How Does Family Preservation Work?





We don’t have custody of Livvy anymore. But, she still lives with us. Her mom has custody again and she and Livvy's four year old brother have moved in and joined us in our home at our invitation. We have this arrangement for as long as they need, while she gets on her feet. It could be months or years and it matters not – the offer stands for her to live with us for as long as she needs to. 

Lexi completed the one year program she was in, a few weeks ago. She not only completed the program - she did it with excellence. She was an R.A. of her dormitory there, sang in the choir, and worked hard and got her GED. She is a transformed person. We are so proud of her.  

It has been awesome to see mother – daughter – son reunited. To see them laugh together, eat together, attend church together, play together and drift off to sleep together. It’s a beautiful thing.

Many great things have happened in the past week. Some of those things were nothing short of a miracle. To name a few things – Lexi got her driver’s license reinstated. She got a job! (Yes!!!) Enrolled Brody in school, (an A-rated school, close by), put Livvy on the  waiting list for Early Head Start and more.

In the past week Lexi went with me to a few places that I preached and at one of those places the pastor’s wife said that she was given $100 to help a single mom and God laid it on her heart to give the money to Lexi. (Actually, that is all she has to her name right now until she gets her first paycheck.)

Most of all, a very generous friend from a neighboring church stepped up and offered to pay for Lexi’s training to be certified nursing assistant. She’s wanted to get into the field of nursing, unbeknownst to the friend. She will start training for that in September.  This is just a first step.  We have so much to be thankful for, and none of what I’m about to say negates our gratefulness 

This past week is a  revelation.

It's a revelation about single moms and about family preservation.
 

Here it is:   


If a lot of people don’t want a single mom to succeed they will have a really hard time doing it. 


It really does take an advocate and a village.

 In one week’s time I have learned so much about Medicaid, Early Head Start, School Readiness, WIC, food stamps, and more.

On her third day here, Lexi got a job. (Praise God.) She will be starting at $8.07 an hour. The other night I spent a few hours with her filling out the Medicaid application. She and the kids don't have insurance and are desperately in need.  My husband checked the application over after we prepared it. We pressed “send” and she was immediately rejected.  Whaaaaaat? How the heck do you make $8.07 an hour with two children and get turned down for medical care?  (Yes, she will be working the required number of hours -- actually more.)

So I spent hours the next day while I was at work, trying to call these people while simultaneously working. I heard a recording to press this number, press that number, and then waited on hold on speaker phone while I worked for about two hours. Finally sick of this, I looked up my local Access Office (I didn’t even know what an Access office was before)  left work, got in my car and drove over there. Peeved about being on hold for two hours, I walked right up to the desk and said, “Hey, nobody’s answering the phone, so I’m here.” Yes, I truly did. Then I proceeded to ask them how the heck my niece who makes $8.07 an hour was just turned down for Medicaid. They were actually really nice to me, but explained that I must have filled the application out wrong. I have no idea what was wrong. They didn't give a reason for turning it down. But they said what would have to happen is that we would have to wait about 30 days to get turned down again and appeal it. And keep appealing no matter what. "You need to be relentless they said." No problem, Relentless is my middle name. 

What a system. Forget about making America great again. Make America answer the phone again.

So my husband called an insurance specialist and he said she and the children are  is definitely eligible for Medicaid but they will give us the runaround forevermore and we need to stay on them until they give in.  

Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay. Your government dollars at work, my friends.
We pay all this tax money so folks in need can be provided for.  Then we who have paid these thousands of dollars in taxes have to CHASE the government down and try to force them  to cough up the money to the people who are in need? How crazy is that?  

The rejection letter from Medicaid said to check about Obama care. We did and those folks said she was not eligible either. Something about having to make $18 K a year. I don't understand this reasoning at all. The insurance specialist said that with her salary she would never have enough to pay the deductibles.  So much for hope and change.

With all the money we pay in taxes, I was thinking they may roll out a red carpet for Lexi and the children and even send a marching band to the house. I was wrong. They didn't even give us a set of coasters or a pen.

The government doesn’t do go out of their way for anybody, and it still takes people like me and you, family members, friends, non-profits and churches and the like who give a rip about people.    

At the end of the day it's not the government who helps people.
It's people who help people.

Government is just one big ball of red tape that you have to keep chasing .

I am soooooooooooooo grateful to all of the family and friends and the church (not just our church but many church folks from all over) who have reached out to help Lexi with everything from a package of diapers to clothes and shoes, to training to be a CNA. She couldn't move forward without this kind of help. It's the grace of God and this kind of help that has kept her alive! (One year ago she was literally on the verge of death!!!)

More than ever I believe in not only the hope and help of faith, family and friends, but in people like Carolyn Espina and the New Life Center for Family Preservation. They do amazing work. Day in and day out. I believe in them. I believe in what they do.  (By the way, I'm their speaker again at their annual fundraising banquet this year in November. If you live in Florida, maybe you can come! It's on Thursday night, November 3 at Harvest Assembly of God in Lakeland.)

We are praying that Medicaid’s decision will be reversed and will stay on them until it is.  Even if it’s until Jesus comes back they will have to put up with hearing  my relentless voice.

We are praying for a compassionate dentist to help her, pro bono. Do doctors do stuff pro bono or is that just lawyers? Well, you know what I mean.   At least one of her teeth are infected to the point where it has to be extracted. I have written emails to local dentists asking for help and asked friends if they know anyone who does this kind of work as charity.

We are praying provision for a car for her, to get her to work and Livvy to head start, and Brody to school and back.  (There is little to no public transportation in our area.) She will save what little bit she can each week toward it, and we know God is able.

We are praying that a spot with Early Head Start will open for Livvy. Until then we will keep up our juggling act. We could be in the circus by now. She is used to going to Uncle Larry and Aunt Deanna's office when we do not have child care, and traveling all over the state of Florida staying in hotels when I have to preach.

We are praying that with the provision of a job, her bills will be covered.

We are praying most of all that she and the children feel secure and loved in their new place here, and that they thrive and reach the destiny God has for them.

What’s the point of this post?

People talk about how the church isn’t pro-family preservation in many ways.

Sometimes that is true. Other times, it isn't.

Right now in addition to my sister (her mother) -- and our family -- it's the church who is helping Lexi.

I see that the government isn’t set up to promote family preservation.

Family preservation only works when people care.

Family preservation only works when people want it to. 

Photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net

No Explanation Needed


Shifts are happening with people becoming greater educated about what adoptees face. Even so, the adoptee experience remains vastly misunderstood or not understood at all by many. Once I came out of the fog, I used to try so desperately to try to make the people around me understand.  Now I realize that not only can you not make someone understand but they have to have a desire to understand in the first place.  If something affected me, I would try to explain it. If I was going to do something or not do something, I would give a reason.  But that has changed.

In the past if my family asked me to go to a movie and I was apprehensive because I thought it may have a triggering theme, I would go into an explanation of why I’d rather not participate. Sometimes this led to my family trying to convince me to change my mind and go. This led to a heated discussion a few times as I didn’t want to be pressured to go through something that for them was pleasure and for me, pain. I just wanted to be at peace. And for me, peace in that instance meant staying home. Now I don't talk about triggers, I just say, "No, I don't want to go to the movies tonight."(By the way if you want to have a heads up about movies beforehand, go to Addison Cooper's Adoption at the Movies. He has given me perspective and saved me from a bad experience quite a few times.)

In the past if I made a leadership decision based upon a trigger or potential trigger, I felt the need to talk to somebody about it even if just one close friend. Perhaps this was to unburden myself more than anything - I'm not sure.  A while back, I sat in a room with a group of leaders who were all encouraged to host a speaker who had just given a presentation about their organization. The short talk itself was unsettling for me and I couldn’t wait until it was over. However many of the leaders around me were already pulling out their calendars to see when they could schedule the person. I just smiled and went to the coffee station for a few minutes and then went about my day, continuing on with the rest of the meetings. No need to talk to anyone about it. I just made a choice and that was that.

In retrospect, I have come to see that a lot of my stress came in the times where I tried to explain my decisions. Why I chose something or why I did not.  Why I go to certain places or not, why I participate in different things or I don’t…why I host various people or I don’t…why I support specific people, causes or organizations or I don’t. I now see that a boatload of my stress came because I didn’t just give a simple no and let it go at that.

There’s a popular meme that says, “You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.” I have come to realize that explaining my feelings or experience is often nothing but an invitation to an argument.  I refrain from commenting on some people’s posts on social media because it’s not worth the emotional energy that it takes to share the truth, although it is…the truth. It will still be the truth whether they believe it or not. And sometimes as an adoptee I find I am alone in the room with the truth. And, it’s okay. Although it wasn't okay a few years ago. In fact I felt like I would explode if I didn't say something. But I’ve had to make peace with it being okay because if not I would have driven myself to the nuthouse trying to change people who are not open to thinking new thoughts.

I can sense when people are open to education, or not. And particularly in the time when I sense they are not, greater peace comes when I realize that no is a whole sentence.    
  
      

When Adoptees Have to Take a Step Back




In my travels, I found this book in a used book store.  "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Adoption."

Truth be told there is no such thing. There's nothing easy or uncomplicated about adoption. And sometimes it all becomes too much and you have to take a step back.

I haven’t met an adoptee yet who hasn’t told me that they take periodic breaks from reading or writing adoption related things. Emotional overload can take a toll on you --  body, mind and soul.

I’ve been in that mode for a while.

Staying away completely and having a 100% respite in your mind isn't possible because of all the questions, comments and triggers in the world.  For me the topic comes up at least once a day most of the time, and a lot of that has to do with my line of work.

Some adoptees tell me they don’t experience adoption related talk daily, and maybe the question should be reframed, “How often do you experience talk in any form that intersects with the subject of adoption?"

Daily, I get questions that I have to stop and think carefully about before answering.  And sometimes I don’t answer. Confession: sometimes I pretend I didn’t hear the question. As crazy as it sounds, sometimes I'm not up to answering a basic question.


“Does your mom or dad have brownish green eyes like yours?"

“Did you hear Eddie and Stacey are adopting from foster care? It might be a sibling group, not sure yet…”   

“Where are you from?”

“Does anyone in your family have a history of breast cancer?"
 

Questions like these come on a daily basis. They aren't mean spirited...they are simply questions people ask in the normal course of conversation. Far too often than not I’ve answered them the way the person asking me wants them to be answered versus the way I want to answer, just so I don’t have to listen to an unwanted speech.

I travel and speak a lot at churches and when I arrive I’m often hit with a trigger before I even set up my things in the lobby.  It’s not uncommon for children to be running around and someone will introduce him or herself and their adopted child and give me their story. Many of them have absolutely no idea I’m adopted. They just want to share. I understand. It's their world and what's happening in it - and what's important to them. I nod my head a lot and smile. I even receive a lot of requests to pray for people who are trying to adopt. And from people whose adopted children are acting out in some way.

Adoption is so complicated. I am never going to gain real understanding or come to an agreement on such deep issues with someone on something so complex in a few minutes of foyer conversation.  So I let it roll and go peaceably to the Green Room to sit in a comfortable chair with a cup of coffee and go over my notes one more time and breathe.

Breathing is good.
Peace is good.

I hate that so often we adoptees have to be silent to get it, but it's the way it goes.

I don’t always share with people that I’m adopted, or anything that is inside of me on that subject because quite frankly, it’s easier for me. Especially before I have to get up and speak and need every speck of physical and emotional energy I have.

Over the past few years I’ve discovered there are a lot of things in this complicated world that an adoptee can only share with another adoptee. And even so, you have to be careful about what adoptee you share with, depending on their level of awareness.

I know it’s not always the best thing to do if you want to change the world. But sometimes, for my own sake, I need to step back. Some days it’s not about changing the world, it’s about my health.

(Before I get a bunch of mail asking if I'm quitting...NO. This doesn't mean I'm not writing or reading about adoption anymore. Simply making the observation that we all need a break from time to time or our own peace of mind, especially regarding something this complicated and never-ending.)

Adoption, Dying, Regrets and Curls Out of Control



Some people say they have no regrets and I’m inclined to think they are liars. Who doesn’t wish they would have done something differently? Saying you have no regrets is kind of like saying you’re perfect. Well, I’m not perfect. I have made mistakes and I have things to learn, and henceforth a few regrets.

One of my regrets is not going to visit my foster parents the moment I found out who they were. They were still in existence on planet earth and in their 90's.  They took care of me in the time in between my birth and the time my adoption was finalized. Through the adoption agency, I found out their identity last year. We connected through a phone call and they remembered me right away although it had been over four decades ago. I was able to find out things that helped me piece together the time in between my mother relinquishing me and my adoptive parents taking me home. I was so thankful.

I didn’t act immediately even when finding out about them. I know, that was really stupid. I was trying to juggle all the things I’ve been juggling, and I kept telling myself I’d get to a visit soon, but I didn’t.

This past week I called their daughter to say I wanted to stop by for a visit. She said, “I’m so sorry…Mom passed away and Dad is close to it.” My heart sunk. I had waited too late. Now I would never see them in person in my adult life. “Your call meant so much to them, Deanna…” she went on to say.

I sat there kicking my proverbial butt all evening.

Why the heck did I wait, even a few weeks? Well although it's no excuse, the simple answer to that is, I was struggling at times just to keep basic things done. Even so, time was of the essence and I missed the window. I had control of the situation and I blew it.

Contrast to that, a situation I do not have control over...    



I have taken every DNA test there is to take. Ancestry. 23 and Me. Family Tree DNA. GED Match.

Followed every lead that comes my way.

Have a search team of sixteen people helping me. (Three have just been added.)

And I still don’t know who my natural father is.

We have followed every lead we have regarding the name that was given by my mother to the adoption agency.  And we come up cold. Because NONE of those men, not even ONE of them in the United States of America with that name, has ANY Greek in them.

The sixteen people on my search team have looked at every man ever living past or present in the USA with that particular name. And not one of them checks out. Because none of them have a drop of Greek blood, and I am overwhelmingly Greek. Too much that could ever be ignored or explained away for any of those men to be my father. And my maternal sister DNA tested for me so that we could exclude maternal matches from my results, and guess what...my mother has not one drop of Greek blood. Therefore, ALL of it is from my father.

So we’ve come to the conclusion, my mother probably gave a fake name to the adoption agency.

Although what is ironic is, the name she gave the agency is very similar to the name she gave me. It's as if she named me after him. My original name is Melanie. His, according to agency records -- is Melvin. 

So we are -- Mel and Mel.  

My stepfather (my natural mother's husband/widower) STILL calls me Mel to this day.  Go figure. Even the social worker said, “Yeah, this has to be your father. You’re named after him.” 

I’ve come to the conclusion that Melvin wasn’t my father but the name of someone who was very kind to her or a pleasant memory. Even though he is  not my father, I wonder, who was this person in her life?

And I know, his is not a Greek name. At all. But it's what is in the files at the adoption agency. 

I believe my natural father's name is Gus. Why, you ask? Back in 2013 I was heavily praying about this situation. My prayer was, "God, I am in agony. My mother has died and taken his name to the grave. So just tell me what it is. Just tell me my father's name. You can do it. I know you can. So will you, please?"

And as I prayed, I kept sensing this name..."Gus" in my spirit, every time I prayed. 

Now, most people would just say, "You're crazy, Deanna." But the people who help me? No, they don't think I'm crazy. Or maybe they do but they love me enough not to say it. First, I told my friend Laura Dennis and my husband Larry what I had sensed in prayer. Then, I told Priscilla Sharp, one of the best search angels in the world who I'm blessed to have working on my search, about what I was hearing in prayer. I said, "Pris, I know I'm asking you to go on a search based on a prayer. But will you?" She immediately said, "Absolutely!" and we set about researching Gus's. Now, the plot thickens...

A year later, I had a conversation with someone in my maternal family and asked them to tell me anything they knew about my father. Anything at all no matter how seemingly insignificant. They said, "Deanna, I never met him, but to my best recollection, his name is Gus." I almost fell off my chair!

We have researched many men by the name of Gus and continue to. And, we will not give up. Time is ticking away and unless a total miracle happens, I will probably find a grave. Gus is elderly right now if he's alive. I won't have regrets if and when I find Gus or or whoever he is, because God knows I’ve tried so hard to find him and haven’t been able to. I’m the type of woman who has done most everything I’ve set out to do in life. But this escapes me no matter how hard I try. Even with sixteen people who know what they are doing spending a lot of their precious time helping me.

I hope those who withhold information from adoptees -  whoever they are – mothers, social workers, agencies (it’s different in everyone case) have some regrets. Because even as we try so hard to get to the bottom of where we come from, time goes by and so many adoptees find a grave, not a person. And some won’t find at all. They will die wondering, “where and who did I come from?” And how is that right? Why the needless pain and suffering?

I feel this way about finding my natural father and people respond with: “You came from God.” 

Yes, I know I came from God. (Sigh) So did you. So did everyone. But here on earth…who do I come from? Why do I get up every morning and try to tame curls out of control?   

“But you’re so blessed………”

The fact that I’m blessed has no bearing at all on the fact that I have a hunger to know where I came from.

Tripolis Greece. Among the Peloponnese people. That’s all I know for now. This is a scientific fact as to where my Greek ancestors came from, gleaned from my DNA results. 
But I want to know more.

And unless something really big changes, I will know nothing more. Or, I will find the grave of a man who came from Tripolis among the Peloponnese people.


Do For Someone Else What No One Did For You



My writing has been scarce here for a while between the combination of my full time job outside the home, and having temporary custody of my great niece, Olivia. 

I have learned to do most things with one hand - such as load the dishwasher or cook dinner.  She wants to be held most of the time and I gladly do. I  want her to feel as secure as possible. Most things I do while at home are with her on my lap or in my arms.

Many people approach me and say, “I don’t know how you’re doing it,” and to that I say, “Some days I don't." When they ask what I mean I explain that they might judge me if they knew how many things fall through the cracks. I won’t even write them here for lack of emotional bandwidth to handle a debate with anyone right now.  But suffice it to say, my home is not as clean as it used to be. Lots of things don't get done.  Even though I wrote a highly acclaimed book on time management, there are plenty of things I just don't have time for anymore.   These are not things like washing the windows or cleaning out the gutters. They are things that should be done on a weekly basis and others might say, "Ewwwww gross!" A maid could change all this.   

As challenging as it is on many days, I wouldn’t trade this decision for anything, to take care of Livvy this year. Her mom is excelling! We are so proud of her. She misses her so much and is in touch with her often. She is eager to complete the program and get back to parenting on a daily basis.

Although the circumstances are not the same (Livvy is not relinquished nor being placed for adoption), what we are doing for Livvy is what I wish someone in my original family offered to do in my circumstance. 

I realize there are people in the world who believe it was best for me to  leave my birth family and be adopted. Even for those who believe that, is it not sad that not one person offered to help, even temporarily?

Some would say, "All the more reason you should have been adopted."

Maybe they the devil's advocate have a point there. 

Others will say, "Well, taking care of a child is hard work. Maybe that's why they didn't offer to help."

All I'll say about that is, anything worth it in life is hard. Anything significant is hard. Anything life changing is hard.  

But still others will say, "If a parent wants to relinquish their child, the family needs to accept their decision and let the child go into the foster care or adoption system."

And all I'll say to that is, God help any of my family members who do that.   Deanna will go from woman of God to Cruella DeVille in 2 seconds. Seriously, I would go ballistic if any of my family members relinquished their children. And I'd fight for them.

How sad is it that a child can be relinquished without even one person in a family stepping up to the plate saying, "Let me help so she is not lost to the family..."? 

More than one grandmother in this day and age - not the baby scoop era - have corresponded with me as a result of this blog and said, "I had no choice. My daughter got pregnant and decided to relinquish the baby and I simply respected her wishes..." Seriously lady?  Sorry, the compassionate preacher has now exited the building... I don't even know that I have a response to that kind of ridiculousness.

Years ago I had a talk with all three of my (unmarried) children and told them if an unplanned pregnancy happened to any of them they would have no choice in whether to keep a child. Children in our family stay in our family. It's the way it is. There is no other choice. Other than Deanna going to prison.
 
So when my niece needed temporary help, I didn't waste two seconds in deciding to help.


Many people approach me and say, “What you guys are doing is so special. You are a rare couple.”

Well that stinks.
Why are we rare? That’s part of what’s wrong with the world.

As long as we are rare and special in this way, there is way too much loss and pain in the world and kids leaving their families whether temporarily or permanently. 

And even if it's necessary at times such as in the case of abuse or neglect, is it still not pathetic when not even one family member steps up to say they will help? 

My non-identifying information from the adoption agency says that everyone but one of my mother's siblings thought she should relinquish me. That person (according to adoption records) thought she should keep me, but only as a punishment of sorts, a consequence of her mistake.

I don't have angry feelings about this, nor do I  walk in bitterness or unforgiveness. So why do I even write about it today? Because it is largely this experience in my life that strongly compels me to live differently. In so  many facets - perhaps even most areas of my life - I want to do for others what I would have them do unto me. (Hmmmm where have I heard that before? Could it be...the Bible? The Golden Rule?)

So with all this said - the point of my post today is that I am a supporter of kinship care.

I hope as time goes on, kinship care becomes more the norm in society.