“My heart still races thinking about the moment I almost didn’t hit send. I had finished the application to become a foster family. All I had to do was hit submit… but I couldn’t. I was afraid our comfortable life would change to a life of pain. All the questions flooded my mind: Was our already full family equipped to take on more? Could we effectively absorb the hurt of another child? Was this really our next step as a family or did it just sound like the right thing to do?
I walked away from the computer that day. It felt so heavy to make the decision on whether or not becoming a foster family was really for us. I had watched a few of our friends foster over the years and even babysat for them on occasion, but that was easy. I knew when the child was coming and when they were going home. This time it would be us accepting a child with no end date in mind. I couldn’t pull the trigger. Yet, everywhere I turned I was reminded kids needed homes and we were a safe, loving home.
I am a mom to four biological kids and a health and wellness business owner. Who has four kids these days?!?!? Oh, wait? That’s me. As if I weren’t already classified in the crazy column, I added Foster Mom to my resume. I finally hit submit on that application. Looking back over our 2-year journey (and many more years to come), it was the best, most painful decision I have ever made in life.
Turns out, filling out that paperwork was just one little step amidst a hundred other steps, and it really wasn’t that scary. I learned along the way to simply take the next step and not get wrapped up in the big picture. Need a background check? Check. Home Study? Check. Foster Parent Classes? All 27 hours of them? Check. We did it all one step at a time. The entire process took about 3 months and then we started getting calls for placement.
The first few calls were middle of the night calls in, which I slept right through. I totally beat myself up about those missed calls. Then more calls came through. None of which our family was a fit for. Either the child needed to be the oldest sibling in the home or have no other siblings in the home. Totally cut us out of the running. Finally, there was a little boy in a sibling set of four that needed to be rehomed. Yep, you read that right. A child reduced to the same verbiage as an animal. A failed placement. A traumatized little boy at the age of 5 had a failed placement in his previous foster home. He was alone without his siblings. We said yes to that little boy and he became part of our family for the next year, 3 months, 21 days, and 2 hours until he transitioned to an adoptive home. It hurts to even write that. Every moment with him changed us as much as it changed him. We learned the true meaning of loving someone through the hard and fighting for a child to live free.
Our foster son was more than a foster. He was our son. He became one of us. The newest baby boy in our clan. We call him the baby, but he really was only 3 days younger than our youngest daughter. We wanted to keep our birth order intact, but we never imagined we would have kids so close in age. We often found so much humor in introducing our family. First off, my husband is a big strong Puerto Rican man. I am a blonde-headed, blue-eyed girl of Swedish heritage, and our bio kids are little tan blondies. Basically a mix between a Puerto Rican and Swede (great combo by the way). Our foster son is African American. None of us match, and it is the thing I loved most about our family. We represent culture and love in public and at home… all things we are passionate about it.
Meeting people for the first time was always the best. We’re the family that looks like the clown car because kids keep popping out both sides of the van in all shapes, sizes, and colors. People always had questions and comments. When asked about their ages, I’d run through the list, ‘He’s 13, she’s 11, he’s 8 and the youngest two are 5.’
Then came the inevitable question, ‘Oh, are they twins?’
Y’all, that question always got me a little sideways. Like, really? But, I’d shoot it straight back, ‘Yep and they’re 3 days apart.’ Then I’d walk off and smile only to leave the people behind with the most baffled look on their face. It was the best. Having our youngest so close in age brought on a lot of laughter and interesting conversations, but it wasn’t all butterflies and rainbows.
As much as our family enjoyed the closeness in age, we were also constantly reminded of our foster son’s reality. I deeply mourned his loss of childhood stacked up against that of our daughter. It was not lost on me that two moms walked into the hospital. One mom had a nursery ready, the baby was prayed over, everyone was excited, the family was ready and available to help. Then there was another mom, 3 days later, walking into a hospital in the same city. As a mother, I imagine she was excited but scared. She was so young, physically and emotionally abused, and highly suspected in a sex trafficking situation. There were no family members anxiously awaiting the birth of our foster son, no nursery that had been carefully thought of, no meals to be delivered to her after giving birth. Two very different worlds.
As our daughter grew up, she had two loving parents helping her develop and grow. We rushed to her side when she cried. We consoled her. We fed her routinely and put her to bed on a schedule. We read books to her and played with her. We told her we loved her and how valuable she was.
Our foster son’s story is drastically different. By the age of 4, he witnessed his mom beaten within an inch of her life, thrown down the stairs, and laying a pile of her own blood. He was beaten for reasons he cannot remember nor understand why. He didn’t have someone gently tuck him in bed at night and kiss his little dimpled cheeks. He didn’t know where his next meal would come from. He helped bathe his younger siblings and made sure they had something to eat before he ate. His thought patterns and behaviors changed from deep trauma inflicted on him from birth until the time of his removal at 4 years old.
This is where most people think the child is rescued. The moment the police and child protective services sweep in a rescue the child. It could not be any different. It’s traumatizing. You have children living in a hellish situation but know no other life. Although they needed removal for safety and protection, it doesn’t mean they don’t love or have affection for their parents. The trauma is compounded.
We began to see firsthand how removing a child into a safe and loving home doesn’t fix all. It is the beginning place for healing, but the road is long and an uphill battle at that. The next months were grueling. If you have ever seen Instant Family, that about covers it all times ten. There are days you want your old, simple, comfortable life back and days you get small glimpses of a child healing. The first ‘I love you, Mom’ or the first hug that lingers because the child simply won’t let go make the bad days melt away. The first time a child cries out of sadness and not of anger are little God winks you are headed in the right direction. All beautiful moments that make walking through the fire yourself worth every bit of pain.
As our journey continued with our newest, youngest son, we began to dream about what it would be like to be a family unit forever. I pictured proms and graduations, weddings, and grandkids. All normal things parents fantasize about… except, the sinking feeling we could not offer the same to his siblings. Siblings he deeply missed. We knew given the landscape of our family and the needs of all the siblings together, we would not be a long-term fit. So, we prayed. We prayed for a family who had the capacity to adopt the boys together. It was like putting a nail in your own coffin. I wanted to keep our baby boy forever but knew if there came a time for an adoptive family to take them all, I would have to let go.
Just a few short months ago, that family showed up. Man, it hurt and still does. Days pass and I think I am handling life okay and then I walk into his room and fall apart, tears of sadness running down my face. There is no way to love a child and let go without the pain. Although my heart was so overjoyed our foster son would no longer be separated from his siblings, I didn’t want to let him go. He was my son. My dreams were shattering right before my eyes. All the dreams of watching him play under Friday Night Lights and dancing with him at his wedding were gone. Another mom would have those moments.
I remember shortly after opening our home to fostering I saw a quote that said, ‘Every child deserves a foster parent whose heart will break when they leave.’ -Unknown
No truer words have ever been written.
I had zero idea how much of that pain I would absorb until the day I took him to his adoptive home. He was so excited to be at the end of his journey with his forever family, but I broke walking out of that house without him. No more nightly bedtime snuggles or hide and go seek. No more dreams of our future together. Just the end of a season. The grief is unreal.
People often ask if we would do it all again. The answer is solid. Yes, we would hurt again for a child to heal. We can cope with the grief a child was never meant to cope with, in the first place. Even though a piece of my heart walked into his adoptive house with him, I am grateful for the experience to love so deeply it hurts. The way sacrificial love should be.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Amanda Torres from Tulsa, Oklahoma. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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