Sunny and dry Arizona was our home of only three months before we met our son, M. He was the seventh foster child to walk into our home where we fostered eight to ten kids at a time. We spent our time learning about him, his fuzzy past, likes and dislikes, his pet peeves and his passions. He was energetic with a deep imagination that came out through in his self-made comics. We helped him with his school work and was there for him when he dealt with the hurt and confusion after his family visits.
Our son was told he would be going home to his mom this month. He patiently waited while struggling at the same time. He yearned to be with her. He stopped listening to basic house rules to show his loyalty to her. He spoke hurtful words that symbolized he was rejecting me. I didn’t want his last days with me to be filled with resistance and rejecting. I wanted to see that he was going to miss me and that he cared about me. I was hurting. He was hurting more. I needed to remind myself of that.
M never left. Mom couldn’t complete her plan and check the last few tasks on her to do list. We continued on and slowly returned to our normal.
M has been living with us for a year and a half. Even though we had tough days and lots of learning on both ends, it has been all enjoyable. We have seen him grow and mature, while others complimented how much he has changed in many good ways. His family visits stopped. He hasn’t seen his mom in over six months. I didn’t have any answers and he stopped asking about her months ago. One early morning his caseworker called us and asked us a question that we deeply desired. So much so that we were afraid to admit how much out of fear it would never happen. But it did happen. She asked us if we would consider adopting him. We told her we didn’t need to consider it. It was a resounding YES!
We still faced the court process of severance before he would be considered adoptable. We knew his mother could fight this and that it could take years before her parental rights were removed since she has the legal right to appeal. We prayed for Gods will and reached out to our community of friends and family to join us in those prayers.
We attended the first court hearing of M’s severance trial. Mom choose to fight it as expected. I couldn’t blame her. I knew she loved him. I saw how much she loved him when she was working her plan to get him back. She is sick. She is struggling. But her life demons do not diminish her love for her son. The judge announced in court that my husband and I were his potential adoption placement. She starred at me. I was too scared to look her in the eyes. How could I look at a mom and say that I am taking her son. I know that this situation we are all in is because of her life choices, but it’s still her son. She was the one to feel the pains of labor that birthed him life. She was the one to change his diapers and hold him. I am sure she kissed him a lot. Don’t all mothers? My heart hurts for her. God gave me compassion and empathy for her. Court was over and a new court date was scheduled. Standing outside of the building she came up to me. She was timid and uncertain. She asked me how he was doing. I said good. She asked me if he asks about her. I paused, I couldn’t speak. I quietly just shook my head no. She then asked if we were going to adopt him. I said we would like to. She stood there, glancing down at the ground as if she was holding back tears. She slowly moved her eyes back onto mine. They were filled with so much emotion. Failure, sadness, hurt, pain. It took my breath away. I felt her pain. I don’t know what my eyes spoke to her, I hope she saw love, compassion, and empathy. She quietly walked away with her head down.
Our son’s caseworker called us to let us know that our son’s mom signed over her parental rights. She knew she couldn’t take care of M. She showed how much she loved him by allowing him to have a life she knew she couldn’t give him. I am thankful. Thankful this did not get drawn out. There was nothing she could have done at this point to overturn a judge’s decision to sever. Thankful we were not stuck in limbo stage.
We told M. We told M that his mom tried and that she loves him. She loves him so much that she choose to give him to us. He cried. I don’t have words. He asked where he would go. We told him with us. He just cried.
A quick court hearing was held to officially sever parental rights. We were appointed as his adoption placement.
We wanted to be near family since we gave birth to a son and would be adopting a son. Arizona told us that if we moved M would follow soon. Soon as in the end of October. We finished the final details of moving and packed up and headed east to Ohio. We told our son that he would be with us soon. October would be here before we knew it.
Our sons case was transferred from reunification to adoption. This new change meant a new caseworker. This new caseworker reached out to me. We talked about my son’s history and our relationship. We were excited for him to be here soon. She agreed and informed me that she will be contacting our state to get a caseworker assigned to him here.
This month is also M’s birthday month. We told him we have his birthday gift waiting for him. We couldn’t wait for him to see what we got him. He loves video games so we bought him an all in one system. It has most of the old school systems combined into one. He is going to be so shocked. We don’t think he knows something like this exists.
We have been talking on the phone to M daily and video chat with him a couple times a month. His hair is getting long and he is loving school.
His caseworker told us our son won’t be able to move this month. She also has not contacted our state to assign him a caseworker here in Ohio. I am confused. She refuses to answer my questions. She calls me and tells me that I am being difficult because I have so many questions.
But, December is not that far away. Only two more months. It will be Christmas and we will be together as a family. So we planned.
Still no phone call to our state to assign a new caseworker. I have been calling Arizona almost daily. I email daily. I even talked to a supervisor. Nothing is happening and I don’t know why.
We decorate the house for Christmas. I am praying that our son could move here in the next few weeks. We tell him that we could spend Christmas and Christmas break together and he could start his new school after the new year. He is so excited. M gives us his Christmas list. So many toys! We buy them all and more. We told him his presents are waiting for him when he gets here.
The new caseworker in Ohio was finally assigned to us. She is amazing. She said we still have to work with the Arizona caseworker until the adoption is finalized since we’re adopting from a different state, but she encouraged us she will be with us through every step of the way.
We were told that M should be here no later than February. We told M and he asked if we could keep up our Christmas tree so we can celebrate together. His gifts are stacked neatly under the tree. I hope he likes what we got him.
M is asking a lot of questions that we don’t have the answers to. He doesn’t know how to form his feelings into words to his caseworker, he is a child after all. His grades are slipping in school as he is uncertain of his future. He is struggling. We express our love and how hard we are working for him.
We completed everything Ohio required of us for M to move here. Arizona called us to tell us that our sons caseworker there was released from her job. He will be assigned a new one and they don’t know how long that will take. They are short staffed. They said that after they hire a new caseworker they will need time to catch up on M’s paperwork because the previous one didn’t do it. This pushes his move date back to May.
We told him that we have put his Easter Basket under the tree. It is Spring and our tree is still up. Our neighbors won’t talk to us. They must think we are odd. Our tree is clearly visible from the outside. We tell everyone that comes over why our tree is up. It has become a running joke with our friends. Everyone asks how our tree is doing, like it’s a new member of our family. They ask if we can just continue to keep it up because before we know it, Christmas will be here.
The Arizona caseworker is taking her time with the paperwork. Part of me wants to give up on the calls and emails. My questions go unanswered; blame is shifted to me even though I have done everything asked. My husband has been strong through this all. He comes home from work tired and sits with me as I cry. He listens to my day’s battles of wanting our son here. He comforts me and prays for our son and prays for me. I pray for him too.
Arizona tells us they completed the paperwork for M to move. They now need the state to approve it and they can book his plane ticket. This should be done in August.
I am thankful we chose a fake tree. We almost went with a real one but last minute decided against it. Three strands of lights have burnt out so we keep it off. The ornaments are dusty. I tried wiping them and gave up soon after. Nobody has time for that. Our neighbors still ignore us. It has to be because of this tree.
No answers on why the ticket has not been bought. Arizona gives us blanket statements. I call everyone I know. Lord give me favor.
Our son tells us he went to the doctors and he has grown a lot. He is almost as tall as me. He is getting excited. Pine needles are falling off my tree. My fake tree. Fake pine needles. I didn’t know this could happen. Should I plan a time for friends and family to come and say their final goodbyes? My tree wants to rest. It has been feeling the weight of all of this. I should give it a name. No, I can’t. I don’t want this tree up anymore.
Our son is home. He is home, forever. We still have to go to court to make it legal. But at this point it doesn’t matter. He is here.
Tonight we celebrate his Birthday, Christmas, and Easter. He loved everything. He asked if we would keep the tree up. I told him, don’t worry, we need to take it down to dust everything off and put new lights on but that in three short months we will put it back up.
Today, I am so thankful.
Thank you Jesus!
And here’s to the Year of the Christmas Tree.