Our Journey Part 5: Becoming Legally a Family of 6

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In Our Journey Part 4, I talked about the period of time that seemed to stretch on and on between when our kids moved in and when they experienced permanency—in their cases, adoption. As I titled it, that was the mucky and uncertain middle. It’s a time of not being able to make decisions for your kids or drive over state lines as a family. The biggest example of that is when one of our children was thriving in a private school (which we were paying for), and a liaison from the agency looked at me in an educational meeting and told me I was not the mom and could not make the decision, and the child needed the resources at the public school and would start there the next day. I have never wanted to slap someone so much in my life. I wanted to scream and shout and ask, “And who’s fault is that? This child has lived with us over a year, rights were already terminated, and who hasn’t gotten adoption done!?” To this day we live with the fallout of a decision made for our child against our will. It became evident over the next year how negatively that child was impacted and continues to be to this day by that one seemingly insignificant (to that man) decision.

The Much Anticipated Finalization Days

Needless to say, words cannot express how excited we were to be done with the kids being in state custody. We were ready to just be a family. It’s amazing how long finalizing an adoption can take. While you’re told the children need to live with you 6 months and you can finalize, the reality is caseworkers go on maternity leave, court gets postponed, budget cuts mean less workers to approve the adoption agreements, and on and on it may go.

Our boys become Finks after 2,556 days (7 years, 1 day) in foster care

Though our boys came to live with us after the other two, they were the first to have adoption day since rights were already terminated when they moved in, and they came as an adoptive placement. (You can imagine the tension that caused for our littles who wanted permanency so badly!) April 18, 2011, was special in so many ways. That day was chosen because our boys’ two younger biological siblings would be in town visiting from their new out-of-state home, and they were also finalizing their adoption. So, we all went in to the courtroom together, one huge entourage. It was a huge day for their siblings’ family as they had lived with their foster parents almost the entire 7 years, so while we were really ready for adoption to be final, their foster parents had had to endure much longer than we had, though their children had had much more consistency and stability than our boys who had been moved 7 times in those 7 years. Everyone was ready!

Court went without a hitch, we took tons of pictures and then went out to eat with their bio sibs’ family. We continued on to St. Louis for a day of sight-seeing. We met some friends who lived there (who were also fostering and adopting) at the zoo, we visited the Arch, and we went out to eat at a really cool restaurant. It was a sweet, sweet day.

Our younger two become Finks after 1,388 days (3 years, 9.5 months) in foster care

February 16, 2012, was the culmination of our foster/adoption process with our four kiddos. Super cool was the fact that our attorney unknowingly picked Darren’s birthday as the court date. Court was filled with smiles and laughs, the biggest of which happened after the judge asked our daughter if she was the only girl in the whole crew and then asked her if she could handle that. She emphatically answered no in the microphone. Our little 5-year-old son must have thought the adoption would be undone, because he leaned toward the mic and exclaimed, “Oh, crud!” and smacked his forehead. The courtroom erupted in laughter.

We walked out of the courthouse that day, and three things happened, all of which we knew were total game-changers.

  1. One child said, “I’m a REAL [child] now!” and uttered a huge sigh of relief. At that moment, we realized that not only had this child thought “foster” to mean fake, as in we were not the “real” parents, but this child thought they were also “fake.”
  2. That stability represented by finalizing the adoption made an immediate impact in behaviors. We saw so many behaviors dissipate and so much healing take place. For one, one child slept in the car that night for the first time ever! To some people, that may seem like no big deal, but to parents who are parenting a hurt child, one who has dealt with chronic trauma, we know that some children are so hypervigilant, always on the lookout to make sure they are safe. This may prevent them from having the ability to do things they need to, like sleeping in the car on an overnight trip.
  3. We drove from Illinois to Missouri through Oklahoma and Texas that night…WITHOUT PERMISSION! We experienced the freedom others take for granted as a family to go on trips and make decisions without needing to fill out forms and give details of every place and address and phone number we would be at!

Life Moves Forward

Adoption meant so many positive changes. It is not the end of the journey, however. Adoption is said to be a miracle, but the events that lead to adoption always contain grief and trauma for all involved (birth family, child, and adoptive family). Healing is an ongoing process that we all must undertake daily, but it sure is nice to be able to do so as a legal family without a government entity telling us how it must be done! And so we went on from February, 2012, as 6 legal Finks.

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Written by
Margie Fink: Development Director margie@transfiguringadoption.com Margie received her degree in psychology and has worked in various social work capacities. Margie has been chosen in the past to speak on Capitol Hill about the Refundable Adoption Tax Credit. She is a witty foster/adoptive mom who is able to give kids from hard places loving structure while providing unbelievable homemade cooking. Margie co-founded Community Kids, a resource and networking 501(c)3 created to assist foster, adoptive, and relative caregiver families. Check Out: Thoughts From A Foster-Adoptive Mom

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