Monday, August 8, 2016

Adoption Takes A Village

Today is Fantastic Five Day.  We named this day for the day Keegan officially and legally became our son and made us a family of 5 children.  Usually around this time of year I am reflecting on our adoption day and thinking about so many important things.  In the past I have written about Keegan, his bio mom, adoptive moms and how our family was changed on this day.  But, I have never wrote a thank you to all of the people in our lives who helped make Fantastic Five a reality.  Without their support and encouragement we would never have had the courage or faith to make this happen. 

Adopting a child is no joke.  Adopting a child when you had no plans for it are almost impossible.  Adopting a child while you have 4 biological children and live in a 1200 square foot is literally laughable.  No one in our lives doubted us.  No one in our lives tried to discourage us.  Most importantly, everyone in our lives prayed for us and gave us more support than we could have ever imagined. 

What people don’t know is that adoption does not just start and stop.  For some adoptive families, adoption is a journey that is difficult and the terrain is rocky and uncertain.  For us, it was very clear that something was not right.   Keegan did awesome in the beginning but after a year of living with us, his behavior became very aggressive and concerning.  Our days were consumed with fits, control issues and manipulation.  I received almost daily calls from school about Keegans behavior and I was literally trying to figure out how I could keep my job when my job needed to be staying at home helping my hurt son.  

When we received the diagnosis that Keegan had RAD {Reactive Attachment Disorder} we were literally panicked thinking of what our future would be like.  So many of the RAD families have such heartbreaking stories.  Stories of children who are removed and institutionalized.  Children who never thrive socially.  Children who are so manipulative that allegations are made and families are ripped apart.  During that time our daily lives literally felt like a constant tornado.  We never seemed to catch a break and were having to learn how to parent in a completely different way.  We were scared and feeling very hopeless.  Again, our community of supporters rallied around us and held us up through prayer, listening, encouragement and support. 

Finally after 4 years, things are settling down a little bit.  We have grown stronger as parents and Keegan is making huge strides.  We have found an awesome therapist and Keegan is thriving as he begins to learn how to trust more and understand how to control and identify his emotions.  I think he is finally believing that we are his FOREVER family and no matter what he does, that will NEVER change.  I am not naïve enough to think that our struggle is finished… in fact, it may just be starting.  But, I am so confident that we have the tools to continue making slow, daunting steps forward.  Most importantly, we are surrounded by so many people that we are indebted to for their support and understanding.

Today’s Fantastic Five Day blog is not going to be about us.  It is going to be a thank you note for ALL of the people who have helped us through this journey.  I have chosen some great examples and I am sure I will forget some people.  Just know how thankful we are for the support we have received during the last 4 years!

First, Tots Landing.  The place where I met and fell in love with Keegan.  Working at Tots Landing for 14+ years, I am still amazed at how my job has become an extended part of my family.  During this time I had so many of my employees and co-workers supporting me.  Here are just a few…

Missy, who I called when I realized this was really going to happen.  I had a complete breakdown in her house after I knew this was for sure going to happen.  I knew God was answering my prayers but I was so scared and worried that this choice would hurt my family in the future.  Missy helped me understand I would never have a magic ball that would help me tell the future.  I just had to have faith in God’s will.  That day I started praying for “Let me hear and know God’s will and have the courage and faith to follow it”.  I still pray that prayer everyday. 

Rob and Missy, my owners.  When I went to them and talked about needing to arrange my schedule to be very flexible so I could be there to parent Keegan, they didn’t hesitate.  They adjusted my schedule to be able to give me a Flex day to be home when my kids needed me. They enabled me to have my afternoons off so I could be home to monitor keegan… keeping him and my family safe and happy.

All of the Directors who listened to me almost daily talk about the process of adoption.  My fears, my tears and finally, my joy.  They stood by me when this was just a small dream, cried with me when we thought he would never come home and when he finally did come home, helped us celebrate and feel like a family!

When Keegan came to our house, we literally didn’t even have a bed for him.  The girls I worked with knew that we were so worried about the cost of adoption and that our house was not really conducive to adding another child.  But, they believed in us.  The girls pulled their money together to help buy us bunk beds so Keegan would have a place to sleep.  These are the same girls who constantly lifted me up without ever knowing it.  They never really knew how much I needed their support and encouragement.  They made me feel like the best mom in the whole world even on the days I doubted myself the most.

More Big Thanks to…

My sister and brother in law who offered to help us pay for the adoption.  This was going to cost us a lot of money and even though we didn’t end up needing it, just knowing this was not a hurdle we needed to worry about, was a huge relief.  That selfless offer helped us know that we needed to do this.

My father in law who helped us convert our basement into livable space.  Knowing that we would be doubling our living space and adding on 2 more rooms made this adoption a less daunting task.  He helped to give our older children private space, which they desperately needed. 

Our families, who met Keegan and immediately embraced him and our new family.  No questions asked, no worries or fears expressed.  Complete acceptance and love.  Never once did they share their doubts with us.   Never once did they give us any judgement on how we were choosing to parent him.  When Keegan started struggling, they accepted our parenting and helped to support us…even when they thought we were crazy.  They listen to me breakdown on my days where I lose hope and give me strength and courage with their words.  They love us all, unconditionally.  We have never had to doubt that EVER.   

Keegan's Godmother Emiley.  Her heart broke when Keegan came to live with us.  We knew how much she wanted him to stay with her.  But, she never failed to support us and encourage us even when everyone in her world was not so accepting.  Do you realize how difficult that is?  She is the definition of LOVE and to this day, we are so grateful that she loved Keegan before we did.

Bobbi Silver, a parent at Tots Landing, who took our first family photos.  She was the first person to capture how we all felt about one another.  She took this picture that captured our complete joy.  She also caught the many faces of Keegan... each one of them reasons why we fell in love with this precious boy.  I will never be able to express how much those pictures mean to us.  Our first famly photos.

Keegan’s teachers who have never judged us or any of our parenting decisions we have made.  My bestie, Melissa and Ashley.  Keegan’s preschool teachers who stood by us when we almost had to remove him from my own center due to behavior.  Lol! They were so committed and loved Keegan so much. 

Mrs. Kelley who cried with me when Keegan went through the hardest year of our whole lives.  We didn’t think we would make it out of Kindergarten alive.  She held us up and loved our boy even when he was at his most unlovable. 

Mrs. Lockhart who created a behavior plan that was so consistent and positive that Keegan had no choice but to fall into line.  She was the first teacher who gave me her cell phone number and text me almost daily with updates and most importantly, to share his good days.  She had my back and understood that we were working in his best interest.  

Mrs. Henderson who always wants to know more and understand what is going on.   She had my back on the day we made Keegan come to school to apologize for stealing.  We left within the hour after he refused.  He screamed and clawed the walls all the way out of the school as tears ran down my face in humiliation, anger and sadness.  I called her and she said she trusted my instincts.  This took away some humiliation and enabled me to deal with the situation with hope and encouragement.

Keegan’s principal, Mrs. McLaughlin and all of his special teachers, who know him by name and make him feel like a million bucks.  They help to give him praise and raise his self esteem.  This is such an important tool in his healing.  Being surrounded by a community of people who know he is the best kid in the whole world, even when he acts out.

My mom’s best friend, Leona who had adopted and fostered.  She was the inspiration for me wanting to help kids and foster.  That has always been on my heart.  When we were adopting Keegan I called her out of the blue.  I asked for her advice and she honestly and openly answered my questions.  She made sure I knew this was not going to be fairy tale story.  Real life adoptions from traumatic backgrounds are no joke.  They are hard.  They will test you.  Her honesty gave me a better perspective and armed us to ask the tough personal questions while we discerned.

All of my prayer warriors.  My CHRP sisters and St. Peter Claver family.  They knew our struggles and have prayed for us throughout.  They helped me understand that faith is an action not just a word.  Father Norman, who helps to give me encouragement and builds me up spiritually.  Reminding me constantly that all of this is for the Glory of God.  Lastly and most importantly, Paul and Ann Coakley who helped to answer questions on guardianship and prayed for us through the whole process.  After Paul died, I continued using him as my intercessor.  During Lent, I was praying so hard for understanding and help.  Literally begging.  I heard him clearly say, “Your job is not to fix him.  Your job is to love him.”  That perspective has been life changing for him and me.

How could we have done the impossible without all of YOU?  In the last 4 years I have learned that adoption takes a village.  So on this Fantastic Five Day, I need to thank YOU for making a difference in a child’s life.  Because of you Keegan will have a FOREVER family.  One that loves him unconditionally and will never give up.  A future that will be so bright.  People often say to us, “Thank God for you.  You guys are awesome for adopting Keegan.  He will have such a great life because of you.”  But, that’s not true.  He will have a great life because of all of you.  This Fantastic Five Day, we say a prayer of thanksgiving for you.  Thank you for being our strong foundation.  Thank you for your encouragement, prayers, support and love.  There are no words to express how important you are to us and most importantly, to Keegan.    

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