One of my favorite family pics of almost all of us a few years ago!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Part 5 - Lee Family: Our Birth - Foster - Adoptive Journey to 20 Children

(This is Part 5 of our story.  It is the beginning of our move into the adoption world.  It is also a story of commitment and endurance.)

The Middle of the Beginning –Adopting Heather

In 1999, at almost exactly the same time that Heather was placed in her first adoptive home, weird things were happening at the Lee home. We were still a respite home for Gail – although she spent almost as much time at our house as she did at the Group Home.  We had wanted to adopt Gail, but she didn’t want to separate from her twin sister and her twin wasn’t interested in adoption. 

Anyway, we didn’t have any specific plans for more children and we had not completed any paperwork or a home study that would allow us to adopt a child. 

Nonetheless, right before Christmas in 1998, Alan came up to me in what I now know is his “God is telling me something really important and I need you to listen” voice and said something totally irrational and crazy – considering he had had a vasectomy after our third child!  He announced in a rather rushed and hurried tone, “Anna.  I can’t shake this feeling that we are supposed to be preparing for another child!”  I knew I wasn’t pregnant, but he couldn’t offer me any more information about how we were supposed to go about getting another child!  And believe me – I asked lots of questions.  

It wasn’t normal for my husband to suddenly blurt out that God was talking to him directly about anything – let alone another child! God doesn’t speak so directly and clearly to me or my husband very often.  And my husband is a man of few words, but the sense of urgency in his voice made me take him seriously. 

So, without any idea of what I was preparing for - I started nesting like I was nine-months pregnant!  I cleaned closets, rearranged rooms, made phone calls inquiring about the adoption process (I couldn’t imagine any other way to get a child), and who knows what else over the next few weeks.

Three weeks later, while I was sitting in my law office working, I got what I thought was a sales call.  I almost hung up, but two words caught my attention – adoption agency!  The call was from a California adoption agency who said that they had heard about us from a person in Texas, who heard about us from someone in who knows where, who said that we might be willing to adopt a school-age girl.  Needless to say, I didn’t hang up.

The private California adoption agency was searching for an adoptive home for a six-year-old first grader whose adoption was disrupting and needed to be placed immediately.  We were given sketchy information about her history – including her psychological issues.  After taking some notes and getting callback numbers, I called my husband.

I had barely gotten the words out of my mouth when he said, “This is it! This is what God was trying to tell me!  Yes.  We will take her.” 

She was still in her adoptive home in Missouri and we had to travel there to meet her.  Fortunately, my husband had always wanted to visit New York City and I had saved up money and surprised him with a trip for our 10th Anniversary in June.  So we turned in our round trip tickets to New York City. Even though Alan was giving up a dream trip – including our seats to the David Letterman show - he didn’t think twice about the choice.  The next day we were on our way to a small town in Missouri to meet our new daughter. 

On January 16, 1999, we spent the day with Heather and her adoptive family – getting to know her.  She was adorable and precocious and we fell in love – knowing that we were about to enter into something big.  Really big. But even we didn’t realize how big “Really Big” was going to be.

As it turns out, we were Heather’s 7th placement.  She had been passed around between multiple family members, but for a variety of reasons, no one kept her for very long.   Her biological Aunt had her the longest – for 2 ½ years – and she ultimately placed her for adoption with a private agency.  Heather was matched with a youngish couple from Missouri who visited her a few times before she was placed in their home for adoption.  The adoption disrupted due to her psychological issues – including the diagnosis of Attachment Disorder - and that’s when we got the call from the California adoption agency.

Two weeks later, in what can only be described as a God-assisted adoption – Heather was placed in our home for adoption by an Ohio magistrate.  We went from having no home study and no idea that we were about to adopt - to having a new child in our home – all in two weeks. 

And did I mention that this adoption involved 4 states – all of which had to coordinate their paperwork?  That can’t happen without God.

Or that the magistrate in Ohio was going to transfer the case to Missouri rather than deal with another failed adoption.  But because I was an attorney and understood the legal issues – as well as being familiar with the foster/adoptive process – she talked to me by phone for almost 2 hours and agreed to retain jurisdiction so that we could adopt Heather?

Or that our doctors did our medical exam and filled out the paperwork the same day we called?

Or that we found a private social worker that came to our house within two days, contacted all our references and stayed up until 3 a.m. writing our report?

Or that our fingerprint report came back almost immediately?

Or that my husband’s Child Abuse & Neglect (CAN) report came back with a problem?  Turns out there is another man with his exact name in a nearby county with an abuse problem.  The miracle is that the social worker was able to definitively establish that it wasn’t my husband – all within the same few days?

So, as you will hear me say frequently… We never really questioned whether Heather was our child.  God had made that pretty clear to us before we even knew she existed.  Whenever things got really challenging with Heather, we always went back to the fact that God had given her to us and we couldn’t really reject His gift.

Part 6 continues with some of the details of Heather's short life and her impact on our family.  Because she is now in Heaven, I feel I can share her story in full -- unlike some of my other kids whose privacy I  want to protect.  

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