What we signed up for

“Now we’re in over our heads
It’s either sink or swim,
we’ve tried so many times
For worse or for better
It tears my heart in two
to leave it all behind
And say goodbye forever.”
Cam - “Mayday”

My wife and I shared a love of vocal music when we met, and early in our relationship, my brother turned us on to Home Free. Since, we’ve been to numerous concerts and our children have become big fans.

“Mayday” is a cover that Home Free does which is a favorite of my children. The first few notes of the song come on, and the kids immediately turn and watch the video, entranced for the next few minutes.

It isn’t a flashy video, by any means. It’s various shots of the group singing in a large room. However, it’s a rare song that Tim Foust, the bass of the group, sings lead and does so in his lower register on a fast-paced song. The low resonance definitely has appeased a child or two resting on my chest as I sang along to the tune on those low notes.

The quoted lyrics stuck out to me recently when I was listening to the song, and I mentally bookmarked the song for this column.

Today is National Adoption Day, recognized on the Saturday before Thanksgiving since 2000, to celebrate those who have been adopted through foster care and to bring awareness to the more than 113,000 children nationwide that continue to await adoption through foster care.

When my wife and I began dating, I already had a desire to adopt instilled in me from a number of life experiences to that point, and in our early discussions, it became clear this was how we would form our family. For us, it wasn’t a matter of inability, but one of choice.

After discussion with friends who had adopted in other states through foster care, we pursued becoming foster parents. We were both open with our respective workplaces about this, and unfortunately, we found that verbal support was not the same as actual support once the rubber met the road and we had a child placed in our home.

Roughly six months after we were certified as foster parents, we were placed with a trio of local siblings.

We were told that their case was set to head to termination of rights quickly, and that the hope was to keep the three of them together and in the Huron area, so our home was the place.

Thus began the long journey toward adoption.

We had multiple bumps along the road. I met with my parents over dinner one evening, on the verge of tears, and explained that we were potentially going to lose the siblings, roughly a year after they had moved into our home.

“Ben, you know that’s what you signed up for,” my mother lovingly - but bluntly -  pointed out.

She was not wrong, but by that point, we had another child in our home through foster care to be adopted as well. That case would be resolved much quicker, with the formal adoption coming roughly a year after moving into our home. The trio’s adoption was finalized four months later.

Being an adoptive parent has incredible highs and equally incredible lows, as does parenting any child. However, this year has been a challenging one, to say the least.

The PTSD suffered by one of our children in life before placement in our home has boiled over into a situation that became dangerous for the entire household. Multiple trips to Avera Behavioral Health in Sioux Falls have not stemmed that, and we’re now at a point of placement for short-term treatment to get the help our child truly needs.

Multiple times along the way, we’ve been asked by staff at Avera or treatment facilities if the intention is for our child to return to our home after placement.

Quite frankly, the question has dumbfounded us. It’s never occurred to us that we wouldn’t want our child back. I emphasize - OUR CHILD.

However, it’s not just that issue that has made this a difficult year. Adoption as a whole has become a weaponized topic for many with the June decision by the Supreme Court, and my children have become bullied due to their knowledge of their adoptive status.

Behavioral issues and long talks have occurred in our home regarding a classmate deriding one of our children with, “your REAL mom didn’t want you!”

Notifications to the school sometimes accomplish a momentary pause in the ridicule, but momentary is all.

None of my children is yet in middle school, so this is absolutely stuff that their classmates are picking up from parents at home, which concerns me even more.

This month is also Native American Heritage Month. All four of my children has indigenous blood, and we’ve had discussions about some of what that means over time.

However, my children have read the recent articles regarding remains of children from former indigenous schools being returned to being interred at reservations, and that’s led to questions from my children.

No one could have prepared me for that conversation during the one day of ICWA training we received during foster care certification courses.

The last year has led my wife and I to lean on one another more and more, and there have been some who have helped at times (including my parents, who have been amazing in emotional support and other things), but we have struggled to reach out to others in general as we’ve simply been trying to hold on.

The struggles of the last year have perhaps been more than what my wife and I signed up for, but we wouldn’t trade that for a moment without our children.

On National Adoption Day, remember that the day of adoption is very similar to a wedding day. Many overhype and overspend on a wedding and think it will somehow produce a fruitful marriage. Many quickly find otherwise. Both, however, require plenty of work going forward to bear fruit.

Children adopted through foster care come to a family through trauma, through hurt, through pain, through abuse, through so many things that cannot even be spoken. Those issues can be glossed over for a time, but they do come out, and while an adoptive parent through foster care knows what he/she is signing up for, when adoption is being touted and pushed as some sort of ‘societal cure-all’ without consideration for the incredible investment in resources that is also needed (but not fully being made) to support post-adoption, those parents are left without adequate resources when issues do come forward.

There are a number of great families in the Huron and Beadle County areas that are currently doing foster care and have adopted through foster care, but the need is still there locally and statewide. If you have interest in welcoming a foster child into your home, the first step is to contact the Huron Department of Social Services office at 605-353-7100.

If you have any questions from a first-hand perspective, my email is always open, and I would be glad to give real, honest answers about our experience in the entire process as well.


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