Thursday, May 27, 2010
Here, perhaps, is the strangest part of the entire foster-adoption process:
As we come near the end of what has thus-far been a 27 month road, I have been asked to place a price tag on the needs of my son.
Not the day-to-day stuff. When the name "Blandings" officially appears on Oliver's birth certificate, our family will assume all spiritual, physical, emotional, legal, and financial responsibilities for raising him. New clothes, a bike at Christmas time, that kind of thing ... that's all ours.
But the state acknowledges that a large number of the children adopted through their system present unique and challenging situations to the families that they join. Taking that into account, they offer a small support package to assist folks as they endeavor to give the best to these beautiful little people whose lives have been marked with loss and tragedy and hurt and transition.
In Oliver's case, the "extenuating needs," when written out on paper, read like a daunting list of diagnoses that leave my mouth dry. Dear Lord, part of me says, Is there really so much to tackle?
In my darkest moments, when the enemy whispers in my ear, I acknowledge that an uphill battle is ahead of us in pouring into Oliver. Then, of course, I hear that sinister voice remind me that these things, this laundry list of deficiencies and missed milestones? This is just the known. What stretches beyond that, he is happy to purr, is a vast void that could bring more acronyms and hard work to the table.
When that voice starts to take over, I pull up a message I received some time ago from a dear e-maginary friend who is also parenting an adopted, special-needs kiddo. In it, she invoked the Biblical phrase, "restoring what the locusts have eaten." Her staunch commitment to God's promise of provision and His faithfulness in healing His children takes me back to the good place. The place where I can take my eyes off of what the world sees and look again at the beauty and simplicity that is Oli. I can, in other words, see him as God intended--my son, nothing more.
Still, the question of money must be addressed. For me, this is a sticky wicket. How to put a price tag on meeting a little boy's needs? How to discern between what is our responsibility and what can fall to the state? How to ask someone to step in and provide for the child of your heart? Where does one even begin?
In Oli's case, we have decided to ask for funding for the "above and beyond" services that otherwise we could not provide. Even with our own private insurance and supplemental, DSHS coverage continuing, there are so, so many things we would like to access but cannot. A Christian Neurodevelopmentalist whose fees are decidedly out of pocket. A parent/child group for hard-of-hearing kids that costs a small fortune and is located too far from us to justify without help. A special, pricey, controlled diet that might just help heal Oli's tortured little gut. Specialized swim instruction for children with cognitive issues.
I struggle with the asking. I've never been one to take more than my share, to ask for special treatment, or to expect a handout. And truly, in my heart, I believe that even without those things, Oliver is in the care of the Great Physician, whose services have already been bought at a precious price. Not only that, but the loving Father has placed this special little boy in the arms of a forever family who has blundered and loved their way through meeting his needs and watering him with the kind of atmosphere that only a mommy, daddy, and adoring siblings can give.
So what, then, is money?
It is, I suppose, a necessary evil. For some, it is a barometer of something unseen. For others, it is a way to assuage fears. For more, it is protection against a painful future.
For me, it is an irony.
See ... our family would have gladly paid thousands upon thousands of dollars to make legal what was already written in out hearts. We look at the fees and whatnot of adoption and we shrug, thinking, "What a small thing-- this financial cost--when such a large thing is to be gained." We hear of people paying $20,000 to bring home a child and we rejoice that God has met a need. We pray for the adoption funds of friends and wait, expectantly, as God tugs on hearts and makes clear the way for yet another child to join his or her family.
But here we have someone actually wanting to pay us for the privilege of adopting Oliver. In many ways, I am speechless. Money? You are offering me money to give my son our last name? To finally stand with him on the stage at church and dedicate him to the Lord? To say, "his mother," to a doctor, and not have to qualify it with "foster"?
So what is a little boy like Oliver worth to the state? What price are they willing to pay to have him off their rolls? And how, exactly, does one decide?
The answer is, I don't know. All I can say is that to me, to his daddy, to his sisters and brothers, Oliver is truly priceless. His pseudo-Cantonese babble. His gorgeous hair. His long, hard hugs that hang on until you are gasping for air. His obvious protective oversight of Mani. His love for all things "Wiggles." There is no check large enough to equal the amount of love we have for Oli, nor the pain we have felt watching the state grind through the legal process that is finally setting him free.
Maybe I should just fill in the form with that, then--the simple truth? How much compensation is Oliver worth? Nothing and everything. After all, my son is priceless.