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.

Those Sweet Moments

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to announce the arrival of the newest addition to our family, Primrose Ever Toy! (Her middle name is still uncertain.) I’m guessing she weighs in at 1.8 pounds, and is about 9 ” long – shorter than a ruler. No, it’s not James, or Katherine Anne – we’re still waiting on our background checks from other states – but she is our second puppy. Pixie’s cousins will be leaving her in just a couple of weeks, and I finally caved and let Sarabeth pick out a little sister for Pix, so she won’t be so lonely. Plus, what kid wouldn’t feel instantly at home in a house with not one, but two dogs?Photo on 7-17-13 at 9.37 AM

We picked Prim up yesterday evening at 7:00 pm. We drove two hours deep into the heart of Kentucky, so Prim is certainly a good ol’ country girl. Kinda like that old folk song, Old Blue – and Prim is indeed blue and tan. Cutest – and smallest – puppy I’ve ever seen. (Seriously, she barely even comes up to my ankle.) And do you want to know the crazy thing? She slept all night long! We were prepared for a long wakeful night, but Prim was gracious to us (or just exhausted).

So here’s the story behind her name. You Hunger Games fans will appreciate this. She is indeed named after Katniss’ young sister, Primrose Everdeen, who was a symbol of life and love and peace. After all, that’s what all puppies represent, right? Newness of life, unconditional love, and a stubborn refusal to show any hostility toward anyone or anything.

DSCN0020It’s taken me a while to turn this corner, but the more I’m with dogs, the more I’m convinced that they’ll be in Heaven. I know, I know – in the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t matter, and animals don’t have souls, Jesus didn’t die for dogs or cats and blah, blah, blah. I’ve heard all the theological arguments against it, and my mind can’t argue it, but my heart can care less what they all say.

The aisle is split, it seems, perfectly in half. You’re either a Dobsonian on the issue, like James Dobson (who our son will be named after), and promote the idea of heavenly dog houses, or you’re a Mooronian and side with Dr. Russell Moore, in that people shouldn’t even bother to own pets, as they are a waste of time and energy.

DSCN0034Some things just aren’t written in stone.

Bottom line is, there are some moments in life that remind us all just how miraculous life is. I think we need to ferociously hunt down those moments, and share them with all we love, whether they involve puppies, or babies, or the elderly, or mentorship/discipleship.

I urge you, to invite a sweet moment into your life this week. Just for a moment, shed the burden of monotony and seek out a sweet moment to remember in dimmer days ahead.get-attachment.aspx

Our sweet moment came as a family last night when Pixie and Prim bonded for the first time and fell completely in love with each other. We literally witnessed the birth of an unbreakable, lifelong friendship.

Those are sweet moments that are Toy Story-sad, and Gospel-sweet. Those are the moments we should be chasing – even if it sets you back a few hundred dollars. Those are the priceless moments that change our lives for the better.

Be sure to check out Sarabeth’s dachshund blog for more Prim pictures (I assure you there’ll be plenty more to follow, so be sure to subscribe for updates). As well as her and her sister’s decorating/lifestyle blog, From Flats to Lofts.

We got Prim from an outstanding breeder. Every dachshund was absolutely beautiful. If you’re looking for a place to get a dachshund, check out this site: Legend’s Dachshunds. We couldn’t be any happier with the service and care they gave us.

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5+1 = …4?

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Well, tomorrow night our family will be growing. Not in the way that you might think. We’re still waiting on background checks from all the states we’ve lived in in the past five years (California, Florida, Washington State…). The state of Kentucky, like any state, won’t approve anyone to foster-to-adopt until they have proof of a clean criminal record. The process can take up to six months.

That’s frustrating for law-abiding citizens to hear, when all we want to to do is foster children and give them a warm and loving house to live in.

You’d think by this time they’d be able to just pull up your information, see if there’s any red lines, and either clear you or deny you. Simple as that. But I guess the government just isn’t as progressive as they’ve like us to think.

So, for the time being, I finally caved and agreed to get Sarabeth another puppy, and we’re picking her up tomorrow night. We will now be having not two, not three, but four dachshunds living in the Toy house.

But we’re not as crazy as it seems. We’ll actually be losing two of them in a few weeks. One of them, Pixie, is ours. We got her as a wee 10 week old. Sydney and Roxy have just been staying with us for the last two years and their parents – Sarabeth’s sister and brother-in-law, are returning from their overseas mission in just a couple of weeks and they’ll be taking Rox and Syd back.

We’ve been anticipating this reunion for quite some time, and honestly, I had been looking forward to shrinking back down to just one dog again. But I love my wife too much to deny her another puppy – really, she doesn’t ask for much.

Anyway, I guess I’ve been growing excited to pick up the little prim. I’ll post some pictures of her on Wednesday. But I’ve been thinking: Just how crazy is it that this little puppy we’ve picked out has absolutely no idea who we are, or what she’s about to get into, or what sort of nice home she’s about to live in? It’s sad, in a way, that her entire 8-week life is about to change and her whole world will cease to exist.

Tomorrow night, nothing will be the same for her.

But, it’s like us. God watches us, and I’m sure He’s anticipating the day He preordained for us to come home to Him. (Though, since He’s omnipresent, He can experience that day anytime He’d like, but you get the idea.) And I’m sure He’s saying to Himself, “You have no idea what’s in store for you here, and you’re going to love  it!”

We’re to have faith like a child, and maybe sometimes it’s okay to be as naive and curious as a puppy.