Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What I know lately

Here is what I have learned about adopting a waiting child (one who is legally free for adoption) from foster care:
According to adoptuskids.com "There are 104,000 children in the U.S. foster care who are legally free and currently waiting for an adoptive home." Number of children/ sibling groups listed on adoptuskids as of today:  3911. Now, some of these are sibling groups of 2,3, even 6 kids, so to be fair lets double and round that number and say there are 8000 children listed on there. Some states, counties even have their own websites and don't post to adoptuskids, so lets add another 2000 for them. That makes 10,000 kids. Where are the other 90,000 that need homes? If these kids really are in need of homes, where are they and why can't I adopt them? I asked this question to one women who works at an adoption exchange whose purpose is to place waiting children. She said not all caseworkers put their children online, and her organization is trying to advocate for them to do so so that the children can be matched. According to adoptex.org, When a child is adopted it saves the state $28,000 per year versus the child being in foster care. PER YEAR, PER CHILD. After much, much research and reading of seemingly every post on every message board on the topic of adopting from the state, a few trends seem to be occuring across the country. First, many (most?) caseworkers don't like to adopt kids out to people who live in other states, or won't try to help parents adopt from other states. Some caseworkers flat out refuse, others send incomplete paperwork, others are slow in sending paperwork. Second, there are tons and tons of people who want to adopt from the state, they're just having issues with the process and having tons of holdups. Third, nothing is centralized. Now, in general I'm not big on large government agencies, or having any one department in charge of anything. But it seems ridiculous that each state, sometimes even each county in the state, has it's own rules and procedures regarding adoption from foster care. Northwest Florida wants 21 hours of adoption education, Tampa area wants 24. What? If there was a universally accepted homestudy it would make things so much easier for everyone involved. Also, some counties have their own photo listings with children that aren't listed anywhere else online, that no one would know about if you weren't specifically searching for them. Fourth, those online photo listings are deceiving. Many of the kids listed there are not actually available for adoption. I would guess at least one third of those listed really aren't available to adopt. Some have already been placed, some are left on there until adoption is finalized (6 months +), and more than once I have read some are placed on there to make the listing organization "look good." I inquired about one sibling group in California the same morning they were put on adoptuskids. They were unavailable. However, they did send me a big packet of info on adoption along with a list of kids from their county that were available, which was awesome. Perhaps they put the picture of the sibling group I was interested in as a marketing tool - or a bait and switch of sorts. Other states request your homestudy be sent each time you inquire before they will even tell you if a child is actually available (Because those of us wanting to adopt haven't jumped through enough hoops yet). Some states will only accept a homestudy from a state agency (like Georgia), others will consider any homestudy that meets their criteria. Georgia is only willing to work with us if we agree to not persue adoption through any other means, even though I was told we would wait years to adopt from them. We would not be allowed to be listed on any sites as a couple wanting to adopt, and wouldn't have access to our homestudy even if we were to be offered a baby. Then there is my shining beacon of hope - Florida. The state that seems the least messed up as far as adoption goes. Adoption rules there vary from region to region, but they will take a private homestudy. And some areas will even consider us if we have not taken all the mandatory education hours, if we are the best match for the child. Common sense takes hold, hallelujah! So if we ever end up adopting from foster care, it will most likely be from Florida. Overall, I'm shocked by how royally screwed up the system for adoption from foster care is. It could be done so much better, saving taxpayers millions annually. If the process were made easier and 20,000 more children were adopted this year from foster care (I believe it would be easy to reach that # if the process was more efficient, as normally 50,000 per year are adopted) it would save $560 million PER YEAR. And if next year another extra 20,000 were adopted, it would save an additional $560 million, for a total of 1.1 billion PER YEAR savings, etc. Maybe the states on the brink of bankruptcy should look at making it easier to adopt from foster care. I'm not sure how much federal funding goes into foster care, but a lot of money could be saved there too I'm sure if nationwide adoption procedures were enacted making it easier to adopt across state lines. The whole thing makes me want to scream. So what do we do? What would you do? Gavin is turning 5 shortly, and we're going to Seaworld! We need a vacation.

*addendum 1/30/2013* I just looked up the link between federal funding and state foster care. Turns out most of the funding for state foster care comes from the federal govt, in some states all the funding. When less kids are in foster care the states receive less $. In many cases there is no monetary incentive to lower the # of kids in foster care. There you go. It's a good thing there are still a lot of decent, caring caseworkers out there or else no kid would ever leave foster care. There is a new waiver program whereby some states can get increased funding for reducing the # of kids in foster care, and also providing them more flexibility in spending federal funds. The jury is still out, but it seems to be working in a few states so far. Guess which was the 1st state to try this out in 2006 when it was briefly offered by the feds - yep, good old Florida, God bless 'em. Between 2006 and 2010 they reduced the # of kids in foster care by 35%!!!!  http://childwelfarewaivers.blogspot.com/

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Photo dump January

This is how Gavin spent his Christmas money from his birth grandparents:
 Captain America shield:
 Fun with pipe cleaners:
Gavin was home sick one day last week.  
 That's a cloth headband around his neck. He periodically wore it around his head like a bandage while he was sick.
 All the ceilings in our house are high, including the pantry. There was some unused space at the top of the pantry so I asked Jake to put in 2 more shelves for me. I figured it would be a good time to clean out the pantry (I like to stock up when stuff is cheap):
 I was able to leave most of the cereal stash in the closet:
 2 new shelves:

 Lego gun:
 all done:
 Hanging out under the desk yesterday:
See how the blinds are slightly raised in the picture above? Jake keeps is that way all the time so that Tyler always has somewhere in the house he can look outside. Very thoughtful.
Today in the backyard. Gavin has been able to swing himself for a few months.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

We're trying

I didn't really want to write this post but in case Gavin ends up an only child I want him to know we tried. Today I was finally able to speak to someone at the state of Georgia about adopting children that are currently in foster care. It was not good news. The short version is that as of today it does not look like we will ever be able to adopt from foster care in the state of Georgia. They will not allow us to work with our current adoption agency or even use our current homestudy if we want to work with them. We would have to terminate our contract with our current agency and start over from scratch. All new background checks, home visits, classes, etc. And the lady said they don't really encourage adoption - they want people to foster first. And that people are on the waiting list for years to adopt. And that we couldn't even adopt the waiting children listed on the website with our current homestudy. I had a little tearful breakdown on the phone with Jake relaying this information. He later e-mailed me saying in part that it seems our faith is being tried lately for various reasons having to do with adoption. Funny he said that, because after I had gotten off the phone with him a primary song and scripture verse popped into my head.
1 Nephi 3:7  And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no  commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.
 verse 3 from Nephi's Courage (primary song)
 "The Lord gives us commandments and asks us to obey.
Sometimes I am tempted to choose another way.
When I’m discouraged, and think I cannot try,
I will be courageous, and I will reply:"
“I will go; I will do the thing the Lord commands.
I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey.
I will go; I will do the thing the Lord commands.
I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey.”
God expects us to do hard things when they are His will. But He will provide a way for us to accomplish those tasks. I definitely believe this. We will find a way if it is God's will for us to adopt. Interestingly, one of Gavin's favorite songs is Nephi's Courage. Last week he confused his teacher at school. She said they were having a long discussion  about families (she knows he's adopted.) Gavin kept talking about "baby Meephi." I told her that he was talking about Nephi from the Book of Mormon. Then I realized why - he has been saying lately that when we adopt a baby he wants us to name it Nephi. After today I'm thinking that would make a fine middle name. I still have some hope about adopting from foster care in states other than Georgia - I think there is a good chance at least Florida will work with us using our current homestudy. I will have to do some more investigating.  

Stubborn at school

Gavin brought this home from school today:
Showing him this paper, I asked "Gavin, why didn't you do your work at school today?"
He replied "'Cuz I dibble dabble."
In better news, Jake and I set a new record today. We were able to do our drug tests, Jake's tb test, FBI and GBI fingerprints (2 separate locations) and obtain our 911 letter (all for our adoption home study update) in 2 hours flat. Let's hope this will be the last time to do it!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Way to go!

I am so proud of Jake. He has been preparing the last couple months to take his PT (physical fitness test) for work. He has lost 22 lbs in the past month and a half or so. He has been exercising like crazy, almost every day. And today he passed his test. He did 55 situps in 1 minute. He did 67 pushups in 1 minute (I didn't even know that was possible!) And he ran 1.5 miles in 13 minutes and 5 seconds. Hooray for Jake! His weight loss is quite noticable - the clothes he was wearing yesterday were hanging off of him. I generally cook pretty healthy meals, but now I've incorporated some lower calorie adjustments. We also have less junk food around the house, and have been eating out less. Jake has become quite the healthy eater - I joked the other day that we're now spending on bananas the amount that used to get spent on soda. The plan is for him to continue his healthy habits after the test is over (after a trip to the chinese buffet to celebrate). He'll test again in a year, and every year as long as he stays in the military, so really he doesn't have much of a choice. I really prefer eating this way, so I'm happy Jake is on board.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


As you've probably noticed, I've changed the header of the blog to this:
Jake and I changed our facebook cover picture to this too. It's that time of year again to begin our adoption homestudy updates. This time of year (this is the 4th update we've done for adoption #2) always causes me to take a little more time than usual to investigate the world of adoption and see what other options we may have. The results of my research? We're still looking at at least $25k with any other agency that will have us (some will not accept us because we're mormon). According to the agencies' past data, we could probably get a newborn within 14 months for that amount. Unfortunately, most of the agencies I've seen require a substantial amount of money up front (the one closest to us is $11k up front. The ones that don't require as much up front seem to have higher fees overall. Plus most agencies require us to pay the potential birthmother's living expenses before the child is born. If she changes her mind and keeps the baby (which she of course has every right to do) we're out that money. We don't mind paying her expenses upon placement of the child but we really just can't afford to spend thousands of dollars up front that may not result in an adoption. It doesn't feel right to us. So, for the time being, we'll stick to what we're doing. We'll keep telling everyone we know that we're searching for a child to adopt. We also plan to be proactive this year in working with the state foster care system to try to find a child or sibling group to adopt. We're looking for a child or 2 children younger than Gavin (soon to be 5!). So far I have not received a response to my 3 inquiries to the state of Georgia on this matter. However, when I called Florida someone actually answered the phone and was able to answer my questions, so that's a start. I have a tendency to want to adopt every child I see on the online state databases (I can handle a sibling group of 6 kids ages 1-17, sure!) so I will definitely have to temper myself there. After spending numerous hours researching this all, Saturday I decided to start praying a little differently. I told God that we have a desire to adopt again, and if it is not gonna happen to please take that desire away from us. And if we are to adopt to please guide us asap. Sunday I decided to update our online profile - the pictures, their captions, and our "dear birthmother" letter. It just flowed. I knew what pictures to choose, what to say about them, and what to write in our letter. Jake was a part of this too - I asked him what he thought about various issues and incorporated his response (and the part he wrote was left mostly unchanged from the original letter written 3 years ago). Here is the updated version (to view the whole profile click the link on the right side of the page):
Thanks for taking a few minutes to learn about us. In case you’re pressed for time, here are a few things you may want to know up front:

1. We’re honest and open. Our life is an open book, ask anything. We keep a family blog (jakeandkellysworld.blogspot.com) where you can see what we’ve been up to the last 5 years or so. It’s updated at least a few times a month, so you will always be able keep up with our latest happenings. Kelly started it as a way for our son Gavin’s birth mom to always be able to keep in touch, along with all our family and friends. We would also be happy to have continued contact with you and your family by phone, e-mail, and in-person visits if an adoption were to occur.

2. We’re not perfect, and don’t pretend to be. We do our best to live our lives the way God would want us to. We do not judge you or any past actions you have taken.

3. We love our son more than words can express. He is adopted. Kelly is infertile. It turns out that’s a good thing - because of it Gavin joined our family. We love him just as he is, and would not change a hair on his head. We will feel this way about the next child we adopt too.

4. Kelly is a (mostly) stay at home mom, and plans to always be. She works as an occupational therapy assistant 1-3 days a month - on days Jake is home to watch Gavin. She works at a rehabilitation hospital helping restore independence to those who have had strokes, heart attacks, been in car accidents, etc. She likes her work outside the home, but loves her work inside the home.

5. Jake is a good provider with a steady job. He works for the Georgia Air National Guard as an avionics technician, repairing electronics on military planes. He has been in this career field for 16 years, and doesn’t plan on changing jobs anytime soon. He likes that Kelly is a stay at home mom because it allows him to do his job without worrying at all about Gavin.

6. We have a nice home, located just outside of our town. It is in a very safe area with good schools.

7. We’ve been married 13 years. We met on the beach. If you have time we’d love to tell you that story.

Now let us tell you a little more about ourselves:

From Jake:

Kelly is a caring, responsible person who tries to always do what’s right and make sure everything runs smoothly. She plans out the best vacations, making sure that we do things we all enjoy. She also does a great job throwing dinner parties where we have fun with our friends. Kelly is a great homemaker and cook. She has decorated our house with carefully selected artwork and pictures of Gavin and our family, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. I really appreciate that she cooks healthy meals for us but what I enjoy most is when she makes desserts like fried ice cream and apple crisp. Kelly is an excellent mom because she has the ability to teach children with kindness in a way they can relate to and understand. She has a way of patiently calming Gavin down when he gets upset that I really admire. She is great at teaching Gavin new things throughout the day, and he gets so excited when he learns a new game or gets to help Mommy out in the kitchen.

From Kelly:

Jake is the type of person that everyone immediately likes. He is kind, laid-back, and has a great sense of humor. Jake is a lot of fun to be around. He enjoys spontaneously doing what he calls “adventuring.” This can involve trying out a new theme park, hiking an uncharted trail, or attempting to make a new short cut when driving. Sometimes we get lost for a little while but it’s always fun to see new places we haven’t been before! Jake is also creative and mechanically inclined. To go along with his hobby of playing video games Jake built a working arcade machine for our house. Jake is a great dad and Gavin adores him – his face lights up every time Jake enters the room. Jake loves to get down on the floor and play with Gavin, everything from racing cars to wrestling. When it comes to discipline Jake is firm yet loving. He even treats our dog, Tyler, this way. When Tyler misbehaves, Jake likes to try to sit him down and explain what he did wrong for punishment!

We adopted Gavin in October 2008 when he was 8 months old. We love him so much, and really enjoy spending time with him. He smiles and laughs more than any other child we’ve ever met. Lately he’s been making up jokes. His favorite one is: “Why’d the pig go in the woods? ‘Cause he wants too!” After he tells it he laughs and laughs. His favorite activities include digging in the dirt, swimming, building with legos, and playing with transformers. He is very outgoing and likes being around other kids. He will be a good big brother because he is very empathetic. If he sees another child crying he always wants to know why and will try to comfort him or her.

We try to provide a peaceful, calm, and loving environment in our home for Gavin to learn and grow. Our children will know that we love them unconditionally, and that they can always come to us for help in any situation. Kelly shares her love of reading with Gavin, and looks forward to doing this with all our children. She loves reading him fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Jake looks forward to sharing his love of the outdoors, as he does with Gavin. He plans to take our children bike riding, fishing, and hiking. And nothing beats a trip to the park with Daddy! We will also share our love of the beach with our children, with visits to the Florida beach where we met to build sandcastles and play in the water. We plan on taking lots of vacations with our children, but also look forward to time spent at home as a family playing games at the kitchen table, laughing, and having fun. Grandma and Grandpa will be there too! Both sets of our parents eagerly look forward to our adopting another child and plan to visit often. Large family get-togethers were common for both of us growing up and we plan to carry on this tradition with our children.

Thanks for taking the time to read our letter. We’d be happy to answer any questions you have. We pray that you will be lead to a decision that will bring you peace in your life.

Jake and Kelly

(We could have said a lot more but we're limited to 6000 characters including spaces -I think we went over a little but couldn't cut anything else)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Our week

  • Gavin's birthday is coming up soon, and we've been thinking about taking him somewhere fun (legoland discovery center in ATL, monster truck show, etc) in lieu of a birthday party. Sunday evening I asked him if he could go anywhere he wanted where would he like to go. He said, "that chicken nugget place."
  • Monday we had one of the best New Years Eve's I can recall. We had boiled shrimp, caesar salad, and garlic bread for dinner (one of Jake's favorite meals), followed by reindeer cookies for dessert and watched a movie together snuggled under a blanket. During the movie Gavin watched the periodic fireworks being shot off in our neighborhood through the living room window. FYI - if you have infertility issues be prepared to cry a lot if you watch "The Odd Life of Timothy Green." Gavin said to me "Why you crying, 'cause you can't have a baby in your tummy?" I nodded at first but then told him the truth - that it made us so happy to adopt him and I was sad because we wanted to adopt another baby but we hadn't gotten one yet. As I continued to cry (seriously - that move is rough to watch) he said, "you crying? I tell you joke! Why'd the pig go in the woods...'cause he want to!"  
  • Tuesday we had great weather - overcast and in the low 70's. We took a long family walk, but left Tyler at home. While walking Jake asked Gavin what he should do if he gets lost. He said, "Yell for Tyler. He come and find me."
  • Yesterday Gavin sat down next to me on the couch. He told me I smell good. I asked what did I smell like. He said, "turkey."