I’d met him several times before. My step brother and his wife, Josh and Kasie, were his foster parents. And he had been with them for over a year.
We were celebrating Christmas at my parents’ house. Matt was sitting on the floor when D* climbed up in his lap and started playing with his face. Matt played along, he always plays along. Pretty soon D* was roaring with laughter. It was the only thing I heard. They were the only people I saw.
I sent Vivian a photo of them captioned “I want him”.
It wasn’t that crazy. He had been in care for a long time. About half of his 3 years. Parental rights were soon to be terminated. He’d need a forever family, we have one. It wasn’t that crazy.
As soon as his mother’s rights to him were terminated we began pursuing adoption. Sure, it wouldn’t be easy to co-parent with the state of Arkansas, but we would do whatever it takes.
We also began keeping him nearly every weekend for most of the next year.
He instantly had a place in our hearts. But more and more ours was becoming his home.
He would tell me “you are the mommy kitty and I’m the baby kitty” and he’d climb in my lap and pretend to snuggle and sleep. He just wanted me to hold him for hours. I did.
He would tell me when it was his birthday he was going to get all his birthday balloons and use them to float high up in the sky until he got to my house.
Never one to cut me any slack, when it was time to go back to his foster home he’d say ‘I don’t want to go. It’s not good for kids to be away from their mommies.’
I would put on a happy face and remind him he has to get home so he can go to school tomorrow. But those conversations killed me. KILLED ME. I wanted so badly to scoop him up and say “you get to stay forever”.
We were jumping through all the hoops with the state. Classes, inspections, and meetings. Oh my!
The most intimidating meetings were the home study meetings. We knew we’d get lots of hard questions. We purposed from the beginning to be completely transparent. And we were. Our lives are not without their fair share of ugly…. But we’ve tried to use the struggles to become better, to have better for our family. The home study went really well, we got a fantastic recommendation.
We thought we were on the home stretch when we were called in for a meeting.
We met with DCFS (Arkansas version of DFS or CPS).
They asked us to elaborate on the blemishes of our pasts. They were particularly interested, no surprise to me, in the abuse I suffered at the hands of my older step brother, Jeremy. Violence. Sexual assault. Rape. It’s ugly, there’s no way around that.
The sticking point for them seemed to be that I didn’t disclose the sexual abuse to my family.
I explained to them there was plenty of abusive behavior my family already knew about, and nobody stopped it. So, if I told, I had no reason to believe they would help me, but every reason to believe Jeremy would be even more cruel to me.
But mostly. I didn’t know what to tell them. Because I was a young child acting out of instinct and survival, simply reacting in the manner that felt safest… not with thought of questions that would come up in a home study 20+ years later.
And frankly, I was offended by the suggestion that 8 year old me did not respond to rape and abuse in the proper manner. I mean, come on.
I implored them to look at my life. All I’ve ever done is the best I could with what I had. And I’ve done a good job. I have.
Since my life has been in my control, it has been good. So good.
I was shocked when I got the call that we were being denied.
‘Lack of documentation’ is what they cited. Documentation of what? That I’m emotionally healthy? I got the impression that if I had a history of mental or behavior problems and then record of a treatment plan this would all be a non issue.
But all I ever had was an iron will that I wasn’t going to be ruined by this. And that wasn’t enough.
D*, I am so, so sorry that it wasn’t enough.