Two weeks after the little man arrived at our door, we were still figuring out how to live with a baby in the house again. Diapers, bottles, pacifiers, etc. – our daughter was seven, so it had been a while since we needed any of these supplies. I stood in the diaper aisle for a while trying to remember which kind I liked best (turns out. . . Pamper swaddlers for the first few months, Luvs after that).
Then the phone rang. I could tell by the look on my husband’s face that the news was not good.
The little man’s grandmother wanted to take custody of him. This is not the way this is supposed to happen – DHS is supposed to exhaust all possible family placements before making a child available for adoption. Family comes first. We don’t know what went wrong in our case, but we knew what this call meant. Our worker didn’t have to explain it – it was time to pack his things and get ready to send him to a new home. We cried. I can’t explain the devastation we felt. DHS messed up again and had absolutely nothing to say.
Still crying, I called a coworker and tried to explain the situation. I was due to return to the work the next day and needed someone to run interference. Most of our family and friends were wonderful, but we did notice that several people didn’t really understand what the big deal was. There was the expectation that since we had only had the little man for two weeks, it was upsetting, but not really a big deal. We didn’t enter this arrangement as foster parents; we were not prepared for this loss. I still do not understand their lack of sympathy. [Similarly, my husband’s work always hosts a small baby shower when people in the office were expecting. They did not do this for us.]
We then had to do the most painful thing – we had to sit down with our daughter and explain that the baby she already called her brother was leaving our home. We tried to be as gentle as possible; explaining that he had a grandmother who wanted him and that meant he would get to be with this family. I even called her teacher to give her a heads-up in case she had any issues at school.
Soon after the phone call, I gathered together some of the little man’s things. I was determined to send him to his new home with as much as possible. I guess this was my way of dealing with the situation – plan, plan plan!
Then the very long court process started. Naturally, we didn’t attend, but we were periodically updated. The little man had his own representative in court separate from DHS (his ad litem). I got the impression that the first proceeding was a bit dramatic. Then suddenly things started to change. The state and the little man’s ad litem no longer recognized the grandmother as a viable option. I don’t know what influenced this decision, but I can promise it had nothing to do with us (this was not an us vs. her situation). [I could go into more details, but it was too difficult for me to write about.]
It suddenly looked like we were going to get to keep the little man in our family. We were ecstatic, but again, found ourselves in a weird position. Once again, we were the bad guys. Our friends and family were quick to point out that the little man has what they believe to be a much better life with us, but it just isn’t that black and white. I don’t know why he was not placed with his grandmother and I know it must have been an extreme reason, but how will I explain this to him in the future? How can I help him understand that he could have been with his biological family and isn’t? Family comes first in my life and he will have to eventually face the reality that he started out life by losing his.
Because of his disability, I do not know if the little man will be able to understand his adoption in the future. Technically, in the eyes of the court his former life no longer exists. On our official paperwork we adopted [the little man] not [the little man’s birth name]. He will show up on the 2010 census under his birth name though. A fun tidbit for this historian; I hope it thoroughly confuses a genealogist someday.
Although probably not sanctioned by DHS, I’m prepared to share all of these details with him in the future. I will tell him everything I know. He should know.