Wednesday, February 20, 2013

real life stories: fostering and adoption {the olivers}

[today is our first in a series about fostering and adoption.  to kick it off, we have an interview with my cousin Debbie.  enjoy!]

Tell us about your family (how long you have been married, where you live, ages of your children, etc)

My name is Debbie Oliver. My husband, Mark, and I have been married for five and a half years. We live in Dayton, Ohio, and currently have three children: E is 9 years old (foster daughter), Owen is 2 years old, (we will be adopting him at the end of the spring), and Elijah is 20 months (adopted son). Mark is a computer engineer for the Air Force, and I am blessed to be a stay at home mommy!

photo credit: abigail k photography
What got you interested in fostering/adoption? Why did you decide to do it?

Mark and I always had a desire to adopt, but wanted biological children first. We definitely had different plans than God did! After 18 months of trying to start a family, we contacted our county’s children services, interested first in only adoption. We had researched private adoptions and were devastated by the cost, so we turned to waiting children through our county. Mark also had a strong desire to only adopt domestically. Our children services organization said our best bet for adoption would be to foster to adopt. We prayed about it and thought about it for a couple of weeks, and decided to go ahead and foster to adopt. On a side note, the day we got test results back that told us that we could not have biological children was the day we got our phone call for our first placement, Owen. Praise God!

Has anything surprised you about the process?

Mark and I struggled through our classes. We didn’t realize the various behaviors these kids can and do display, and it really discouraged us. God gave us strength and assured us of our decision, and we decided to go through with it. Also, we have been really surprised and disappointed by how broken the foster system is, at least here in Ohio. Birth parents are given SO MANY chances, and it is so detrimental to the children. We fought for two and a half years for Owen, and by the grace of God, Owen’s parents actually gave up their rights. If they hadn’t, we may have not been in the process of adopting him at this point.

How have you/your family/your spouse grown in this process? 

Mark and I have definitely grown. God has allowed us to grow closer to Him and each other as we face hardships together. Actually our current placement, E (9 years old), has revealed to me how ugly I can be. My attitude toward her reveals the sin I still struggle with so badly. Her behavior issues have shown me that I still need to come to the Cross daily and that God will only see me as righteous through the blood of His Son. Also, God has taught me to trust Him completely in everything through several
difficulties in my life prior to fostering. Fostering has completely affirmed that trusting in Him is the only way peace can abound in my life.

What difficulties or frustrations have you faced in the process? What motivates you to keep going on in spite of this?

One of our biggest difficulties is not being able to discipline our kids effectively. It is very hard to raise a stubborn 2 year-old without being able to spank. It is also very difficult to train a 9-year-old who has not been properly parented for 9 years, and who has been ruined for even basic discipline. We also are very frustrated with how little involvement in the court process we are allowed to have since we are the people who are in the thick of it with these kids.

Our motivation to continue is the kids. We started this process to grow our family, but ultimately to help kids who need temporary or permanent homes.

Do you have a relationship with the birth parents? What does that look like?

We keep in limited contact with Elijah’s birth parents through emails and pictures. We talk to Owen’s birth parents by phone periodically and possibly visits once a year or so, but we will see how that goes in the next year. We are in good standing with E’s dad, but are limited to how much contact we have as E still has supervised visits. I do get the sense from him that he is comfortable with the care E is receiving at our house.

What advice would you give to other couples considering fostering/adoption? (What questions should they ask? How should they seek out support? etc)

I would suggest that couples find out the process their agency uses completely before deciding. Be sure to understand that the agency will give you approximations, but each case is different, and the system DOES NOT WORK. It is disorganized and frustrating. Be sure to understand this before fostering. But, understand also that working with these kids far outweighs the frustrations of the system.

As far as support goes, God has given me two great foster mom friends, not to mention Sarah, my cousin, who is a foster mom, too! This is HUGE. Keri, my very, very, good friend, and Elijah’s first foster mom, is my go-to for venting, encouragement, and questions in general. Saying all this, I suggest finding other foster parents for friends. This could be through the people you meet through your training classes, or even ask your agency for other foster parents’ information if they allow you to have it. This not only is a possibility for play dates, but just another person with whom to commiserate.

[view the next post in this series here]

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