When I think back to the happiest days of my life (thus far) I think of the time my husband and I were foster parents to my oldest nephew, Jadien.
Jadien came to live with us when he was eight months old. A victim of a domestically violent situation Jadien took the worst of the violence. It was November of 2007 when everything unfolded. Jadien was just over four months old and he was "sick" or so my sister and I thought. We took him to the emergency room on Thanksgiving day before going to visit our family. It was a crazed morning, one I'll never forget. Jamie, my sister, had a very difficult time leaving the house that day as her abusive boyfriend was physically trying to keep her from leaving the apartment. He kept yelling at me through the door to bring Jadien back to the apartment as I had taken him down to the car to sit with my husband as Jamie finished packing the diaper bag. I refused which made him even more irate. I was not going to bring a sick child back to the apartment when it was obviously not safe. So, Jadien remained in the heated car with my husband while I began to deflect his anger.
Deflecting an abusive person's anger is something I learned growing up with my father. It always worked quite well in the situations I've found myself in, yet I'm not a medical professional, just someone who has lived though a lot of domestically violent situations so take it worth a grain of salt if you will. My sisters never learned this trait but someone tends to be abusive because they enjoy the power they have over the other individual. I use that need for power to deflect their anger away from other people towards myself. Basically I began very calmly (never yelling) attacking the person's shortfalls. With my sister's ex it was his lack of a high school diploma or GED when I was attending college and planning to go on to grad school. I moved on to asking him about how the job was going, which of course he never had. I would tell him everything that was wonderful in my life and ask him in return about his own shortcomings. Doing this allowed him to become very upset with me and gave my sister the opportunity to overcome her abuser and get out of the house. We ran! We called and met with the police. They began the search as he had tried to chase after us with my sister's car.
When we felt it was safe we drove to the emergency room for Jadien. We were there for what seemed like an eternity-due mostly to the drama of the morning which was causing a sense of urgency. We found out that the abuser had been arrested but within an hour released. He would be able to go back to the apartment soon. I went into survival mode. I rushed the ER staff, which in retrospect I wish I had not done, and got Jamie and Jadien out of the hospital as soon as possible so we could go back to her place for formula and other necessities. Jamie said she was fed up! She said she was leaving! Later that night, she returned.
THREE DAYS LATER
I was working for Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery as an intern when I received the news, Jadien was in the hospital and Jamie and the abuser were in questioning. I knew this would happen, prayed that it wouldn't, but it did. It was found at a routine checkup, two separate brain bleeds and two separate detached retinas. Jadien had Shaken Baby Syndrome. He was injured at least twice and he had been throwing up and "sick" due to massive head trauma. The doctors said that he would need emergency surgery to correct the damage and that there was a change he could come out of the surgery with brain damage and/or blindness.
My question: If Jamie and the abuser were not able to care for a perfectly healthy little boy, how would they care for one with brain damage and/or blindness?
My husband and I discussed possibly caring for Jadien over the next week and made the decision to become his foster parents. Although there is a policy in foster care in which the state attempts to place a child with family before an outside source it would take us four months and a lot of work to have Jadien placed in our home. By January we had our home visit and had purchased all the necessities for taking care of him at this age. Although we had thought the home visit went well it was advised I drop one of the last two college courses I needed before graduation as the interviewer thought parenthood and taking two courses would be too much for me to handle. I did this. It was also suggested that I seek therapy for the trauma of my own childhood. I did this. Still months of waiting went by. No Jadien. I made calls several times a week, wanting to know what was going on? What did we need to do in order to become his foster parents?
Granted I'm sure that there were some reservations that placing Jadien with us may not be in his best interests. Why? An attempt was made at one point to remove my sisters and I from our biological parents. It failed. My father met the social worker with a shot gun at the door. The worker never came back. I'm the oldest and my two younger sisters were obviously damaged by our upbringing. Jamie, the middle sibling, was in a relationship with an abusive drug addicted man who not only hurt her but nearly killed Jadien yet at this time and for a least a year following she stayed with this man. My youngest sister found her way into the drug world as well and found herself her own unemployed drunk boyfriend. It only makes sense that if everyone else in my immediate family is that screwed up I should be as well. Perhaps I am, yet it's not visible and what I am defective in I look for help to correct.
My husband and I, for being so young, had good jobs and were quite mature for our age. Lack of a proper childhood aged me quickly. I learned to take care of myself and my sisters. Now one of my sisters' children was in trouble and those survival instincts to protect everyone around me as much as possible were once again kicked into high gear. Not having Jadien placed with us was causing serious stress. I began losing massive amounts of weight, which I did not have to spare. It seemed hopeless.
Finally in late February of 2008 I received a letter inviting me to a foster care course in Nebraska City, NE. We were willing to do anything to have Jadien placed in our home thus I enrolled. I drove out to Nebraska City on a Saturday morning ready to learn all I could, not knowing this course and the instructors there would change everything for us and little Jadien.
After the class I spoke to the instructors about my family situation. As this foster care class was centered on placing foster children with a family member first and foremost I was an example of the system gone wrong. The instructors both warned me that if Jadien was not placed in our home within the next week he would never come to live with us. I had to work quickly now. A judge would not move Jadien if the process took very much longer for fear that he had already become too attached to the emergency family he was originally placed with. I received the names and numbers of those in charge of the foster care system in the state of Nebraska as well as the name and number of the regional director. It was time to talk to those who could make anything happen.
Within a few days I was receiving answers and offers to take Jadien for short visits. My husband and I had long been approved through the state yet everything was at a stand still and our case had been all but forgotten. The calls that were made to the big wigs finally jump started everything and put Jadien's case on the forefront. Less than a week after the class I saw Jadien for the first time since Thanksgiving Day 2007. A few hours into our visit we received surprising news, we could take him home that day. Oh what a splendid day that became!!
Here are some pictures of Jadien's life with us as his foster parents, some of the most joyous moments of my life to date. Jadien will always hold a special place in our hearts. We will always consider him as one of our children although he is now our nephew once again. Jason and I will one day make wonderful biological parents in loo of what the state initially believed. My childhood did not ruin my ability to become a great parent. With therapy the cycle was broken. The drugs, the abuse, the irresponsible parenting ends with me.
We love you Jadien!!
These pictures were taken in early summer 2008. Jadien was not quite one year old yet. It was his first trip to the zoo and boy did he love it!!
Jadien's favorite person in the entire world his his Uncle Jason. Every day that Jason came home from work Jadien would get to the door as fast as he could to greet him. As you can tell he had not yet learned to walk yet, that would not happen until after his first birthday. Jadien was thirteen months before he began taking steps.
Play time. When ever possible I tried to have Jadien at home and not at the daycare. I enjoyed caring for him and was able to give him more attention while at home. We played a lot but also did some age appropriate learning activities.
Jadien's first birthday was celebrated in our front yard on the fourth of July. We had a very large party and by the end of it he was so very tired.
I love this picture. Jadien was getting to be such a big boy at this point. His facial features here are more pronounced.
Where Jason was, Jadien wanted to be. What Jadien used, Jadien wanted. Jadien attempted to play with the computer, cell phone or in the car when Jason was near any of these. Often times we let him, as long as nothing would hurt him and he wouldn't be able to hurt, much. :-)
Play time in fall of 2008. It was during this time Jadien had learned to walk and gain enough balance in order to bend over and pick items up. This was such a happy moment as he had overcome so much. No blindness, no brain damage and now the ability to walk.
Christmas 2008 was Jadien's first Christmas with his family. At eighteen months he was in love with cars and there was no lack of them under the Christmas tree this year!
These pictures were the bittersweet end to Jadien's life as our foster son and ours as his foster parents. The following day he returned to live with his biological mom.
Although the abuse Jadien suffered and the difficulty we went through to have him placed in our home was not very pleasant, having him for a son even for a little while was worth it. Jadien was a blessing which truly enriched our lives. I adore and will always love Jadien. His life with us made my life full of laughter and joy. Someday I hope he realizes how much we treasured him as a foster son and treasure him now as a nephew.
**Less than a month later, Jadien returned to our home, along with his little brother Hunter, and his pregnant mom, my sister. She and the kids were homeless and would live with us for nearly a year, but that's for another blog.**