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Swell Hearts

Foster Swell: Adoption Road

Foster Swell: Adoption Road

Foster Love. Foster Kindness. Foster Swell.

Adoption Road by Heather Wilcox

I became a single foster to adopt parent at 31 years old, because I wanted to be a mom.  It sounds so simple and complicated at the same time, but it is the truth.

Today, I am a mom, I have a daughter.  The road we traveled to get to this point has been the scariest and most wonderful journey one could ever imagine.  But with the endless support of my family and friends, we have made it to the end of the foster care portion of our lives.

During my foster to adopt training classes, one of the instructors said, “Nothing will be as you imagined, but you will know it is right.”  He was correct.

Because I was “foster to adopt,” the plan was for my social worker to match me with a baby or child who had a “low risk” of reunification, but I was reminded throughout my training that social workers can never really predict what will actually happen throughout a child’s case, so I would need to be in support of reunification regardless of my desire to adopt.

After being licensed I waited a few months to be matched by my social worker.  It never happened.  Instead the social workers in Los Angeles went on strike and things got overlooked and procedures were not followed completely correctly.

December 2013, I got a call from a random social worker at a command post, who said, “I have 22 infants that need cribs, do you want one?”  Somehow she convinced me that baby “A” seemed like a good match.  Mind you she knew nothing about me, other than I had an empty crib.

Baby “A” was in my arms a few hours later, to say that I loved her instantly seems like an understatement.  I felt from the first moment that she was mine.

I am a teacher, so arranged for a substitute the last week of school and then had a three-week winter break to just be with her. 

It was blur; she was a month old, ate every 2-3 hours and we had numerous doctor appointments, visits from social worker and lawyers, DNA testing, along with holidays.  During this time I began to piece together who she was.  The original birth date the department gave me was wrong, she was 9 days younger than they thought, the story behind her detainment turned out not to be exactly the way I had heard it from the command post, but most importantly I found that she has 5 half siblings ranging in ages from about 20 to 8.  These 5 siblings had all been adopted from Los Angeles foster care years prior by three different families, none of whom were still in Los Angeles or currently licensed foster homes.

This made her a “low risk” for reunification and my social worker agreed that we were indeed a good match.  Which I already believed, but it was nice to have one person with DCFS agree with me.

By April 2014, my social worker explained that TPR would be happening in the summer and an adoption would soon follow.  Then she retired and we felt so safe and joyful.

May was the worst month ever; we were assigned to an adoptions worker.  During the first phone call she said, “You do not seem like a needed player in baby “A’s” future…”  She went on to explain that although none of the three families with “A’s” half siblings wanted or could foster her, they were all ahead of me in line to adopt her and 2 of the 3 families were interested.  The process of moving her over state lines is called ICPC and can take months, sometimes even years.

I was heartbroken, devastated.  I tried to imagine losing her and it was impossible.  I had been with her all these months, she was attached to me and my family, she was my daughter! 

One of the two interested families came from Utah in late May to meet us.  We sat in the park and chatted.  They brought me pictures of all of the kids and filled me in on the struggles their daughter was having in school.  They were really nice, I liked them, but honestly hated them a little too.  How could they do this to me?  Imagine if someone had taken their little girl away?  I didn’t say much during the visit, afraid I would burst into tears, but before they left, I looked at the mom and said, “Please know that I love her.”  She told me she knew and they left.  I didn’t hear another word from them or the other families for a long time.

At this point, I retained a private lawyer.  Other than answering the phone when the command post called that day in December, this was the best decision ever.  She had me apply for Prospective Adoptive Parent, get the Educational Rights and told me to show up in court for every single hearing.  I sat in the courtroom and was never allowed to speak, but was always thanked by the judge.  The county asked for ICPC to be started for the two interested families in August and then again in October.  The judge denied it both times, and appointed me Prospective Adoptive Parent in October along with TPR. 

A month after her first birthday and a few days before Christmas I signed all the adoption paperwork and applied for her name to be changed.  I had never used her given name because it was the same as my mom’s, childhood best friend’s and my boss’s.  “A” works nicely as her middle name now.

We are currently just waiting for a court date to finalize her adoption.  It will be the first time I bring my sweet baby girl to the children’s courthouse and it will be the first time I get to speak in court.   On that day, I will promise her, in front of a judge and our family and friends, to love and care for her forever… but we both know I really made that promise to her our very first night together.

Update: Adoption Finalized April 2015

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