And so we set about carving out a routine and life together as a family….
I had kind of assumed that once the children moved in, it would be simpler. No more meetings with case workers (as lovely as they were, and as fortunate as we were to have such great support in them), no more long visitation with the children elsewhere, no more checking in and getting permission from the State for things like haircuts and traveling, no more wondering when and where and who and how, no more strategizing, no more worrying about the final outcome and whether or not Luna would be able to join us. I had assumed it would all quiet down and we would just be the 3 of us – setting out to better get to know each other and find our own way in our own time. But it didn’t work quite that way. Looking back, I suppose I should have known better – but I guess my eyes and mind were too full of what was already unfolding in front of me.
We continued to have regular check-ins with both our private agency caseworker and the State caseworker. We also met with the Guardian Ad Litem regularly – to make sure that the children were well supported, getting all they needed, and adapting and developing well in their new home. Cam was a medical mess and we were quickly transferred from his original hospital to the Children’s Hospital near us – a place we frequented weekly and monthly for a long time, as we sorted out his past, present, and future. There were family and friends to meet, and school and daycare to be planned for as the summer waned and came to an end. And while Camaro was legally free from any parental ties, Luna was not – which meant that the birthparents were entitled to regular weekly visitation with her. This effectively removed an entire day out of our lives each week, and only reopened and exacerbated her emotional wounds and added confusion as to where she lived, who her primary attachment figure was, and what was going to happen next in her life. Being 2 years old, this anxiety and stress exhibited itself in behaviors that, in spite of my education and experience, were unfamiliar to me.
Technically a foster parent to the children, I both had great latitude and freedom to determine the activities they engaged in and the evaluative and support services that I felt they needed, AND I was also limited in how much access and power I had to accomplish these things. For example, although I had been told that Cam’s medical history and status was extensive, I did not have access to his records because I was not yet his legal guardian. The children remained wards of the State until the adoption was finalized – a process at least a year in the making. So, while I was working to get him hooked up with the services he needed, I had no power to request prior records or even know who all of his prior providers were. New providers were able to request some records, but they were unable to search in places that we didn’t know he had been. His State caseworker continued to promise to send along his complete files, but the reality was that she was swamped with children who needed housing immediately, if not sooner, and a child who was already placed in a safe home with good support just never made it to the top of the “To-Do” list. It was nearly an entire year before I received his records in the form of 3 paper ream boxes – full to the brim with loose leafed papers – a massive jumble of medical, legal, and familial/social reports and documentation in no order of chronology or subject. By then, it was essentially too late to be of much use. Cam was relegated to being a 4 year old medical mystery puzzle, and the only evidence we had to guide us beside hearsay and rumor and innuendo was flitting back and forth in front of us asking about cars and trucks.
In amongst these hours and hours of phone calls and research and visitations and appointments and planning, we also worked on leaving the pathological and legal stuff behind to just be US. As a committed parent who came from a happy childhood, I was eager to get started sharing with my children. As a well educated professional, I felt like I was on solid ground with regards to early childhood development. As connected as I was within my community, I felt sure that I had all I needed around me to support us as we started out.
The children – now coming from two different homes and routines – took some time to adjust. They were thrilled to be reunited and were loathe to be separated. I loved the delight they took in each other. Despite their age difference, they were the same size and at much the same developmental level. Luna’s bag of toys and clothing had to be thrown out due to the pervasive odor of urine and grime, so she and Cam shared clothes and toys for the first many months. When we were out and about, people inquired about my “twins” and commented on how cute they were. I eventually gave up correcting them and joined in their adoration of these delightful children.
It quickly became evident that the children were inexperienced at playing outdoors – something I really enjoyed. So in developing a routine that included meals together and daily naps (I had been told that Camaro no longer napped – true enough, I suppose, but he did fall asleep promptly any time he stopped moving for more than 2 minutes), we also headed OUT!
We went to the beach.
We went out back and worked in the garden.
I set up a pool and we played for hours in the water.
We went to parks.
We played in the front yard and on the sidewalk.
We went to the zoo.
We traveled to see family and friends.
And, most of all, we enjoyed being with each other.