0

It Takes A Village: The Guardian Ad Litem

kidsgraphic4.102211001_std

In the county I live in, right now there are over 600 plus children in the foster-care system. Each one of these children will be appointed a Guardian ad Litem. This is a volunteer position, and currently our county is in desperate need of people willing to step up and become a child’s advocate.  Guardians ad Litem serve as court-appointed advocates for abused and neglected children who come to the attention of the juvenile court system. Judges depend on testimony and reports from the Guardian ad Litem to inform their decisions about how to protect each child from further harm and meet their needs.

We were very lucky! Our Guardian ad Litem was/is an Angel. She took this position seriously, and never missed an appointment, court date or home visit. She did it with a smile on hr face and love in her heart. She has become an extended family member, and knew and fought for the protection of our children before we even met them.

A lot of people I encounter are concerned about the amount of children in the foster-care system, but are unable to adopt or foster a child. This is just one more way that someone can help the children without making a life-long commitment to the child.

What exactly does the Guardian ad Litem do? This is taken from the website:

Volunteer Responsibilities

  • Visits the child and keeps the child informed about the court proceedings.
  • Communicates with the Attorney Advocate to develop legal strategies to further the best interests of the child.
  • Gathers and assesses independent information on a consistent basis about the child to recommend a resolution that is in the child’s best interest. 
  • Interviews the parents, guardians, caretakers, social workers, and other service providers, and reads records related to the case.
  • Seeks cooperative solutions with other participants in the child’s case. 
  • Writes fact-based, child-focused reports for court hearings.
  • Attends and participates in court hearings and other related meetings to advocate for a permanent plan thatserves the child’s best interest. 
  • Testifies, if needed, to inform the court of the child’s situation.
  • Ensures that the court knows the child’s wishes.  
  • Keeps all records and information confidential.
  • Monitors all court-ordered services and keeps the court informed about the needs of the child.
  • Consults with local program staff for support and guidance.

If you have love in your heart,  passion for justice and a little extra time these children need YOU!

Advertisements
2

They’re Ours!! Adoption Finalized!

10329166_10152293346816939_4889795082853303403_n

1 year, 9 months and 8 days after meeting our three youngest children for the first time they are ours! Adoption complete! What does this mean for our family?

  • No more home visits!
  • We get to make all decisions regarding our children (without counsel from The Team)
  • We are free to travel anywhere and anytime with our children, without special permission and notes
  • No one can take them from us. No changed minds, or family members suddenly appearing
  • We all have the same last name! We are now the Le Chevalliers!
0

Needing Help, Doesn’t Mean You’re Helpless

tumblr_inline_mt65nvzrU81qcgqbf

It’s OK to ask for help. I have always been an “I can do it myself” type of person. I like not having to need/or lean on someone for help. I also like the satisfaction of knowing that I can do something new if I set my mind to it. I  am the type of person that will read everything I can on a subject matter, so that I can know what I am doing, and how to do it.

I have embraced adoption, fostercare and childhood trauma in the same way. But with this said, my children have brought me to a new understanding that asking for help does not mean you are helpless.

This last week has been the most challenging week of parenting we have had to date. T’s outbursts and meltdowns have gone from internal to external: kicking, screaming, raging, throwing stuff. Nothing works. When we tell him to do something he doesn’t want to do he replies with a raging “NEVER”! Taking privileges away do not work, he seemed unfazed that his siblings got to spend the day at the zoo, while he stayed home.

This led me to send a letter out to our ‘team’ this week asking for help, and admitting that some of this behavior is out of our ‘skill set’ to manage. It’s amazing how much our children can change us, and force us out of our comfort zone. It reminds me of the line from The Blind Side:

Beth: I think what you are doing is so great. Opening up your home to him… honey, you are changing that boy’s life.

Leigh Anne Touhy:  No, he’s changing mine!!

 

0

Jestine’s Kitchen: A Story to Make Your Heart Sing

jestines door

Recently our family was on a trip to Charleston, South Carolina. After a long day of sun and water fun we ended up at Jestine’s Kitchen, a Charleston landmark eatery.  One of the things about Jestine’s Kitchenis that you have to wait in a long line that wraps around this historical building  for up to hours. Luckily we only waited about a 1/ 2 hour. I say luckily because we had the whole tribe of five with us.

Immediately we had a gentleman strike up a conversation with us. We found out he was a retired military officer from NYC. He was on a 3 month vacation on  his boat. We shared the story of our family. How we met, and became a family of 7!

Jestines line

Before we knew it, we were seated. The table next to us quickly engaged with the children and us. The owner’s of the restaurant were more than accommodating, bringing toys and activities to the table for the kids.

It was a great meal and we made a few acquaintances. When we asked for our bill, our waiter told us that someone in the restaurant had paid for our families meal. They wanted us to know that we have a beautiful family, and they wanted to do this for us.

What a beautiful gesture. Having our meal paid for was such a nice surprise, but more than that what touched me, is that someone was moved enough to act on this beautiful gesture. I hope this makes you smile, and you think of paying it forward today!

1

Cinco de Mami

2013-05-06 19.45.32

We didn’t set out to adopt five children. But I am so thankful that we have.

When I was growing up, I didn’t babysit like all my friends. I found it boring and I wasn’t particularly fond of children. It wasn’t until the eighth grade that I fell in love with my first baby. My sister had a baby girl, and I wanted nothing more than to spend time with her. She had 3 more, and my brother had a baby.  I loved all these girls, and volunteered to babysit them at every opportunity. But,…the idea of being a Mother evaded me.

My ‘life paper’ I had to write for my senior year of high school included lots of travel, a successful career, perhaps a husband, but any hints at maternal matters was missing.

While my friends began to have children, and grow their families, I moved around a lot.(Hawaii, LA, San Diego and NYC).

It wasn’t until my late 30’s that I began to think about motherhood, and eventually made a conscious decision to become parents…we discussed the HOW of it…”well let’s see what happens first adoption or pregnancy”, and at the age of 40, we became parents through adoption.

Everyday I hear ‘Five? Oh my gosh, how do you do it?” I laugh to myself, because the truth is five really hasn’t been all that different from just two. Yes, there is some juggling and I have had to learn to be a bit more organized, but that is about it. It works for our family.

1

Adoption: It’s Not All About Bassinets & Pink Elephants

elephant-baby-shower (1)

When we were waiting for L&D’s adoption to be final and for them to come home from Guatemala our nieces threw us an awesome baby shower. After all, we were first time parents and expecting ‘kinda-twins’. Two infants within 3 mo of each other. We were so lucky and appreciative of all the love and support we received from friends and family.

The truth is only about 2% of the US population adopts, even less become foster parents, and less than that end up adopting their foster children.  That means more than 98% of the population may be at a loss as to how to show support to new adoptive parents.

I recently took a class on foster-to-adoption. In the class they spoke about when we ‘claim’ our children. For adoptive parents it’s usually not when the papers are signed and they are ‘legally’ ours. It’s in that moment we decide to love them unconditionally, care for them, and bring them into the fold of our family forever. From that day forward they are ours!

I was recently at a baby shower for a great friend. I adore her and her husband, and they are expecting their first child. There were balloons, and toasts, and stuffed animals…and anticipation. The love and support that showered this couple was beautiful and deserved. There I sat with babygirl…all snug in her sling. She had just called me Momma for the first time that morning. But for us…there are no stuffed animals, or toasts to mark a special day of support, but I felt no-less a  new Mother.

When our 3 new children came to us…we didn’t even think it was going to be permanent. When we made that choice for them to join our family, and our hearts ‘claimed’ them,  there weren’t cards of congratulations overflowing from our mailbox, or baby booties wrapped in ribbons. After all, one of our new children is already 5.

So…not sure what to say to the new adoptive parents…what to do…what did you say to the last person in your life that just gave birth to a new baby…or the couple that just got married and started their journey…Congratulations!

*This is meant to educate on an unfamiliar topic. If you area friend/family member of ours plan on coming to an adoption ceremony next spring to help us ‘formally’ celebrate the LOVE of our new family! Until then…it’s OK to say congratulations…We just became parents to 3 new children!

0

Size Matters…

Well, I am sure many of you are not surprised to hear that baby-girl will be joining our family. She is still with her foster family, because when we got licensed for foster care we were only licensed for 2 children, so we have to be re-licensed with the state for 3 children. We thought nothing of this, by this time we are  very familiar with all the paperwork  involved in fostercare and adoption, so we took it in stride.  Until we got a call stating that our house was too small? WHAT?

I was really surprised. Culturally, yes our house is small, but we have never paid much attention to cultural norms. Our house is about 1200 sq feet. We have a living room that is mainly where the family gathers, there is plenty of room for all of us to play, read, and watch TV here. We have a large table in the dining room where Georges and I work, the kids do art, home work and of course this is where we share our family meals. These two spaces are where we spend 80% of our time TOGETHER!  We have a Backyard that is about double the space of the house. We have Georges studio, a gardening shed, chicken coop, and our veggie garden. This is where we spend the other 19.9% of our time. The kids love exploring and playing outside.

IMG_0484

Backyard with view of Georges studio

The kids pretty much use their rooms for sleeping, getting dressed and ‘storing toys’. This is just fine with me. If they want to play with a toy, they bring it into the living room, to be with everyone. This has developed on their  choosing.

They never play in their rooms. Not because there isn’t enough space. Both L&D have loft beds. Or, apartment beds as we like to refer to them in our home. They sleep above, and then ‘their’ things are stored underneath. This is their personal space, in a shared room. We plan to get T his own loft bed in the next few months, he’s 5 and ready for his space. In the girls room, bug has her space, and toddler bed, baby girl has her crib, but doesn’t really need her own space yet.

Why do we want so much space? Is it for all our “stuff”? I see it as one more deterrent to spending time together as a family.

2007 = 970 (2,521sqft/2.6 people)
1954 = 125 (1,000sqft/8 people,)
1950 = 289 (983sqft/3.4 people)
1947 = 208 (750sqft/3.6 people)
1845 = 150 (150sqft/1 person)

What if we had a  large McMansion? Would we have been approved right away?  Personally I think this is less conducive to a close family. With family members spread out, throughout the house and possibly spending little time as a family unit.

Not to say that this will be an ideal situation when the children are a little older, As their little bodies take up more space, and more bathroom time, and ‘retreat’ time takes over in their teenage years, yes, we will need a little more space. But I will try to keep it at a minimum, and try to hold strong to our ‘No Screens in the Bedroom’ ideals.

Oh, and in the end Social Service agreed that a happy loving home was the most important thing, and the request has been sent to the state for them to approve baby-girl.