Our foster care journey started out-ironically enough-by my initial rejection of the idea. I had been working in residential life for a few years, and I knew what the system was like. I didn’t want any part of it. I wanted an “easy” way (in my eyes, that looked like domestic adoption).
But, as I prayed and sought counsel over a few months time, my heart changed. I realized that the community of kids I was working with was the same community that needed foster parents. And, most adoptive parents know, no adoption path is easy. Not by a long shot.
Let me back up to the start of our journey. After we reached the decision to move forward with fostering, we signed up for classes, had our home study, and became an open home. We had a few calls at the start that we had to say no to, for one reason or another. It was heartbreaking. And then came “the call”. The call that would change our lives forever.
“Hello, we have a 3 week old baby girl, currently in the NICU, that is ready to go to a foster home. Would you be interested?”
My heart started racing. This was it; we were about to meet our first foster placement. I was nervous, excited, worried, anxious-you name it, I was feeling it. As we talked to more workers and heard more about her situation, we would learn that she had been exposed to substances in utero, and that there had been no prenatal care. We didn’t know it then, but this would equal hours of doctors appointments, therapies, evaluations, and more for the next few years.
The first few weeks were hard. We had appointment after appointment, social worker visits, court, and visitation with bio parents. On top of all the crazy scheduling, our daughter cried a lot. Basically anytime she was awake, she was crying. She also didn’t like to be held, but she didn’t like to be put down. She threw up a lot. I started to wonder if we’d made a mistake. Was it supposed to be this hard? Was I capable of handling this level of care? Was I capable of loving a child this hard, one who wouldn’t attach and most times seemed like she wanted nothing to do with me?
At the same time I was having that internal struggle, we started visits with her biological parents. I was so nervous during the first one. But as we sat and talked with them during those four months of visits, we learned of their horrible childhood upbringing, of their struggles, of their pain. My heart broke for them. Although I still disagreed with everything about their life choices, I felt empathy for them. They knew they were losing their daughter because of their decisions, and it broke their heart as much as it did mine. I would encourage anyone having kids going to biological parental visitation to try and get to know the people that created their child. It gives context to the child’s story. I am so grateful for the time we had with them.
A few months after taking our daughter in, visits stopped due to bio parent’s lack of follow through on their plan. TPR (termination of parental rights) happened at 18 months. Adoption happened just shy of her second birthday. When it was all said and done, she was in foster care for 687 days. The journey to adoption felt like it took forever, and then in a matter of minutes, it was finalized.
I had a lot of self-doubt that first year. You may having them too. I wondered if I was going to be able to do this. But I will never forget the sweet words of truth a friend spoke to me one morning. They have stuck with me ever since, and I hope they bless you as much as they did me. She said, “You may not feel like you love her, or that she loves you, but you’re feeding her. You’re changing her. You’re holding her when she’s crying. You’re singing to her, reading to her, playing with her. You ARE loving her, even when it doesn’t feel like it. Part of real love is sacrificial action.”
Oh how I needed to hear that. Maybe you do too. Foster care is hard. The kids are coming to us from broken, dark places. But they are so deserving of love, of compassion, of every good thing we can give them. I can say now, a year post adoption, that is so worth it. I am so thankful we took that call. I’m so thankful my daughter is ours forever. She still suffers with some effects from her in utero distress. We are still working through that. But taking care of vulnerable kids isn’t supposed to be easy. We don’t do it because of how it makes us feel, we do it to save these kids lives. If you are having a hard time like I was, I would love to connect and encourage you. I had so many people surrounding me and encouraging me, and I know I wouldn’t have made it without them. The old saying is so true: It takes a village to raise kids.