Monday, July 2, 2012

remembering: adoption day

 Three years ago today, we adopted our sweet little Ella.

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.
We had the full support of DCFS (Department of Child and Family Services) to move forward with the adoption. The AAG (Assistant Attorney General), who is the attorney for the State and was to represent DCFS, had his own agenda. He threatened us that if we showed any animosity towards the other party, our case would become more difficult than it already was. He had assumed we would have animosity towards the other party. But the AAG felt the need to protect them and we believe was upset with us for hiring our own Child Welfare Attorney when things went crazy. Others involved in the case could give no plausible explanation for his behaviors.

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.
I look at these photos and realize how exhausted and spent both Lynn and I look. There are times I can't believe we made it through the ordeal. And we couldn't have without the love and support of our friends and family.

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.


  1. tears are flowing. thanks so much for sharing your sweet story.

  2. I remember that day.

    Unfortunately, I remember all the stress and bad stuff before and during all that too. It was so hard to watch you all have to go through it. And there really wasn't anything anyone could do. Except...pray. Which we did a lot of.

    But look at you guys now!!! Woo Hoo! Congrats on adoption day!

  3. Thanks, D. We couldn't have done it without you! Big hugs.

  4. Dear Kim, Lynn and Ella: I, too, remember what you have gone through, although can never imagine the reality of it all for all of you. Prayers are answered and reading this, I, too have tears flowing. I love Adoption Day! If I weren't 68, I'd consider it. Want a brother, Deanna?

  5. You make me laugh. I thought you were going to adopt Josh Groban! :)We're still waiting...

  6. Wow, I stumbled upon this blog through Pinterest. We celebrated our 13th Family Day in April. We, too, had a contested domestic adoption. What a heart-wrenching, yet heart-overflowing, journey! God bless your family, and it is wonderful to share your story. It does help you, and it will help Ella to know how you fought for her.

  7. Wow, I stumbled upon this blog through Pinterest. We celebrated our 13th Family Day in April. We, too, had a contested domestic adoption. What a heart-wrenching, yet heart-overflowing, journey! God bless your family, and it is wonderful to share your story. It does help you, and it will help Ella to know how you fought for her.

  8. What an inspiring story. I am fighting back tears as I read this.I can only imagine the way you all must have felt experiencing it first hand. Ella is a very lucky and beautiful little girl. Many blessings to you and your family

  9. So amazing! Glad you shared.

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  12. You made me cry. The biggest imprint we leave on this earth is the way we love our children. God bless...

  13. Thank you all for your kind words. Big hugs!

  14. I loved reading every bit of this... you are changing lives :)

  15. Thank you for posting your story! Ella is so blessed to have you and have you fight for her safety and right to be in a loving and supportive family. I am sure God is using you and what you have been through to bless others. I have 5 children with a PTSD diagnosis. I hope hope hope courts, schools, and those interacting with children with this can begin to learn how to effectively help these children heal and live healthy even with this often times frustrating challenge! My children are now almost grown and with lots of therapy, love, and a lot of educating others on mine and my husband's part... they are healthy, adjusted and loving human beings! I look back at all the custody issues everything we went through and all these years later can remember the exhaustion and worry we felt. Keep writing... keep sharing... I know it helps others! Blessings, Kimber

  16. Kimber, I shared your comment with my husband on a recent road trip. We ended up talking about it quite a bit. You have given us much hope! I cannot imagine FIVE with PTSD. You and your husband must be amazing! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.

  17. I came upon this through Pinterest. It sounds like you had a long journey.Your one paragraph said "We still don't understand why we had to go through what we did. In time I hope we will."
    I believe part of the reason is because you are now telling the world! There are people that look up at you with admiration and are so inspired by your story, that you may be helping them to understand that God lets us choose to take the easy road and sometimes the rough road, but as long as you ask for His help, the end result can be worth every obstacle that got in your way.
    God Bless You all.

  18. Today as I sit here at my computer, I am sure God sent me to this post. You see I have been in prayer about our two little ones that are in the circle of reunification or adoption. My husband at yet another provider meeting to discuss what is best for the kids. It is like a tug-a-war. It is heart breaking and hard to see the end when you are in the middle. Thank you for reminding me there is always hope and God is in control. Blessings - Christi

    1. Christi,
      Bless your heart. I understand the difficult situation you are in and my heart goes out to you. You are so right, it IS hard to see the end when you are in the middle--more difficult than I could have imagined. And I understand how much you love those little ones and want the best for them.

      I also shared your e-mail with my husband, Lynn. Know you and your husband and little ones are in our thoughts and prayers. Over and over I would be ready to give up hope and something would happen, that would once again prove that Heavenly Father's hand was indeed in the details of our lives and our situation. Don't give up hope. Please keep us posted on how things are going for you.

      Big hugs,

  19. Found this via your cornstarch paint recipe.... loved your writing. Brought tears to my eyes. You fought the good fight... for the right reasons- a child- God's most innocent creation. Thank you and I will be following your site. :)