Called to Fight



My parents named me Martina Louise. My first name means “warlike” and my middle name means “renowned warrior.” Most people who know me wouldn’t think of me as a fighter. My husband might disagree… But here we are and this is our life. We had to fight for our daughter Alianna. Her placement with us through foster care was simple but her custody and subsequent adoption were far from easy. We fought for her like we’ve never fought for anything else before.

Two and a half years later we find ourselves in a bizarre but not-so-different situation fighting for her half-sister. I can’t and won’t say much about the case in this public platform because it’s sensitive legally and we want to be respectful to all of the other parties involved. In short: if she cannot be with either of her biological parents—which is and has been the case since shortly after her birth—we believe (and DCS policy supports) that the next best option for a child is to be with siblings whenever possible. I believe that we are supposed to advocate for her and her best interests. I will fight for her and I won’t stop fighting for her.

As much as I want to keep quiet about this case, I also want to solicite the prayers of our friends. Please pray with us that whatever is best for baby Trust* would be done and soon—she’s already 6 months old! (We’ve been trying to get her placed with us since before she was born.) We have court next Tuesday March 11 at 1 pm, which involves a progress report trial for her biological parents and our petition for temporary custody.

*Not her real name (Thank God!) but my nickname for her since before she was born to remind me that her future is in His hands




Not so fast.

We had our home study visit with our case worker on Thursday to reopen our home for foster care. We went through our piles of paper work to make sure everything was there. A quick scramble to reprint the form Ali had torn the corner off of, print our her adoption decree (and explain that no, we still don’t have a birth certificate for her even though her adoption was finalized 7 months ago…), and print out our 14 pages of 2011 tax returns to attempt to prove that Jason, who does not get pay stubs because he’s self-employed, does indeed make money.

Then we moved on to the home tour and inspection. Tennessee Department of Children’s Services has been in the news a lot lately and it hasn’t been good news… That seemed like a valid excuse for our case worker to open every drawer and cabinet in our kitchen to make sure there was nothing potentially harmful within reach of a small child. The child lock on our knife drawer failed. When she yanked on it, it popped right open. So we spent a good 10 minutes talking about the danger of knives, potential scenarios and possible solutions. Jason insists on fixing the lock. Her suggestion was to put the knives up high, which to me, means they’re still accessible to a determined child AND I’m more likely to drop one on my head while I’m cooking dinner.

We also need doors or a more invasive metal screen on our fireplace. I thought this might be the case. Ours has a metal mesh screen and since the safety checklist said “fireplace screens or guards are in place” I thought it was worth a try. Glass doors for our extra wide fireplace cost $1500-3000 so…yeah. I’m hoping that a big ugly metal screen will get the job done.

Honestly, I was surprised by the things that were meticulously inspected while other things (that seemed important in our first home approval 2 years ago) were just glanced at or discussed this time around. We were also surprised to find out that Jason has a black mark on his criminal record from a speeding ticket in Virginia 7 years ago.

But nothing was more surprising than to find out that some people at the DCS office are still upset about how things went down 18 months ago which led up to a judge taking Ali out of state care and giving us custody so we could adopt her. It seems there’s been a game of telephone going on around the office and the story has, in Jason’s words, turned us into the Giant Purple People Eater. (In other words, the story has been twisted over time.) We got slapped on the hand and warned “don’t do that again, or else…” I have to admit, I’m kind of proud of the fact that we still have a reputation around the office after all this time. Jason asked if the person who approves our home study knows about everything that happened and her response was “EVERYBODY knows.”

Let the records show: We never broke any of their policies; we passionately questioned a policy that was broad and obscure because it didn’t seem to be in the best interest of the child in our care. I would not hesitate to do that again. We take it seriously when they tell us to advocate for the child and we’ll do that, even if it’s messy. Clearly we were not the only ones who felt their policy was in conflict with Ali’s best interest and ultimately it was the magistrate who made the call. We had not even asked for custody (we didn’t know we had the right). So as far as the accusation that we “went over their heads” … no, we just prayed, spoke our hearts and God went WAY OVER your heads! Also, we did NOT hire an attorney to represent us until after we were given custody and had to peruse private adoption at our own expense. Thankyouverymuch.

It was a little angering, not at our case worker who is sweet but was instructed to give us a warning, but at the system as a whole. Welcome back into our lives DCS drama! More than anything though, it was motivating. It reminded us of why we’re doing this: we are in it for the kids. We will parent, love, protect, nurture and advocate for them for as long as they’re living in our home. We’re not at odds with the system…unless it’s at odds with the child’s best interest. Then you better believe we’re going to do what we’ve been asked to do.

So, I’m pretty confident they’re going to approve our home. As long as a knife drawer, fireplace screen and criminal record for a speeding violation 7 years ago can be resolved. We’ll find out soon enough. The main reason I’m not at all worried about it is that we feel called by God to do this. It’s not fun.* It’s not easy. I’m perfectly content as Ali’s mom and if we simply wanted to have more kids, we’d pop ’em out of my body (assuming it all works down there). We’re in it for the kids because we feel called to care for the fatherless, defend the weak, clothe the naked, house the homeless, feed the hungry, heal the sick. If this doesn’t work out with DCS, I know God will use us in another way. This was His idea first, after all.

*Parenting is fun. Dealing with the child welfare system is not. The kids are worth it.

Tomorrow we’re going to get fingerprinted for the third time in the last two years. We assumed that our prints would never change but apparently the government wants to make sure they’re still the same as they were in May 2011 and January 2012.

I’ll keep you posted if/when we’re approved to start receiving placement calls.

Taking the First Step … Again [Foster Parenting]


My phone rang and when I saw DCS on the caller ID I had an adrenaline surge. Do they know? Can they call already? Is there a  kid? All of that went through my mind before I pressed answer and said hello. It was our case worker, getting back to me. I had sent her an email telling her we’d be ready to reopen our home soon and I was wondering what all we needed to do.

We’re not ready but I contacted her because I needed a nudge. Not that I’m procrastinating, but there are just so many little things we still want to do to get settled into our new house – hang more shelves in the garage, figure out storage for my work room, landscaping, bigger art, hang the art we have … we’re pacing ourselves with time and money. Before we reopen our home we need to assemble the bedroom for “the next kids,” get a home phone, lock up our medicines, cleaners, knives, a whole list of little things. When I talked to our case worker, I found out their policy changed (shocker…). Originally she told me we could be in “closed” status for 2 years without having to redo our PATH training and home study but they’ve changed it to 1 year. I’m glad I called when I did because we’re 5 weeks from the 1 year cut off. Within that time frame we just need to amend our home study, not redo everything. (Thank God!!!)

That means we might start getting calls by March 1. So, I’m kicking into nesting mode again. But it’s so different this time around. I’m not sure if I’d call it excitement… We’re going to Disney World! That would be excitement. We’re climbing Mt. Everest! That would be adrenaline. I’m getting pumped up but I know it’s not going to be fun and easy; it’s going to be difficult and likely painful. There are a lot of logistics we don’t know and it’s impossible to plan for at this point… like how are we going to manage childcare for another kid (or 2?) during work hours. I don’t know. How is Ali going to respond. I have no idea. What are we getting ourselves into. Don’t ask me.

One thing I do know: we’re supposed to do this. God has called us to be foster parents and we will say yes. Again.

From experience, I can say with confidence that He will not lead us into something and then abandon us. He will equip us as we go and bring light to each step, one at a time. Here we go again!

Here’s my pictorial to do list.

This bed needs to be assembled, curtain hung, art hung, etc.:


I wish we could use this phone:


This drawer needs a child lock:

This closet (where we keep our cleaners and medicines) needs a locking door handle:

IMG_7851 IMG_7852

We loathe these things… and need to cover about 5,000 more outlets:


The dept. is not going to like this:


Or this:


Just Across the Way


Sorry for the lack of blogging yesterday. We’ve been busy, y’all! Buying a minivan, painting our kids room, demolishing and retiling our fireplace, fixing up our pergola, going to our LAST foster parent certification class… Lots going on but I haven’t had time to go though photos and write up blog posts about it yet.

Here’s a funny story. When I looked up on Google Maps where the Department of Children’s Services office was located, I was surprised to see it was right by the apartment we lived in when we first moved to Nashville. (Our address was 1000 1st Avenue North, Nashville, TN. Cool, huh?) Last night during our last class, I looked out the window behind me and realized our apartment was RIGHT THERE. Right across the parking lot. I could practically see the door. How strange is that?! I feel like something in my life should have been coming full circle at that point but I’m not sure what.

I’m not shocked that I never noticed the DCS office. We lived in that apartment for 7 months and never realized we were within walking distance of the Farmer’s Market and Bicentennial State Park.

I loved living downtown. I’m so glad we did. We live about 4 miles from this apartment now which is the perfect distance for us. At this point, it would be nearly impossible to give up our house with our own 4 walls and roof, our yard, our garden, our patio, our neighborhood, our washer and dryer…