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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The WHOLE family, at Anellah's 2nd Birthday party in March

It’s hard when you have to admit that the reason you’re not adopting the child you already consider your “daughter” is due to money, but there are so many factors that go into our reasoning in sticking with the fact that we won’t adopt Anellah unless we receive the highest AAP rate. The main reason is that we couldn’t afford it, for her to be in daycare we have to pay a specialized care rate and we can’t afford to pay that while I work (nor do we want her in daycare full time) or to have me be a stay at home Mom without any additional income.  So we’ve been stuck.

The reasons the county initial provided for why we did not qualify for the highest AAP rate are because those rates are reserved for “MITS” foster families who adopt. “Medically Intensive Treatment” foster homes.  The problem is, the reason Anellah spent so long in the hospital was because all the MITS families said she needed more intense care than they could provide. We requested to become a MITS family but were told we could not. So Anellah is considered a MITS child in the San Francisco system but since we are not a MITS home we do not qualify to receive the higher AAP funding.

Another issue that came up was the way our monthly checks were written. They were divided into two portions simply because it made it easier for Families First’s accounting department to categorize. We were told by the county that if our checks were written as a lump sum each month then we’d qualify to receive that amount for AAP. Guess what, we had it changed and were then told it didn’t matter. We still didn’t qualify.

There were a few other hoops that we were told if we jumped through then we’d qualify. Guess what, all the jumping in the world hasn’t changed anything yet. At this point we have an attorney but the biggest help is Anellah’s attorney who is COMPLETELY on our side along with Anellah’s county social worker (who basically told us she was willing to lose her job over this matter as what was happened to us is not right). We also have city attorneys and other important folk on our side.

Anellah and I were going to go to court today but it looks like if a certain bill passes this month San Francisco county will change their AAP rate system and we’ll qualify for ALMOST the amount we are requesting. If that happens then it should be pretty smooth sailing and the adoption will finalize sometime around February 2012. My hopes are TOO high since, as you know, we’ve been told misleading information before, but you never know.

We’re not worried, with God on our side who can be against us? Currently Anellah is enjoying living in our home and we’re reaping the benefits of her being a foster child. I know God has amazing timing and I am confident things will work out. Currently Anellah needs leg braces ($2000) and we’d like to get her in preschool in the fall ($950/mo) but these things will be covered if we can get the braces/get her enrolled while she’s still a foster child.  It’s just a waiting game at this point.

And now you’re up to date!!
Worth every ounce of effort.

Can't tell by the photo, but she loves her buddy Chris!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Decision to Adopt

In December our foster care social worker brought up adoption and asked if we would be interested. I told her it was not the reason we’d decided to do foster care and didn’t feel like it was a financial possibility. That’s when we first learned about Adoption Assistance Program, Title IV-E funding. It makes sense that each county would strive to have their foster children adopted because children being “in the system” are a HUGE expense. Children in foster care not only receive state insurance (Medi-Cal), mental health services, and social support their foster parents also receive a monthly stipend. So it also makes sense that until some sort of incentive was established, children were just remaining in foster care rather than being adopted.  We discovered that if we chose to adopt Anellah she would continue to receive Medi-Cal until she was 18 and we could also continue to receive the same amount of money we currently receive each month for her various expenses (transportation to/from medical appointments, time off work for medical appointments, time off work for hospitalizations, time off work for sick days, etc.)
Meeting Santa
She has a thing for sock puppets

In January we met with an adoptions worker and it sealed the fact that we were indeed interested in adopting Anellah. We also had a team meeting with county workers, Anellah’s Mother,  and Anellah’s Mother’s support system.  The goal of the meeting was to come up with a plan for Anellah and we had hoped that Anellah’s Mother would make a decision that adoption was best for Anellah. Instead she requested 6 more months of reunification which she was bound to be given considering she made progress in the first six months.

Did we want to spend another 6 months waiting and then possibly be able to adopt Anellah or did we want to cut our losses now as the attachment was getting too strong and have her move to a different placement? Questions such as these went through our heads for a couple weeks after the team meeting. Until Anellah’s Mother was ready to see us again and she calmly requested that we adopt Anellah. It was such a God-thing! Only God could have changed her heart and pieced things together so perfectly.

By the end of March we and Anellah’s Mother had done all of our parts related to the adoption. We’d signed a legal mediation agreement regarding what biological contact would look like after the adoption, we’d met with adoptions supervisors, we’d completed our adoption homestudy, and we once again had a positive relationship with Anellah’s mother. The only outstanding issue was that the county only agreed to provide us with half  the amount of money we were currently receiving each month for Anellah. And that’s where we’re still at as I write this, but more (somewhat boring) details next post.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Reunification Plans

As I mentioned on June 6, our goal with Anellah’s mother was reunification. We loved Anellah but it was sinking in for Daniel how much of a commitment children are. He was feeling overwhelmed as he was watching Anellah on most of his days off and we were thinking maybe we wouldn’t have children at all.

Reunification plans seemed to be going well and we had a great relationship with her Mother. There were points of friction but for the most part Daniel, Anellah’s Mother, and myself really respected each other. We were able to spend quality time together and her Mother even asked if we would become Anellah’s godparents so that we would always be in her life.  She also asked that we would have Anellah baptized or dedicated at our church which we all did together on September 26th.

Her birthday was in September and Anellah and I went to San Francisco to spend the day with her. After that I described her as “mature, courteous, thoughtful, fun, and LOVES Anellah so much!” She respected the way Daniel and I chose to parent Anellah without displaying disagreement if things came up that she would do differently. I never expected to have such a positive relationship with my child’s biological mother.

By the end of October, Anellah’s Mother had additional responsibilities and was torn between wanting to be there for Anellah and also caring for the responsibilities in her life. Her intention was still there but based on what Daniel and I were seeing we started to doubt whether or not she would be able to take on the additional HUGE responsibility of Anellah. We prayed for her future and we prayed for Anellah’s future desperately wanting what was best for both of them in the long term…and in the back of our heads we were both wondering if we would be part of it. God was working on both Daniel and I though we hadn’t talked to each other about adoption yet.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Summer Adventure

In August, less than three months after we first met Anellah. We brought her on a trip out of the country!! We’d been planning a trip to Echo Bay, Ontario Canada for quite awhile.  And as you can see it’s quite a trek to get there (multiple flights followed by a long drive). We tried to find someone to provide respite care as we’d been promised we would be able to when becoming foster parents. Nobody was able to take on her medical needs, so the county had the decision to send her with us or re-admit her to the hospital.  We stayed at my grandparent’s remote cabin without electricity or running water. It was a trip of a lifetime for all of us, thankfully she had her insulin pump by then (nevermind that it stopped working halfway through the trip and my uncle had to drive across the border to pick up a new one that was over-nighted to a UPS store!) A picture is worth a thousand words so that’s all I will say about the trip, here are photos!!
At the airport

 Family (Grandparents, great-grandparents, cousin, and aunt)
In great grandma and grandpa's cabin 
 Reading with grandpa
 Swimming in the Lake
 Splashing with Grandma
Playing with Cousin Jacob
Wagon rides with cousin Olivia

Monday, June 6, 2011

Growing Like Crazy

Of course, time has flown by since June of 2010 and continues to keep moving full steam ahead! The first few months of Anellah’s time in our house was a flurry of activity getting her to doctors appointments at least weekly for one specialty or another, getting Regional Center services evaluated and established, meeting with social workers and attorneys, etc.  Every time we thought things would calm down a bit, there would be three more referrals to take care of.  In July I wrote, “I feel like we’re moving one step forward and two steps back. Every time we make progress on something two more things are added. God- I can’t do this on my own! Please help Daniel and I with YOUR strength. I don’t want to ‘just make it’ I want to give Anellah a REAL childhood.”

God answered that plea, despite all the appointments and not as much time spent with Anellah just playing as we all would have liked, she flourished!!! When we brought her home from the hospital she was developmentally delayed in all areas, by the time we had some formal assessments take place in our home a few months later she had developed multiple-months worth compared to the assessments done while in the hospital. It was amazing to see how God used the simple offer of a stable home to literally change her life. We often think and have conversations with her providers that if she had remained in the hospital longer her delays would have been much more permanent.

During this time our goal was for Anellah to reunify with her Mother.  It seemed likely so we were hopeful that she’d be able to someday fully care for Anellah. I want to be clear that there was never any abuse in Anellah’s history but rather her Mother was young and lacked a strong support system. Daniel and I felt like we could barely handle all of Anellah’s medical needs and raising her together. We did not fault her Mother at all for not being able to handle it as a single parent! Her Mother is very respectful and fun, she took visits seriously, and was working hard toward reunification. We were praying for her and trying to support her as best we could.