Allen & Clariol Norris- Our Journey from Foster Care to Adoption

November is National Adoption Month, and in celebration HSC ask Clariol, a former foster parent with HSC to share her family’s adoption story:


On November 18, 2019, my husband Allen and I adopted our boys (Sam and Izzy) who were in our home for 5+ years as foster children.  Our intention in becoming a licensed therapeutic foster parent was never to adopt but to help the children in our home and to returned to their families.  We never realized our mission and journey would change as we moved into the years of fostering.

GETTING STARTED

Like with any new job, we started the journey with big hopes of being successful and looking for that one child for whom we could make a difference.  Allen and I had goals to achieve with our fostering job!!  We assumed that because we were experienced, this would be easy.  Unfortunately, with therapeutic children, our goals were quickly diverted to putting out daily fires of behaviors and building tremendous amount of trust.

Placement of our first child did not occur immediately.  We combed through a list, read files, asked questions and searched for the right child that would match our home.  After months of searching, we opened our home to our first child (Sam).  A month later, we were asked to take on the younger sibling (Izzy).  Both were eager to have new beginnings as they were on their 4th foster placement.  The Case Worker provided a “list of behaviors” and prior incidents on the boys.  Oh boy! We felt we were ready for this and had high hopes to follow the reunification case plan and see the boys back to their biological family in a few months. Temporary placement of a few months turned into 1 year and another 4 years.

FOSTER CARE

During the five years of fostering, our boys went through many ups and downs with their bio families and the system.  They had behaviors that were triggered by visits, Christmas, birthdays, vacations, food smells, redirection and promises not kept by their bio families.  Our boys were constantly on a roller coaster with our whole family riding behind them holding our breath on the steep downfalls and on the uphill’s of successes. The boys cried on our shoulders, laughed until we could not breathe anymore and celebrated accomplishments with high fives and praises. We were there to console them when they were sad and angry, we helped them cope with life changes and always told them we loved them no matter what happens, even when they were angry and upset.  Sam and Izzy both had high walls of boundaries and we were not sure day to day what reaction we would get. We continued to stay positive and vigilant to their needs.

They slowly came out of their boxes and initiated more contact with hugs and thank you’s.  We worked on healing small triggers for the boys and gradually worked our way up to coping with greater triggers that in the past had ended with meltdowns or in anger.  Somedays therapeutic techniques worked better than others.  Allen and I evaluated daily what worked best for each child.  Our mindset every morning was to stay positive through difficult times. Our boy’s personal challenges daily included: hygiene, self-care, chores, homework, school, socializing, following through, etc.  As the years progress, each personal challenge was less and what use to be a struggle was becoming easier and part of normal routine.

ADOPTION

On about 4th year, there was no progress on reunification with bio families.  Our boys were tired of the visits, restrictions of foster life and broken promises.  At some point, we were asked by the Case Worker if we would consider guardianship or adoption.  We went in circles about either option because we observed visits continuing with the bio families and the court continued with family reunification orders.   With some guidance from their legal staff and Case Worker, our boys went before the Tribal Court requesting to severe their rights with their bio parents and allow them to be adopted.  After months of discussion and some push back from the bio families, the Court granted the termination of parental rights.  We were asked by the boys to adopt them.  There was no stepping back. What we originally thought was just a fostering commitment had grown into a strong bond, and we loved these boys tremendously.

Stepping forward with adoption only proved that we could accomplish more than we thought we could hand handle.  Our boys have filled our home with more laughter, more tears, more patience and more learning experiences that we would have imagined.  Each day is an adventure of learning.  When they accomplish small things, it is a big celebration to us; we know how hard they worked to overcome obstacles and challenges.

Our boys taught us to love unconditionally and to never give up on anything that is challenging in our lives.  They inadvertently taught us to open our hearts without judgement and to be patient on change.  Do not get me wrong, we continue to provide daily guidance, and overcome obstacles and challenges in such areas as school, social activities, behaviors and responsibility.  We let our children know we appreciate their efforts when they try, and we love them regardless of their downfalls.  We tell them every day, we are their family and forever home. Nobody can ever take that away from them.

TODAY

Today, Allen and I can only thank the Lord for blessing us with two young boys. Sam is in high school and preparing for tryouts for the Freshman basketball team, along with playing Club basketball. Izzy is in 8th grade, also plays basketball with his club team.  Both are achieving average to high grades in school and enjoying home school life during this pandemic.  They have learned so much and have gained personal confidence.

As we enter National Adoption Month, I hope our adoption story gives some hope of light for the children in your home.  We may all not be on the same path of permanency; however, each child is special and while in your home give them the best hug, love and care.