Our Double Adoption Story – Idealism Meets Reality (Part 2)

Adoption 2Continued from Part 1 of When God Whispers – Our Adoption Story

Idealism Meets Reality – The part where fostering is so much harder than we could have imagined.

We said “yes”…and they came. The social worker arrived first followed shortly by Sadie and Abel with their grandparents, and aunt. The social worker, Dawn, explained the logistics of what this placement looked like. We were not licensed foster parents yet. We had only completed classes but not gone through the rest of the licensing process. Because we knew their family, they could stay with us as a kinship placement. (more…)

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Our Double Adoption Story – When God Whispers – Part 1

Adoption 1Like many stories, ours does not have a concrete beginning. I think I have wanted to adopt since I was a child. But, this adoption…the one where we add two blessings to our family, began in early 2006. By God’s grace, we had found a buyer for our  small bungalow house right before the market crashed. Even better, the house I had always dreamed of buying was empty. Its owners were in a retirement home.  My brother was a house-flipper and title agent at the time, so he negotiated with the family for us to buy this new house. In so many ways, it was an answer to prayer because at the time, it was really more than we could afford. The mortgage was fine but the $50,000 in improvements was a bit out of our range. But bit by bit, even that worked itself out. (more…)

Foster Care “Bounce” In and Out Again

Foster Bounce

My husband and I have been foster parents for 4 years now but the first 3 years were just fostering our 2 children that we adopted. It turns out…that isn’t the norm. Recently though, we experienced a heartbreaking “bounceback” with a more recent foster son…we’ll call him Clint (not his real name). Clint, age 5, lived with our family for 2 months. He had been in foster care for over a year and a half  but had been staying with us for just 2 of those months after a move from his previous placement. He was a tough little boy….cute…but really tough. If he didn’t get his way, he would drop to the floor in a ball, scream a piercing scream or on a truly delightful day…go pee on another child’s bed or toy. He was in rough shape despite our best attempts and despite a weekly visit with a counselor. We knew that with his impending move home, there was nothing we could really do to stabalize him.   We were thrilled when the phone call came…Clint was going home with his mom, her new husband and his siblings. Things were looking up for this little boy!

After Clint went home. We fell into an easier routine. I would think of him often hoping he was happy.

Fast forward 2 months.

The phone rings Friday evening (it’s always a Friday evening with us…no idea why). The worker on the end of the line is someone I know from way back. She knew my parents when I was in middle school. An upbeat lady, I immediately start chatting…until she cuts in and lets me know this is not a social call. “I’m calling about your foster son.” My eyes immediately glance over at the sweet little blonde 2 year old cherub living with us right now. I expect this call is to tell me that he is finally moving in with a family member. “Remember Clint” I’m jolted back as a sickening sensation hits my stomach. I know what she is going to say. ” He needs a place to stay this weekend. His mom decided she couldn’t do this and she is placing all the kids (5 of them) back in care. We are calling all their previous placements to see if they can stay for the weekend until we figure out what to do next week.”

My eyes locked with our adopted daughter. She was listening to my half of the phone call. Her eyes grew wide as she figured out that Clint was coming back under such heart breaking circumstances. I knew this would bring up painful memories of when she too arrived home from school to find police and social workers on the scene that would soon lead her to a new home. Part of me wanted to tell this worker “no” he couldn’t come. He had been a particularly difficult placement and my husband wasn’t home so I could run it by him. Also, when Children’s Services says “Can they come for the weekend,” you know it will be longer. It takes several days at least to get things in order and that is if they move fast. Sometimes it takes weeks or months.  But of course, I couldn’t say no…not to this little boy.  He was the first foster child we had to “catch and release.” At the time I thought that meant he would stay and go home. But now he was coming back and we needed to “catch” him again.

When the worker pulled in, it was after 9pm. Clint was in the back of a minivan clutching the strap of his seat belt. The worker tried to coax him out. I tried to talk to him and then he started wailing. “I don’t want to be here. I want to go home….” We coaxed. He cried. Eventually we had to carry him in the house together. The exhausted social worker brought in his small bag of belongings and left. Clint stood and moved rather mechanically.  He hadn’t eaten since lunch so he had some leftovers from dinner warmed up. He seemed like he was in a bit of a daze so we got him ready for bed and I tucked him in and said his prayers.

Feeling exhausted, I sank into the couch. Only a few minutes passed before the small little boy came walking out, dragging his blanket with tears streaming down his face. He climbed up on the couch next to me and just cried.

He did only stay with us a few days until he could be placed with a sibling in his old school district.  I felt a sense of loss when he left but even more a sense of the long road ahead of him. These kids…the ones that land in the system, are often such transient little people expected to move at a moments notice. I pray that the little things we do will let them know they are loved even while their world stands on its head.

 

Easy 10 Step – Homeschooling Portfolio Review in Ohio

portfolioreview

If you have been homeschooling in Ohio, you are required to have your student’s work assessed to verify that you did indeed educate your little darling(s) in the previous school year.

The first option is to have Junior tested using a standardized test at the completion of your school year and give a copy of the results to your school district.The second option, and the one we have used for our 7 years of homeschooling, is to have a licensed teacher review a portfolio of your school materials to assess that they worked according to their ability this past year. The third option is to have your school superintendent agree to some alternative form of testing/assessment if your situation requires something more creative than the first two options.

It is September 13…and I just had my children’s work assessed by a teacher  a couple of days ago…for the 2013-2014 year!  Yes, it should have been turned in already and yes I’m running behind. Summer slipped between my fingers like some illusive dream and now here we are…almost fall, back to school…time to get it together.

When we first started homeschooling, I had no idea what one of these reviews should include…did I need several 3″ binders filled with coloring pages, handwriting worksheets and craft projects. Did I need actual projects…you know that volcano we made or leaves sandwiched between wax paper? What did I need exactly. Well I’m not super organized. I think I lose brain cells by the end of spring…I’m SO READY to be done with school. So my 1st…2nd..3rd…. portfolios were pretty much the same. I would throw all their half-finished notebooks, textbooks, folders etc into a tote and haul it off to the library or wherever I was meeting our teacher to “assess” our portfolio. All the while, I was saying a little prayer that they would find our pile of papers acceptable and “pass” us! Now thankfully, the teacher’s that have reviewed our portfolios have all been homeschool moms themselves..so they get it. They get the mess, disorganization, the whole learning curve that never ends with homeschooling.

That said, we have been having our “portfolio” reviewed for 6 years or so and here are a few tips for putting one together that you can feel confident showing your teacher and not break your back hauling every scrap of their work. I myself am going to refer back to my own list as I tend to start pitching things before I really think about whether I might need to show it to someone for our review.

Ten Tips for a Successful Homeschool Portfolio Review

  1. Make a list of every subject your child did for the year.
  2. Under each subject, list your textbooks or other books you used.
  3. Write down any field trips, museum and zoo visits and travel or vacations you took.
  4. Write down a list of literature or enjoyment books your student read or listened to.(This does not have to be a complete list and gives an idea your child’s reading level and interests)One of my sons loves audio books and listens to many so we include those too. (scroll down to find an example of what I wrote out for my son’s portfolio)**
  5. Add activities your child participated in: music lesson, co-op classes, sports, online classes….pretty much any learning experience not covered by the previous lists.
  6. Add a few notes about your child’s hobbies or current interests. (I’m always so blessed when someone takes the time to ask my kids about their interests and by adding these things in, it both keeps a memory for me and gives the reviewer something to jumpstart friendly conversation).
  7. Set aside your math workbook or a few pages of math done. We don’t test but you could add math tests or whatever you like here. (Our teacher was looking to see if they completed pages or if they skipped a lot etc)
  8.  Pull out a writing sample or two. (I had thrown away a lot of my kids things from last year before this review so I went ahead and had one or two of them do a page of copywork to include).
  9. Bring a book your child knows so your reviewer can hear them read aloud.
  10. Lastly but most important…DON’T STRESS! It’s really not worth it. You did your best. If it wasn’t a great year, let it go. If it was, enjoy your moment. Having an organized portfolio helps me feel less stressed since I have so many to get done but I’ve literally thrown each kids stuff in their own old milk crates and let the teachers flip through that too.

 

When you meet with your reviewing teacher, separate each child’s work and you are ready to go. At the completion of your review, he/she will give you a signed form to turn to your school. In case you need to bring a copy (because not all teachers are familiar with this), you can find a copy HERE.

 

**Below is a sample of the sheet I used to put together our basic portfolio for each child. I added their writing sample, math workbook and  reading book to this sheet and had a manageable overview of what we had done for each child for the year.

 Ian's Work 2013-2014 001

 

 

 

Foster Care: It’s Not a Grocery Store

 

The phone rang. A quick glance at the caller ID said Children’s Services was calling. Not thinking it was one of  THOSE calls…where they ask you to step in on behalf of a child….I answered.

 

Phone

The worker on the other end told me a story of a boy who needed to be moved out of a home where his siblings would continue staying. Age 4. Trouble listening. Wets the bed. Poor speech. In Therapy and Counseling.  I asked a few questions trying to root out if this was a situation we could handle. And then the call was over. But in a house like ours, there are lots of ears. So the conversation wasn’t really over. There were lots of questions. “What’s his name?” ” Is he black or white?” “No, not a boy! Can’t we GET a girl?”  There were more questions but during the course of the conversation, I was hearing my kids say – “Why can’t we pick what we want about the next kid who might live here?” My response: “Foster Care is not a Grocery Store – You can’t pick.”

Don’t get me wrong, we filled out an enormous checklist for our license. It asked what kind of child our family would be willing to consider. It factored in age, gender, race, physical or learning disabilities, history of abuse or abusing. You name it, the survey covered it. But when the phone rings and a child needs a home for awhile, there aren’t choices. In that moment, you can’t pick like you do at the store with 10 brands of pasta sauce or fifty kinds of cereal. Each case must be accepted or passed over as is–and that is hard.

Like the conversation with the worker, my mind easily dwells on the worst “what ifs.” Can I handle this if we do this? Will I be able to sleep at night? My immediate concerns are usually for the safety or well being of my own kids and my own stress level. Initially I have trouble seeing the potential redemption. It is easy to get weighed down, become frozen with fear and do nothing.

But our family has been down this path before and Redemption is the most beautiful part of the equation. God can take the broken pieces of a troubled life and put them back together in a way that is surprising and truly beautiful.