Today I’m so honored to share with you a story that I know will touch your heart and leave you feeling inspired. I’m incredibly grateful that my friend has so graciously and eloquently shared her foster-adoption story with us today. Her story is a gift to us all.
No names or ages have been used for the sake of anonymity to protect and respect the family.
1) Share a little bit of your foster-adoption story:
My mom spent several years helping care for Little Sis and Big Sis, who were in and out of foster care for most of their young lives. They were at our family home several hours a week, and I got to know them on weekends when I wasn’t working. A couple of years later when I got married, my husband spent a lot of time around them as well. My mom was a maternal figure to them, and they really loved her.
A few years ago, we learned the girls may need a more permanent living situation, and while our biological son was just a few months old, we decided to call children’s services to learn more about foster care. My husband and I knew these girls, and we felt God tugging at our hearts about the idea of adopting them. We were told we would have to be certified foster care providers before we could consider taking a placement and that there was no guarantee we would get those girls. I figured it must not be meant to be, and that God might just be laying the groundwork for us to consider fostering or adopting in the future.
Then, I felt led to call the case worker just to get more information. Upon learning about our relationship with the girls, the case worker shared that we may be eligible to provide kinship care, and she would keep us in mind for future placement if permanent care was likely to be needed. Three days later, we were asked to consider letting Big Sis move in for immediate placement, and we said yes (this was only a few days after we had even discussed the idea as a couple!). My mom provided interim care for a week while we readied our home. We didn’t have a bed, dresser, clothes, or toys, and the spare room was stuffed full of “junk.” We transformed it from a catch-all space to a little girl’s room in less than a week.
After moving in, Big Sis immediately bonded with her little brother. She loved to feed him bottles and help out with anything he needed. She joyfully watched him learn to crawl and walk. She had always been close to her biological sister, so we arranged several sister visits and provided respite care for Little Sis, who was living in another foster home during our transitional period. After several months of living with us, the state granted us permanent custody.
We knew we needed more space so we could make room for our rapidly growing family. We found that every decision we had made (with the impression we would wait a few years before having another child) wasn’t working for our newfound situation. We needed a new vehicle (3 car seats wouldn’t fit across the bench seat in the back of our SUV) and we needed a new home (3 small bedrooms and 1 bathroom weren’t cutting the mustard).
Six months after Big Sis moved in, Little Sis moved into our new home. So we went from 0 to 3 kids in less than a year – whew. We were now a family of five. Less than a year later, both girls’ adoptions were final. While it was a whirlwind, it was a very interesting way for our family to grow, and we know this was a total God-thing. It has been the hardest, best, worst, and everything in between, decision we ever made. We are blessed to be part of these girls’ lives, and we are blessed to have experienced pregnancy/birth, as well as fostering and adopting.
2) Did you and your husband plan on adopting?
When my husband and I first started dating, we discussed our interest in starting a family someday. We spoke about the idea of adoption but it was very philosophical and I don’t think either of us ever would have thought we would adopt, unless we weren’t able to conceive. We did speak about the bible verse, James 1:27 “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” at some point along the way, so I am convinced God planted that seed in our hearts early on in our relationship. Little did I realize that one day not too far off, he would ask us to answer His call.
3) What were some of the most influential reasons for saying “yes” to fostering-adoption?
Our main reason for saying “yes” to fostering and eventually adopting was that we felt God’s call in a very real way. When we learned that our now-daughters may need a more permanent home, we prayed about their situation and both my husband and I felt God clearly tugging at our hearts. We had a lot of reasons to say no – our son was less than six months old and we were still learning how to be parents to one child, our house was very small, we weren’t certified foster care providers, we didn’t really think we wanted 3 children (and we knew Children’s Services wanted to keep the girls together), I had always assumed I would be a “boy mom” with no girls, and the list goes on and on.
4) What scared you the most?
Everything happened so quickly that I don’t think I had time to be very scared. I also don’t think we went into this experience fully understanding what we were getting ourselves into. We truly just said “yes, Lord,” and our life has never been the same since. I am more scared today than I was when we started – it is easy to get caught up in the “what ifs” and to borrow trouble from tomorrow, but the good news about fear is that it is a daily reminder to put my trust in Him. I truly know for a fact that I could not do this on my own strength. It is only in seeking Him that we find our strength.
In the adoption process, we found a bible verse that we have claimed as our family’s verse: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My Power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 – I have a beautiful plaque on our wall to remind me daily of His promise that though I am weak, He is strong, and that His grace abounds. He is made perfect in my weakness. It is only in our weakness that we tend to cling to Him.
5) What have been the most unexpected blessings?
The most unexpected blessings have been witnessing others’ response to us saying yes to God’s call. Within days of us saying yes and beginning the necessary preparations in our home, a friend offered us a bed frame and mattress, another friend gave us several bags of clothing, another friend bought us several toys, and the list goes on and on. I am so encouraged by the countless ways others have blessed us. We have several friends who have consistently lifted our family up in prayer, given us bags and bags of hand-me-down clothing, and parents who selflessly have given hours upon hours to assist us in so many ways – from child care to doing our dishes, and many other thankless jobs. My coworkers and several members of our small group from church didn’t hesitate to offer to help us move into our new home. It is so inspiring to see others truly become the hands and feet of Jesus in a very real way.
6) What have been some of your biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge for me has been learning how important self-care is. I am terrible at making this a priority. Shortly after moving forward, my husband and I both handled the stress very poorly, turning to junk food and not exercising. We started fighting more often (a rarity pre-kids), we started eating more, we started staying up late, and generally just were not doing well.
I had a wake-up call in December when I looked at our family Christmas photo and didn’t recognize myself. I realized that no one else was going to make me change – I had to decide to change. I started tracking what I ate and exercising, and after seeing marked results in the first several weeks, my husband quickly joined me. We are learning about balance together – eating vegetables and fruit daily, while still enjoying the occasional cookie or fast food. We are making time away together a priority, having recognized that our marriage is the foundation of our family (with Christ at the head of our marriage). We are being more responsible with getting to bed earlier so that we are well-rested and can give each day the best we have to offer.
7) You now have two kids born of your heart, and one of your body. Did you have any reservations about blending your family?
I did have some reservations about blending our family, but they were minimized since both girls moved in before our son was a year old. I had reservations when I saw how much time I was spending with the girls and realized how quickly our son was growing and how much I felt like I was missing with him. I had reservations when we began our foster care training and we were spending several hours away from home each weekend. The reality is it is very difficult to juggle my responsibilities of working full time, being a good wife to my husband, and parenting three children. I never feel like I am giving anything my best or my full attention. I still sometimes dwell on the “what ifs” and the worries, but I truly try to take things one day at a time.
8) How have you and your husband had to work together through this experience?
My husband and I have a stronger relationship today than I ever thought possible. We have had our ugliest moments as a couple in the past few years. We were married for almost 3 years before getting pregnant with our son, so we had a solid foundation. As similar as our upbringings were, we found we disagreed about a great deal of the specifics when it comes to child rearing. I had to deal with letting go of many things since my husband is the primary care giver. He had to learn how to incorporate and value my opinions even though I was at work all day. We have been pushed to the limits with fatigue, feeling helpless and inadequate, and not wanting to do this anymore.
9) What new communication challenges have you had to overcome as a couple through this experience?
Communication has been really challenging. We went from having only a newborn to having an elementary-school-aged child, who could clearly understand everything we were saying. We had to learn how to fight fair, how to present a united front to our children, how to work through issues quickly and efficiently, and how to let things go. I have had days where I am mortified by how I have treated my husband, and yet he still treated me with kindness and respect, patience, and he granted me forgiveness before I even asked for it.
I have had days when I have been so upset and disgusted with things he said in anger that I didn’t think I could ever look him in the eye again. And yet, I know, without a doubt, that he is the partner I choose to live my life with. Sometimes I have to make that choice each morning, and other times, it feels like it never was a choice, because we so obviously are meant to be.
10) Time and perspective are great educators. What do you know now that you would like to go back and tell yourself as a new mom? What would embrace more? What would you change?
Wow. This is a tough one. I wish I could go back and tell my new-mom self to give more hugs, be more patient, and recognize how little they were. Bringing kids into your home that are older than any children you’ve raised previously is a whole different animal. We mistakenly expected too much and I just wish I could go back and hold them and tell them everything was okay. I wish I could go back and say I now KNOW why you are acting this way, and I just want to show you love and tell you that you’re safe here.
11) Any encouragement for parents looking to foster/adopt? What would you tell the couple who are on the fence about the decision?
I would tell anyone interested to try out the foster parents training classes. We learned so much from these courses that would help any parent, even if you do not decide to ultimately move forward with the process. The classes would help any teacher, Sunday school teacher, babysitter, or coach, as so many children have experienced trauma. I would tell people to actively seek out other foster parents – we have felt very much like we are on an island with so many of our experiences, and I know we are not the only ones having these struggles and challenges.
I would say to go into the process eyes wide open and ask lots of questions. Only do it if the entire household is on board – the entire experience is all-consuming, and it is important for everyone to be on board with the decision. Talk to your extended family and friends before you receive a placement. Tell them your story. Think carefully about how you de-stress and relax. You will need to make time for that, and it needs to be a priority. Take note of all of the resources available to foster and adoptive parents, even if you don’t think you’ll use them. There is a reason they exist, and even things you may not need today, you someday may find them very useful.
I would also tell people that the foster care process requires you to open up your heart, your home, your finances, and your personal life. People will be in and out of your home doing home studies, checking in with the kids, interviewing you, etc., and it can feel invasive…looking back, I wish someone had told us more about that feeling and the “why” – many children in foster care have experienced a great deal of trauma…their case workers want to know they are placing the kids into a home where they won’t experience more trauma, and they want to make sure you really understand how challenging fostering/adopting can be, and how it truly does take a village to raise a child.
12) How has this experience changed your faith, your understanding of who God is, and His role in our life as a couple and as parents?
This experience has absolutely changed my view on who God is. Before, I had primarily focused on God’s power and how worthy He was of my praise. I wanted to know Him and learn more about Him. This process has enabled me to learn so much more about His promises and what He requires of us. God does not promise that following Him will be easy or without trouble. We are called to be transformed, not to conform to this world. We are called to let our light shine before others. We are to be living sacrifices. This experience has brought to light what that really means. It’s easy to resent the time it takes to parent, the hours of sacrifice and “Dying to oneself,” but the joy of the Lord is our strength, and He is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. God promises that one day “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4 – This verse is such an encouragement to me…I have seen the tears my girls have shed, and I have shed many myself throughout this journey. But God promises that one day, the old order of things will DIE and we will have new life in Him if we accept Him as our Savior.
13) Any final story about your sweet little family? Maybe a glimpse at what life looks like now?
Fast Forward to Today. I am writing this after a long, long day, filled with tantrums. I am writing this with tears in my eyes, equal parts hopeful for the new therapy we are starting soon and hopeless that this is STILL so stinking hard. I am writing this with sadness that we had to drop out of another commitment to dedicate even more time to therapy and filled with encouragement that I think we finally found the next-step. I am writing this with a humble heart, knowing that I still have so much to learn, and with confidence that I know I am ending a lot of my days feeling like I gave the day my very best. I am writing this with hope for tomorrow. I am writing this to share my story of fierce love, unrelenting effort, joy for the small wins (like watching my two girls walk hand-in-hand away from our minivan to their first day of school), regret for past mistakes, and excited for the promise of a fresh start tomorrow.
14) Did you always want kids? What is one of your favorite things about being a mom?
My husband and I have been married for 6 1/2 years. I wanted 2, and my husband wanted 4, so 3 seems like a fitting compromise, haha! My favorite thing about being a mom is being needed. I love to be needed, and I love to love. I love the challenge of learning what kind of love each child needs and how I can provide it. I love the chaos of being outnumbered (remind me I said that tomorrow when they are all screaming at the top of their lungs!) I love seeing them learn and grow into tiny humans. I love their strong will, and I love knowing that investing in them today will impact their choices tomorrow.
15) How did you decide on who would work and who would stay home? Any advice to parents who might be in the midst of that debate/struggle?
Based on our financial situation, it was a pretty clear-cut decision that I would continue working and my husband would stay at home if and when we decided to have children. I always knew I wanted to be a mom, but I was pretty sure I didn’t feel called to stay at home. I am grateful God gifted me with a clear decision based on the finances and the skill set of my husband, so I didn’t have any anxiety about him being the one to stay home. There are definitely days where I wish I could be home, but I also know we are each doing what we are supposed to do at this point, and who knows what the future holds!?!