Friday, November 28, 2014

McDaid Family Recap 2014

Wow, 2014 blew our minds! Reflecting back on last year’s update, I never thought the update I am writing today would be what it is.
I have blogged a little bit about our foster care journey since our 2013 update. I went dark in the early spring because we were in a 6 month waiting period where I couldn’t share anything about our kids online. I encourage you to read those blog posts if you haven’t.

Last year’s update stopped with the placement of 6 year old little Mark. When we were presented with him, we were told it would be an adoptive placement and that he would be ours. As with the “foster coaster” rides we’ve experienced all along, we found out about a week into his placement that his mother was fighting to get him back. Long story short, because of the holidays and his situation, he was returned to his mother after living with us for a month. The month we had with him was fun and sweet, and we will always have good memories of him.

When Del went home last fall, we decided that the back and forth of foster care was done for us. We switched our focus to adoptive placements. We started looking for children on the state adoption website, TARE and sifted through bulletins from our agency. We even submitted our paperwork for 2 children we heard about when we were in a court hearing for Del. We were looking for 1 or 2 kids; at this point age didn’t matter as long as we could fit them in our home. On January 16th, we received 2 bulletins: 1 was for a 15 year old boy and the other was a sibling group of 4. We decided to submit for the 4; it was out of our comfort zone, but there was just something about them. Things moved quickly from there. We met them on February 8th and then they started coming for weekend visits every weekend until they moved in on March 7th. I won’t go into all the details, but the oldest boy was unable to stay with our family and moved out in May. But, we adopted the other 3 on September 15th and they are now a part of our forever family.
We are so blessed to have Xavier, Pierce and Elizabeth in our family. Read on to find out about them!

Here are the current family stats:

Dad, Mark
Mark is still working at Austin Regional Clinic, doing computer programming. This year, he was promoted to supervisor and has 3 programmers working for his team. This has been a challenging year for him adjusting to being a boss, but he loves his job. We are thankful for the security his job gives us. He is the leader of the boys group, Royal Ambassadors at church and is a handbook leader for our AWANA club. He is a great dad, making time to build relationships with all of our kids and has had to do lots of projects this year to make our house ready for 6 kids.
Mark and I got to go to a Texas Rangers game this year. We also got to go to a couple of Round Rock Express games and a couple of stock car races at the track in Kyle.

Mom, Shelley
I am a stay at home mom, but I am definitely busy. I still get to be a part of MOPS, since Kendall is still a preschooler (this is the last year!). Also, for the last 3 years I’ve directed our church’s Heroes Camp, which is quite a task, but I love it so much. It is what our church does for VBS; it is a full day, camp type experience, with field trips and swimming and Bible lessons, oh my! I also am the one that keeps up with all the kids’ appointments, paperwork and training. This year, I got to do the huge stack of adoption paperwork (times 3), which was busy and stressful.
This fall, I started working part time at our local YMCA at the front desk. I love it a lot; it’s a break from home life and a nice change of pace. This year, I also took control of my health and lost 40 pounds. I trained and completed a half marathon in October in a time way better than I expected.

Xavier is 13 and in the 7th grade. Xavier is fun loving and thoughtful. He plays the clarinet in band and likes to play soccer and basketball. He enjoys playing with LEGOs and playing Pokemon. Xavier gave a testimony at church in August about his experience before and during foster care. He has seen God’s loving hand of care in his life all along. Xavier is always willing to help others, and he does it happily without complaining. He is hoping to go on a missions trip to Ethiopia in 2015 to minister to orphans and to see hippos in the wild.

Riley is 12 and in the 7th grade this year. He has done really well in band and made the top band at the end of 6th grade. He is in the youth group this year, and he and Xavier really enjoy going whenever they can.
Riley still enjoys LEGOs and building things. He also creates his own stop motion videos. He is a great big brother. We can count on him to help and be a good role model to all of the kids.

Pierce is 11 and in the 5th grade. He loves to read, especially Warriors books and Rick Riordan books. He loves to figure out how things work and to fix things. He also is a puzzle master; we have quite a few puzzles that I’ve glued together this year. Pierce is also very active and played soccer this fall. He also likes to ride his bike and play Frisbee outside. Pierce also hopes to go to Ethiopia in 2015; he loves to talk about Africa.

Elizabeth is 9 and in 3rd grade. She loves to be crafty, drawing and writing all of the time. She also enjoys being creative with her LEGOs and building new things out of her pieces. She loves to collect things like rocks and keys. She’s always got something in her pocket. She enjoys being active outside, throwing the Frisbee or observing bugs.

Tyler is 9 and in the 4th grade. He loves to eat; he never ever seems full. He also loves to read and is enjoying Geronimo Stilton and Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. His good buddy lives across the street and they get together often to play Minecraft or Pokemon.
He also likes building LEGOs. Tyler is always funny and playful. He is a good friend and a good leader in class.

Kendall is 4 (almost 5) and is in preschool 2 days a week this year. She is a girly girl, always worrying about how she looks or what she’s wearing. She is the only extrovert in our family and has friends everywhere she goes. She loves princesses, ponies, Ariel and playing pretend. She always wants to do what the big kids are doing, even playing Minecraft or watching Pokemon. She is a joy to have in our family, and we are so thankful for her. She is a sweet sister.

Since the adoption in September, we have been working on adjusting to our new family life. It has been interesting and a big change for us after having been so fluid for the last 3 years. We don’t feel like our story is complete yet, but we do believe that this is a season of “settling”, where we won’t take on much new stuff for our family. We are taking this time to bond and deepen security in our home.  We also want to come alongside our friends and family as they have needs that we can meet to support and encourage them. We are very excited about 2015 and all that God has in store for this family of 8!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Part 3: Lucky Number 7

So here is where we are in our journey as of today.

We decided last fall that we wanted to focus strictly on adoptive placements. The ways to find adoptive placements in the foster care system are:
  1. To look at children posted on the TARE website and submit for information about children that meet your criteria. The downside to this option is that it is statewide (most children posted on TARE have exhausted all local options), it is not always current and it seems to take a long time to get a response when you do make an inquiry. For us specifically, many children on TARE needed a small family or to be the youngest child in the home, which made them incompatible for us.
  2. To receive e-mail bulletins from our agency of children who are ready to be placed in an adoptive home. These go out when parental rights are terminated and the current placement does not wish to adopt. Occasionally, also, there are bulletins labeled “Legal Risk”, which means CPS is ready to move the child to an adoptive home even though rights have not been terminated yet or the state is still looking into another placement (i.e. a family member). If you get an email that appeals to you, you request that your agency submit your home study to the caseworker for consideration. This also may take time to get a response, and the more “appealing” children receive lots of home studies to be considered. (See my Red Rover video.) These may be local or statewide.
  3. The third option is to have your agency submit your home study to the Adoption Unit of a specific CPS region, usually close to where you live. They can look at potential matches that may not have gone out via bulletin or posted on TARE yet. This process may move more quickly, depending on the matches available.

We committed to pursuing any options in any of those 3 avenues. We submitted our home study to the San Antonio Adoption Unit, since there are many potential placements in San Antonio, and our agency has developed relationships with the people who work on placements there. We searched TARE and submitted to get information on several children there, and we sifted through the bulletins we got via email and responded to a couple to be considered. We knew that the right match might take a while and resigned to wait.

We were looking for children within our children’s age range, children with needs we could manage and for 3 or fewer children. Those criteria are pretty much the “mainstream” criteria, so we didn’t really stand out to get picked from other families. Plus, as we knew from feedback from another submission, having 3 biological kids could be a negative thing, since that made us a large family once we added children, and smaller families are preferred for some children.

On January 16, I received three emails. One was from a caseworker of a TARE inquiry we had sent, telling us that a boy that we had asked about had been placed with family. It was good to know. Sometimes you never hear anything. The second email was for an adoptive placement of a boy similar to that one boy. And the third email was for an adoptive placement of a sibling group of 4 kids. Normally, I don’t forward emails to Mark unless I think he would want to submit for them, but I forwarded both adoptive emails to him that day. We had said our limit was 3 kids, but there was something about the picture of these 4, and the oldest boy wanted a dad who would teach him computer programming. To my surprise, he responded and told me to submit for the 4!

We contacted our agency, and they jumped on it. They knew some information about these kids from their connections at CPS (the kids were in San Antonio) and were very excited that we would consider them. Because they are a sibling group of 4, there isn’t a lot of interest in them. Plus, they are a little bit older, so basically, we jumped from the “mainstream”. And that completely changed the game for us.

Our agency submitted our home study to the caseworker, and we were quickly chosen! (I think we were the only ones who submitted.) We were given what information our agency had about them, and it seemed like a good match for us. We began the process of an adoptive placement. There are several steps to go through at the beginning to try to ensure a successful placement.

First, there is an initial staffing, which was our agency and the children’s caseworker talking about the children’s backgrounds and needs in an adoptive home, who we are as a family and concerns that need to be addressed. Then, our agency talks to us about what was presented, and we decide if we want to proceed or not. That happened on January 22. We were satisfied with the information we were given and felt equipped to handle the needs of the children, so we decided to proceed.

Then, we get a chance to talk to the caseworker ourselves and the foster parents to get a more clear picture and specific information about the children. The caseworker also wanted us to read the children’s case file, so we went to San Antonio and did all of that on January 30. The case file was eye opening, but I won’t go into specifics. After that, we are given another chance to walk away or proceed. We proceeded. There are concerns for sure, but we felt affirmed and equipped to continue. At that time, we gave their caseworker a small photo book to give to the kids to tell them about us.

The next step is to meet the kids. We were so excited to meet them and planned to meet them the following Saturday, February 8th. Mark and I decided it was best for us to go by ourselves for the first meeting, just so we could have time for them to talk to us and us to focus on them. We went last Saturday, and it was seriously one of the most memorable days of my life! They are the sweetest kids, and meeting them made me feel like they were my children, meant to be a part of our family.

So that brings us to where we are today. We have another day visit planned this Saturday, this time with our kids. Then, the plan is to do a couple of overnight visits on the next 2 weekends, then have them move in at Spring Break. They would be a foster placement for 6 months, and we can finalize an adoption after that.

We would really appreciate your prayers as we move forward. We know from past experience that there is still a possibility that this could all fall through before placement. We don’t think it will, and we hope it will not! There are also many preparations that need to be made to accommodate them, including a vehicle and some furniture and room preparations. We need to be wise with finances in making these preparations. After placement, we know there will be challenges with adjustment, with building trust and the logistics of parenting 7 kids. We know it won’t be easy, but we believe it will be worth it. Please keep our family in your prayers.

I cannot wait to share even more information and pictures once they are OUR children! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Couple of Videos For Your Viewing Pleasure

I have a couple of videos to share today.

Kendall and I got to go see the sing a long version of Frozen last night, and the message hit me afresh. I love the song "Fixer Upper". It's so true and encourages me to continue to love children who have frozen hearts.

"People make bad choices when they're mad or scared or stressed, but throw a little love their way, and you'll bring out their best. True love brings out the best."

Then, here is a more serious video about the reality of foster care and adoption. Region 8 includes San Antonio, where we are hoping to adopt from.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Our Foster/Adoption Journey Part 2

So after we had the girls, we were left drained, empty. We weren’t sure that fostering was right for our family anymore. We considered checking it off the list; been there, done that. Maybe we'd answered the call, and that was all He asked of us. But God didn’t let us off the hook that easily. In early 2013, my Bible studies kept convicting me. Children without homes or families continued to burden me. I would look around our house, which God provided so clearly for us, and I knew it wasn’t meant for just the 5 of us. I gave God some parameters for the next kids: older than Kendall, foster to adopt (no chance of reunification), basic kids, only 1 or 2.
Mark still was uncertain but wanted to do something, so we continued to be inactive but opened up to do respite care (which is taking care of foster children when the foster parents need a break or have plans that they cannot take the kids with them).

Something amazing happened on February 28, 2013. I’ll never forget that night. I got a call from a first grade teacher who attends my church who I hadn’t met before. She told me about a first grader in her class who was in a foster home in the neighborhood next to ours. His foster family was moving out of state, and he was going to have to go to a different home. His teacher was trying to find a way to keep him in her class. She asked if we were willing and available to take him. Even though he was outside of the parameters I’d set up (still a foster placement with the possibility of reunification), the timing seemed right. I told her I’d have to talk to Mark. I wasn’t sure how he would respond. But he said yes, and after meeting and talking to his foster mom, D moved in with us during Spring Break. He was with us for 7 months, when he was reunited with his father. He is such a special boy, and I am SO thankful that we had those 7 months with him, even though it was much shorter than we would have wanted. He enhanced our lives, and I am certain we made an impact on his life.

We also did respite care during that time. We took in a 12 year old girl and her 13 year old brother two different times. We really felt a connection to them, and for the first time, began thinking about taking in older children and teenagers.

After D’s placement, we decided to look into foster to adopt placements again. Various signs have continued to point us to adoption over these years. We considered a few foster placement calls in the fall of 2013, but none were the right fit for us.

Then, on November 14th, we got a call for a 6 year old boy. We were told he was “legal risk”, which implies that parental right aren’t terminated but are expected to be. Yay, we thought! This one will be a keeper! We said yes, and he came at 1:00 am that night. After a few days, CPS changed their tune about intending to terminate rights, and he only ended up being with us for a month before he was reunited with his mom. In spite of the disappointment, we still are glad for the time he was with us. I pray we made a positive impact on his life.

So that was a month ago, and since then, we have focused on seeking adoptive placements via TARE (Texas Adoption Resource Exchange) and bulletins our agency sends out. We have submitted on a few, with little result. Our agency also submitted our home study to the San Antonio adoption unit for adoptive matches. But we’ve had to resolve ourselves that because there are so many channels to go through, this is a slow process and may take some time. It’s frustrating knowing that there are so many children waiting for forever homes and here we are: a family ready and willing to take them. I see calls to action on social media, and it hurts my heart knowing that it is what we want but nothing is happening!

But we trust that God’s plan, timing, and matching is perfect, and we put our faith in that. He has not failed us yet. We also know that His heart is for these waiting children, and He sees them and loves them and will not fail them.

On January 16th, God revealed to us something we never would have expected. Stay tuned for that story. It is still playing out as I finish writing this…

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Our Foster Care/Adoption Journey Part 1

It’s hard to decide where to begin. We are just your basic, average, all American family. Mark and I got married 16 years ago, with big dreams of having a life and a family together. We were both raised in Christian homes, with loving parents who raised us well. 

 In 2002, we welcomed our first son, Riley. Oh, what a blessing he was! Being his parents gave us purpose and a new perspective. It was also during that time that we got plugged into a local church and our faith started maturing.

In 2005, we had Tyler, our second son. It was during my pregnancy with him that I sensed God calling me to quit my teaching career and stay home to raise my boys. Even though it was clear God wanted this for me, I resisted. It was an extremely difficult transition. We struggled financially during this time, but God always provided. We learned to trust Him, even in the challenges. I also began growing spiritually during this time through Bible studies and MOPS.

In 2008, life was better. We celebrated our 10 year anniversary that summer, Riley was in school, Tyler was potty trained, and we were doing ok financially. We thought our life was good and sensed God telling us that our perfect little family of 4 wasn’t complete. We discussed having another child and decided to try.

That fall, Mariah Wilde from Family Link Foster Care and Adoption Agency, came to talk to our church about the need for Christian families to foster and adopt children in state care. It got my attention, and Mark and I talked about that as an option for growing our family. We decided to think and pray about it.

God gave us our answer in 2009, when we found out we were expecting Kendall, who was born in January 2010. She was another joy and blessing! She is our one and only baby girl. Fostering and adopting was still on our hearts, but we focused on raising our children. Somewhere in that time, Mariah came back to our church. What I remember about that was that there was a slideshow of children waiting to be adopted and one of the pictures was a baby girl named Kendall. I knew it wasn’t a random thing.

Finally, in 2011, we decided to go for it. We started our training with Family Link in the fall of 2011 and were licensed as a foster/adopt home in December 2011. We really always wanted to adopt but decided to be willing to give fostering and emergency placements a chance.

Our very first placement came on December 27, 2011: an 8 year old boy and a 3 year old girl. We had them only 3 weeks before the court ordered them to be placed with their grandma. We learned a lot from that short placement. It was challenging, it was stressful and emotional, but it was good. Loving them for 3 weeks was the right thing to do. It was worth it, and we were affirmed in continuing this path.

But it also gave us clarity. We were living in a 1600 square foot house with only 3 bedrooms and a tiny backyard. It was very cramped for 5 kids. We have learned a lot about being wise with our finances and trusting God to provide for our needs, so we began to pray about a larger home in a wise way. We made a wish list for an ideal house for us and gave parameters of what we could afford. It was a tall order; seemingly impossible to find.

But God provided! And it was even better than we hoped and imagined. I’ll tell that story another time.

After we moved we reactivated to foster, and in September 2012, we accepted a placement of 2 little girls, ages 2 and 1 (our Kendall was 2 ½). They had been in another foster home, so when we got them, their reunification date was already set. We had them for 3 months, when they were successfully reunited with their parents. This placement was extremely difficult for our family. The little girls required a lot of attention (to put it mildly), and it left us feeling like failures. After they went home, we questioned the call to foster. We considered checking it off the “to-do” list and moving on. We went inactive to reconsider, regroup and pray.

But God didn’t let us quit…
(Part 2 coming soon)