Wednesday, January 21, 2009



My Nastya. What a beautiful child! I love her dearly, and feel that we have bonded extremely well, actually. Overall she gives me very little "trouble". I can't count the number of sweet little "love notes" she has written me, or the impulsive hugs, or the sweet kisses I get on a daily basis.

However, one must never go into parenthood expecting love. That goes double [triple?] for adoptive parenthood!

You can only expect TO love. And, to suffer, and to be humbled, and to relinquish "self". Wow! What a spiritual discipline!!

Yesterday I had a wonderful taste of the chastening end of things.

We had our annual foster care licensing meeting. (Now, this is somewhat humbling in and of a virtual stranger comes into your home to inspect it - and critique your homelife, for all intents and purposes.) It is like a mini-homestudy. I resent having to fiddle around and "fix" some things. For example, so foster parents won't kill babies in their care, there is a regulation about how hot your hot water can be. I don't recall the temperature; I only know that we found it is not hot enough to allow even two family members to take showers or baths. Therefore, my "check-list" for the visit involves crawling around on the basement floor lowering the temperature of our hot water. I don't ordinarily aim to deceive, but we just can't live like that day in and day out. If I actually did foster care for a small child, I would think differently, obviously. But all of my crew are more than capable of adjusting their bath water (and complaining loudly about insufficient hot water!!)

We also had to change the beds around this time. That bothered me more, as it rather involved the children in deceit. But however reasonable things might seem to me, regulations are regulations. Anastasia's little half-bed in my room is not acceptable. Children may not sleep in their parents' rooms. I really don't understand this one; families around the world sleep with the entire family in one room! However, in modern-day America this is not considered "OK". [Good thing I am not an actual proponent of the "family bed" - that would bring everything to a stand-still!] But first Lydia, and then Anastasia have felt safe and secure in that little bed in the corner of our big bedroom. However, for the licensing inspection we had to shift it all around so that Anastasia had a room of her own. Meaning Ilya, who never sleeps, was put in with poor Sergei who relishes a good night's sleep (which he didn't get last night).

Anyway....back to our attention-seeker. I am sitting at the table talking with the social worker, when Nastya comes in, marches up to her and asks, "Can you get me a different family?" By the grace of God, she did not go on to relate manufactured events that might really cause problems, but rather focused on her more honest complaints, which obviously just amused the SW. "Zhenya always annoys me; he messed up my bed! I should not have to live like this!" and, "The boys get to play on the computer, and they won't let me play and mama won't do anything about it!" "I want a different family where I get more clothes! See! these pants are too short and I don't have anything else to wear to ice-skating!" Well, yes; it was funny in some respects. But I didn't find it all that funny in light of my previous experiences. Also, it just struck me that I don't enjoy having someone looking over my shoulder like this. I don't like my children getting the idea that our family would or could ever be altered. That is one downside of Maxim being with us. The concept of disruption came into their innocent little heads. It shouldn't be in her mental vocabulary any more than it should be for any biological child.

I had to explain to our "worker" in intimate detail exactly why Craig is working in Korea, and that our marriage is strong. I had to go into detail about my own job, about jobs he has had, about how he obtained the job in Korea, about how he felt about leaving. Frankly, this didn't strike me as their business!! I have an acquaintance at church, a single woman, who has five foster children! Did she have to go into detail about why she never married? It felt so intrusive. Plus, I was "cited" for not alerting the agency "withing five working days" of our "change in household make-up". I simply got a "warning" when we adopted Ilya - and failed to tell this woman I see once a year about it.

Of course I do understand their "rules". So many foster parents are not quite what they are hoping for (as I noticed during the training). They don't want someone's drug-dealing uncle, newly release from jail, popping in to a home. I get it; I just don't like it. Particularly, I am exasperated by the fact that each element of DHS seems to be its own entity. Our caseworkers in two parts of the state discussed with us Craig's and Lydia's plans to move out. So, pardon me if I forgot to also tell the licensing office! I'm just not a good foster parent in this way. I can include Maxim in our home, and treat him as my own. I am not good as treating him as "state property". I cannot regard foster parenting as a "job". So I tend to forget those aspects of it.

Well....I lived through it for another year. Only - I have to go get fingerprinted! This is nearly a laugh-out-loud, side-holding bit of information. I have surely been fingerprinted more than any living non-criminal person! Here's a run-down:

  • fingerprinted by county police deputy to host Sergei
  • fingerprinted by INS to adopt Sergei
  • fingerprinted by Lansing police to adopt Sergei
  • fingerprinted by Lansing police second time to adopt Sergei (adding my "alias", i.e. my first name which I've never used for anything, ever)
  • fingerprinted by East Lansing police for Diocese of Lansing
  • fingerprinted by State Police for Diocese of Lansing (requirements changed)
  • fingerprinted by my colleage and fingerprints sent somewhere for Diocese of Lansing (requirement changed again)
  • fingerprinted by INS to adopt Anastasia
  • fingerprinted by Lansing police to adopt Anastasia
  • fingerprinted by private entity for Diocese of Lansing
  • fingerprinted by Ingham Int. School System
  • fingerprinted by Lansing police to adopt Ilya
  • fingerprinted by INS to adopt Ilya

Enough already??? No!!! I have to return to the same place where I was last fingerprinted for the Diocese to be fingerprinted again for the DHS. And this place is on the farthest end of town, and only open during working hours. Good, eh?

All I can say is - get into fingerprinting! It looks like the next "big thing" if my experience is anything to go by!


Christine said...

Wow--- Annie, I don't think I will be fostering anytime soon.

kate said...

No. fun.

And,yes, the single friend probably did have to explain why she hasn't married AND to detail past "long-term" relationships and why they ended. That's no fun either.

At least you (and Nastya) are surrounded by sw with some sense and a sense of humor.

She is gorgeous! But, I do see the "Russian minx" in her eyes.

Tami said...

AUGH! How frustrating. I thought I had the record to getting my fingerprints done! :)

MamaPoRuski said...

We only last two years in this system! We consider international adoption, even in Ukraine far easier than being a foster parent...sad but true! God Bless you for your continued faithfulness!

Rachael said...

Poor you.

And, Anastasia is quite a coy little handful! (Though very cute indeed, as the photo shows.) Did you almost drop your jaw and die when she made her announcement?

Elizabeth said...

Yikes! I'm surprised about the rule about beds, although maybe it is to protect against sexual abuse. My parents had to promise not to do any spanking (even though they had spanked us).

I remember when we had our home study and the social worker came for dinner and we tried so hard not to giggle while Dad was saying grace. However, the social worker remarked that she had seen "a lot of smiles." I guess she had her eyes open!

My parents had to revoke Nastia's dance lesson privileges (and Masha's horseback riding) when they misbehaved. Nastia did threaten to take them to court because she had heard them promise before the judge to give her dance lessons in America.

Annie said...

Rachael - good question. I don't KNOW what I was thinking. I saw the look on her face, and would have believed anything could come out. The woman's presence got her anxiety flowing, I think. Funny how she showed it! Perhaps because I was dwelling on all this in my recent posts - I suppose I was ready for anything!

And sad to say....No. I wouldn't recommend fostering. Not in Michigan, anyway. It is a solemn thing to realize that your life can be changed at the whim of a stranger. I've not written my final "Awful Autumn" chapter, but that was when I realized that by fostering, in some ways we are putting our relationship with all our children in a less safe place than before.

Tina in CT said...


Elizabeth said...

By the way, I liked what you said about love. It's true, you can give, and give, and there's no guarantee that it will be returned, at least not in the way you expect. People may argue about when to keep working on a relationship and when to move on. But to love is the greatest commandment, and we will have our reward in heaven.

Svetlana said...

Hi, Annie
I did foster for 3 yr. Fist year was good i had my friends kids with special need, but then we got other kids, and that is were our problems begun. Foster care neeed to look thru their stuff it just radiculasss, how their sistem works.
We are glad wwe not doing it.
We praying for you and your kids.

Tina in CT said...

She is drop dead gorgeous! She could model her way through college.

The Combes Family said...

I love Anastasia and could totally hear her voice as you described the events!

Interesting perspective on foster parenting. It truly seems a shame that great homes and people like you and Craig are put through "the ringer." It sure is a deterrent for other families considering this, especially when there are so many children who need families.

Blessings to you. Julia wants to come to Michigan soon! I'll let you know! She misses Nastya!

Tina in CT said...

Did the box arrive yet?

Annie said...

Tina - No! I'll hope today. I could use a "cheering up".

Tina in CT said...

I sent it USPO ground last Sat. and they said 6 business days. If it comes today before you get home, hope the kids don't open it first.

It's TGIF!

The Combes Family said...

On a side note, this photo brings back so many great memories of East Lansing. See, our family would go to that McDonald's every Saturday morning to chill out and catch up. Sounds weird?? Yeah, probably, but we had such a blast. It is a two story McDonalds right on the main strip of town. On MSU football Saturday's we would watch the "kids" walking to the game. Most carrying way to much alcohol to tailgate.

Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

Ginny said...

We would fail that inspection in less than five minutes I suspect!!!

Elena's Mom said...

The foster care system is less than stellar. It's a real shame.
Anastasia is beautiful!
I am anxious to know how everything turned out.

Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

Major pain in the rear for sure. I cant believe what Anastacia said- I mean, I can believe it, just, wow, what a turkey. Very generous of you to chalk it up to her nerves! Those inspections are dumb. We wound up having to install 3 smoke detectors within like 25 feet of each other cuz of the 'regs'. Pointless!

Jojo, Julz, Jules said...

My girls are in the MUSICAL beds stage right now!
Sofa, then my bed, back to their own bed, then my bed...
And even my girls love a hottt tubbie.
I'd never make it if I tried foster care. We live a bit like gypsies, and love it.

FaerieMama said...

Yikes! A and I co-sleep though she does have her own room. She uses it as a dump/ catch-all space! I can't lie to the SW. If they don't let me foster bc I share a bed with my daughter, then something is wrong with the system. Hope they ok us!

Annie said...

FaerieMama - The other thing I could have done is get a physician's letter that having Anastasia in my room was in her best interest.... Our licensing person is actually a very nice woman, and I think she is glad if I just don't "mention" some things. If your daughter HAS her own room, she probably won't insist on knowing where she actually lays her head down at night. But I do resent the artificiality of these "hoops" - that aren't always in the children's best interest.

Having thought about it, I have come to the conclusion that Anastasia wasn't wanting another family so much as she was "testing" the waters. Was this woman likely to remove her from her home? She was torn kicking and screaming from her original home (which really WAS dreadful) but that has to have made her wary of social workers in general and the upheaval they can cause. Hopefully she now feels safer???

Wife to the Rockstar said...

What a pain. I see why you would not look forward to this.

I too have been fingerprinted A LOT!