Saturday, March 3, 2012

Foster Diaries: Risking Your Heart

One thing that we as human beings do not like to do with our hearts is risk them. Risk means uncertainty and with uncertainty comes the possibility of loss and pain. But however much we try too limit the risks we have to take, it has been a life lesson for me to learn to hold your heart out there anyway..even  if you are hurt.And in the event that you are, you must learn not to let it keep you from loving again. This is the heavy lifting of the heart and way we build its capacity to love. Yes, I sounds like the inside of a Hallmark greating card but it is also a fact of life as I have lived it.

One of the ways this lesson was brought home to me was through adoption and foster care. Many of our readers may have been keeping abreast of my previous writings about "Baby Boy". The two year old who has stolen our hearts and who already feels like a member of our family. He came into our lives with two ear infections and soul full of pain and made me question my ability as a foster parent only to later steal all our hearts. At that time we had to say goodbye to him and let him be with a member of his family for long term care only to have him return six months later after having suffered horrific abuse in that home. We welcomed him back with the intention that this time we wanted him to stay. But as with all times you open your heart to someone...there is the possibility that it wont work out. Such is the case with Baby boy.

When Baby Boy came back into our lives this last Christmas we knew that the intention to adopt him came with a lot of risks. The first we considered was the effect this would have our our two children, Daniel and Selena. We also knew that Baby Boy was still in reunification with his mother and that she could very well  get him back.  For those of you who don't know what that is...

Concurrent Planning:
The county, when removing a child from their parents for abuse or neglect must give the parent every opportunity to clean up their act and become a fit parent in order for their child to be returned to them. In the meantime, the county is ideally pursuing two courses of action. They work to provide a safe place for the child and provide visitation between the child and his parents as the parent works any programs they need to in order to correct what ever problem they had. Parents we encounter most often are in drug treatment programs. they may also be requited to complete parenting and/or life skills classes as well as show that they have employment, safe housing, and emotional stability, before a child will be returned.

At the same time that all this is occuring the County attempts to find a family to serve as the childs potential adoptive home if the childs parents fail the family reunification process. It is their responsibility to not only provide for the child they wish to adopt..but they may also be asked to take the child to visits with their parents as a part of supporting the reunification process. The whole thing is called concurrent planning and it's meant to have a safe a stable home in place for fost/adopt kids no matter what happens with their birth parents. On the surface it seems a great plan...when all the players are doing their parts.

Because Baby Boy had been in such bad shape before, the county was ready to end moms reunification services and free Baby Boy for adoption. BUT...since it had been determined that the reason for Baby Boys dire condition was the abuse he was suffering from the family members taking long term care of him...they were extending mom's reunification services by another six months, increasing her visit times, and possibly letting her have unsupervised time with him.

This came as a blow to Jay and myself. As Baby Boys mom gets more and more time with him, we have to come to terms with the fact that one day soon he may be back with her. That is hard for me to take and every kiss, every giggle, every cute thing he does makes it harder and harder to consider giving him back. His mother had been arrested for weaving all over the road under the influence of drugs with him in the back seat with double ear infections at 3 am in the morning. she has already failed drug treatment at least one other time that I know of. The thought of giving him back comes not only with the pain of losing him...but also the fear of giving him into another situation where he could again be hurt. What if mom gets him back and then takes off with him out of county, relapses...and gets Baby Boy taken away again? Would that county even know that we would be standing by ready to take him right back? Would they even consider us?

It was not like this with Daniel and Selena. When adoption process was being explained to us by our agency, they also let us determine the amount of risk we were willing to accept. At that time we had decided that we did not want to be considered for children still going through the reunification process with their parents. We wanted to focus on children who had already been legally freed for adoption. That choice limited to pool of kids we could be matched with substantially...but knew that we didn't want to risk that attachment only to see everything fall apart. Our social worker explained to us that it meant that it could possibly be a long wait for us but we were OK with that. In our minds it was better to build a family that would be permanent then to have everything torn apart by the vagaries of the courts. So we settled in to wait. Luckily for us..we were matched almost right away. Daniel and Selena's social worker reached out to us as a potential match for them and the process of adopting them was completed six months later. That is astoundingly fast in the adoption world and we were very lucky. Perhaps it was meant to be.

With Baby boy, everything is happening unplanned. We thought our family was complete with the four of us and though we talked about the possibility of potentially adopting again if the right situation came along, we didn't really expect it to actually happen...or this quickly. Baby boy stole our hearts and we had to give him back. When he then came back to us again it felt like it was meant to be...and so we allowed ourselves to really attach  to him without reservation. And now his mom is succeeding with the substantial help of her tribe to the point that he may be spending prolonged periods of time with her and  I am standing here heart in hand and realising I am learning the lesson all over again. If he goes...we have to let him go. If I love him, I need to let him go to whatever his life is meant to be. Perhaps he will come back again...hey, it's happened already hasn't it? It is hard to love someone and hold them that lightly.

The darker side of this is the part of me that hates myself for wanting his mom to screw up...those are my secret selfish thoughts and I am ashamed of having them. First because I don't want to wish someone so hooked on drugs that they can't find their way out...and second, because she is his mother and loves him in her own way too. I know the argument that if she really loved him, she would be a better mom...but I also know that if Baby Boy stayed with us, there would be another human being out their looking at the skies at night and wondering how he was doing and if was happy...just like I would be. I guess somethings in life we just can't reconcile and so we need to let it be and trust that things will happen the way that they need to.

And so here I am again...learning to hold  my heart out to Baby Boy and let him be a part of our heart and a part of our family...with the clear knowledge that he may leave. And though that will come with a great deal of never close the doors of my heart, to him or any other child who might need a safe place to land. No one said life...or parenting...would be easy, but I hope I am getting the lesson right this time.

Until next time dear readers....


  1. what gut-wrenching story. i can understand Bryan, it's just hard to even want to let baby boy go.

  2. thank you for sharing, for having that courage. i truly hope that you get to keep baby boy. with gratitude and humility blessed be.

  3. It seems so unfair that people like you and Jay have to go through this situation. I pray Baby Boy will stay with you.

  4. “At that time we had to say goodbye to him and let him be with a member of his family for long term care only to have him return six months later after having suffered horrific abuse in that home. We welcomed him back with the intention that this time we wanted him to stay. But as with all times you open your heart to someone...there is the possibility that it won’t work out. Such is the case with Baby Boy.”
    That was the end of your second paragraph and, with that, I freaked thinking, “Oh shit, they lost Baby Boy again!” Pretty suspenseful part there, so I read on seeking to find out how you lost him this time only to find out you still have him, but are just hanging there dangling in the wind, not knowing ultimately how it all will end and whether your heart’s going to be ripped out of your chest—again. Losing him of course would be awful, but this seems nearly as bad, at least to me. Do Daniel and Selena understand what’s going on now and that the odds of you still keeping Baby Boy are starting not to look so good? If so, what do they have to say about it and how are they coping?
    You mentioned a part of you hates yourself for hoping his mother screws up again so you can keep him, so you struggle with that temptation. But I operate under no such constraint. Baby Boy unquestionably will be better cared for and loved by you than his mother regardless of how well she may clean up her act. So, for Baby Boy’s sake, come on, Mom, please screw up again so he can stay with the Leffew’s permanently. BUT…if she DOES succeed and Baby Boy goes back, it’ll probably is in his best interests for her to CONTINUE succeeding, so he no longer is jumping between any households, even if yours is one of them.
    If this ultimately goes against you, are you and Jay likely to return to your prior standard for adoption purposes—i.e., declining to consider children still going through reunification procedures with their biological parents and who aren’t yet completely free for adoption? Suit yourselves of course, but I would recommend considering it. If you made such a decision, you could continue doing emergency foster care as before. But the mental and emotional health of your family is worth something too, and it would be completely understandable and non-selfish to protect yourselves from being hurt like that again. Charity begins at home, they say….

  5. avoiding pain is no way to live a happy life.
    That's a lesson I'm still learning myself.

  6. off topic but my geek flag must fly....i notice you frequently call it a 'fold' when you insert videos and pictures. i keep expecting some reference to robotech, like a comparison of the anti-gay movement to the zentradi annihilation of the earth and it was the love song of lin min mae that while it did not save the earth it turned the tide of the war that eventually led to the peaceful coexistence of the zentradi led by bdolza and the united earth forces which led to the rebuilding of the earth..making it better stronger they had the technology and the flower of life!

  7. Baby Boy deserves what is best for BABY BOY, Not because you and Jay want to expand your home. How ideal it is to have one dad work and the other dad stay at todays world both parents have to work whether that parent is gay or straight unlike your family that lives in this plastic bubble. Saying that you hope that the mother screws up just shows how selfish you both can be

    1. I think you have completely missed Bryan's point. He does want what's best for Baby Boy and he recognizes that it's selfish for him to feel that way. It's only human, but it's touchingly honest of him to admit it (one reason why I have started to read this blog).
      Things in life is not always so clear cut. What is best for someone? A loving would-be-adoptive family or a biological mother proven to have been negligent, but still may dearly love her son?

    2. My heart goes out to your family, baby boy, and, yes, his mother, too. I don't feel like you're in any way morally culpable for having (and admitting!) that there is a part of you that "wants" his mom to fail. After all, you don't actually want her to fail, you just want baby boy to be safe. The closest you can come to having some control over that is if he's in your care. Maybe he'll do just fine if he's placed with his mother, but you'll be limited to hoping and praying instead of actively working toward that end. I hope you can drop the guilt, Bryan. The situation is already wrought with the pain that loving can bring.

      As for Anonymous's criticism: I suspect that if the Leffews could be confident that baby boy would be well-taken care of, they would hand him back to his mother without qualm--even if it tore their heart out to do so.

    3. Anonymous Stop being a coward and put a name to your profile...You take cheep shots at Bryan every chance you get...At least be a man and own your comments.


    4. how could jay and bryan be living in a plastic bubble.....they are sharing themselves with children who need, sometimes desperately,having to limit that pool because of the judgements of others not based on their own abilities, to do so they allowed strangers to completely review extremely intimate details of their lives, to the point of family having to move out. on top of this bryan's blog shares very intimate stories of their lives, and lets not forget the gay family values videos and any other activism they do. sharing all of that with the world. plastic bubble indeed.
      @jay, or woman as the case may be.

    5. also, jay is a cop....i know (from other cops i personally know) there is sharing he does that is job related that has nothing to do with an "adversarial" role. i could not think of a better term pardon my blank.

    6. So, Bryan and Jay adopting children in need, Bryan giving up his career to care for them and Jay working a tough dangerous job to keep his family fed and safe is selfish.....

      But a drug addict mother who neglects and abuses her child then expects to be reunited with him because of some imaginary, socially constructed link of biology isn't selfish.....

      I think we may well be dealing with a troll here. No rational person could actually believe that rubbish.

    7. One thing I have learned about Trolls is they are all cowards and never put their name to their comments.

  8. Thanks for sharing this. I agree with you. I believe completely that it's better to love and lost than never to have loved. My partner has had failing health the last several years. Each time he lies near death, my defense mechanisim is to plan aspects of my life without him. For example, what trips I would take as a single person, where can I live to start my life over? It always leave me with an empty feeling, but it must work somewhat, otherwise I wouldn't be doing it. It acts as an intellectual and emotional diversion in the hospital. One has to have something to look forward to. It must be great solace to at least still have your family.

  9. Here is something to cheer you up or make you more sad. The first time I somewhat regretted not having a kid was after watching this. It always put a smile on my face, but it made a colleague cry.

  10. I really believe the best interests of the child are oftentimes outweighed by the whims of the biological parents. How many chances to they get? I pray that you guys can keep little Nicholas. I think it was meant to be.. Big hugs from Ohio guys!!

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