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“My husband and I were high school sweethearts that met at the grocery store where we both worked. After 10 months of working together, we started dating. We knew right away we would get married one day and, though there were a few bumps in the road, after dating for almost seven years, we got married! We were ready to take on all that life would have for us in our careers and family life.
Adoption is something we discussed minimally when we were dating and we both thought it would be in the form of an international adoption if we ever adopted. Foster care wasn’t something that was on either of our minds and neither of us had been exposed to. Only God knew during those first few years of married life that our future was about to look very different than what we were imagining.
Our initial ‘yes’ to begin fostering was more of a ‘why not?’ It was about two months after we moved into our first house that one of my childhood friends posted about becoming a foster parent on Facebook. She was very transparent about the process, the type of child she was preparing for, and the first few children she fostered. Until I tracked her story, I didn’t realize there was a need for parents to foster younger children. Seeing her fostering journey really put foster care on my radar for the first time and I learned a lot just by learning about her journey.
Our true ‘aha’ moment came when we were sitting in church toward the end of that summer. We had a guest speaker from Colorado who had adopted five children from foster care and was working with an organization to eliminate the number of children waiting for homes in Colorado. That was the day everything we learned culminated in a look we shared that said, ‘We could actually do this.’ Here we were at 26 years old with a big house and plenty of time and resources to give to a child or children who needed a home for a short time until they could be reunified with their families. Why not give it a shot? We signed up for certification classes the next month. We were excited to embark on this new adventure and we pictured ourselves fostering ‘until’ we had biological children. We still had no idea what God was about to do.
Our journey to become foster parents started with taking classes once a week for about eight weeks. We also had to be fingerprinted, background checked, and have a home study completed. The entire process took us about three to four months. The classes were not challenging, but it did open our eyes to some of the realities of what the children have been through, how detrimental separation from the birth family often is, and how we as foster parents can help them heal and maintain a bond with their birth families. We also joined several local groups on social media for foster parents and networked with parents from our church and work. We realized there is a huge support system of fellow foster and adoptive parents in our city. We really credit a lot of our success with the kids we would foster and adopt to the relationships and resources we gained by being part of that network. (There are many national foster care networks as well on social media if your city doesn’t have a local group).
We finished our licensure in February of 2015. We got a few calls over the next three months, but the children were always placed elsewhere. We were disappointed, but not in a hurry. We knew it would happen when it was supposed to. On May 16, 2015, we were sitting in a local BBQ place around 8 p.m. It was a rainy Saturday night and we got a call. ‘We have a 3-year-old boy, his mother is homeless. She has a place to go, but there’s nowhere that will take the child. Are you interested in taking him?’ We said yes, just as we had to our other calls. We even joked when we hung up that we probably wouldn’t be chosen this time, either. Our jaws fell open when they called us back and said, ‘We’ll be at your house in 30 minutes!’ In complete joy and disbelief, we rushed home. We didn’t even have a chance to call our family! We set up a toddler bed and dug out some boy toys and soon laid eyes on our first love, N.
We spent the night introducing him to our dogs and taking a late-night trip to Walmart for some essential items. The next day, my husband’s family got a chance to meet him and there were many calls and texts shared with my family who lived out of town. We spent six wonderful months as his foster parents. We learned how to be parents to a preschooler and were a part of a lot of his ‘firsts.’ We also learned how to be foster parents to a child who had a very involved birth parent. It was hard at times to be first-time parents to an already rambunctious three-year-old and on top of that, to share him, but we cheered his mother on as she got back on her feet.
The day he was reunified was wonderful and heartbreaking all at the same time. We packed up all the belongings he had accumulated, drove him to his mother’s apartment, and said goodbye. To love a child as your own for the very first time and to allow that bond to weaken or break is no easy thing. We found ourselves thinking the house was too quiet in the days following his departure. Luckily, we knew his mother wanted us to continue to be in his life; she even had him call us the day after his reunification! Over the next year, we had monthly visits with N as we gave his mom some alone time. We would go to the zoo or to the park or just hang out at our home. We knew God had put us in each other’s lives for a reason. What we didn’t realize was our story with N was not over.
Right at a year after he was reunified, N’s mom called and asked if he could come live with us again. Our answer of course was, ‘Yes!’ One month turned into two, and two months into four. Almost a year after he returned to live with us, his mother said she wanted to pursue joint custody with us through the courts. While this is not commonly done, we were thankfully awarded joint custody with her after about two more years of delayed court appointments. What a surreal experience it was to celebrate with a birth mother over having custody of her child. What a surreal experience to be able to tell our little boy he was stuck with his three parents forever! We were all so happy.
We have a good relationship with her and now co-parent this little boy we all three love so much. Co-parenting can be challenging, but it is possible when you support each other and all have the child’s best interest in mind. It blows my mind to consider all the calls we were turned down for before we got the call for N. To think that out of all the open foster homes that night, God said, ‘Let me weave this couple into my plan for N’s life,’ is overwhelming and such an honor.
Now, before you think this story is only about N, let me back up and tell you we fostered 14 additional kids during the four years that his story was unfolding. We love the role we played in the lives of all of our children, and we did our best to form bonds with each one and with their birth families during their stay with us. Three of those 14 stayed forever. We had always said if a child we fostered needed an adoptive home, we would be open to adopting them, but until we became foster parents, we had no idea about the number of children whose parents’ rights had already been terminated and were waiting on an adoptive home.
We inquired about an 8-year-old girl named A through a Heart Gallery online in November of 2015. In the days and weeks following our inquiry, we didn’t get any response from her adoption specialist, so we resigned ourselves to the fact we weren’t being considered. After about two months, we finally got an email saying, ‘We are considering your home for A. Are you still interested in adopting her?’ We immediately said ‘Yes!’ and shared emails back and forth over the next couple of months. We found out in March of 2016 we had been selected to be A’s adoptive parents. We were elated!
Typically, children are matched to adoptive parents in the same state they are currently living in, so for us to be selected from out of state was another amazing work of God. After a 4-month ICPC process (the process for assuming custody for a child across state lines) and several visits, we brought her home. She is spunky and sweet, yet after spending several years in foster care and in multiple homes, her first year with us was more challenging than we had experienced. But man was she worth it!
We got a crash course on parenting an 8-year-old and all that comes with it: different behavior, interests, school, friends, etc. Through prayer, hard work, and the support of friends and family, we are working through those challenges, and today we are all very close and she is a happy and successful preteen. When N returned to our home, she was thrilled to have a sibling close in age and they are still very close.
Just as we were getting used to life with school-age kids, we got a call for another baby, E, in 2017. Four months later, we were told we were the only option for adopting him. His adoption was final in 2019. His baby sister, M, was placed with us in 2018 and adopted just last week! We have a fantastic relationship with their birth grandparents and older siblings. This group of people has really taken us into their family as much as their grandchildren have been brought into ours. Being able to bond with birth grandparents has been a really cool experience because so often they are the ones who suffer from the bad choices and hardships their children have been through. Sometimes they lose contact altogether with their grandchildren if they are unable to take custody of them full-time. Maintaining a relationship with extended birth family has been such a blessing for all involved.
So, here we are, six years after God began to stir in our hearts that He was calling us to foster. What started as ‘I don’t know much about foster care,’ ‘We’ll foster until we have kids,’ and ‘Maybe we’ll adopt if we need to,’ has become four kids, toddlers to preteens, ours forever. It looks like co-parenting, calling and visiting birth grandparents, and working through trauma, large and small as it comes. It looks like praying for birth families, helping them to be as successful as possible, and maintaining the bond that the kids have with them. You might not think you can do it, but I bet you can. At one time we didn’t think we could do it, either.
When you have the understanding that all children are given to us by God for a season and a purpose, whether it’s six months or fifty years, you will steward what you can and give Him the rest. You will not be sorry that you extended your heart and your home to families and children in need, for as long as you are needed. And don’t worry, it’s not all sacrifice. You’ll have plenty of parent-child moments that make your heart melt, too. We are so thankful that God chose us, regular people who fumbled through each step as it came, to be parents to these precious kids and to give us a bigger extended family than we could’ve ever asked for. We definitely didn’t say ‘yes’ to all of it at one time. If you’ve been feeling God work in your life and put foster care or adoption on your radar, take some time to consider it. If you don’t feel like God is telling you ‘Yes,’ see if He might be saying, ‘Why not?’ because our ‘why not’ has become our forever.”
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