Termination Hearing

When we received the call 18 months ago, we committed to providing a home for this little one as long as necessary.

It looks like that may mean forever.

At the first permanency hearing last fall, the judge decided to give J’s mom some more time to work her case plan. Visitation increased as we started moving towards reunification. At the same time, J started having significant gastrointestinal issues and oral regression to the point that he began losing weight and having long bouts of screaming.

Maybe, one day, I can describe this process, and the events of recent months, in more detail. For now, I will say there have been major shifts in the case such that the current plan is “non-reunification”—which means the State does not intend to send J home. Visits stopped as of December. J’s GI symptoms have resolved and he is physically healthy. For this, we are grateful!

We are currently preparing for a TPR (Termination of Parental Rights) hearing in which the State will present a case to permanently remove legal rights for both of J’s parents. I have been subpoenaed to testify, so recent weeks have been filled with visits from DFCS, CASA, UH4C (our agency), and multiple attorneys.

We love this little boy and are humbled and honored that we may get to call him our own one day. But, still, we recognize that this is not the way it’s supposed to be. We are grieving for our boy, for his family, for our experiences–and those of our biological children. If the judge rules in favor of the State, J is about to become a legal orphan.

Will you pray for us as we prepare for this court hearing? Will you pray for J’s biological family and the others who will testify? Will you pray for his mother, in particular? Will you pray for all the legal parties involved? Will you grieve with us?

As Christians, we (the Church) have become enamored with the doctrine of adoption in such a way that often leads to a hyper-spiritualization of the process and a failure to recognize the depth of loss that makes adoption necessary in the first place.

We know that the Creation reality is the ideal: made in God’s image and in perfect fellowship with God, fellow man, and creation. We also know that sin came into the world–marring each of these relationships and bringing death into the world. We know that Jesus came and brought us back into relationship with God, making us fellow heirs with Himself–evidenced by the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in His people.

Adopted.

We know—but we also forget. We forget what kind of world He entered, and how that adoptive relationship was established: Jesus voluntarily left His throne and submitted to a permanent alteration of His person through the incarnation. Laying aside the privilege of deity, He came into a culture that was messy and broken. Yet He consistently offered dignity to those around Him–especially those forgotten by the world.

We forget that the final sacrifice involved chanting crowds, the sound of the whip on raw skin, mockery and disdain, screams, nails, sinews, and blood.

God’s heart is, indeed, for adoption. But it is a costly process. And we who seek to serve Him are not above Him.

There have been many tears over the last 18 months, fists slammed down in anger. There have been hours of ceaseless screaming, months of angry tantrums, countless changes in plans, and the constant presence of paperwork, e-mails, texts, calls, and visits. There have been lies, accusations, and misunderstandings. And, always, pleading before the Lord for the sake of this child and his family. Really, these are the more superficial struggles. There is a lot I cannot share publicly. And I cannot know the experience of J’s mother—I cannot imagine being in her position.

God knows what it means to lose a child. He knows how it feels to loosen His grasp, to turn His face in rage, and weep in bitter grief. He knows and He sees.

It is a story of loss. But that’s not the end: It is also a story of redemption.

We, and those around us, often see foster care and adoption as heroic and selfless acts. I believe this is true: It is heroic and selfless. But we are not the heroes–and the story is much bigger than we imagine.

You see, as my daughter used to say, “Jesus just couldn’t stay dead!”

Scripture does not command us to care for the orphan and the widow solely for the sake of bringing provision to those underprivileged and voiceless image-bearers. (Though specific and practical provision are necessary in pursuing justice.) He means to reveal (and fulfill) the poverty and need in each of us.

You, too, are impoverished.

In His resurrection and by His Spirit, He means to redeem us all and to allow us to be part of His work among His people. He wants to draw us into relationship with Himself and one another.

Over the last 18 months, we have seen a little boy from a hard place begin to heal. (Though this doesn’t always look the way we expect!) We have watched our biological children struggle with the uncertainty of his place among us—yet consistently choose to love. I have wrestled with the process and been forced to draw on a faith I don’t really have. I keep limping. And He keeps providing.

I pray that I would be found faithful in my witness—both on behalf of this little boy and in my identity as a broken, adopted child of the Living God.

 

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. 1 Cor 4:3-5

Fostering: One Year In

Next week will mark one year of fostering for our family. One year, five sweet boys. [I count the three boys we kept before our home was officially opened!]

 
Our one-year mark will be punctuated by the permanency hearing for Little J.

Our first experience in fostering was a short-term safety plan with three young boys. That means we had six children in our home—ages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7. Multiple churches rallied around these kids (and us!)—praying, providing clothes, shoes, toothbrushes, meals, childcare, help with doctor appointments, and lots of extra hands and advice! We still have contact with these little ones and their family.

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In early October, we picked up a 4-day-old boy from the NICU—Baby C. The hospital
debrief and first court hearing were followed by a blur of feedings, diaper changes, meetings, paperwork, and state/agency visits. Somehow, school and work and the rest of life happened as well. And, again, our foster support team held our arms up—praying, bringing meals and diapers, giving rides, loaning baby gear. That little one left after 6 weeks—to a mom who worked incredibly hard to get her baby home.0w1a0422-2

Following his departure, we were sad. Relieved, rejoicing…and sad. Our children cried for him—we all cried. We were invited to visit Baby C and his mom in their home around Christmas. What a gift for us! Then his mom stopped communicating in January. So, we pray for and think about them…. We giggle with our kids about Baby C’s little quirks. Sometimes I still hold them while they cry for him. And, in a couple weeks, we will send a birthday gift to his last known address. He will be one year old.

In early January, we received a call for Baby J—a sweet, 7-month-old boy. At almost nine months in, this has been our first long-term placement. Throughout Baby C’s time with us, our three-year-old would introduce him saying, “This is my bruvver, C—-, and he is going home to his mommy soon!” The children know our goal is to help Baby J get home as well, but that conversation is no longer a part of our daily experience. He is simply their brother.

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Yet, we continue to have regular conversations about fostering. We (and our children) struggle with the ambivalence. Our eight-year-old asked, “Is it okay to want him to go home (because his mom is sad) and to want him to stay forever…at the same time?” That is the tension every day. We are rooting for the biological parents. We send letters and pictures and try to connect them with needed resources. And we love Little J as our own—delighting in milestones (and sometimes exasperated by the tantrums!).

Delight…exasperation…colored with grief. Every day.

As we were headed to a foster/adoptive training some months ago, our six-year-old asked, “Are you going to adopt me to someone?” Surprisingly, she did not seem overly concerned about being sent to live with another family—very matter-of-fact actually. But we realized our explanations had been inadequate. We had to explain more fully the gravity of a child being removed from their parents. It’s more than a bad day or a family squabble. Yet we want to leave plenty of room for change—for grace.

“So, [J]‘s mommy isn’t safe for him?”

“…Not yet, but she is trying.”

[Big, tear-filled eyes staring at me.]

“Are you safe for me?”

 

Lord, have mercy. I am inadequate for this task—for these little souls.

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My understanding of the upcoming permanency hearing is that DFCS will announce their current plan for establishing permanent placement for J—either to start the process of terminating parental rights or to start the reunification process (or perhaps to give the parents more time?). Regardless, I don’t anticipate any major changes right away as far as we are concerned. I also understand the plan can change again at any point.

Many of you have expressed your desire that Little J would stay with us forever. We hear your hearts and see the love you have for him—the time and emotion you have invested in him and our family. And, of course, part of me wants the same thing. Of course we are more than willing to adopt J if he needs a permanent home! We made that decision before we accepted the placement in January.

But, know this: We cannot fight for the child without fighting for his parents as well.       Not enabling; but speaking truth, encouragement, and grace.

So, for today, we seek to content ourselves in the ambivalence and engage the grief. To trust in a God who is both sovereign and good. Together. All the time.