“I’ll never forget the moment my daughter was placed in my arms. She had a full head of dark hair, red marks on her face from the tape that once held her feeding tube in, and was as content as can be. Except I didn’t know she would be my daughter for years after. And she was placed in my arms by her first mom.
Called To Adoption
Let’s go back to the beginning. I have always known I wanted to adopt in some form or fashion. God had laid that on my heart at a young age. When I finally started dating my long-time church camp friend, whom I later married, we discussed adoption and knew it would be a part of our family plan.
I went to college to become a social worker and worked as a child abuse investigator for Child Protective Services. That experience showed me the world of foster care. We also had friends who were foster parents, and both my husband and I had grandparents who fostered. It became clear to us that was what God was calling us to do; to love a child in our home until they can reunify, and if they can’t reunify, open our home to adopt them.
We figured we would have a few biological children first, and then foster and adopt our last one. But God threw a wrench in that perfectly laid out plan when we struggled to conceive. I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, and we learned it would be very unlikely for us to conceive ‘the old-fashioned way.’ Thanks to modern medicine and prayers, we conceived our oldest son, Elijah, in 2017.
When Elijah was about 15 months old, we started talking about expanding our family. We were not sure if we wanted to try fertility treatments again, or if God was calling us to start fostering. We had many discussions. I prayed so hard and discussed it with many trusted friends and family.
Becoming Foster Parents
The next day, I was driving on the highway, praying to God to make our next steps clear. I was begging him to lead our family to the path he had meant for us. As I was praying, I saw a highway sign. It was a billboard, for the agency my friend had told me about last night, saying they needed foster parents.
It was like God hit me over the head with a frying pan! By the end of that week, we had orientation scheduled with the agency and started the process to become a licensed foster family.
We became a foster family to love on children, keep them safe, and support them getting reunified with their family of origin. We knew at some point, we would probably adopt a child that couldn’t reunify. But I thought if we started when our son was this age, by the time we adopted a child, they’d have a nice age gap.
Our First Placement
I was sitting at home when I got the text for our first placement. It was a little after 2 p.m., and our licensor said the agency had a call with the county at 2:30 for a newborn baby girl. It said a word or two about why she was coming into care, and asked if we’d be interested. I called my husband, and we agreed to say yes.
We originally didn’t want newborns, but I told him we should say yes, even though we most likely wouldn’t get her (because everyone wants newborns). I think I was trigger happy to say yes to our first placement call.
A few minutes after 2:30, I got a call from our licensor. I knew they didn’t call you to say you weren’t chosen. I frantically jotted down the few details they had about her and was told she was being discharged from the NICU in two days.
I was later contacted by our licensor and was told that the baby girl’s mother wanted to meet my husband and I. She wanted to know the people who would be caring for her daughter. I was so excited and so nervous.
A few days later, we were at the children’s hospital meeting her. A caseworker was with us and mediated. The mother asked if I was a stay-at-home mom and seemed pleased when I said yes. She asked if I wanted to hold baby Ariana. I said yes.
As I snuggled this tiny, precious baby girl, hooked up to wires and monitors, her mom said I could come up and visit them as much as possible. She said she wanted Ariana to get to know me and bond with me so she would be more comfortable before discharge. Discharge had been delayed a few days at this point.
I was so honored. I spent hours in that NICU room with Ariana and her mom. We talked about our lives. We shared stories. And I got to spend time alone with Ariana while her mom ran a few errands.
Nurses came in and said how unusual it was to see a foster mom and biological mom get along this well. While I know I was kind and respectful to her, and honored her role as Ariana’s mom, she was just as kind to me.
On discharge day, her mother handed her daughter to me with tears in her eyes. I remember pep talking myself, telling myself I had to keep it together, even though I was breaking inside. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.
I already loved this baby so much and was so excited to get her home and out of the cold hospital setting. But this was what officially put Ariana into the foster care system.
My husband and I walked out of the hospital, with bags of clothes her mom had given us, and a baby we hadn’t even known existed days prior.
Getting Settled In Our Role
I texted Ariana’s mom often with pictures and updates. When she attended medical appointments with me, we got along easily. But even with how well we got along, we were still a part of the broken and painful system of foster care.
Sending Ariana to supervised visits twice a week was so difficult. Even though I knew she was safe, the mama bear in me wanted to protect her and know exactly what was occurring at every visit, which was not information I was privy to.
My days were scattered with supervised visitation, specialist appointments for Ariana, court dates, and home visits. As the months went on, it became clear the odds of a successful reunification were dwindling.
February 2020, the courts officially changed the goal from reunification to termination of parental rights and adoption. A hearing to terminate her mom’s parental rights was scheduled for May 2020. And then, the world shut down. Covid changed how we did everything.
Ariana was a year and a half old, and we suddenly had to do virtual visits with her mom instead of in-person. I chased a wild toddler around our home, trying to keep her engaged on Facetime for our biweekly visits with her mom.
Court hearings weren’t being held in-person, so the termination hearing was rescheduled over and over. And as long as her mom had rights, we still continued to do visits, and she rightfully still had the opportunity to work her case plan.
I was devastated. It had become so clear that the outcome was inevitable. Yet every delay was more time with Ariana in the limbo of foster care. I desperately clung to God and prayed, trying to remind myself that His timing is perfect.
Debating Our Willingness To Foster Another
In-person visits resumed a few months later. When I saw her mom for the first time in months, I thought she looked like she was pregnant. I brought it up to the caseworker, who in July confirmed that Ariana’s biological mother was pregnant with a baby boy.
Before that, my husband and I had decided that after Ariana’s presumed adoption, we would take a long break from fostering. Foster care is exhausting. Your life and schedule seem to revolve around the agency and the biological parents. We needed a break. But the pregnancy changed everything.
My husband and I were not in agreement on what to do. He said no, and I said yes, we should accept placement of the baby if he came into foster care. So many tears were shed over this decision.
Could we care for another child? Could we parent three kids ages three and under? If not, could we be the reason biological siblings couldn’t be raised together? If we say no, would the agency look for another family who would take both of them?
Ultimately, we decided to say yes. And I thank God daily that covid delayed Ariana’s case. I would like to think we would’ve said yes to the new baby no matter what, but if we hadn’t seen their mom pregnant in-person and had time to process our decision, I don’t know that we would have.
Easton was born at the end of August 2020. His case was unusual, and CPS decided to discharge him from the hospital to someone else. We are not sure of many of the details of that decision, but I was wrought with anxiety over the unknown. I begged God to keep him safe; if he was meant to be with this person, it was fine, but to please keep him safe.
CPS had a blind review board to decide if Easton should remain with this person or come into foster care. I was sick to my stomach. I laid on my couch and prayed to God for peace and that the best decision be made for Easton, whatever that may be.
As I was praying, my phone rang. It was our agency letting me know it was decided that Easton would come into foster care and asking if we would take placement of him. I emphatically said yes!
Becoming A Family Of Five
A few hours later, a CPS worker pulled into my driveway. I ran out to meet this sweet boy. His mom had sent me a few pictures, but I couldn’t wait to snuggle him. He was tiny, able to fit into preemie clothes. He had a head full of hair, just like his sister. And just like that, we were a family of five.
The next month, the hearing occurred that terminated mom’s rights to Ariana. Although this was the best thing considering the situation, and was the start of giving Ariana permanency, it was not a happy day.
A friend of mine described termination hearings as funerals, and I couldn’t agree more. Every fault, barrier, and mistake the parents have made is read aloud in public court. While it was a reminder at how evident it was that this needed to happen, it doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking.
So while working toward the adoption of Ariana, simultaneously the official goal for Easton was reunification, as it is for most cases for the first year or so. He was transported by a multitude of agency staff to his supervised biweekly visitation with his mom.
Our lives were again peppered with specialist medical appointments, visitation, and home visits. It was hard for me to be excitedly working on the adoption of Ariana, while also supporting a reunification plan for Easton.
In April 2021, we finalized the adoption of our daughter. Everything changed, yet nothing changed. Yes, she shared our last name. Yes, I can legally get her hair cut and take her across state lines without permission. But the day to day didn’t change.
I’ve been her mother since she was a week old, in some fashion. I was still cutting up her hot dogs, still chasing her around the yard, and still tucking her into bed at night. But I knew she was here to stay forever, and that peace is indescribable.
That summer, the goal was changed in Easton’s case from reunification to termination and adoption. And after multiple covid related delays, rights were terminated in March 2022. We were able to finalize his adoption in September 2022.
I think in some ways, I idolized adoption. I craved being able to make decisions for my kids without any input from the agency or biological family. I wanted to know my kids would stay with us forever. And while all of that is true, adoption is just the beginning.
My adopted children still have effects from trauma, from foster care, and from being separated from their biological mom. Trauma isn’t fixed from an adoption certificate. It can be a part of healing and permanency, but there is still so much work to be done.
As I look back, I still can’t believe I have three children. This roller coaster of foster care is the craziest, most unusual ride I’ve ever done. I cannot believe I willingly put myself through this. But I cannot imagine doing anything differently. These three kids are my own, no matter how they came to me. I’m honored God chose me as their mother.
If anyone is having even the slightest tug towards becoming a foster family, lean into it. Pray about it. Talk to other foster families. Attend an orientation. It is the absolute craziest, and absolute best thing, I’ve ever done. And if we hadn’t said yes, we could’ve missed all of this.”
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