Adoption- Dear Birthmother

November is National Adoption Month, so I’m writing a few posts about our experience.

Let’s hear it for the birthmom’s because without them, some of us would not be parents. We tried and failed to have a biological kid of our own. Miscarriages suck. I only had one and that was enough. But I came to appreciate that brief moment of pregnancy when an adoptive mom said that I at least was able to get pregnant. I’d like to think I’m a realist about our ages, so IVF would have been a waste of money and moral and mental energy. So adoption was the logical choice, and there can’t be adoptions without birthparents deciding to place their children with strangers like us.

I am incredibly grateful for Destruct-O-baby’s birthmom and her decision to let the agency pick us. Mainly because that let us re-name him and until then no birthfamily wanted us, like never getting picked for the parent team.

On some level I get that deciding to make an adoption plan to place (we don’t say ‘giving the child up’) a child is very difficult. We had to read the book “Dear Birthmother” and trying to understand the birth families’ perspective was a major part of our adoption classes. The agency continues to champion the side of the birthparent in the seasonal magazine we get from them. One issue talked about the challenges one mother in forming romantic relationships. So guys, if you’re dating a gal and you really like her, and she mentions she has a kid out there in the world being raised by other people, don’t be an ass about how you respond. You’d be doing me a huge favor.

Holy Crap this is close- ANC 5E-05

Holy Crap!

Seriously.

Holy F’ing crap. Just a 2 vote difference. Your vote may be a drop in the bucket in citywide elections but it means a lot in ANC races.

First. Is this even legal? Ms. Robinson-Paul appeared twice on my ballot. She ran against Kenyon McDuffie, the current councilman for Ward 5 under the name Joyce (Chestnut) Robinson-Paul. That I expected, as it was in the Voter Guide that was sent out. But I was taken aback when I saw her name again when I went to vote for my ANC Bradley A. Thomas. I was under the impression Bradley was running unopposed. Was this mentioned at yesterday’s BACA meeting (I was home because the kid was miserable and I didn’t want to abandon my spouse for a meeting)?

Second, WTF?

Foster Care- Alternatives

November is National Adoption month and I have a few posts in mind for that. But there are a few personal stories I want to share about avoiding foster care. It is great that foster care exists, because in some countries in the world, it does not. However, of the options that exist for kids it isn’t the best, and we forget, there are other options.

Back in the mid-1970s my mom had her 1st nervous breakdown due to post-partum depression. I was pre-schooled age at the time and I was sent off to stay with various relatives while my mom recovered. I’m not sure what was going on with dad (maybe discovering the joys of alcoholism). This happened again when my parents were separated and mom was hospitalized for mental health issues. Grandma, my aunts and uncles and their spouses took over and returned us immediately and the state was not involved. If they weren’t there to help, my sister and I probably would have gone into foster care. I am grateful that they stepped up.

Decades later, my sister was a single mom with two kids living in subsidized housing. Something happened that I’m not going to talk about and mom convinced her to send the kids to stay with her retired brother and his wife. The kids returned to their mom after a month or so. My nephew and my uncle formed a very strong bond. So when my then 2 year old nephew regressed developmentally after his return to his mom, he went back to our uncle. Long story short our aunt and uncle adopted my nephew. This sort of thing was normal on my dad’s side, which makes trying to do a genealogy annoying. On my dad’s side there is a paranoid fear of the state taking away kids, so the family gets involved before the local government does.

So those are personal stories and this next story, I heard from Bethany, the adoption agency we used. There was a single mom in Texas with 3 kids and for reasons unknown to me, she decided to look for a new family for her kids and reached out to an adoption agency. She found a family in Maryland who agreed to adopt all three, keeping the siblings together. I can guess at the various reasons why she did what she did (terminal diagnosis, 10-20 yr prison term, degrading mental illness) but I want to applaud her decision to keep her kids out of the foster care system. In the system there is no guarantee that the kids would stay together. There is no guarantee the kids wouldn’t be moved from house to house and out on their own the minute each one turned 18. Twenty percent of foster kids become homeless after turning 18, and the stats for foster kids is frickin’ depressing. In this case there is a family who will be there for them and their various milestones and provide a home to boomerang back to when they become adults.

Lastly, I am thankful the foster care system exists, it’s better than the institutional orphanage system. In the short term it is a lifesaver for kids in crisis who have no other options. Long-term, eh, there are problems, no simple solutions, and it could be better. If there are options to get kids out of the system or to avoid the system altogether, they should be considered. Family members should step forward and intervene early or the parents should consider being pro-active and find an adoptive family for their kids.

Slugg: Fathers are important

So a little bit more from Slugg: A Boy’s Life in the Age of Mass Incarceration

The single most impactful issue plaguing black communities across the country was, relatively speaking, hushed.
Families aren’t supposed to function with one parent. Children need a pair of loving parents…. Given prison, death, and abandonment, in my neighborhood the number of homes without a father was extremely close to a hundred percent.

My parents were in a high conflict marriage. My father was an angry alcoholic, my mom struggled with mental health challenges, and the marriage suffered infidelity from both parties. Taking a selfish look back, my parents staying together while we were minors was the best thing they did for my sister and myself. After becoming a parent, I see what a luxury item my father was, despite himself.

@MrTonyLewisJr tells of what his life was life before with his father and after when his father was shipped off to prison. Before, he lived in a nice house in the suburbs with his mother. His father would drive him to private school. He had new clothes on his back. Hanover Street was a place to visit family. There was stability. Then his father’s life and the Feds caught up with him. They lost the house and his mother slowly lost her mind. Hanover St NW became home. He also lost his 2nd parent to mass incarceration and the safety net his father provided. Thankfully due to kin and family friends he remained in Catholic school, but they could not make up for the fact that he was like so many of his neighborhood friends, fatherless.

In our effort to be merciful towards and supportive of single parents, we dismiss the importance and of the 2nd parent. Since Destruct-O-Baby I’m freaking tired and considering my own and my mother’s mental health history* I NEED the Help, and there is no way in Hell I could do this alone and stay sane. The other parent, the father, can bring a lot of valuable things to the table. Unfortunately too many AfAm children are lacking fathers in their lives, and are poorer for it.

A neighborhood with a high number of female headed households are poorer. The matriarchy has failed to control her sons. Her sons sling dope and shoot at everything with bad aim. Young men surrounded by struggling women become predators as the potential to become hard working respectable men is squandered on the corners. Little boys yearn so much for male attention, any male attention, even from drug dealers, it is so heart breaking. There are hardly any men who look like them in the schools and in their lives that they absorb whatever masculinity they can like a bone dry sponge does any liquid, be it life giving water or deadly antifreeze.

For girls it’s different. Not to dig up more family dirt, I am very thankful that my sister in law’s ex has custody of their beautiful daughter considering my SIL’s poor romantic choices (who she decided to bring into the home), the fact that both her sons are away at college, and her mental health (and housing) challenges. The ex has provided a better safety net than nothing.

*My mom suffered from post-postpartum depression, had several ‘nervous breakdowns’ and was at a low point suicidal. I don’t think I want to detail or summarize my own challenges here.

Radiators- A warm heat

So I’m debating about turning on the heat.
Radiator valve
The thermostat says its 72F in the house. We’re in a well insulated townhouse, the kitchen baseboard (on a separate system) is on low, and I had the oven on. Turning on the heat won’t add to it.

We have radiators and I love them. I love to leave my bathrobe or gloves on the radiator and put on warmth as if straight out of the dryer. I also love that my nose and skin do not dry out with radiator heat. Wet or damp clothes are placed on them and they humidify the room.

Now some people hate them, mainly when they are not working. If you have radiator heat and some rooms with the radiators are fine and others are freezing cold, then there is a problem with the radiator. It probably needs to be bled.  There are plenty of videos on how to bleed a radiator, most of them British.

If you’ve bled them or tried to bleed the radiators and that doesn’t work, you’ll need to call a plumber or an HVAC guy.

I’ve got some pretty old radiators, except for the one that doesn’t seem to have a bleed valve in my son’s room. If I run out of home projects, one thing I might do is update all the 19th century radiators and trade them in for fancy 21st century ones. Except the bench radiator, that thing is warmderful to sit on.

Slugg: Prayer and Therapy

From Slugg: A Boy’s Life in the Age of Mass Incarceration “Together, prayer and therapy can heal, but there’s not nearly enough of either happening in the hood, and they aren’t being done together.”

Slugg is @MrTonyLewisJr in the Hanover area of Truxton Circle who wrote a book about Hanover Street and his father, Tony Lewis Sr., a notable drug dealer. I highly recommend the book as it is a very good read and Mr. Lewis makes some excellent points, and this is one of them, that people need therapy.

Yes, prayer and therapy, but because of the occasional diversity of my readership, I’m going to set aside prayer in a box marked “Meditation” and let readers ponder that on their own as a DIY project. But therapy, everyone can use therapy and yes, it is missing or not sought fully when it is sorely needed. I’ve heard someone else say there are too many undiagnosed and untreated mental health issues in the Black community. Lewis is very frank about his mother’s struggles with mental health and how it did and still weighs on him and his family.

Children growing up witnessing, involved in and being victims of violence are traumatized and take that trauma with them into adulthood. Lewis mentions how he got help, but a childhood friend of his, who saw and experienced the same things in that little corner of Truxton Circle, did not. Because his friend did not get and hasn’t sought professional help, his friend remains in pain. That pain begets more violence which winds up traumatizing others who also are not likely to seek help, and it’s a horrible cycle.

Lewis mentions we need to change the culture. The problem is cultural. It’s not just in the Black community (but really bad in the Black community) but throughout America. IMHO too many Americans are making their mental health a DIY project, self-medicating and self-diagnosing. Remember that box we set aside? The one marked “Meditation”, that’s DIY.

Part of the problem may be cost, but a lot may be stigma. So to help remove a little bit of the stigma, I’m going to briefly mention my latest adventure in getting counseling and professional help. When the Help had to become his mother’s conservator because his sister squandered their mother’s retirement funds (whole ‘nother blog), it created a big strain on our marriage. So much so we put our adoption plans on hold and slept in separate rooms. We got counseling from a pastor and separately saw psychotherapists. It helped to talk things out with several 3rd parties. We got to a better place, brought the Help’s mom to the DC area, and restarted the adoption. Currently our marriage is better, my mother in law’s ashes are sitting on our bookcase, and we are the parents of Destruct-O-baby. I’ll credit lots of prayer and therapy.

 

Edited- Diagnosed to undiagnosed, and twitter link.

Adoption- Human

Baby in portable bassinet
Baby in portable bassinet

I was going to wait until November, National Adoption month, to write about our adoption experience. But a retweet of something I saw with a long string of comments that do not reflect nor resemble our experience  prompted me to post this.

We’ve recently finalized the adoption of our son. It was a closed adoption per the birthmother’s wishes. And even though it is closed, we still need to write letters and send 5-6 photos of Destruct-O-baby every 3-4 months for the next couple of years. We were interviewed by a birthmother who wanted an open adoption, however, she didn’t choose us. But if she did there would have been more in person visits or more letters, depending on what she wanted.

The adoption itself did not cost $20-$30K. Rounding up less than $10K went to the agency for all the administrative and facilitation stuff. Less than $2K went to our lawyer, and I have no idea how much we spent to take the CPR classes, get the background checks, renovate the house for the inspections and home study. Those higher prices are international adoption prices. Destruct-O-baby is from the land of Mary (which means he’ll drive in the bike lane & speed through yellow and red lights).

Adoption has changed over the years. My sister in law (the one who drained her mother’s retirement fund in a year) was adopted from Korea. According to the Help, his parents were told to show up to the airport and they were handed a 2 year old, who became his sister. They did not have to take the classes. They were a school teacher and factory worker, so I’ll guess it wasn’t that expensive. We had to read books, write essays, take classes for several weeks and go through a lot more stuff before we could even get on a waiting list.

What helped us a lot, was the network of other parents we knew (mostly but not exclusively, from the Help’s church) who also went through the same agency. It was great when trying to figure out what to do, there was someone I could email or call. These include families who engage in fostering, foster to adopt, and respite care, separate from the infant adoption.

There are three parts of the adoption triangle, the birth families, the adopting families, and the adoptee. I can only speak about my part. Because of the agency’s national scope and functions other than domestic infant adoption they’ve attracted some vitriol, and it’s hard not to take some of those nasty comments personally.

Off Label Use of Scooters

This is just an observation.
Dad and kid on electric scooter.
People are using those electric scooter things to do things probably not intended by the scooter rental companies.

Transporting your kids– As you might be able to make out from the image above is a father and son about to cross 7th Street NW in Shaw via one of those Lime scooters. This is not the first person I’ve seen transporting another person on these scooters. I see people doubling up on these often. He’s not the only father I’ve seen transporting his kids. I saw, coming at me down the sidewalk, a father with a elementary aged son in the front. Then after they passed me, I noticed another kid holding on behind the father. So, three people.
Food Delivery via Scooter
Making food deliveries– So one day on my way to satisfy my poke/poki addiction. I noticed this guy, and you can’t really see it all that well but he’s got one of those food delivery box/bag backpack things I see bike delivery people use, but instead of a bike, he’s using a Lime scooter. I don’t know what’s the story with that, or if it makes any financial sense. Did I satisfy that poki desire? Sorta, I should have ordered on-line for pick up because when it’s crazy crowded and busy, you are bound to forget one thing in the bowl you meant to get.

Street Archeology

We have a neighbor, Brian who picks up trash, that’s his thing. The Help, my lovely spouse, has found his thing, weeds. For some reason we bought a weed whacker, and so the Help has decided it is his duty to go out and whack weeds. Sometimes he picks up trash, because there is more than enough trash that is thrown and blown in for one person.

The Help sometimes likes to tell me of his adventures as Weedwhackerman. He says picking up trash and cleaning out storm drains choked with weeds is like urban archeology. He noticed the preferred cigarette that litterbugs like to litter the neighborhood with are Newports. Once he mentioned that, I began to notice Newport wrappers and empty boxes all over Shaw.

In his guise as Weedwhackerman, (hat, shades, maybe a dust mask) he meets all sorts of people. He’s very friendly and chatty. Being able to engage total strangers is his superpower. If you find yourself trapped in a conversation with Weedwhackerman say these magic words, “Well, I gotta go.” Then wave goodbye and walk away. If you cannot pull yourself away from Weedwhackerman, know that he’ll eventually let you go because he has to return to his alter ego (and paid job) of mild mannered librarian dude, aka the Help.

Baltimore City level of Historic Districts- When you have too many

DC has too many historic districts (HD) and just recently got one more as Bloomingdale fell to this sad fate of HD collecting. So about 1 in 5 DC properties is some historic something or another. DC is on its way to becoming like our sister city Baltimore where some historic districts are respected and others, kinda ignored, making the designation meaningless. Maybe it needs to be made meaningless.

mAP OF bALTIMORE cITY hISTORIC dISTRICTSSo I own a small rental in Baltimore which happens to be in a historic district and the neighborhood is listed with the National Register of Historic Places. Historic districts in Baltimore are a different animal than the HDs in DC from what I observed. When I had a local charm city architect over, I mentioned the vinyl window I had in my house and the other vinyl windows I saw in the neighborhood. He said, “Yeah, they’re not supposed to do that but….” and he shrugged and we moved on to other topics.

Baltimore has over 60 historic districts, DC has over 30. The Baltimore Sun supposed that 1 in 3 buildings was listed on the National Register. I have no idea how many of those include abandoned shells. Baltimore also has a local tax incentive to get homeowners on board, but the logic in how it applies confuse me. There are newish condos just outside the district’s boundaries that advertised the 10 year tax credit. Of course there is a lot in Baltimore where the logic of how they apply a lot of things confuse me.

I wonder if the trend to add more and more historic districts will create an environment where the original intents will be undermined because it brings in too many unwilling participants, thin supporters and stretch the resources of the enforcers. Maybe. We’ll see.