Jami and I got married in 2000, had a miscarriage in '01, and from that we found out that she has one ovary, and it is poly-systic, which means making babies is quite tough. We did EVERY form of fertility treatment over the next 3 years to no avail. The day we found out that the Invitro didn't work, we started our PS-MAP training through Children and Families of Iowa's "Foster to adopt" program. We told them straight out that we would only foster a baby who was high probability for adoption.
We did the 10 week training, and it was absolutely brutal. My head and heart were not in it. I fought Jami on adoption because my ego was too big to see the joy in it at that time.
While doing the training, I was also taking a counseling course at Drake University on my way to a MS in Secondary Admin. During this class I volunteered to be a test subject for a woman who needed hours of counseling toward her degree. She sensed right away that we needed our focus to be on my issues with adoption. Through this experience, God humbled my heart, and I embraced the adoption idea.
Once the training was finished, CFI was calling us continually with kids who did NOT fit our original profile. Race was never an issue, but as I mentioned, age was. They would call and inquire for us to take disabled teens, 6 year old twins, a family of 3 under 5…and it broke our hearts every time to say no.
Our training was complete in December, and by February we were fed up with waiting on CFI, so we started looking into adoption. It was heavy on our hearts to focus on a non-white adoption option. We investigated numerous agencies and came upon one we felt was a perfect fit. Gladney Adoption Agency in Dallas, TX seemed perfect for us. The price was based on income, the system was based on the choice of mostly teen mothers, and the mothers are given lifelong counseling after the adoption. It was a perfect fit. We flew down for a day long panel where we got to listen to the young women who lived on the campus talk about their experiences. We learned that we had a ton of hoops to jump through on this journey, but we were so filled up by the end of the day that we got our process started. We paid our $2500 down payment and started creating our "portfolio" for the mom's to look at in order to choose the family they believed would be a great match for the child they intended to bless someone with.
It was fun and scary and nerve wracking and a blessing all at once.
During this process, we had to do five different home studies where different childcare professionals would meet with us, check out our home, ask us parenting questions, etc. It was a pain. I also had to write letters and get references from people saying that the violent crimes that are on my record (stupid fights and such from my college days) were not a true reflection of my character. That was also stressful and humbling considering my past might keep my wife and me from being allowed to parent a child in need. It all worked out, though - PHEW!
About the third person to come do a home study ended up being a woman named Pam from CFI. When we were midway through the process, she realized that race was not an issue for us and that we actually wanted an African-American or biracial child. When she heard this, she told us her role with CFI and asked why it hadn't worked out. We told her our story, and she took our cell phone numbers with a promise to call if anything came across her desk that would be of interest to us. To give y’all the timeframe - that was mid-March, 2004.
On April 15, 2004, Pam called us to tell us that she was in the midst of a "removal" and was wondering if we were interested in being the foster parents. The baby was an African-American boy named Diamond, 7 days old, and a probable adoption because preliminary information indicated that the mother had lost 4 children in the Michigan DHS system prior to giving birth to Diamond here in Des Moines. The back story on this is that Loretta, my daughter's birth mother, had lost 4 children in Michigan because of decisions and behaviors (drugs, neglect, etc). Those 4 kids were adopted by family members. When Loretta got pregnant with Dru, she did not go to the doctors, did not take pre-natal drugs, and stayed off the radar so she could try to keep this child. When she was within a few days of her due date, she hopped a Greyhound bus to Des Moines and lived at the YWCA until she gave birth in the emergency room at the local hospital. The medical reports state that they did not do a drug test because there was no indication of drug usage. Unfortunately, Loretta’s usage did not stop with this pregnancy and Dru was drug affected.
Then, Pam was calling us from a Des Moines hospital, asking us if we wanted to be the family, so we prayed on it, and said yes. She said she'd let us know when it was time to come and pick up the baby. We rushed out and bought boys clothes, hooked in the car seat, and waited. We watched the finale of the first "Apprentice" until we got the call at 8:30pm telling us it “was time” and by the way, Diamond is a girl. They made a mistake. It didn’t take long to make the switch. We called a bunch of friends with girls, and in 20 minutes had a total of three garbage bags full of baby girl clothes on our doorstep.
When we got to the hospital, we found a beautiful, skinny, grey lil miracle. She hadn't been changed in awhile, but we took care of that. We were allowed to take her with us, and she wasn't even in the system yet. We went and got her formula, which she drank and drank and drank. Dru gained like 2lbs in a day or two. It was amazing to watch and awesome in everyway.
Gladney Adoption let us out of our contract and even refunded some of our money. We are forever indebted to them, and they also provided two of my god children to one of my best friends. There’s a lot of Gladney love in Iowa!!
Dru was still considered "foster" for three months. Birth mom was able to have supervised visits twice a week so they could try to teach her to be a good mom. On June 17th, 2004, Loretta tried to steal Dru (we named her Dru Diamond) from a supervised visit. The judge put a restraining order against her, so she hopped a bus back to Michigan and we started the adoption process. The following May, while my wife was 9 months pregnant (thanks to natural hormone therapy), we celebrated Dru's adoption into our family.
Since that time, we have raised the two children as best as we can. Dru has many residual effects from her life in the womb. She has ADHD, OCD, anxiety, and oppositional defiance. At first we waived our rights to title 19, but since we've found her to be so affected by these things that are not her fault, we researched the benefits. We found that pride (saying we didn't need help from anyone) was costing Dru important services; we have since gone back and re-upped our assistance. She now gets free care from a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, and is assisted with medicine. Her special education teachers are amazing, and we are blessed that her spirit and personality are not dimmed by the meds like sometimes happens. She loves to dance, draw, and read. She hates math and sports that involve balls flying at her head. She loves her mom, likes her dad, and fights incessantly with her little brother. Ok, she loves me, too, but I have to be the disciplinarian because momma's too soft-hearted sometimes. The little girl owns me, and I love being owned. She's the greatest thing in my life. I always tell her she's my favorite little girl in the whole wide world…and Isaac's my favorite little boy in the whole wide world.
Dru has always known she's adopted..she's brown, we are not. She knows Brown is Beautiful. We take her to cultural days in DM, we read books by brown authors, and we have her in hip hop. It's amazing what natural rhythm and things like that she possesses.
We talk about how her mom gave her to us because she couldn't give her the things she needed to survive, but that her mom loves her very much. She doesn't know the negative things. We don't have contact, and Michigan won't allow us to. We've tried to get put on a list that would allow us to adopt any future children. If you google Loretta Liddel, you can see that she's tried to sue Michigan for social security for her lost children, and she claims Dru was taken illegally. I met her once, when dropping baby Dru at a "psycho-social evaluation", and she was very nice. She liked us because we fattened Dru up and dressed her nicely.
To help encourage her heritage, we intend to get Dru into track and field clubs in DM and the "I-sisserettes" which is a stomp/hip hop dance crew of black girls in Des Moines. She is talented in both areas, and both groups are heavily African-American. We also get brown baby sitters whenever possible.