To Look After Orphans

Several years ago I began hearing this over and over again – “I can’t believe you don’t know Michelle Kelley!” I heard it so many times, I finally said, “Would someone please introduce me to this Michelle Kelley person?” So, we met via Facebook, and we’ve been soul sisters ever since. At the time we both lived in Oklahoma City. (I’m in Tulsa, now.) We were both foster/adoptive moms. (She adopted two biological siblings, I have three.) We were both unmarried when we adopted. (She is still. I am again.) We’re both determined, professional women who are well-respected in the business community. We’re both outspoken when necessary. However, when it comes to politics and religion (the biggies!) we’re opposites sides of the same foster/adoptive parent coin. While I am a Buddhist-leaning Unitarian, Michelle is a Christian (as is most of the population of our home state of Oklahoma, by the way). And, while I’m a Democrat, Michelle is a Republican. In spite of this, we agree on an amazing array of ideas and goals, and when we disagree we do so respectfully. This arrangement makes as un excellent tag team on legislative issues regarding foster/adoption, and we’ve actually visited our state Capitol together for this reason.

This morning I awoke to a powerful Facebook post from Michelle that I’ve reposted here. If it resonates with you, and if you think Michelle is as fabulous as I believe her to be, please let her know in the comments below. It takes a village to do what she and I (and lots of other parents from lots of other political/religious/ethnic/sexual orientations do.) We need your support.

To those who call themselves Christian in my FB feed: I rarely get very preachy in my FB posts, but I can’t seem to help this. Tons of you have been sending me the short film “Removed,” because you are touched by the contents of the foster child’s perspective. The film, although an accurate reflection, does not hold a candle to holding your child while she describes being tied to a toilet or punched in the stomach. What I am most concerned about though, is not the film, but the lack of understanding by my sisters and brothers in Christ, of our responsibility, our calling to those who cannot help themselves.

In the last four years, our family has been met with disdain, my kids told to their face that they were not going to have a good life because they weren’t going to have a Dad. I was told that I was doing my children a disservice, because I couldn’t provide a father, nor could I be a stay-at-home mom. I’ve been called a narcissist, because I refused to allow unhealthy emotional behaviors shatter the peace that we have created in our family. All in the name of Christ.

Thankfully, Jesus reveals himself to me and my kids. We are incredibly grateful for the scores and scores of Christians and non-Christians who support us. Every foster child needs scores and scores of people to play different roles to help them be who God intended them to be – not just foster parents, but therapists, counselors, teachers, daycare workers, doctors, lobbyists, social workers, legislators VOTERS, etc. There is NO excuse not to be involved in some way. If you’re waiting to be called, then check your bible. James 1:27 reads “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” I’m not a theologian, but it seems pretty straightforward to me.

My point is, as a whole, we are getting it wrong. If you are confused on what should outrage you and get your back up about your spiritual beliefs, this “A Handy Guide to Christian Outrage” article is a good start.

Sermon over.

To Look After Orphans

Creative Parenting

Tomorrow I will present to a room full of strangers about my “creative parenting.” I was nominated to present at a PechaKucha event by someone who I had respected from afar, but never realized knew who I was. I’m always excited to talk to anyone about our family’s foster/adoptive journey, and I was especially honored to speak at this event.

Tonight, though, I have a nagging feeling in my gut that I really shouldn’t do it. I feel like a fraud and a huckster talking about parenting. I created images of my smiling kids, and planned on talking about our trials and tribulations in a way that might lead someone in the crowd to consider doing the same. But tonight I have to admit that I really don’t have any hope left for my oldest daughter. After 5+ years, I’ve shifted into thinking how I can protect the rest of my family from her, rather than thinking about how to help her.

I behave like a warden in my own home. I discovered a cell phone this morning during a random pocket check (this happens 2-3 times per week). I bought a charger on the way to work, charged it up, and realized that she had asked her friends to pitch in money so she could buy it from a kid who rides her bus. They pitched in but didn’t have enough money, so she gave the kid her birthday check from my mother as collateral. Then, he said he lost the check, so she offered to steal her 8-year-old brother’s check to give him. I’ve created a Frankenstein who thinks she’s street smart, but is actually terrifically gullible.  A girl who fancies herself ghetto, but who has actually become quite comfortable living a middle class lifestyle.

I had to call my sweet mother today and tell her that the birthday check – the one that came in the sparkly card that she took ten minutes to pick out, telling my daughter how much she was adored and loved – had to be cancelled, along with her entire checking account, because of what my daughter had done. In the 5 years I’ve been a mother, I’ve never been so embarrassed and ashamed.

Today I fully realized that this may be as good as it gets for my daughter, and that the next few years may be about protecting my other kids and husband from her. The phone was the tip of the iceberg. In the last few weeks, she’s stolen my phone, she’s stolen the money she used to buy her phone. Tonight she stole her brother’s house key (because she’s not allowed to have one). She’s created a second facebook profile that she used to bully another girl at school and to engage in remarkably pornographic and abusive discussions. She lies to her therapist. She lies to me. She chooses not to heal.

Two weeks ago, she tried living on the streets and lasted 2 hours. I thought that might be the wake up call she needed, but by the next week, she was up to her same tricks.

My daughter is living in our garage, because I don’t trust her to live in the house. That’s my creative parenting for today. My daughter is living in my garage.

Creative Parenting