Monday, August 31, 2009

We're doing it!

Today DH called the social worker and told her we've decided to go forward with the placement of Baby Boy. We're going to have a son!!!!! We got a lot of information at disclosure and I was able to call the developmental specialists who work with Baby Boy. They work with many young children with autism and they have "absolutely no concerns about autism" with him. He's very social and interactive, has great eye contact, no tactile defensiveness. They said he does headbang from time to time, but they feel it's out of boredom. They even feel that the delays he has, which are mild, will catch up with support. They talked about what a lovey he is. Baby Boy's foster mom had only positive things to say as well.

It is legal risk, but it sounds like there's an excellent case being built for TPR. It feels right so we're going for it.

When I talk with the social worker tomorrow, I'll get more information about the transition and the timeline.

My head is spinning right now--in a wonderful way.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ambiguity Is My Middle Name

Our disclosure meeting is scheduled for the end of this week. Our families have been going a little nutty, talking about cribs and toys and becoming aunties. I guess everyone gets extra excited about a baby.

We haven't told them that the child's case worker called us at the end of last week and told us that Early Intervention has been looking at Baby Boy as possibly having autism. This is the same worker who went on about how on target Baby Boy is and how she would take him home if she could. She said she just found out when she received a recent report. However, she says he's improving. He was identified as having low muscle tone (which has gone to the normal range with PT), self-stimulating behavior (didn't specify what-flapping, head banging, rocking, tensing, staring at lights?-but did say it has almost completely gone away), and delayed language skills (at a six month level so three to four months behind; however also improving with EI speech support). Either she had no clue what those possibly added up to or she doesn't know him as well as she seemed to.

One of my best friends has a child with autism who was diagnosed at 15 months. I remember her telling me when he was 10 months old that she had a feeling something wasn't right. I called her right away. She said the above are all signs of autism, but that most kids have some autistic tendencies at some point. Both her children had low muscle tone and both her children self-stimmed (one by tensing, staring at shiny objects; the other by staring at ceiling fans) but only one has autism. She said if the self-stimming is truly almost completely gone, that's a good thing. Kids with autism always have some kind of stim. If one goes away, another replaces it. Her son has gone through about 15 different ones. She also wasn't that phased by the language delay because supposedly his language is improving quickly with EI speech therapy. She said it took her son a year of much more intensive hospital-based speech therapy to just be able to get the concept of yes and no. She has offered to read the EI reports for me when we get them and suggest some specific questions to ask the therapists and the foster mother.

The child's worker said she will give us the name of a specialist at a prominent children's hospital in our area so we can consult with him as well. And of course, she reiterated that there are no guarantees. She said if we had a biological child, he could be facing the same profile.

The last part was more than a little annoying. Adoption is different than having a biological child. If your biological child has autism, you have no choice--you deal with it. Choosing to adopt a child that is being looked at as having autism is not the same. We would be taking a risk with enormous consequences. We would possibly be choosing to go down a road that is extraordinarily difficult. I love my friend's son, but I've seen the struggles he has been through just to be able to communicate on a basic level. I've seen how autism has affected my friend's marriage. I've seen how her view of the world has changed. I've seen her exhausted, scratched and bruised, frustrated because she can't get through to her boy. She told me she loves her son, but there is no way she would be doing this if she had a choice.

The recent news has made us pull back a bit more from the situation. Along with our families, DH and I were starting to fantasize about having an infant around. We had pretty much decided we were going to take the placement and just deal with the legal risk piece. We were thinking about bedding and peeking at the baby clothes when we walked by them. We're feeling more cautious now. Again, we're not looking for a perfect child, but fetal alcohol syndrome and autism are two disabilities to which very few people would say bring it on. This may still be our child, but we're not as sure as before.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Knowledge is Power. . .Maybe

DH spoke with the child's worker today. Baby Boy is actually nine months old. He's been in care for eight months. His foster mother is an older lady who specializes in fostering infants, but is not interested in adoption. The father is a pretty bad guy. There are some safety concerns and the social worker told us they will not share any of our information with the father. There are no interested family members. The Department wants to make sure any family who takes Baby Boy is willing to maintain contact with the older brother. The social worker said she told her husband she wanted to adopt Baby Boy herself, but he wouldn't go for it. ;) We're going to schedule a disclosure meeting sometime in the next two weeks.

I've always been freaked out by the prospect of a legal risk placement, but for some reason I am strangely calm about this situation. I don't know if I'm in denial or if it's just "right."

I'm probably in denial.

I guess time will tell.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Another One

We got another call today. This one was regarding a one-year -old boy. The child is placed through a different office than ours so our worker didn't know much about the situation. DH called and left a message with the child's worker. We're hoping to hear more tomorrow. All we know right now is that it is a legal risk placement. That means that the birthparents' parental rights have not yet been terminated. The state is moving to do so. There is also a three-year-old brother in care but his current pre-adoptive parents are not interested in adopting the younger brother. The birth mother is out of the picture completely, as in deceased. The birth father is fighting TPR (Termination of Parental Rights). We're not sure how long this has been going on, how well the birth father is working his case plan, why the child was removed, etc. I'll post when we know more.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Right Thing

I spoke with little guy's pediatrician and she eased my mind about some of my FASD concerns.  She thinks most of his issues are due to him being a preemie.  There may be some neurological issues but she doesn't think it's FASD. That sounds simple enough, but my conversation with her added another layer to this issue. 

It turns out that she knows the little guy very well because her kids go to daycare with him.  His foster mother works at the daycare and has taken care of the pediatrician's kids.  She talked up Foster Mom  quite a bit to me: how hard she's been working with him, how much she cares for him, how he's improved so much through her effort. I don't think she knew about the legal issues.  It seemed like she was just trying to tell me that he'd been in a good home and was well taken care of. The more she talked, the more I felt like little guy should stay with his foster mom. He has made a lot of progress and disrupting his life now would be devastating. 

It would be one thing if Foster Mom still wouldn't commit to him, but she has hired a lawyer and has requested to adopt him, although in the wrong court.  The Department doesn't trust her, but I also get a sense that they're really pissed at her for pushing them so hard, too.  DH and I were beginning to question the ethics of helping to remove this little boy from the only home he remembers and where he's not abused or neglected in any way. Rather, he's well loved and having all his needs met.  If we did adopt him, could we look him in the eye when he's older and explain why his foster mother couldn't keep him?  Would we doing the best thing for this child or would we be letting our own hunger for a child convince us to do less than the best for him?  

Those were the questions we were asking ourselves last night.  This morning we got a call from the child's worker informing us that the District Attorney's Office is going to take over the case from the Department.  Foster mother had asked for an injunction to prevent the Department from removing the child.  The DA doesn't feel that the Department has a strong case right now.  They want the foster mother to be homestudied.    It's going to take a while-several months at least, the worker told us.  He said he knows the new information will have an impact on our decision. He apologized.  

We've decided to bow out of this situation.  It seems like the right thing to do.  

Saturday, August 8, 2009

More information, more confusion

I know some people have been waiting for an update and I apologize for not posting one sooner.  We had our disclosure meeting two days ago and it hasn't make our decision isn't any easier.  I have a 3 inch stack of medical records and evaluations to read over and I have to call the pediatrician, the department's attorney, the child's attorney, and the daycare provider. We left the meeting with two weeks to make our decision so we now have about 12 days left.  Tomorrow morning,  DH and I are heading up north for a few days.  I'm going to read and take notes, in between boating, playing with my nieces, and eating good food.  I'll start making phone calls on Monday.  

The highlights of the meeting were:

1) Foster mom is now fighting hard to keep the child.  She has hired an attorney.  She has asked for an injunction.  It's not clear what standing a judge will give her in the case.  The Department's point of view is that she has had 3 years to adopt this child and they do not trust her ability to commit to him at this point. They think she's still torn between wanting to keep him and knowing she's not able to do so financially or emotionally. The child's attorney supports the Department's decision.  We plan to talk to the Department's attorney to find out more about the legal standing of all the parties.  We hope to talk to the child's attorney to confirm her support of the Department. 

2) The little guy has some cognitive delays, which so far appear mild, and he is pretty hyperactive.  He also has difficulty focusing for more than short periods of time.  It may be ADHD.  It may be the after-effects of being prenatally exposed to cocaine and, because of mom's addiction, being born almost 8 weeks premature.  It may be that, in addition to smoking crack, mom drank while pregnant and he has FASD.  

That last possibility is the most worrying to me. The birth history in the evaluations say mom possibly drank while pregnant. This isn't confirmed in hospital records and it's not clear where this notion came from, but it does make sense.  A woman who uses crack while pregnant is not likely to say no to alcohol.  Little Guy doesn't have the facial features of FASD (with the exception of a thinner top lip), but I know that the facial features are only present if mom drank heavily during the first trimester.  The most heartbreaking part of FASD, the brain damage, happens throughout pregnancy and can be present without the facial features.   He has many characteristics of the neurological damage of FASD.  At the same time, he has many characteristics of ADHD.  FASD is often first misdiagnosed as ADHD. I know kids with FASD can have good lives, but the reality is that dealing with FASD gets harder as kids get older and most are not able to live independently. We would tackle the job of raising a child with FASD if we adopted a child and later found out he had FASD, but it's not something we would choose to take on.  It's the reason we previously turned down the placement of the two year old girl. ADHD, learning delays, developmental delays, motor issues, allergies-these I can do. 

I don't know why, but I didn't think this would be so hard.  With the legal issue ongoing and the possibility of FASD, I really don't know what our decision will be. I hope that talking to Little Guy's pediatrician and the attorneys will give me a few more answers. What I would give for a crystal ball right now!  

Oh, and Little Guy looks like a total cutie in his photos.