‘We can have one more.’ That’s all I needed to hear. W...

‘We can have one more.’ That’s all I needed to hear. We had 8 kids within the next month.’: Couple adopts four kids from foster care, ‘My heart was changed’

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“’I could never do that. I would get too attached. My husband would never go for it. I need to figure out how to parent my own child before considering others.’

These are just a few of the common responses I hear regarding foster care. I completely understand them because I said many of these things myself before we began our journey. We also said we could only take ONE child under the age of 2 because four kids were the max we could handle. Now, as a family of 10, that has clearly changed. Here is a little piece of our adoption story and how one small step in faith can lead to unimaginable gifts and growth.

Almost 15 years ago, a seed was planted in my heart regarding foster care. We were newly married, with no children, and pretty naïve about the needs in this world. I remember spending one afternoon talking to a young couple about their choice to be foster parents before having biological children. I was baffled. Inspired. I wanted to learn more. That entire evening, I sat in tears, scrolling hundreds of faces of children online, already up for adoption in Michigan. A 6-year-old boy wrote: ‘All I want is a family to love me. I hope they have a dog. I am really good at math and promise to keep my room clean.’

In a short moment, my heart was changed. Of course, I heard of children in need in other countries, but here? In my own back yard? I was clueless. This sparked conversations with my husband lasting another 10 years before we became licensed foster parents. I hope this encourages people out there who are not on the same page yet with their spouse. We all process things differently and that’s okay. You can pray and trust things will happen. We know God can be quite persistent when we look towards Him. He cares more than anyone about these children.

Shortly after learning of this need, we became pregnant with our first son. Elijah is now 12 years old and such a bold leader as the oldest. Emery was born 16 months later, bringing unexpected curveballs. He was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth, which required two open-heart surgeries and many hospital stays. We were consumed during his first 2 years of life. Looking back, there’s so much we learned during that stage. Patience, grace, trust, surrender… all things that would prepare us for the next chapter. One more precious boy was born, Easton, who rounded out what we thought was a beautiful complete family.

Yet that seed of foster care planted many years before continued to sprout. Eventually, my husband, Andy, began to tag our date nights as discussions of my two favorite F words… FOSTER CARE or FITNESS! Embarrassingly, this is true.

Andy finally agreed we could have one more child and declared, ‘I don’t care if we go to China and adopt, do foster care, or have one more biologically… but only one.’ That was all I needed to hear! By the end of that day, we were all signed up to take the classes to become foster parents! 10 years in the making. And so it began.

Because our three boys were so young, we become licensed for only one child under the age of two. The plan was to keep birth order because that sounded right. About a year later, a sweet 1-year-old girl temporarily joined our family. At our first parent visit, I was taken aback by the pull in my heart toward her biological mother. Before long, I found her sobbing in my arms, thanking me for taking care of her baby. I assured her we would work out a plan together to get her little girl home. In the meantime, I found out I was pregnant with our fourth son. Wow! God is so smart! He knew Ezra was a missing piece to our puzzle, but we needed to become licensed before he entered the world in 2014! That little girl did eventually go home and is doing well now. It is such a gift to still get occasional updates.

After the sweet girl went home and Ezra was born, we needed time to adjust. Although I still felt called to foster care, I had peace in knowing God’s timing is best. During that season, we had to say no to several placements, including the newborn baby brother to our first placement. It became a bit easier to practice patience in waiting, not knowing what was next. We trusted God would bring our hearts together on this decision if we were meant to continue foster care. Until then, our license was placed on hold. We already had four children, one with special needs, wasn’t our plate full enough? Yet God was only getting warmed up, giving me such pivotal opportunities to trust Him.

2 years later, I will never forget a feeling catching me off guard during a conversation with my husband. As he drove the car, I stared into the nearby water, contemplating, praying, and pleading in my head for clarity on where God was taking us. Just as we crossed the local bridge, my husband spoke profound words that ring in my ears to this day.

‘We can reopen our foster care license if you want.’ He said this with no prompting and no leading. It didn’t come off of yet another story I would excitedly tell him after running into a foster or adoptive family at the store. I had been hoping my husband would finally see what needed to happen because wasn’t God’s pressing so obvious? No. It was in fact a humbling lesson for myself. In His timing. One he would continue to refine in my heart over the years!

Less than a month later, on September 8, 2017, our 10 year wedding anniversary, Kamber joined our family. A beautiful brown toned little girl with black ringlet hair, wearing a dirty onesie and shorts labeled 3 months. Much too small for even a petite 20-month-old. Wrapped in an oversized black and gray fleece cheetah blanket, they handed over this scared, quiet little girl and left within minutes. No diapers, food, or instruction. I was in shock. We snuggled, sang songs then took a bath and got fresh clothes. Soon enough, she was playing but never strayed far.  It took almost a full year before she would step out from behind me and smile around new adults. During every court hearing, the caseworker would speak on the stand about how different this little girl was compared to the start of her stay in our house. She was slowly feeling safe, secure, and connected. Watching her transform before my eyes will forever make foster care worth it.

In another plot twist, 2 months later, on October 29, 2017, her brother, Travis, was born. This blonde-haired, blue-eyed little boy came into this world with a happy, calm disposition. With an infant in the home, we went to visits with their biological parents three times per week, for two hours each. It was important for us to build a relationship with the children’s parents and make it clear we were not there to replace them. They had my cell phone and were welcome to text with questions or updates. Early on, we even invited them to our church then would visit at McDonald’s for lunch afterward. Occasionally, I gave their mom a ride to the bus stop during the winter months. Although this is not the norm in foster care, it was important to build trust while letting them know we believed in them. No parent wakes up with the intention of neglecting or hurting their child. We all make mistakes and have the opportunity to learn from them. Sadly, I find many bio parents give up as, without support or even their own self-worth, the task feels nearly impossible. We tried our best to extend grace, love, and forgiveness even in difficult circumstances. We hoped they would do the work.

Kim S. Photography

This continued for another year with many ups and downs. 6 months in, an appropriate family member came forward to take the kids, and we thought for sure they were leaving. However, the agency, attorney, and judge decided otherwise. Then on December 12, 2018, Violet, a full sister to TJ, was born. It was such a mix of emotions to go to the hospital directly following court and bring her home. My heart broke for her mom as she healed. For the grandparents who insisted they were taking the baby girl home with them. For the brokenness of foster care in general. I also felt joy for the precious gift of life I was entrusted to love on, no matter the length of time. It is a rollercoaster!

The ‘big hearing’ was just two short months later, on February 18, 2019. Termination of Parental Rights. My heart broke for the parents and simultaneously for these three children. The plan was to allow parents to sign off rights on the two big kids, after 1.5 years without progress, and be given the opportunity to work out a new plan with baby Violet. Unfortunately, they did not show up to court. I know this was because they felt defeated. They felt decisions were already made and did not want to endure the 3-hour-long hearing with endless testimonies as to why they are unfit parents. The judge was frustrated because they did not show up and ultimately decided to put the newborn baby on the plan with the two older kids. All three were now headed to adoption. I was shocked and sad. I felt nervous about what was to come, with a mix of unique excitement about what this might mean for our future.

Courtesy of Tabitha Goldsmith

The visits stopped. The caseworker and licensing visits minimized while an adoption worker took the lead. Things seemed to be hitting a new normal and we felt like a family of nine. This is when things drastically changed. In May 2019, I attended a conference where a father and son duo spoke about their personal experience of adopting ‘older kids’ from foster care. My heart was changed completely because of their journey, however, I had no idea God would use it for our family or the timing. Just a few days later, our caseworker who I trusted as a friend and fellow believer, said something that rocked my world. I will never forget the exact place I stood with my back to her, looking out the window as I felt hot tears fill my eyes. ‘Don’t do it, God,’ I thought to myself, feeling the heat rise.

‘I wanted to ask you and Andy to just pray for a little 7-year-old boy. He is amazing, so smart and adorable, and needs a forever home. He is also Kamber’s half brother.’ Prior to the conversation with these men, I would have never considered an older child at this point. Although keeping siblings together is incredibly important to us, we also had older boys and a child with special needs we needed to protect. However, I have learned it’s hard to tell Jesus no. He opened doors and discussions about what this might look like moving forward. Including many with our biological boys! Especially Easton, who would be the same age as this new placement. We made it very clear their opinions, worries, and thoughts mattered.

It took one visit to decide. We met at a park to play, lining us up as a friend of his current foster mom to keep it casual. The kids had a blast! This boy, Ethan, was so intrigued by our family and joked he wanted to go home with us. Everyone laughed and casually said goodbye. At the time, no one knew Ethan and Kamber were related. They had never met before that day. As we left, tears rolled down my cheeks in silence, the significance of this decision weighed heavily on me. Suddenly, my oldest son Eli yelled from the back of our twelve passenger van, ‘So when does he move in?’ I was shocked and didn’t answer him. He followed up with decisiveness, ‘Mom, he doesn’t have a family. We have an extra bed, we have room for him.’ My other boys eagerly agreed.

Through much prayer, we jumped on the fast track and became a family of ten within the next month. After two successful overnights, on June 8, 2019, Ethan moved in! During a session with his counselor and myself, we disclosed Kamber was his half-sister. He was so thrilled! Especially after being separated from his two older siblings, who now lived with their biological dad, and three younger siblings who live with an aunt, this was a blessing. Even though we visit his siblings frequently, those homes were not the right fit for him and God had a plan. To this day, the instant bond between Ethan and Kamber still makes my heart melt.

The summer of 2019, looking back, was a whirlwind of emotion. The honeymoon phase died quickly and soon enough we realized this was going to be the hardest thing we ever encountered in our 5 years of foster care. Trauma changes the brain. Sibling fights, daily phone calls from the school, learned behaviors used to ‘survive’ now needed to be changed. I ran an emotional marathon every day. I also trusted God’s provision and knew he did not call us here without providing a way through it. Thankfully, with lots of therapy, the constancy of ‘connection before correction,’ medication, and the grace of God, we have a totally different kid today who is THRIVING!

The finalization of our adoptions took much longer than expected. The average is 3 to 6 months after termination, but ours took 19 months. In between, we experienced the pandemic, including my least favorite, the quarantine. I love my eight kids but I didn’t sign up to be a 24/7 teacher, therapist, cook, maid, friend, or referee at times! It was exhausting. However, God was teaching us all valuable lessons within our home. Grace. Problem-solving. Forced slow down. More frequent family dinners. Lots of game nights. Dance parties. Way too much baking! No jealousy over friends because they could only play with one another. It was actually a gift.

Finally, on September 9, 2020, our four foster kids became forever a Goldsmith! A bit anti-climatic, because due to the pandemic, no in-person court hearings were allowed. We got a text message signaling the completion of the process. However, telling the kids was so special. Our family is now exactly how it was supposed to be! Last-minute, my friend made the most beautiful cake with each of their names, and a sign reading, ‘Best Day Ever!’ A few weeks later, we fulfilled one of Ethan’s dreams: a big party to celebrate adoption. It was at a gymnastics center that was able to operate even during the pandemic. Such a sweet memory.

Courtesy of Tabitha Goldsmith
Courtesy of Tabitha Goldsmith
Courtesy of Tabitha Goldsmith

For anyone considering this road, I encourage you to pray. Talk to other people. Research. Build a community of support. God will not lead you astray. That nagging pull at my heart persisted for 10 years before we finally took the leap. Many days I felt I was walking blindly while praying God would lead each step. There has been no greater exercise of trust in Him.

Although some days I still feel completely lost in this journey, he provides a door, window, or sometimes just a crack, to the other side. ‘Three things will last forever: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love.’ (1 Corinthians 13:13).”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tabitha Goldsmith. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook

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