Posts for adoption day

What I Learned Adopting an Older Child From Foster Care

Forever Family - Allison Kenny - October 11, 2017


What I learned is that the hard stuff

Was so much harder than I thought hard stuff could be

What I learned is that I made it worse

Because I really couldn’t see

That it would it get better

I was so very afraid

A lot of the time

But I did remember to enjoy

The good stuff

I learned that when peace and ease visit

It’s crucial

That I enjoy them

I learned that attachment takes

So much longer than I wanted it to

Two and a half years in our case

I learned that she had no reason

To trust us

And it was unfair of me to expect her to

I learned that the things she’d remember

Are mostly good

Like feeding the ducks

Outside the courthouse

On Adoption Day

And being lifted up by her new Mamas to

Put the star on the Christmas tree

I learned that under all her defenses and

Survival skills

She is so sensitive

So sweet


And generous beyond belief

She is funny

And courageous

It took so much time for her to come into herself

I had to be patient

I had to take good care of myself

I had to learn to just wait

Or I’d miss the good stuff


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Adoption Boobs…

Forever Family, Go Girl!, Love Wins - Allison Kenny - October 29, 2015

…How Adoption Day turned into Mardi Gras at the Maxi Pad

CHP_2694-LWe were told in foster parent training that the kids we are placed with may have been sexually abused. So, it’s important to have privacy when anyone in the family is changing clothes or using the bathroom. This protects everybody and strong boundaries should be in place until your child is legally adopted.

“What if we’re at a street fair and I have to use a port-a-potty? I won’t leave my child outside,” I protested.

“Bring them inside and have them turn around,” I was told.

And we did. All year, a closed door has meant “knock please.” Morning routines have included “please wait” as we cover ourselves out of the shower and have Squirrel turn around when we pee. Cumbersome. Weird. Especially as someone who believes in raising a body positive girl. But I also believe in safety no matter what. And until trust was fully built, I did not want to risk triggering our new daughter or breaking the rules of being a foster parent.

I knew we’d reached a higher level of trust when Squirrel began begging to see us naked.

“Please, Mama! Just let me see your boobs!” she’d whine in the mornings. We didn’t get to breastfeed her or hold her on our chests in the moments after delivery. I took her boob obsession as a great sign. We explained the limitation and how once we were all officially a legal family, it would be fine to change clothes in front of one another if we all wanted to.

After a fairly intense 2 weeks leading up to Adoption Day, I knew we could all use some lightness. A good laugh.

CHP_2767-LSo when Squirrel stumbled into our bedroom groggy-eyed on the morning of October 16th, I pulled off my tank top and stood there topless in front of her.

“Happy Adoption Day, Boo-Boo!” I cheered, striking a triumphant pose. She screamed with joy. Danced in circle. And fell to the floor.

“Mommy, look at your CUTE BOOBS!” She was thrilled. She ran to find Mama Lynn.

“Now YOU!” she demanded. Lynn complied with a little grumbling. Squirrel was delighted to be in a room getting dressed with her Mommies. What a perfectly normal thing for a family to do. But for us, it was our first time and it was special. It turned our Adoption Day into Mardi Gras…a tradition I’m sure we’ll keep up each year.

Once dressed herself in the special dress we’d been saving, Squirrel spun in a circle on our bedroom floor.

“Look at my Adoption dress, Mommies!” Then she pulled the dress up over her head. “And look at my little Adoption BOOBS!”

I have maybe never laughed so hard.

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Happy Adoption Day…Part 2

Forever Family, Love Wins - Allison Kenny - October 26, 2015

Click here to check out part 1 of this post!

CHP_2518-LFriday, October 16th

We woke up early and snuggled up with Squirrel in her bed. “Happy Gotcha Day!” we cheered, covered her face with kisses while she squealed. She opened the card with the kitty holding a heart (her two favorite things right now) and really took in the words we wrote—how we’ll love her forever, how she can’t get rid of us now, how we’re so happy to have her in our family. She opened the heart necklace on a gold chain and put it on immediately.

We moved into the living room where I’d set up three tiny candles. They were inside robin eggs, forming a nest. When my dear friend gave them to us on the day Squirrel came a year ago, I knew I’d wait and light them on Adoption Day. We each took an egg candle and lit them one at time before adding them back into the nest. This simple, quiet ritual was my favorite part of the whole day.

We put on the special outfits that we’d modeled for each other in a fashion show the week before. Fuchsia and gold, blues and purples. We ate egg pie with broccoli, curled our hair. None of us had ever gotten ready for an Adoption Day before. It was a weird and mystical holiday that we’ll celebrate every year from now on. We were “nervouscited” as my daughter would say.

We parked by beautiful Lake Merritt. We walked up to the Alameda Superior Courthouse and were intercepted by an expressive arts therapist with a purple ribbon wand. Our superhero friend, Phil performed an interpretative dance right there on the street in downtown Oakland. We all cheered and felt the love. We went through security. We took the elevator to the 7th floor where we met up with our social worker and began the 45 minutes of waiting our turn. There were three other adoptions that morning and it was first come, first served.CHP_2567-L

As we sat in the heat of the echoey building, I noticed our daughter started to leave her body. Her eyes glazed over. She winced every time her photo got taken by the photographer we’d hired. The amazing community we had with us—a Go Girl teaching artist, two grandmas, and dear friends with their adopted toddler—rallied and gave Squirrel snacks, toys to play with, hugs, presents and chances to run around and burn off steam.

When our turn came, I gave Squirrel a chance to ride piggyback into the huge courtroom. I could see she was terrified. “Mama, this is hard,” she whispered in my ear. We raised our right hands and promised to tell the truth. Then, our judge came to get us—a sweet, older man in a long black robe. He led us all into his cozy office. He was an absolute dear. When Squirrel wanted a chance to sign all the paperwork, he let her. He waited patiently as she drew pictures of Christmas trees all around her name. He told jokes about how adopted kids are just like all other kids- they still have to clean their rooms. Then, he asked if Lynn and I promised to be her forever parents and take care of all her needs. We did. We do. We will. Always.

imageAnd that was it. Just like that. An official family was born. Our circle of love cheered.

We went to feed the ducks at the lake while Mama Lynn paid the final court fees and signed more paperwork downstairs. She walked up to a window under the “Adoption” sign. It was positioned directly next to a window under the “Restraining Orders” sign. Not everyone in court was there to celebrate.

We ate lunch on the dock and Squirrel came back into herself, flirting with the waiter and pretending to take all our orders by scribbling in a Hello Kitty notebook. We opened the beautiful gifts from my mom—a silver jewelry box with Baby Girl’s new official name and the adoption date.  And a silver frame engraved with our new family name. The Johnson-Kenny’s.

imageThe rest of the day was a blur of naps and wine and dancing and hugging as many friends stopped by to love on us. We read Squirrel cards and texts from cousins, Aunties, Grandparents. She smiled again and again as she repeatedly got welcomed into the family. She stayed up past her bedtime, ate too much sugar and ended the evening in tears…evidence that Adoption Day truly is a holiday.

We gave birth. The labor pains were worse than I could have imagined but I already forgot them. It’s a girl. A beautiful, strong, creative, hilarious, fierce little girl. And she is really, truly ours. For better or worse.


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Happy Adoption Day…Part 1

Forever Family - Allison Kenny - October 22, 2015

imageI’d dreamt about this day for  years. I didn’t know what to expect but I knew it would feel big. “Forever Family” kind of says it all. BAM! Tied for life. We’d been told by our social workers, friends who had adopted and family therapist that the lead up to the actual adoption could be a hard one.

“You might doubt your decision,” we were told.

“Your child will really start to act out,” we were warned.

“Mostly you won’t remember why you wanted to do this in the first place,” we heard again and again.

Wow. Good times. Can’t wait. And yet, here we are on the other side. Lynn brought our adoption certificate to our daughter’s school this morning and officially changed her name. We’re REALLY a family now. So how’d we get from there to here? Here’s a timeline…

Monday, Oct. 5th

Got an e-mail from our social worker that after fostering Squirrel for one year and 2 days, a court date had been set to finalize the adoption. It would be Oct. 16th. We had less than 2 weeks. Tears of relief, joy, excitement. No more weekly social worker visits. No more reports about us. No more writing for permission to travel, cut her hair or give her medicine when she’s sick. We were free! We invited all our family and friends who had adopted. We hugged a lot. We felt like badasses.

Monday, Oct. 12th

The Squirrel’s best friend asked me, “Are you really her mom?” I stayed calm and asked a few questions. I learned Squirrel had been telling kids on the playground about her birth family and making them promise not to tell. She started feeling different because she has two moms…and is being adopted…and misses where she’s from. Sigh. I hoped we’d have a little more time before the identity angst really started in.image

I HATE being questioned about whether my mothering is real. When you tried getting pregnant for eight years before taking two more to adopt, this question is very loaded…even if the one who asked it is a 6-year-old girl. I put my feelings aside and talked it through with the girls. Then I put my daughter to bed and cried my eyes out. Who knows if I’ll ever feel like a “real” mom.

Tuesday, Oct. 13th

We learned that despite their best efforts, two weeks notice was (of course!) not enough time for most of our family members to fly in from out of state to be at the adoption. I felt deeply sad and afraid. This would be a long road with this kid. Will we get the help we need? Will we ever really feel like a family? It feels like we’ve established a strong attachment, but will her loss and grief ultimately be too much? Fear started eating me alive. I cried most of the day until I picked her up from school. Then we went to family therapy. Help! Help! Help!

Wednesday, Oct. 14th

I met Squirrel at school before the end of the day to help her with “sharing day.” I’d arranged with her teacher to be there and help her present photos of her birth family to the class. She told them all about her past mother, siblings, cousins, grandma, and Aunties. Her energy was focused and confident—she needed her new friends at school to know all this about her. She fielded their questions with the answers we’d rehearsed in therapy. “I used to have a dad.” “I live in Oakland now because there were some problems.” “I don’t want to talk about that part.” She asked for my help only once.

I stayed silent as she spoke her truth even though it was painful to me. Wouldn’t it be amazing if she wanted to tell all her friends about her fabulous new moms and that she’d be getting adopted Friday? WOO-HOO!!!!

I also felt proud of her. And moved by how hard this week must be for her. I’ve never gone through what she has.

It was getting very, very real. I think we were all terrified.

Thursday, Oct. 15th

imageA dear friend of many years gave me some great perspective. “Of course you are panicking and crying uncontrollably and exhausted and feeling alone and slightly desperate. You are giving birth tomorrow…right? Any other mother pregnant with a 7-year-old would feel all those things. Give yourself a break. You’ll feel better once it’s done.” YES.

My mom and her partner arrived that afternoon after driving for two days to get to us. They brought a truckload of gifts. They hugged us and kissed us and made us feel loved. My mom gushed about how great we were doing and how far Squirrel has come over the year.

That night at bedtime, I asked Squirrel if anything was bothering her or worrying her about the adoption.

She asked what would happen in court.

She asked what it meant to officially be a family.

She asked why we picked her.

She asked what happened to all the kids in the group home where we got her from…”Are they still there waiting Mama?”

“Yes, Baby. Many kids are in foster care all over the country. They are hoping for an adoption day just like you are going to have in the morning. They want a forever family who can keep them safe and love them all their lives. I’m so, so happy we get to be your parents now. I love you more than mermaids love to swim.”

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