It's taken me this long to be able to write about it. The events leading up to it were heart-breaking, stressful, painful, traumatic, even ridiculous--and yet amazing.
|Our home away from home.|
The case went on and on, far longer than it should have. We had a judge who was unwilling to make a decision. At the beginning of the case, he called all the lawyers involved to the bench and told them, "Okay, we all know how this is going to end, do you want to just settle?" And yet the case went on for many, many more months.
The other party who wanted to adopt Ella, couldn't. According to the Utah Adoption Act, you have to be a United States citizen in order to adopt a child in Utah. They were illegal immigrants from Mexico. That should have made the case a done deal, but it didn't.
We had multiple concerns beyond that. Among them were:
- Ella had been in kinship foster care with us over 18 months. To pull her from a stable, secure, loving environment, would have been her undoing.
- The other party could barely speak English. How were they going to communicate effectively with Ella's teachers and therapists?
- They did not believe in mental health. Ella has special needs due to neglect and a diagnosis of PTSD.
- The defendants had low-paying jobs, and used false documentation to get those jobs.
- And most concerning to us, they had kept incidences that had put Ella in harm's way in order to keep their illegal status under the radar.
Can you imagine the chaos?
And if it wasn't bad enough for us, our little Ella was feeling out of control with a visitation schedule between us and the other party that was obviously traumatic for her. We sent documentation in the form of writing and videos, and a letter from her therapist, only to have nothing change. We brought up her disturbing behaviors at every Child and Family Team Meeting, arranged for her therapist to attend, begged and pleaded for help for Ella, but nothing changed. Ella had a Guardian Ad Litem to represent her, but she did nothing to protect her. We were frustrated when we heard over and over that if Ella had a different GAL, this wouldn't be happening.
Everything that could have gone wrong with this case, did.
We were forced to go through--and pay for--an extensive custody evaluation. Luckily we passed with flying colors. :) We also went through the stressful process of preparing for trial.
And obviously in the end--the very evening before the trial was to begin--a settlement was reached. The psychologist who did the evaluation, Dr. Jensen, recommended that we adopt Ella. He also told all the attorneys involved, "What the State of Utah has done to this child is beyond ridiculous." That was heart-breaking, but also very validating for us.
I ran into Ella's caseworker awhile back. It was so good to see her. She told me that when caseworkers talk about their worst cases ever, ours still takes the number one spot.
|Ella's caseworker, Christine.|
|Madi and Pappa.|
My brother, Steve, and his family cut their vacation short so they could be there. That meant the world to us.
|Our oldest and youngest.|
|Our attorney (and friend), Paul.|
|Ella's favorite meal after the hearing.|
And the best therapist--ever--not only during, but after. (The fallout and recovery were pretty brutal.) I miss Bonnie and still think of her often. She was a god-send for both me and Lynn.
It's very difficult to lose control of your life. To have someone else calling the shots and creating unnecessary chaos. To feel both helpless and hopeless at times. But in the end, we knew how things were going to turn out. I know that no matter how much power and control judges and attorneys think they have, Heavenly Father is still in charge. I wish I could say I had unwavering faith throughout the entire process, but I didn't always. I questioned and I got angry and I was scared--a lot. I had never prayed so hard in my life. And peace did come. And even though I had no idea how it was going to happen, I held on to the promise we had been made, that we would raise Ella. Now I can look back and more easily see Heavenly Father's hand in what transpired.
I remember riding home after a hearing that everyone felt confident was going to end the ordeal, only to have the judge--once again--be wishy-washy. We were devastated. I looked at Lynn and said, "Maybe we should just give up. I can't do this any longer." With a very worried look on his face, he replied, "We can't, we'd never forgive ourselves." Through the tears I whispered, "I know. I just needed to say it out loud, so I know I have a choice in all this." Even though I knew what Heavenly Father expected of me, I also knew I still had my free agency. Choosing to keep that covenant with him, gave me power and strength to go on.
I kept going because I knew with all the trauma Ella had experienced already, life would be a challenge for her. But I also knew--because of my own experiences--that the healing process is difficult, but so worth it. I kept going because I wanted her to be raised in the gospel, so she could feel the peace it brings. I knew she would need the guidance of the Holy Ghost throughout her life. And I knew I could help her recognize how that feels. And I wanted her to be sealed to our family forever--and belong.
I'm not gonna lie, we sacrificed a lot. We had been empty nesters for years and really enjoyed our freedom before Ella came to live with us. I had a successful career I loved and often miss. But Heavenly Father has a different plan for me--for us. And I have no greater joy is this world than to know I am on the right path and doing what he wants and needs me to do.
We still don't understand why we had to go through what we did. In time I hope we will. Every day we deal with the backlash of others' poor choices. But we're doing our best. And we couldn't love our little girl more.
We celebrated adoption day on Saturday by going to see the movie Brave, and eating at Ella's favorite restaurant, Chili's. The movie was wonderful and we all loved it. I kept thinking how appropriate not only the title was for the occasion, but how much Merida and Ella look alike. :) She truly is our little princess. (And as feisty as Merida too! :))
Happy Adoption Day, little one. You are so loved.