For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you know all about our precious foster daughter, Little Miss.
For those of you who are new around here, here is a quick recap: Little Miss came to us at 21 days old, directly from the NICU. She lived with us for nine insane and wonderful months, and was then moved out of state to be adopted by a kin placement.
This post is an interview with her adoptive Mama, Talya! I am so excited to share this post with you and give you all an update on how Little Miss is doing! Talya and I decided to lay this blog post out like an interview, with me asking questions and Talya answering them. Please feel free to drop a comment or an email if you have any other questions!
- Tell us a little bit about yourselves/how you know Little Miss?
My name is Talya and I have been married to my husband, Joe, for 8.5 years. I am a medical assistant-turned-SAHM and Joe is an Army Veteran turned police officer. More importantly, I am Little Miss’ cousin and new Momma! Little Miss’ birth mom (let’s call her J) is my cousin on my mom’s side of the family.
Let’s rewind to last spring when J found out she was expecting a little girl! On September 1st, J gave birth to her baby girl, and all seemed well. However, upon further testing it was discovered that she was positive for multiple substances. That’s also when Joe and I really found out what was going on. Long story short, other members of our family let us know what was going on and that there was a good chance that Little Miss would probably go into the system. When Little Miss was about 2 weeks old, Joe and I drove out to Ohio and went straight to the hospital NICU. We met with J and some social workers and decided that, although J was going to get the help she needed to be able to care for Little Miss and that would remain the main case plan, Joe and I would start the process of becoming the kinship placement for baby girl. The reason that we wanted to do this is because we wanted the baby to stay with family instead of foster care for however long it would take for J to complete her case plan. The problem with that is that we live out of state, so we had to complete what is called an ICPC. ICPC stands for Interstate Compact for Placement of Children. Basically, CPS takes children being transferred out of state very seriously, which I think is a great thing! However in our case, between everything going back and forth between Ohio and Georgia, it took 9.5 months to complete! We were told in the beginning that it would probably take around 3 months, which I laugh hysterically at now! That would have been a dream. Instead, we were told by the court to have monthly visitations with Little Miss until all of our paperwork had gone through. So for 9 months between working full time jobs, completing the process of becoming foster parents and preparing our home for an infant, both Joe and I either drove or flew our behinds up to Dayton without fail…every month. Sometimes it was just me, too, since Joe has crazy hours with his job. I could probably drive that 9-10 hours by memory at this point.
2. Tell us your perspective on the day that you brought Little Miss home (they all know my side of the story, but I think it would be great to hear your side, too!)
Almost 3 1/2 months later and this day still seems like a dream to me. After more than 9 months of waiting for that day to come, it was here. I just remember getting ready for that trip and finally being able to take tags off of the clothes I had and wash them. She was finally going to be able to wear these things! I was so anxious and nervous about everything. Bringing her home, obviously, but more or less traveling with Little Miss. Traveling on a plane, to be more specific, as she’d only been on road trips. Normally for our longer visits, we would drive because it made more sense with the things that we were now bringing back and forth. This time, however, we decided that we were going to fly for a few reasons – the main one being that it would make the trip MUCH quicker for all of us, and we knew that it would already be difficult with Little Miss leaving her first family.
Joe and I flew in the evening before and stayed at a hotel. We rented a car and thankfully, you can also rent car seats. Not my top choice, but it was so much easier than trying to gate check a car seat and/or base. We arrived at Child Services just after lunch the next day, not sure what to expect, so we just sat nervously in the waiting room. A few minutes later, Suzanne, Theo, Tera and Little Miss walked in and it kind of hit us that this was the real thing. They were letting us take a living, breathing baby home. Holy adulting! Our case worker came to get us and we all went back to a conference room with a large rectangular table. I’m not sure how it was for Suzanne & co., but I feel like it was sort of an awkward experience. Joe and I had so much nervous energy! It’s a weird feeling to be so insanely excited for something in the same room as another family who is doing one of the hardest things they’ve ever had to do. However, they truly handled themselves so gracefully during the whole process. After all was said and done, I think it was a few signatures and initials from both Joe and I and that was it! After all this time and headache, it still blows my mind how quick that process was! After that, we looked at the life book that Suzanne made for Little Miss. That was probably my favorite part! So much love in that book and so many memories. I couldn’t bring myself to read a lot of it without crying, so I decided that could wait for another day. We all went out to our vehicles and Theo began to help load all of Little Miss’ belongings into the trunk. We lingered a bit after that and chatted, they said their goodbyes and took some special photos with Little Miss. It was such a bittersweet feeling to watch Tera give her baby sister a hug and kiss goodbye knowing that she had no idea what was going on. When we were done, we all went our separate ways. Well, not before Joe and I sort of looked at each other and thought, holy crap! Little Miss held my hand from the backseat the entire way! Turns out, we worried about flying with her for no reason because she was SO good on the plane! Nonstop, but good. She was making friends with everyone and trying to climb over the back of the seat to play!
3. How is Little Miss doing? What kinds of milestones has she hit? How is she adjusting to life in your home?
Little Miss is doing wonderful! She has adjusted amazingly – probably quicker than WE adjusted, actually! As confusing as our monthly visits were for her and her foster family, I do think that they absolutely made all the difference in how she acclimated to being with us. She is still a stage five clinger (as Suzanne has called it — it’s no joke!) but she is slowly getting better. A big change for her was going from always having a big sister to being an only child. It took quite awhile before she could be content playing by herself for any period of time, but she has gotten a lot better. Most days, anyway. When she first came home, we went on a trip to visit our families (Florida and NY) because they were dying to meet her! Once we got home, we finally got into a routine for the most part. I’m proud to say that she (mostly) takes two naps a day! Not very long naps, but being that she never used to nap (NEVER!) that is huge! When she was 10.5 months, she took off and started walking (running) everywhere! If we thought she was busy before, it was nothing compared to the energizer bunny that she is now! By the time she came to live with us, she was pretty much over baby food and just wanted to eat whatever we had. That works for her since she now has 10 teeth! She has learned a few words in sign language, she blows kisses, waves bye bye, and her new favorite is “uh ohhhhhh” to everything! Each day she seems to learn something new or repeat something we say — she blows me away! Her new sibling has 4 legs and a tail. A large but cuddly dog. I’m not sure she’d ever been around dogs before him so she was wary at first, but now she is obsessed with him! Actually, anytime she sees a dog she gets super excited! She tries to say “puppy” and make a barking sound. We try to Skype with Suzanne, Theo and Tera as often as we can. The girls both get so excited to see each other! They just screech loudly back and forth at each other and laugh. It’s the cutest thing!
4. How are you and Joe doing with the transition?
Now this is the story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down… Ha! That is putting it mildly. There is no way to put into words what a big change it was for us to bring home an almost 10 month old baby. I know, I know… people bring home babies every day, but they are normally snuggly and stationary for quite awhile. Not the case with Little Miss. We spent months and months readying and baby proofing and it still wasn’t enough! She is so curious! There are some cabinets we have had to double baby proof because it didn’t take her long to figure out how to get past it. She is going to be the kid that makes us have to put a lock on the toilet, fridge and oven! She’s cray, y’all! Despite saying all of that, it has been nothing short of wonderful since she has been home. Not perfect, of course, but wonderful. She definitely still has the days where she just wants to be held and clings to me for dear life, but from what I hear, that’s motherhood! I left my job at a busy family practice to stay home with her full time for a few reasons. One, she is so clingy and needy that I didn’t want to just put her in daycare and shuffle her around after everything she has been through. Two, we spent 9+ months fighting to get her home!! I wanted to be able to enjoy it and spend time with her! And three – DAYCARE IS EXPENSIVE!!!! It wouldn’t have paid to even bother putting her in daycare. Some of you might be thinking that, technically as her “foster parents,” we get benefits for her as far as child care and other things. Our situation was unique in the sense that the state of Georgia was the one who wanted us to become foster parents, whereas Ohio didn’t care. Georgia has different rules for what they see as a kin/relative placement. So essentially, Ohio has us down as her kin placement and we are only foster parents through Georgia. Under the rules of ICPC, basically all of the allowances you are afforded for the placement are set by the “sending state,” which is Ohio. In Ohio, kin or relative placement does not get any sort of monthly stipend or child care benefits for a placement. Did I lose you guys? I know, it’s confusing. Welcome to the last year of my life!! The benefits that I DO still get for her, thankfully, are insurance and WIC. WIC I only used while she was still on formula. As far as insurance goes, we are still waiting for her to be switched to Georgia Medicaid. This is proving to be quite the process, though I couldn’t tell you why. So as far as transition goes, we have been happier than ever to finally have Little Miss home with us and getting to use the nursery that had been ready for months and months. She keeps us on our toes and laughing constantly! She’s a goofball, for sure! Some days, it seems like she just got here and other days it seems like she’s always been here!
5. Have you adopted Little Miss yet? What is the timeline looking like for that?
For many reasons, we have not been able to adopt Little Miss yet, though that is the end goal. Little Miss is still technically in the custody of Ohio, but physically, she is obviously in our home in Georgia. Georgia DFCS (Department of Family and Child Services) essentially doing all the work and sending the reports back to Ohio. We still get monthly visits with caseworkers and everything, but we also still have to go through the caseworker we had in Ohio. So confusing. I can definitely see why it is so difficult to transfer a foster child out of state – there is so much involved! The reason I share all of that is because it kind of explains why we haven’t outright adopted her. The case plan right now is that once Little Miss has been with us for 6 months, we will be granted Legal Custody of her! From what I can gather, that essentially takes CPS and DFCS out of the picture and gives us ACTUAL custody! And don’t worry, J is aware of everything that is going on and is fully in agreement. Once we have legal custody of Little Miss, I’m not 100% sure what has to be done to start the adoption process, but we are going to find out when the time comes. Right now, we are just enjoying her being here finally while knowing that she isn’t going anywhere! Yay for permanency!
6. What advice would you give to foster parents? What advice would you give to kin placements through foster care? What advice would you give anyone who is looking to support them?
The one thing to remember when dealing with Child Services in ANY situation is that you are advocating for the life of a child who is going through something traumatic in most cases, so don’t be afraid to make sure you have what you need for him or her! We were so lucky with our case worker as she was always there if we needed absolutely ANYTHING, but I know that a lot of them have bad reputations. Mostly, I think they are just so overloaded with cases and are probably doing the best that they can. I can see how easy it is to be jaded in their profession. It’s easy in the moment to forget the main reason behind everything when you are struggling and adjusting to the huge life change of fostering, but never forget who you are doing all of it for. It’s all worth it to be able to change even just one sweet child’s life and provide a loving family for however long you can. As far as kin placements, make sure you know exactly what resources are available to you, as they can be different from normal foster parents. Make sure that the child is getting everything that they are supposed to be getting! Especially in out of state situations, such as ours. The best thing that you can do to support foster parents, kin and relative placements, in my opinion, is just to be there for them as much as you can. Most of the time, it’s a very lonely feeling, so just knowing that we have a support system is HUGE. Offering to babysit doesn’t hurt, either 🙂
Thank you SO MUCH for sharing, Talya! I hope that for those of you who have followed along with Little Miss’ journey, that you loved this post and getting an update on her! And I hope that if you are foster parents, kin placements or even a birth mother that you can be encouraged that every family and every story is different…and sometimes it’s a beautiful mix of everyone staying in contact!