Is the Foster Care System Perfect?

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Sarabeth and I were extremely lucky with our daughter when she was our foster daughter. (The picture is her at the zoo a few months ago.) Other than the tedious waiting, everything went smoothly from the day we brought her home from the hospital to the day we brought her to the courthouse to sign the official adoption papers, one of the happiest days of my life (even happier than the day Pixar Animation Studios wrote me a personal email).

Stupidly (and luckily for us), no friends or relatives sought her out. She had no visitations whatsoever.

But what about the people who have their foster kids taken away from them because the states deem it best to return them to their parents who had their kids taken away from them in the first place? (Whether it be for abuse, financial loss, drugs, etc.)

One thing that floors me is the states’ insistence on reunifying these broken children and babies with their (often) undeserving parents.

The state values reunification over anything else, and, often above the child’s own safety and wellbeing.

Think about it. Foster parents go through rigorous background checks, take many hours of classes and training programs, they’ve proven that they’re financially and mentally stable, yet the state insists, “We will do EVERYTHING in our power to reunify the kids with their parents if they show even just a sliver of change in their habits and behavior.”

Thus violating their own motto (at least this is our state’s): “Moves hurt kids.”

I’m not complaining about the system. Right now, I’m just questioning it. I’m questioning if the whole foster care system is even operating as smoothly as it could be. Are America’s foster children being given the fairness and safety they deserve?

Are foster parents treated fairly when they form a bond and connection with the kids given to their care, provide a safe and loving roof over their head, and then the state rips them apart at a moment’s notice?

Are social workers being treated fair? Overworked, underpaid, overwhelmed.

If you’re a foster parent or know of any, what are your thoughts about the system? Where would you like to see improvement? Or is it as good as it could be? Share your thoughts below.

Follow me on Twitter or Facebook to read the email Pixar wrote me! Also, need an editor for your manuscript? Consider me. 

Baby A. is Officially Ours

11053691_451150641760475_8000524778489925718_nIt finally happened. It’s a done deal. If I had pixie dust and only needed to think up a happy thought to fly, today would by my happy thought.

Today, Sarabeth and I took our foster daughter to the courthouse one last time to solemnly swear to be Baby A.’s legal and official parents forever.

At 10:05 this morning, “Baby A.” officially became Katherine Anne Toy.

In the year and a half we’ve had her, I’ve never felt like she wasn’t our daughter, but now, it’s 100% official.

All I can say is, Katherine, as your dad, I will do my best to give you the life you’ve always deserved, full of happiness, love, and lots and lots of dancing!

Mom and I love you very much. We always will.

Get more updates on Kat and her foster brother on my Facebook Author Page

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My Daughter’s Life Will Change In Just Two Days

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…As will mine.

It’s hard to believe we’ve had Baby A. for a year and a half! Since she arrived in our home from the hospital, the house has been louder, more joyful, filled with laughs, and it’s been much, much messier!

Sure, there’s been some bad days where my temper has gotten the better of me, or my patience ran out.

But I wouldn’t give up a single minute with my foster daughter.

And in just two days, she will be, officially and forever known as our daughter.

Sarabeth and I can’t possibly be more happy and proud of our little girl. Every day she surprises us with something new that’s she’s learned and cracks us up over something she does.

Our daughter has become the greatest little person I have even known.

July 22, her adoption day, cannot possibly come fast enough.

Now I need to stop writing about it because otherwise I can’t stop crying!

No, life isn’t perfect. There are many things we’d like to change, many more miles to cross to reach certain goals, and many struggles yet to overcome, but when it comes to our daughter, nothing can possibly give us more joy and satisfaction.

Keep updated on our Adoption Day by following my Facebook Page!

Adoption Update (Enter A Hundred Exclamation Points Here)

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I’m sitting at work on the phone with a customer and, just now, I get a text from Sarabeth:

“Adoption Date!!!!!!!!! July 22 @ 9:45!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Yes, friends. After having Baby A. be a part of our home for the last 548 wonderful days, she will now officially be recognized as a Toy by the state and the world.

Sitting here at work at my desk, it’s very hard not to break down and cry right now.

Next week, we will be revealing Baby A.’s real name and so much more! Keep checking back for updates.

July 22nd 2015: The best day of our lives so far…

Follow the adoption updates closely here!

Approval

 

approved_red_stampWell, it’s been nine months since we attended the foster to adopt classes here in Kentucky. We hit a little snag a couple of months ago, which you can read about here.

Things do seem to be looking up in the Toy household, though. Pixie is recovering nicely from her surgery, and began walking almost immediately (mostly because nothing will stop her from getting to Sarabeth). It’s the next 7 1/2 weeks of recovery (A.K.A. crate confinement) which will be difficult, especially when her little sister Prim is allowed to frolic free around the loft.

And the better news is that we got an email from our case-worker saying that all of our paperwork has been approved and we are finally approved by the state of Kentucky to be foster to adopt parents. Whew!

Nine months.

Like a pregnancy without all the morning sickness and hot flashes (or is that just with menopause?).

So what does that mean, now that we’re approved? Well, it means that we could get a call from the state at any minute, being today or sometime next summer – who knows – and they’ll say, “We’ve got a two-year-old boy here who’s dad is missing and his mom is in rehab…” or “We have a brother and sister here, both under three-years-old who need a home…”

They’ll tell us the situation and any problems that are on record for the kids and ask if we are interested in taking them in.

Before we agree to picking them up, we will ask if they are eligible for possibly being adopted.

By accepting a placement, no matter what the answer to that question may be, we knowingly run the risk of that child being placed back with his or her parents or a relative stepping into the picture to take them in.

But some kids aren’t eligible for adoption for varying reasons. We want to take a child in with the hope that he or she could be ours forever.

So who knows what the future holds for us.

Personally, I’m terrified, as I’ve never had a child before. And it’s not like there’s a due-date. I won’t have six-to-eight hours of labor to let it sink in that I’m having a baby. I won’t get to hand out cigars in the lobby (thankfully this isn’t a 1950s movie, either).

We don’t want to buy toys for Christmas because we don’t know if we’ll have a child with us that morning or not. We don’t know if we need to reserve an extra seat or two at our Thanksgiving table. We don’t even know if we can go see Catching Fire next week because we wouldn’t dare take a two-year-old to such a loud and violent movie.

All we know is that everything is up in the air. And everything is unsure.

But nothing is undecided.

We take comfort in the fact that God knows the exact kid (or kids) that will be placed with us, and when. He knows their temperaments, and He knows ours. He knows whether they’ll be with us for a few months, a couple of years, or forever. He already knows the outcome of the court proceedings that are likely to follow.

We don’t; but He does. And I’m fine with that.

All we can do is have the house ready, warm, and welcoming for whoever we may bring through the door at any hour.

Waiting

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So an update on our adoption process.

We completed the mandatory classes back in February and March, in which time we completed all the paperwork and turned in the information to have our background checks sent to the state of Kentucky. We had to have them sent in from three different states to provide our background checks: California, Florida, and Washington State. (Marriage and the recession had us moving around a lot.)

After two home-studies which we passed with flying colors (even with three dogs living with us at the time), lots of trips to the baby section at Target, and seven months of waiting on our approval, we got the disconcerting  news that one of Sarabeth’s background checks didn’t make it back to the foster care office before the 90-day expiration date.

On the one hand, I’m glad that the state is being so careful to weed out the ineligible people applying to become foster parents. But on the other hand – come on! We’ve done everything they’ve asked us to the T, even though we didn’t like doing most of it, and much of it just seemed like busywork, plus, there’s so much evidence before them that we’re good-standing, honest, law-abiding citizens, completely competent to welcome and care for a child in our house.

This isn’t me ranting, but these are thoughts that I’ve had the last couple of weeks. It’s hard, sometimes, watching other people raise their kids and often complain what a hassle it is when they don’t nap or potty when they’re supposed to, when we’d be happy to have a kid at all.

But then, weirdly enough, I feel the best about it when I slip into what I call, “cliche mode”. We’ve all heard it hundreds of times in our lives, and I almost regret saying it now, but, “It’s all in God’s timing.”

God isn’t surprised that we don’t have a kid yet. Since the Fall, God never ever planned on us having a kid by this point, otherwise we’d have one now. It really is (cliche mode) all in His timing. And the reassuring thing about that is, there’s a reason for the delay. And what’s even more reassuring about that is that the reason very well may be simply because our kid isn’t born yet. Or it could be something completely different that we’ll never know until we get to Heaven.

We’re all waiting for something in life, aren’t we? Maybe a promotion, a degree, redemption in the life of a loved one. It’s funny because it seems like no one’s in the spring of their life. Everyone seems to be wading through the winter waiting for the ice of despair to melt away forever. Heck, look at all the famous rich people who continually get pulled over for driving, who check into rehab, who kill themselves. We all think they’ve reached the ultimate goal, that they’ve got everything we could ever want, but clearly they’re just as depressed, or worse, than we are.

So even though my book isn’t a New York Times best seller yet, or our crib remains empty, I stop and think about the good things that have happened: We’ve completed all the requirements to become foster parents, we have two awesome dogs that we love so much, we have each other, whom we are madly in love with. And we’re two very blessed people to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, to whom we can bring our petitions and stand confident that they are heard and being considered with love and grace.

So with all that in perspective, what’s a little more waiting?

God and Bigfoot

FINDING BIGFOOT

There’s this show on Animal Planet that Sarabeth and I get a kick out of every once in a while. In Finding Bigfoot, a ragtag team of amateur “scientists”, led by “Bobo” explore the United States in search of the legendary Bigfoot.

I put the word scientists in finger quotes because these guys really don’t use any scientific tools or methods to find his quiet creature. (And, according to the show, there are thousands upon thousands of “squaches” scattered throughout North America.) Instead of scientific methods, the team relies solely on estimations and hypotheticals.

For instance, in one episode, Bobo decides that squaches are attracted to the sound of crying infants. So they get a baby doll with a voice-box that plays the sound of a crying baby, and place it in the middle of the woods late at night while the team camps out and waits for the squatches to come rescue it.

When talking to “witnesses”, the team will attempt to recreate the alleged scenario by playacting what the witness saw on location. So if the witness says he was standing by the oak tree thirty yards away from his backdoor, they’ll have him stand exactly there, and then they’ll run across the glade or valley or road and attempt to walk and act just like a squatch might. They’ll even raise their hand in the air until the witness says, “Yup. That there’s about right. That’s ’bout how tall the feller was when I seen ‘im three yers ago. And he just picked an apple an’ ate it right off muh tree.”

It really is a humorous show, whether you subscribe to the existence of Bigfoot or not. Bobo has a saying that Sarabeth and I use quite frequently around the house: “I’m not a believer. I’m a knower.”

I wonder sometimes if we Christians seem as cooky to the world as these squelch hunters seem to us. I know the Bible says we entertain angels, but I wonder if our neighbors and unbelieving friends just look to us for laughs.

I get a lot of looks and stares from my coworkers when I decline their offer of a cigarette, or pass on a drink. Even my work ethic, because it’s centered around the Gospel leaves many of them scratching their heads in confusion.

And really, even though science points and yells and screams at the existence of God, our unbelieving friends have a hard time seeing beyond the great discoverers and inventions who take all the credit for the universe’s phenomenons.

And just like the squatch hunters, we’re left with an ancient Book and our own personal testimonies to convince people that, though they can’t see Him and He rarely shows up when He’s expected, God does in fact exist.

So Christians, you may be laughed at or mocked or spited, but don’t let that deter you from sharing your faith anyway. Live out the Gospel in everything you do. Show love, mercy, kindness, just as Jesus does.

And maybe – just maybe – our friends and family members will become believers – or “knowers”.