Photo by Shanna Hullender Photography

"Adopting one child won't change the world; but for that child, the world will change."

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Embarrasing But True

Photo - Junior Year H.S. - 1993

The thing I REALLY miss about my pre-children life is that I rarely had to grocery shop. I use to go grocery shopping about every 6 weeks. I would always purchase a half gallon of organic milk because it has a much longer shelf life than the regular stuff. Even then, we rarely got around to using it all. For the most part, we ate out every night.

Each time I grocery shop, I always think about how one day I would love to be able to afford to pay someone to do my grocery shopping for me. I'm serious when I say I have put considerable amount of thought into preparing for this. Grocery shopping is the only kind of shopping I don't enjoy! Then tonight as I went up and down each aisle, it dawned on me that once my kids get a little older, I really need to teach them how to grocery shop...and cook and do laundry. With three kids to teach, I guess I will be retirement age before I could hire someone and by then I probably will have nothing else better to do with my time than to buy my own groceries.

I had a wonderful mom but those are things she didn't teach me. She worked full-time and it was probably easier for her to do a lot of those things herself. I find myself shooing my kids from the kitchen while I cook and clean. I go grocery shopping by myself. It is simply faster that way. But then I get to thinking about it and I don't want them to be a spoiled little prince/princess like myself. Mom meant well but in a lot of ways, it sort of handicapped me. I'm 34 years old and just started learning how to cook a year and a half ago! I still don't know how to grocery shop worth a flip. As for the laundry, well I actually have that down now.

As I went up and down the aisles of the grocery store, I thought about the 18 year old Shana that went off to college:

I had never done a load of laundry. I didn't know how to sort laundry. I would have to rely on roommates to help me or call my mom and describe each garment to her so I knew which pile it went into.

My "cooking" included making Jello, warming up a can of soup, and baking a grilled cheese sandwich. At some point, I did learn how to make a pan of cornbread my sophomore year of college. I ate so much pizza in college, that I can hardly gag it today. More specifically, I would rather eat the cardboard box than a Papa John's pizza itself. I'm not sure how I ever managed to avoid gaining the Freshman 15 lbs.!

And for the BIGGIE....I didn't even know how to style and fix my own hair! My mother, a hair stylist, did my hair every morning before school. Then on Friday and Saturday nights before I would go out, she would have to wait around for me to wash my hair so she could style it before she and my step dad could go on with their plans! She did my hair everyday until the day I left for college. We both fretted over how my hair was going to look without her doing it everyday. I simply didn't know how to do it.

I'm pretty certain, I never cooked an egg in any sort of fashion until my mid-20's.

To this day, I have never mowed a lawn.

So, I guess I'm going to start making an attempt to take Fuller to the grocery store with me each time. He is 7 years old and getting pretty proficient at reading. Now is the time to learn, even if it does take me longer and frazzles me even more. Then I guess it will be on to the cooking. Besides, my kids are stair steps and I won't be able to afford having three in college at the same time AND eating out all the time! I'm wondering at what age should they start making their own beds?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Salem Baptist, Dalton, Georgia Cardboard Testimonies Jan 16 2011

Please scroll to the bottom of my page and PAUSE my playlist so you can hear the music attached to this awesome video.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

DFCS - A Four Letter Word Part II

Now for the good news about our DFCS experience: Post-placement.

Once we were placed with the children, we were then introduced to their Case Worker. She was a young lady that had not worked for DFCS a real long time. She was very professional and on top of everything going on with their case. She was approachable and while oftentimes she didn't know the answers to our questions, she was always prompt to get back with us with an answer. I can't remember exactly but it seems like our kid's case might have been her first case where the parental rights were terminated. Even still, she never dropped the ball on anything, not even once. Maybe she hadn't been around DFCS long enough to get jaded and burned out. However, I like to think of her as a person that cared about her clients and about doing her job efficiently. The system needs more Case Workers like her. Period.

Our children also had a therapist that came to our home once a week. She didn't work for DFCS but rather with an organization that DFCS contracts with. She too was very professional, knowledgeable, and likable. She too sincerely cared about the children and was really attached to them by the time their therapy was discontinued. She went over and beyond in her call of duty while working with us.

Then once the parent's rights were terminated, we were passed on to an Adoption Coordinator (or some title like that). She was also precious. We had the least amount of interaction with her as that was the last leg in our adoption journey. Once the rights were terminated, we went in and signed a ton of paperwork. For anyone that has ever mortgaged a home, it was very comparable to that. Then the paperwork was filed and we waited for the court date to roll around. However, we use to see her at a lot of DFCS functions that we attended. She always went out of her way to talk to and encourage us.

So once we were placed with children and until the adoptions were finalized, we had weekly visits by their therapist. Then we had monthly visits with our Case Worker AND with the children's Case Worker. While the Case Worker visits were independent of each other, they were oftentimes very repetitive with the same questions etc. If my memory serves me correctly, it seems like the Adoption Coordinator came to our house once after our file had been passed on to her.

I can't say enough good things about the kid's Case Worker, Therapist and Adoption Coordinator. Actually, I like them so much they made it to our Christmas card list! Because of them, I can definitely say that we had a positive DFCS experience. There may be a bad apple in every bunch but you have to toss it aside and appreciate the good!

Lastly, I think it is important to note that we had a very smooth adoption process in general. There were no hurdles or roadblocks along the way that we had to overcome. The biological family didn't play any games and neither did DFCS. It really progressed along exactly like a text scenario on an efficient time line.

So YES, I would be willing to do it again!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

DFCS - A Four Letter Word

Okay, I know DFCS really isn't a word but rather an acronym. However, as my husband always says, "You can't let the facts stand in the way of a good story."

Someone recently inquired about my experience with the Georgia Department of Family and Children's Services (DFCS). When I think about our foster care adoption experience, I think about it in two different phases: pre-placement and post-placement. While I would rate our overall experience as satisfactory, it really did vary from one phase to the other.

So, I will start with the bad first: Pre-placement.

Once it was decided that we would purse adopting from foster care, we went wide open trying to get everything done as quickly as possible. We made our initial phone to DFCS in October of 2008. There were no more IMPACT (required training for foster and adoptive families) classes scheduled in our county until 2009. So, Billy and I drove several weekends a little over an hour each way to complete our classes. We did everything that was asked of us in record time. All of our home study visits were completed on December 1st (including every bit of paperwork turned in). Our home study ended up being about a 13 page document. The home study had to be signed off and approved by two management members at DFCS in order for us to be considered for adoption. Until it was approved, our home study was not placed in the state database where other Case Workers in the state could view our profile.

I waited patiently for what I considered a long time. While I realize that our county may not have had children they thought were a good fit for us, there may have been other possible situations that we were missing out on being considered for in other parts of the state. I didn't expect DFCS to pull children out of the thin air for us but I did expect that a 13 page home study can be read and approved in less than five and a half months. DFCS solicits the need for foster and adoptive families but then drag around on getting them approved so those families can actually accept placement of children. I was hardly impressed by the hurry up and wait game. After all, five and half months is long time in the life of a waiting child.

One day, I woke up and I must say I had my game day face on. As my grandmother use to say, "Enough of anything is enough." I had been nice and I had waited patiently and it got us no where. When I failed to get results in a timely fashion, I contacted the Governor's office and filed a complaint. I wrote letters to all the big cheeses in charge. I got responses. I also started getting my phone calls answered at DFCS or at least my phone calls returned. I guess it is fair to say that I made enemies before I started making friends at DFCS. That was okay because I wasn't there to make friends anyways. As usual when my charm wears off, my very likable and jovial husband was probably our saving grace.

Once our home study was completed, we were assigned a Case Worker. She is a person that basically represents and works with the adoptive family. She is the one that makes sure that our file is current, our training is up to date, answers questions for us, presents children's files to us, etc. Our personalities mixed as well as oil and water. It was an awkward relationship like the kind where you both go to talk at the same time and each never truly feel comfortable with each other. She had also been in her job for many, many years but seemed to having trouble answering a lot of the most simplest questions. I always felt discouraged about the adoption process after she would leave our home. Once, I was talking to a lady that she had inquired about adopting from DFCS and had meet our Case Worker for an initial meeting. This lady and her husband decided to pursue international adoption because this Case Worker was so rude and negative toward them. Unfortunately, I can understand why they felt that way. I have often wondered how many good families this lady has discouraged from pursuing foster care adoptions. It is my desire that this lady be happily enjoying retirement if we ever decide to pursue foster care adoption again.

At any given time there are approximately 3,500 potential adoptive situations (with the number of kids involved being much higher) listed on As long as there are numbers as astounding as that, DFCS will never be able to justify taking five and half months to approve a home study to me. So my advice to anyone pursuing foster care adoption would be to stay on your Case Worker and don't worry about being too pushy or impatient. After all, there are a lot of voiceless children that are counting on people like YOU!

Stay tuned for the POSITIVE post!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Words of Encouragement

A very old and faithful friend of mine sent me the following message this week about adoption. It was advice that was passed on to her when she shared her own desire to adopt with another one if her friends. I found this very meaningful and encouraging!

If it's a real desire and in His will, then it won't go away.

It may be that God is preparing you now for something later.

It may be that God is preparing you for service/outreach/ministry or even a career in that field rather than personal adoption.

Adoption is always born in the heart of the mother so don't be upset when dad is slow to follow.

God will speak this desire to your husband in a different way then He did to you because you are made differently so be patient and prayerful in that.

Look carefully at all the angles of your perspective on adoption because He may be trying to show you something you haven't seen yet.

SonShyne is my Sunshine

Friday night, the kids spent the night with Billy's parents. We didn't get them back until last night. They love, love, love going to Granny and Pop's house and spending the night. However upon their return home, Shyne (pronounced Shine) needs his "Momma time." As rough and tough and all boy as he comes across, he still wants one on one time with Momma. Upon entering the house, Shyne said "Momma, I was so good and I missed you! I love you, Momma." My heart was warmed enough to melt all the snow in the Southeast!

I cannot tell you what a change a year and half has made in this child. I will admit that in the beginning there were times/days when I thought how much easier it would be if it were only his two siblings. I wondered if he would ever feel like my child. Yes, those are not pretty memories but they are honest ones. Now, I only see a precious child that is brilliant and with a heart of gold. He has gone from cussing, wanting to be a gang banger to excelling in school, loving church and Awanas, and asking a lot a questions about God.

One look at the trio and Shyne is the one that sticks out with raven black hair and eyes. His eyes are so dark, one can hardly see his pupils. Zippy and Fuller on the other hand have more exotic looks with olive skin, lighter hair, and blue eyes. It isn't uncommon for people to brag on those two's beauty yet not mention Shyne's. He doesn't seem to pay it any attention but it is hard for me because I know his beauty inside and out. He loves to hear the story about how I always wanted a little boy with black hair and tan skin because I think that is the prettiest color in the world. I often look at his little hand inside mine - his tan beauty and my pale whiteness. The world may know we look different but my heart does not.

Shyne is ADHD so he does have his good and his not so great days. That in itself makes him different.

So, needless to say that Shyne is my special child. Not to say that the other two aren't because they are awesome little people and very special in their own little ways too. But no matter how I slice it and dice it, he is just different.

I no longer see him as the problem child. Instead, I see a little boy that is destined for greatness. I can't wait to see where life takes him. I love my SonShyne!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I Told You So

My head has been full of adoption related thoughts lately. I hate it when I get fixated on something. You know you have a bad habit when you start annoying yourself! Sometimes, I don't know when to leave well enough alone. I am wondering if that is the case with the adoption thoughts.

I do feel like the cards are stacked against me. First, I have a husband that is not on all. At least when I asked him about it the other day, I did have enough sense to leave that conversation well enough alone at least for a little while! Secondly, we would need more space for another person in our household. Selling is the most desirable but most unlikely option. Building would be the best bet but would be costly and stressful, not to mention we can't afford it. Then, I would need a larger, less fuel efficient vehicle which I can't afford either. Lastly but certainly not least, there will be all the opinions to deal with even if the first three obstacles didn't exist.

I know when we got our three kiddos there were people waiting for us to crash and burn so they could tell us "I told you so." I don't think they wanted us to fail but were just looking at the situation from a pessimistic view point. I don't have hard feelings toward those people because adoption is such a risky and oftentimes pessimistic ordeal. Take lives, cultures, experiences, family and meshing them all together while trying to put on a big happy face isn't always the easiest thing to do. In reality, I know I could overcome the first three objections. However, the part that scares me the most is the risk that is involved by adding another kid to our mix. No not just a kid, but a teenager. Right now our situation is so perfect and I would hate to ruin it. It would be hard to hear a naysayer say "I told you so." The stakes are high. So once again, tonight I will go to bed praying for direction and dreaming of possibilities.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sidelines or Getting In The Ballgame

I'm back and with gusto! I've been busy adjusting to life as a working Momma. There have been growing pains along the way but I think we have finally somewhat figured it out. Hopefully, I can find the time to keep this blog updated. I'm constantly pondering topics and think I could write forever about my experiences, thoughts and about adoption in general.

It is a new year and and I'm curious to see what 2011 has in store for my family. I have a renewed excitement about life! This year, I turn 35 years old. Where does time go? I still feel so young at heart. Based on average life expectancies, I have pretty much already lived half my life. Instead of dwelling on the gloomy side of things, I've decided there is still a lot I need to accomplish in this life so I need to get busy! It is time to get in the ballgame called "life!"

Adoption has been on my mind so much lately. At this point, our kids have been with us a year and a half. In general, life with our kids is about as "normal" as it gets. There are many days I forget they are adopted. I feel like I have known them their entire lives. They continually bless and enrich my life daily. Their resiliency never fails to encourage me.

My heart continues to be heavy burdened for the older kids that are in the foster care system. It grieves me think about them aging out of the system and not having a family to call their very own. I love holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas. I kept thinking over and over this holiday season how lonesome it would be to not have any family in which to spend it. No matter how far my kids go in life, I want my home to be the very place they always find their way back to during the holiday season. I want it to be a home filled with family, love and laughter.

I'm very open to the idea of adopting a teenager but I will admit that is very scary stuff especially in the days following events like the Arizona massacre. There are so many troubled people with evil ways in this world. However, I have to stop and remind myself that mankind is still good in spite of it all. I think about people that put their life in danger with their heroic acts of kindness and humanity. One must do what is right even if there is risk involved. Of course, I have my children to consider first and foremost. Then, there is my husband, Billy. I'm not sure if Billy would ever get on board for that ride. This is definitely not a "me" or a "we" decision but a "knee" decision. In the meantime, I would love for people to share some blogs where people have adopted teenagers or hear your personal experiences.

Let the good times roll in 2011!