‘Did he think we abandoned him?’ I was still grieving. He hardly slept day or night. I struggled to feel connection.’: Couple foster to adopt, ‘If you don’t get attached, you’re doing it wrong’

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“You know when you first start dating someone and you go through all the standard future related questions? Do you want to get married? Do you want kids? How many? Do you want to travel? Where do you want to live? You talk about it all to make sure you want the same, or at least similar, things. When Tim and I had these conversations, I thought I was going to scare him off with a few things. Like the fact I wanted a large family (like 10 kids large). That didn’t scare him. Well, maybe a little but not too much. He came from a family of six kids and wanted the same, give or take three or four kids. Then I thought I’d really scare him if I told him part of the way I wanted to grow my family was through foster care and/or adoption but he beat me to it! Before I could even bring that up, he said he felt God opening his heart towards foster care and adoption.

I knew at that moment, this was it. This was the man for me. As our relationship continued and we sort of mapped out our future, we thought we would get married, have a handful of biological children, wait until they were a little older, and then start fostering. Well, tell God your plans, right? When we got married in 2013, we decided we were in no rush to start our family and just enjoyed our time together as the two of us.

Courtesy of Katie Day

Fast forward a few years, we ended up moving cities somewhat unexpectedly for Tim’s job. This meant me leaving my job and led to us buying a house kind of on a whim. None of this was part of our plan. The house we bought has five bedrooms and having no children at the time, everyone kept asking, ‘Sooo what are you going to do with all those bedrooms?’ Super subtle, right? However, I guess you could say it sparked something in us.

Courtesy of Katie Day

With plenty of room to spare, me already not working, and with hopes of one day being a stay at home mom, we felt God tugging our hearts towards foster care. Which scared both of us. This wasn’t the plan. It was too soon. We looked into it anyway and went to an information night. The next thing we knew, we had signed up for the next set of classes. After 16 weeks of classes, home study, and background checks, we were certified.

Courtesy of Katie Day

Within two weeks of our home being opened, we received our first placement. The most beautiful two-year-old boy, N. Within minutes of him entering my life, I was holding him in my arms. And he fit there. So well. It was as if my arms had always been missing something. Him. We were no longer strangers. We were mother and son. Two people destined to be together, even if only for a short while. He was only with us for three months. Regardless of the short time we got to be his parents, grief still hit hard when he was reunified with his mother. Don’t get me wrong, we were so excited for his mom and so proud of her but that didn’t take away from the pain we felt in saying goodbye to him. Grieving a child that is still alive is a weird thing, one that you can’t really prepare for.

In the days, weeks, and even months that followed sending him home, I couldn’t help but constantly think of him. How was he doing? Did he understand what had happened? Did he think we abandoned him? Did he cry out for me? Would he remember us? Would he know how much we loved him?

Courtesy of Katie Day

About a month later, still grieving, we received our next call. I didn’t think I was ready but at the same time, I felt such peace about saying yes. This time it was a five-month-old. L was coming from another foster home. The great thing about that is you have some time to transition them instead of them moving in quickly and suddenly, which is the case when they are coming directly from the home they are being removed from. In that case, typically speaking, you may have a couple of hours notice, if you are lucky. We worked with the other foster family and did our best to transition him by spending time with him every day for two weeks before he moved into our home full time.

Courtesy of Katie Day

It was still a rough transition. I was still grieving, I had never cared for a baby past a couple of hours, and he had been through a lot in his little life. He was on a special formula, daily medication, had reflux issues, was in physical therapy, and hardly slept at night or during the day. He was not easy to care for. Not just because he wasn’t a content, happy baby but because I was still missing N. I didn’t connect with him as easily or quickly as I had with N. I didn’t feel like a mom to him. I felt like a stranger. Struggling to get up all hours of the night. Struggling to feel joy. Struggling to feel love and connection.

Courtesy of Katie Day

I think there is a common misconception that because you choose this life of fostering, you will instantly connect with every child to enter your family. The reality is you have instant compassion but not an instant connection. That goes for both sides — child and parent. L was not connecting to me as much as I wasn’t connecting to him. For both of us, our days were just about getting through and fighting for a better tomorrow. I prayed I would get there. I prayed (more like begged) God to help me fall as in love with him as I did with N. If I’m being honest, I never thought it would happen. I kept praying for it but I didn’t think I would ever actually feel what I was praying for. Turns out I was right. I fell way harder for L than I could have ever imagined. This little boy has completely changed my life. He has challenged and inspired me more than I could have ever hoped for. Being his mom is one of my favorite things.

Courtesy of Katie Day

That’s not to say I love L more than I love N. Instead, my love multiplied in a way I had not experienced before or thought it could. I think this is a pretty common thing for parents. When your second child comes along, you think there is no way you will love them as much as you love your first but somehow you do.

Courtesy of Katie Day

We’ve received a few other calls since saying yes to L. Twenty, to be exact. Some placement calls and some respite calls, which is essentially babysitting for other foster families. We’ve taken a couple of respite placements and we’ve said yes to a couple of placements but we ended up not being needed. We are extremely cautious with saying yes; we try very hard not to overwhelm ourselves. The next call we said yes to was for 2-year-old, J, this last June. We still had L with us and were actually waiting to finalize his adoption because reunification was not an option for him. Before saying yes to J, Tim and I had been considering ending our foster care journey. We felt really worn down and defeated by the system with L’s case. I won’t get into too much detail, but I will say people didn’t do their job and it often felt like L had been forgotten about despite our constant inquiries.

Courtesy of Katie Day

Remember how I said we felt God lead us to this? Well, while we were talking about being done once L’s adoption was finalized, we received the call for J. For whatever reason, we both felt drawn to ask more questions and move forward with saying yes. Within 10 days of J moving in, we received a call for L’s adoption date. We had been waiting for a year and a half at that point. Maybe that just seems like a coincidence because of the length of time we had already been waiting but keep in mind, this is in the time of COVID-19. The courts are even more backed up than normal. We believe getting L’s adoption hearing date that quickly after saying yes to another foster child was a sign from God. Because we had been faithful and continued to listen to His calling for our lives, He was faithful in giving us the security of L’s future. After 1,040 days in foster care, L became an official Day.

Courtesy of Katie Day

I’m so thankful for God’s leading in our journey because, without it, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be parents to the three most wonderful boys. J is still with us and we are supporting his bio mom in any way we can and are hopeful they will be reunified. Foster care at its core is temporary. Reunification and family restoration is a beautiful thing whenever possible and safe for the child. This is the goal. This is when the system is successful.

Courtesy of Katie Day

If you’ve ever thought about getting involved in foster care but then thought there isn’t really a need for foster homes, I can almost guarantee you are needed. Every area is different and if you live in a city that has more foster homes than foster children, you are in a rare situation. We have been foster parents for just over 3 years and we’ve received 25 calls. You are needed. If you’ve thought about getting involved but are not interested in being a parent, there are many other ways you can get involved: become a mentor, become a casa worker, become just a respite care provider, become a visitation supervisor or provide support for foster families in your area. Call your local Department of Family Services and ask how you can help. You are needed.

If you want to get involved but you think it would be too hard or messy or you would get too attached to send them home, you’re right. It is hard, it is messy, and if you don’t get too attached, you’re doing it wrong. There is a lot of hurt, pain, and brokenness involved but these kids need love, connection, and attachment. It will hurt when they leave your home but they are so worth grieving. You are needed.”

Courtesy of Katie Day

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Katie Day from Binghamton, NY. You can follow their journey on Instagram and Facebook. 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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‘At 11, his adoptive parents abandoned him at a hospital, never to return. ‘Mr. Peter, can I call you my Dad?’ I began to cry uncontrollably.’: Single dad adopts 11-year-old boy from foster care after biological, adoptive family abandon him

‘That night I cried in my driveway for a child. 10 minutes later, I got a call. ‘Can you take in 1-year old twin boys?’: 26-year-old single foster mom says ‘I was called for plans bigger than myself’

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