Troy was eight years old when he entered the foster care system. This year he turned eleven. This year he moved for the last time. This year he was adopted. This year he is finally home.
Upon his removal from his biological family three years ago Troy stayed at a Safe Home for a period of time. He doesn’t remember too much from those days. In fact, his first memories of foster care are from his stay in his first, and only, foster care placement. I met with him and his mom recently at his adoptive home where we chatted about his life.
Troy is a happy, wiggly eleven year old now, very interested in baseball, his stuffed animal collection and Tae Kwon Do. He talked about meeting his adoptive family last August. Troy says, “I didn’t know much about them. My worker, Monica, said she had found a new family and we were going to meet them.” At first he described sleeping over their house the very first time they met. With prompting, though, he agreed that it was unlikely. We asked his mom, Deb, and she remembered the process as “very quick”. His mom said, “We met at the Dinosaur Museum on a Friday for three hours. Troy was so well-behaved. He got along well with James and Alexis. He asked to sit between Tom and I while we watched a movie at the museum. Later that weekend our family went away on vacation so we did not see Troy til the following Monday when we visited for a second time. He came back two days later for an overnight; returned to the foster home that night to say goodbye and gather his belongings; and came home for good the next day. The following Monday he began his new school placement. Deb laughed when she described those initial days as “a whirlwind” and Troy as, “on adrenaline for the first three weeks.” Nancy Horowitz, clinical social worker for Family and Children’s Agency in Norwalk states, “It is not uncommon for children in foster care to be confused about the timing of events at the time of a new placement or even to not remember whole parts of their history. They often confuse the sequence of events, combine memories or simply forget what happened. The anxiety of the new placement can and often does impact their behavior. Some become very tired and sleep a lot. Others appear hyperactive. Some act too well behaved and foster or adoptive parents may feel that they are not seeing the ‘real’ child.” Troy says, “I thought it was awesome that I was getting my family. But it was scary. I knew a little about them but not much. I was scared about going to a new school too. I didn’t know any of the kids.” Troy’s face brightens when asked about his new siblings. “Alexis is so cool. Alexis plays with me. James likes to play video games.” It is also clear that Troy loves his new dog and his new baseball team where he sometimes gets to play first base. He is proud of his orange belt in Tae Kwon Do, and his tennis prowess, although he was quick to point out ruefully that he was the oldest kid at his tennis lessons.
Troy’s adoptive mom, Deb, always wanted to adopt a child. She and her husband, Tom, agreed even before they were married that someday they would adopt a child from foster care. Deb says, “This was always something I wanted to do. Many people in our families had adopted internationally but I always thought there were so many kids here who need families. After we were married and had our kids we continued to think about adoption. I remember Alexis, my youngest, had started school and I saw a Wednesday’s Child piece on TV. We were living in NY at the time. It prompted us to move forward. Tom and I attended classes at You Gotta Believe, an agency in NY. We were licensed but then Tom was transferred to CT and we moved. Once we settled in we investigated transferring our license to CT and found out we had to attend classes all over again. The way Tom and I looked at it, we had ten more weeks where we had date night again! Corny, but we loved attending the classes. In fact, we found the training in CT much more thorough than the original training we underwent in New York.” One phrase has been very helpful to her in parenting all of her kids which she learned in her NY classes. Deb recalls, “The phrase is ‘between action and reaction there is a pause’. I try to remember to use that pause when issues come up.”
Troy has clearly settled into his new home. He happily showed off his room with his collection of stuffed animals and his drawings and photos. His mom remembers the early days as a settling-in time. Initially homework presented a large challenge. “It could take as long as three hours to get it done,” she remembers. “But now, he gets it done right away – and much more independently.” Deb describes Troy as very young in some ways and “a little adult in some ways.” This is a mixture often seen in children who have been in foster care. She also sees enormous growth in him since he came to live with them in August. Troy’s adoption was finalized last month. He seems relieved and it shows in his behavior. Now he truly believes he is home for good. Troy says he loves his new family. He loves it when his dad takes the family to Five Guys restaurant where he says the fries are better than McDonalds. He says his mom drives him everywhere and helps him with his homework. He proudly states that he is getting A’s and B’s now. Science class is his favorite, he declares, because he likes to do experiments. He has some advice for other kids moving to adoptive homes. “Try not to be scared. Try to get used to the family before you say yes to being adopted. Hold off and tell everyone I want to get used to it first.” To families he says: “Use a soft voice when you meet kids. Meet up at a place you think the kid will like, like the Eli Whitney Museum.” Troy appears to glow when he talks about his adoption day. “I got adopted,” he sings with a grin from ear to ear, “at Town Hall. Just my mom and dad were with me. We changed my last name.” It was clearly an exciting day in young Troy’s life.
Deb plainly dotes on her newest son. She describes him as cuddly and says he always wants to hug her and sit next to her, which she loves. She says she tells people that adopting was a selfish act on her part “because I wanted to have another kid.” What does she say about their decision to adopt? ” Anybody knows how hard parenting is. It was years before we followed through on adopting. We needed to consider everyone in our family’s feelings.” But she remains sure that this was indeed the right decision for their family. In speaking of the licensing process, she says she thought, “Do it. If nothing else comes from this it will help us be better parents to our own biological children. And it turned out better than we even hoped!” Deb advises families considering foster care and adoption, “Be open. Don’t limit yourself. You can handle more than you realize.” This mom obviously is happy with her decision to parent this young man. “At the end of the day, he is a great kid and he is going to be okay,” she exclaims. No doubt she is right. With such a positive, supportive family behind him, Troy is already okay.