share” or forward risque or racy photographs or any pictures that are in bad
taste, off color, endorse a racial stereotype, or that advertise or glorify alcohol or drugs.
Do not “Like” any pages that meet that description.  Regarding online debates and
comments, it is fine to have an opinion and participate in discussions, but keep in mind in
our politically correct world almost any comment could offend someone.
8. DON’T - Talk about your case or anyone involved in your case on the internet.  This
includes the biological parents, the child, the Juvenile Officer, the Guardian ad Litem,
anyone at Children’s Division, and any Judge on your case.  Example: The biological
parent’s attorney argues at a permanency hearing that he/she should have expanded
visitation, and the judge grants it.  In anger, you fire off a “friends only” Facebook post
about the arrogant attorney and the dimwit Judge who listened to them.  You just gave
that attorney a sharp knife to stab you with right in front of the Judge you insulted.   Not
9. DON’T - Show or discuss the letters your attorney sends you or his/her trial strategy with
anyone.  The Attorney-Client privilege is the most legally protected privilege our law
recognizes.  You could tell your attorney literally anything without fear that they will
repeat it.  However, if you tell just one other person then that privilege evaporates. 
10. DON’T - Write, type, text, e-mail, leave a voice mail or say anything to anyone involved
in the case (or otherwise) unless you would be comfortable reading it on the stand, under
oath, in front of a Judge and a room full of people (or if it is a recording, hearing it
replayed).  If that thought makes you squirm, re-word your message, or do not send or say
it at all.  Send it to your attorney if you have questions and you can discuss it. 

Joe Hensley is an attorney with offices in Joplin and Carthage, Missouri.  His practice includes civil trials and litigation, with an emphasis on adoptions.  He is the former Chief Legal Counsel for the Jasper County Juvenile Office and is a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

One Month Away GIVEAWAY!!

Giveaway Ended. Congratulations, Catrina Steinmann!!


EXACTLY one month from today, at 6:00 p.m., registration for the first ever Joy in the Journey Adoptive Mama's Retreat will go LIVE. The Joy in the Journey team has been hard at work, planning to make the retreat one that will bless the hearts of the ladies who attend.
To celebrate how close we are to the registration date, we are hosting a giveaway. One lucky winner will win a beautiful photo book from Pics with a Purpose for You. Giveaway details are as follows:

My husband, Jason, and I are in the final stages of our first adoption. We are overjoyed to be bringing our son home from Taiwan in two weeks! (I leave this Saturday!!!) We love kids and hope to have a full house one day through both local and international adoptions. We are extremely thankful that all the expenses for this first adoption are covered, but as I said, we don’t want to stop here!
After reading the blog post about The 1500 Tree Project Giveaway, I was inspired. I've never been super excited about the thought of fundraising, and realized I may have been subconsciously telling the Lord “No” in this area. While reading The 1500 Tree Project Giveaway blog I realized this, and quickly decided that saying “No” to the Lord was not a good plan. I prayed, “Lord, if you have something fun and creative that you would like me to do to help fund our next adoption, I’m willing.” Within 5 seconds my mind was full of what I would call a download from Heaven!
Creating Photo Books is something I've done for our family and loved since my husband and I got married five years ago, so it wasn't rocket science when this idea came to me. Nonetheless, I never thought of it on my own! It took a prayer and a willing heart. Now it seems so obvious! Over the years I have heard a plethora of mothers say something to the effect of, "Yeah, I stopped completing photo albums when my oldest was 6 months." I'm here to help, and not just those mothers, but anyone who loves pictures and family memories at their finger tips!
Photo Books are my primary focus, and they come in four different sizes: 5x7, 8x8, 8x11, and 12x12. If you have digital pictures we can discuss various ways to get them to me, and if you have hard copies of pictures that are not yet digital, I provide scanning services as well! I have been interested and active in photography for over 15 years, so if you want to set up a photo session to take pictures for you photo book, I do that too! I really just love it all!
Today’s giveaway is for a 5x7 photo book, or the equivalent value to go towards a larger book or a photo session. It’s up to you! Check out my page at or email me at for more details.
I’d love to help you get your family pictures and memories up to date to enjoy for years to come, while you help us make ours possible!!
About Our Family
Jason and Laurel Wike celebrated their fifth anniversary in August of this year. When they married, Laurel was blessed to become the step-Mom to a beautiful young girl who is now 9-years-old, and very eager for her little brother to come home from Taiwan in two weeks! Jason is the Corporate Chef for the Red Onion Restaurants, and Laurel is a stay-at-home-Mom-to-be and domestic entrepreneur, running an in-home daycare and transcribing in her spare time. The whole Wike family has not had the opportunity to be together yet, so here is a picture of Jason & Laurel with their son from their last trip to Taiwan in May.

To enter the giveaway, simply complete the rafflecopter form below.  The giveaway begins at midnight Central Standard Time on 9/11/13 and ends at 11:59 p.m. on 9/11/13.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

RESOURCE REVIEW: Nurturing Adoptions

It is believed that breaking the key attachments a child has, both good and bad, is traumatic for the child.  It is also believed that early childhood trauma affects the development of the child’s core understanding of the world.  Is it safe?  Am I valuable?  If we accept these beliefs then we accept that every child who is welcomed into a home for adoption enters as a traumatized child.  This is the unpopular reality that competes with the beautiful dreams of creating a family. 

As an Adoption and Foster Care Specialist, I work to blend the hope and excitement of adoption with the skills and knowledge needed for trauma care.  Deborah Gray’s book, Nurturing Adoptions: Creating Resilience After Neglect and Trauma does this work with expertise and sensitivity.  Deborah is a former therapeutic foster parent and a clinical social worker with over 20 years of experience working with adopted children.  The book itself can be daunting – over 500 pages including sections for resources and exercises – but the information provided is directly relevant and immensely needed for both parents and professionals.

In my professional role I assess families who have chosen to foster-adopt.  I am frequently asked what it is exactly that I am assessing.   What are the key indicators to successful placements and adoptions?  

Deborah’s book touches upon each key aspect – emotional regulation, the ability to seek outside supports, and a capacity for self-reflection.  She describes how and why these characteristics affect healing, attachment, and as a result, behaviors.  The book is hopeful and confident.  There is no glossing over the behaviors or the strain these behaviors can cause in families, but Deborah highlights the reasons behind behaviors and the strategies that promote healing.  This book addresses young children up to teenagers, and encompasses international and domestic adoptions.  It provides insight into the unique needs adopted children have due to their trauma and notes that many existing modalities used in children’s therapies are not designed for children who experience “trauma-contaminated grief” or the ways that trauma, stress, abuse and fear can affect a child’s brain.

It had been argued to me that this isn’t a book for parents – and I agree that this is not a handbook to flip through in the midst of a crisis or in one’s 3 minutes of “me time” while parenting.  But, I absolutely disagree that parents -  the only people on the ground working with, struggling alongside, and desperately loving their children - shouldn’t be, or won’t want to be given the knowledge and tools to help their child.  The chapters in the book are building blocks for understanding your child’s brain and seeing their world through their eyes.  I love the idea of structuring a study group around this book.  I can see it working well this way for waiting parents, or for those who are parenting and are able to devote some time to study.  It can be useful to can share your own examples or hear from others as they recognize their child’s behaviors in the pages of this book.

Nurturing Adoptions is a study guide to build a strong foundation for the family you create.  This curriculum is essential to understanding how to calmly and effectively parent traumatized children.  Deborah Gray is a teacher who lets you know you can do it, absolutely should do it, and gives you the knowledge to do it right. 
Kate Rocke, MSW has worked with children and families in crisis since 2001.  She previously worked in South America in an orphanage for two years.  For the last year she has worked as an Adoption and Foster Care Specialist in Seattle, WA, working with families through the home studies, placements and post-placement phases.  Kate is an aunt to a niece and nephew who joined her family through international adoption. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

OUR STORY: Adopting through Foster Care

Blogging is new to me but adoption is not! My husband and I began our family 23 years ago though adoption and will be adopting our last child when he is born---any minute!

I have watched and listened as our birth mother experiences heartburn, Braxton Hicks, other times of discomfort and anxiety. As I anticipate the time of delivery, I know she will experience those particular pains and that anxiety for the last time. The pains caused by the baby stretching and growing will be replaced with grief and a new set of challenges as she finds a new normal and continues on with her life. 

I have watched women work through this process before. The pain they have daily for the rest of their lives is often forgotten as adoptive parents experience the fun and excitement of their new arrival. This excitement has always left me with waves of guilt, knowing that the birth mother is grieving. 

Adoptive parents have a labor and delivery process of their own. This process often lasts for years as they wait, hope, and beg to become parents. The labor and delivery for adoptive parents is very different but comparable, none the less. The lack of certainty, the inability to control anything, and the lack of understanding from those who profess to love you, are all parts of the labor and delivery that most people would never even think about.

As I struggle with the disappointment of never having given birth, I thank God for our children, their birth mothers, and the opportunity to enjoy labor and delivery in some capacity. 

Lord, please help me to remember the sacrifice those precious birth mothers made and the pain of labor and delivery. Please fill the void in their lives with Your very presence.                                                             ............................................................................................

My name is Karla Hurrell. My husband and I have adopted 10 children and our precious #11 is on his way.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

OUR STORY: Adopting through Foster Care

Hannah's Story

I write this post with the hope that it personalizes the children in the foster care system. In Oklahoma, there are over 9,000 children in state custody right now. They are more than a name, a number and a file. They each have a story that deserves to be heard. This is Hannah's.

In October 2011, as we were finishing up our foster parent certification, I read a news story about a baby girl named Hannah, who was missing. I saw her picture and read that Hannah's mom was mentally ill and needed to check herself into the hospital, so she left Hannah with a woman she had just met. Once she was admitted to the hospital and asked where her daughter was, she couldn't remember. 10 month old Hannah was officially a missing child. I stopped what I was doing and prayed right then for this baby girl and her mother, who seemed like she was doing the only thing she knew to do at that point in her life.

By God's grace, the woman that Hannah was left with was a good woman and took good care of her until she saw the news story about her being a missing child. At that point she was taken into DHS custody and placed into an emergency foster home.  She stayed there for a week, with an incredible family, until our certification was finished and we received the long awaited phone call with a list of children needing homes. They must have ran through 20 children with a short summary of their stories. We had been planning for a newborn, so when they told us that a 3 day old baby boy was available, I immediately told my husband that I wanted him. As I walked away, I started praying, "Lord, is that what you want?" He immediately told me, "Take the 10 month old baby girl." So I ran back and told Seth, "Tell them never mind,  I want the baby girl. Is it too late? I want the baby girl." I had no idea until we picked her up and saw her face that this was the same baby girl that I prayed for a couple weeks earlier.

Hannah's birth mom loved her very much, but was unable to care for her safely. She was 9 year veteran of the Navy and suffered from severe PTSD. She passed away close to a year after Hannah went into custody and after she had relinquished her rights so that we could adopt her. Hannah's birth father has adult children already and was not interested in caring for a toddler and forfeited his rights early on in the process.

I look at my precious, 2 year old girl now and she is happy, healthy and ornery. :) Sometimes I think, "What if we had said no? What if we chose being comfortable and safe over becoming foster parents? What if our certification had finished on time and didn't take an extra 3 months? What if we had taken that baby boy instead?" So many little steps of obedience and faith led us to our beautiful daughter, Hannah Grace. How much greater is HIS plan than ours? Can you even begin to imagine what His plans are for her life after a beginning story like this?

Thank you Father for every single delay and obstacle that turned out to be Your hand and Your favor on us and Hannah. Thank you for protecting my baby girl while she wasn't with me. She is one heck of a miracle. Glory to God.

My name is Elizabeth Pedigo.  I'm a happy stay-at-home mama/foster mama to 7 children under 7. I'm passionate about living my life to glorify our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I have a husband who blesses me beyond anything I deserve every day and supports me in all the crazy things I do. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

September Spotlight: Foster Care

Follow us this month as we share the Joys and Difficulty of Foster Care.  

Please show our guest bloggers some love by leaving encouraging comments, liking, and sharing their posts.  

Our prayer is that those of you in the foster care community will be encouraged this month and that others will consider the blessing of opening up your home to children in need.