Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Long Road

I have been holding out on you…we’ve been having some major adoption drama the past few months.  I haven’t wanted to share because it’s literally been weighing me down and stressing me out.  However, patience is a virtue and I’m hear to share some happy news.

When Ben was placed with us, our social worker told us that he would (more than likely) qualify for subsidy.  The State of Missouri classifies African American children as “special needs” even when there is nothing wrong with them (don’t even get me started on this).  So, given the fact that Ben was black, coupled with the circumstances surrounding his birth, he should qualify for subsidy.  We did not learn of the subsidy until after placement.  A good friend of mine works for the State and told us about it.  Our worker never broached the topic with us until we asked her about it. 

The subsidy, among other things, will supplement our health insurance in the event that Ben needs counseling/therapy etc. down the road.  Unfortunately, children born with exposure to alcohol, even when Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is not present, can face a spectrum of issues…some being mild to others being downright scary.  There is no way to tell how Ben will be affected in the coming years and we found this a blessing because it basically means that we will pay for very little if he needs medical treatments.  So, we filled out our subsidy paperwork and waited.  We waited some more because the State is SLOW.  I think we waited for 8 weeks before finding out we were DENIED. 

The denial letter was extremely hard for me to stomach.  They were not denying Ben based on his medical history or the fact that he was truly “special needs” but they denied us based on how we were recruited for Ben’s adoption.  Now, without getting too lengthy, we were supposed to tell our social worker (before placement) that we would only accept Ben’s placement if we would get subsidy.  Given the fact that we didn’t even know about the subsidy until after placement this was something that was out of our control.  The State literally wanted us to say that we would not move forward with the adoption without subsidy.  Hello….he’s my SON.  I wasn’t about to say that and yet my heart was broken because the only person losing out was my child.  I have never felt like a greater failure as a parent.  Something I didn't do was negatively effecting my child.

 I spoke with our subsidy worker, several times, at length about his denial.  She expressed how badly she felt and explained that the criteria for subsidy had changed within the past six months.  Had we adopted earlier, this would not have been an issue.  We contacted our attorney and decided we would have a hearing to try and appeal the decision.  In doing this, it also meant that we had to put off our final adoption hearing because you cannot finalize an adoption if subsidy is still an issue. 

Heartbroken.  I so badly wanted the final hearing to happen.  And now, it would be months (or possibly even next year) before that would happen.  We had a subsidy hearing date set for early May when my attorney asked for a continuance.  She had trial the same day as our hearing.  Again, I felt so defeated.  I felt like everyone was looking at me thinking that I had a “normal” child and that I was being silly or greedy in pushing the subsidy issue.  I felt like our finalization would never happen.  I also felt like this was all for nothing.  In all honesty, the hearing was probably going to result in the same answer but I felt strongly that I had to advocate for my child.  If I wasn’t his advocate, who would be?  The thing about subsidy is that you get one shot.  We can’t come back in 5 years and say we need it.  This was it.

When I received the call from our subsidy worker saying the hearing had to be continued I literally broke down.  I felt like I couldn't stay on this merry-go-round of emotions any more.  I didn’t know if we were wasting our time, racking up attorneys fees for no reason, or if I was doing the right thing.  Truth be told, I didn’t feel like anyone was really in our corner.  People look at Ben and see a healthy, happy, well adjusted child.  I see it when I look at him and yet everything was telling me that people didn’t get why I was making such a big deal about it.

Truth be told, our social worker was of little to no support at this time.  She wrote her recruiting letter, received the denial and was going to leave it at that.  I think she was annoyed that we choose to pursue the subsidy. It didn’t make me feel good.  I felt judged and let down.  We love our social worker and she was awesome through the placement but I couldn’t help but feel like she was ready to close our file.  It definitely made me question what I was doing.  But, I chose to pick up the phone and contact our subsidy worker directly, which proved to be invaluable.  I’m not one to let someone else do my work, so I wasn’t comfortable with our social worker taking the lead on the subsidy because we were not on the same page.

  ANSWERED PRAYERS!  Because our subsidy worker took an interest in our case…because I reached out to her and built a rapport…she went above and beyond.  She did not tell me that she was doing this prior to presenting our case.  She took the initiative to advocate for our son and it has made a lasting impact on me.  She said that many deserving families were being denied and that they felt horrible about our situation.  Before this good news, I had a bitter taste in my mouth with the adoption process.  I felt like the system failed me and my child by changing the rules and not telling anyone. 

I owe our subsidy worker a huge thank you.  She made things happen when she didn’t have to.  Because of her Ben’s quality of life (should he need therapy etc.) will be changed.  I’m so thankful!  I literally feel like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.  For some strange reason, her interest in our case gave me validation that I wasn’t greedy or crazy and that my son, whom I would do anything for, was worth every minute of stress.

What I’ve learned through this process is that no one will advocate for your child the way you will.  I’ve learned that it’s okay to get the crazy looks and judgment when your heart is telling you you’re on the right track.  I’ve learned that the kindness of a stranger can change your life forever.  I’ve learned to listen to the little voice that told me “everything was going to be alright”.  The subsidy will make a world of difference should Ben need treatment down the road.  I’ve also learned that our social worker, while we love her, is not a miracle worker.  It’s okay to take charge of your own case.  I felt like I was disrespecting her work or the services she provided but I knew that she wasn’t advocating the way I wanted her to.  You might step on some toes but if you see results it’s all worth it.

My advice to all those waiting mammas…be informed about the entire process before you jump in.  We were at a disadvantage because we didn’t do things the way the state wanted.  It was not a malicious error on our social worker’s part…I think things are changing and the people that need to know first are often the last to know.

Praise God for the kindness of our subsidy worker.  Her kindness has left a lasting impact.