“When my husband and I met and fell in love, we knew we wanted to be foster parents someday. We knew we would like to adopt children, and we both agreed we were fine with providing a family for a child versus ‘creating’ a family by having biological children. We both felt like it was important to strive to be a loving, safe, and caring place for a child to feel like they belonged; and if that was an older child we were ok, in fact, we were licensed to be therapeutic foster parents with an agency that is known for placing teens and older children. We assumed we would probably be foster parents for a few years and maybe eventually adopt an older child that was open to the idea of adoption.
What we didn’t know was within the first year as licensed foster parents, we met all three boys who would later become our forever sons. We met our oldest son, Isiah, when he had just turned 16 years of age. It was just a few days before Christmas when he came to stay with us for respite care, a time when the primary foster parents request another family to step in to provide care for a few days or weeks. That particular day Isiah came to our home we already had our two little guys (2 and 4), another pre-teen girl we were providing respite care for, and a guest from Malaysia tagging along to church that Sunday before Christmas! We did not have a vehicle large enough to accommodate all of us, so we drove separately. I remember walking into church with this large group of people and feeling at peace and excited to finally be a part of a ‘big family,’ if only for a weekend.
I grew up an only child to older than average parents, so I often felt alone and forgotten. That feeling was part of the impetus that drove me to aspire to be a foster parent, and maybe an adoptive parent someday. I never wanted a child to feel alone in this world. Back to our Christmas season time spent with Isiah. From the first hour he just fit in, he got our sarcastic humor, he gave it back, and he was talkative- just like my husband. We had a fun four days that included a huge family dinner and piles of presents to open at my in-laws, a basketball game at our local University with the grandparents and guests from out of town, and some last minute Christmas shopping. Christmas Eve came and it was time for Isiah’s full time foster family to pick him up on their way back into town. I remember feeling down and disappointed that the week was over. Our traditional Christmas Eve present opening with my mother at our home was one in which my husband and I went through the motions, but our hearts were not in it. We already missed the young man that had made such a huge impression on us and left us wondering ‘will we even get to see him again?’
A month or so went by, and we had the privilege of providing respite care for him on two other occasions. Little did we know the third time would be the last time we would see or talk to him for almost two years. There are many heroes in the foster care system working hard to serve children, they are selfless and truly want to be a support to children who, through no fault of their own, find themselves having to adapt and adjust to life without stability. However, those ‘calling the shots’ can have agendas, play favorites, and generally not have the child’s best interest in mind. Through no fault of his or ours, we were not allowed to speak to him or see him for almost two years. Three months after he came to stay with us, his profile appeared on Adopt US Kids. My husband and I were both hopeful as we clicked the button to request more information. Our hope was quickly lost when we were told, after I sent several pestering emails and made a few phone calls, that he did not want to be adopted. This explanation did not exactly match up with words that he shared with us during one of his visits. We felt confused, hurt, angry, ignored and sad; a similar gamut of emotions many children feel as they struggle through years in foster care. Isiah had struggled through, for 12 long and painful years. An amount of time no one should ever have to endure and wonder and hope to be a part of a family again. This may have been the end of his story in foster care, 12 years in, signed himself out of care at 18. He joined the US Army right out of high school and was deployed to Iraq and survived the bombing in 2020 of the Al Assad Air base.
But we never gave up. I distinctly remember one day the good times we had had with Isiah and wishing that he was here with us, God seemed to say to my heart and mind (like an impression or thought in my mind) the phrase ‘He will be your son.’ I held onto that promise for five years, until the actual day the adoption was finalized.
We reconnected with him via Instagram after he left the foster home that initiated the no communication rule with our family. In July of 2017, after almost two years of not getting to give him a hug or even a phone call, we dropped by his summer job at Dairy Queen. I remember feeling like it wasn’t even happening, like it was a dream that this young man we had loved from day one was actually standing in front of us taking our ice cream order after a long hot day at the beach. We remained in communication with him, but did not get to see Isiah often. Our excitement that we knew he was ok and doing well was tinged with sadness because we still wished he was home with us. When you are in foster care you don’t have the freedom to make many of your own decisions, if any, even as a teenager. Isiah’s 18th birthday was later that year and we had the privilege of celebrating by going out to a nice dinner. He shared his plans for the future; we were excited for him and proud of him. Admittedly, we were sad that after a long period of him not being able to be in our lives he was now a young adult and he was heading out into the world on his own. Yet again, we had reached another point in our four short, but long, years of knowing him where we didn’t know when or if we would ever see him again.
We said good bye on July 2, 2019 as he left Virginia Beach for basic training with the US Army in Fort Jackson SC. I cried for two days. I was proud of him for not giving into despair after more than a decade of surviving foster care. Isiah is strong, he was determined to not become a statistic. Thousands of young adults age out of foster care every year in the United States. They instantly become homeless. They often end up on the streets or in prison. If you remember nothing else about our story but this then this was not in vain, YOU NEVER OUTGROW THE NEED FOR FAMILY.
Back to boot camp and Isiah embarking on his adult life, we sent him many letters and care packages, and with each one we kept up hope that we would see him again, and that maybe someday we could live as a family. That was my dream from the first day we met him, as well as my husband’s. It wasn’t so much that we felt he needed us, we felt like he would bring so much love and life to our home. After much prayer and long chats together in our hot tub (our place to get away and have uninterrupted adult conversation!) we felt it was time to once again broach the subject of adoption with Isiah. We knew, at one point, he was open to being adopted, and he did not seem to have any other permanent family connections with foster families he had met along the way so we felt like we should talk to him about adoption to understand if it was something he even wanted as a now 18 year old adult! I had two very kind, intelligent and wise young ladies advising me along this journey of hoping and praying to adopt Isiah. I ‘met’ both of them via Instagram, and they both are former foster youth who aged out of foster care and were later adopted as adults! They have also shared their stories on this platform, and I think it is amazing that now the stories they shared with me about their adoption as an adult have now become our family’s story as well.
In February of 2019, my husband and Isiah Face-timed while he was in AIT in Georgia with the US Army. My husband asked him some questions concerning his feelings about adoption, if that was something he would want to do, and if so, we would be honored to be his adoptive family. He said yes…even after my husband insisted he take some time to think about it, he just said yes he would like to be adopted. Due to his being deployed and some miscommunication and delays in court, the paperwork was signed and filed within a few months of his saying yes, but the adoption would not be finalized until February of this year!
From the day we met Isiah, December 20th, 2015, until the day we were notified that the judge had signed the legal order declaring what we felt and knew in our hearts for six years, Isiah was our son. It was a long road with many twists, turns, roadblocks and detours. I cried my way through those six years, I wish that pain and confusion on no one, then I remember that those feelings of hopelessness and wondering and missing something is what over 400,000 kids in this country experience each day as they wait in foster care. Some are reunited with their birth families, some are separated for years, and others begin the hard work of becoming a part of a new family through the miracle of adoption. Adoption is something that is beautiful but messy, happy but sad, miraculous but hard. It gave me three beautiful boys that make me proud. They are strong through their scars and they teach me everyday to never give up hope.
See adoption video here.
Isiah’s portion follows:
Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift and is what comes to mind when I think about my journey growing up. There have been ups and there have been more downs, sadly to say. But through all the struggles, hardships, and obstacles I have faced one thing I’ve stood firmly on throughout my life is, never give up! My childhood does not define me, and has molded me into the man I am becoming. My empathetic and committed personality has allowed me to relate to others and work harder every day, which is most likely the reason why I’ve made it this far in life. There have been people in my life that have stated something along the lines of how amazed they are of how I’ve been through so much and I’m still a genuine, caring, and kind person. When I gave some thought into it, I honestly asked myself that also. It wasn’t till later that I realized I have been suppressing all of it by focusing all of my attention on not being a statistic, and not wanting to follow in the footsteps of my biological parents. I even tried fixing it and blamed myself because I just couldn’t understand why this was happening to me. It hurts to not feel wanted and loved. Being in foster care, I have met people who really don’t care and want a paycheck, which only made trusting others even worse. It messed with my head, and even still today, I have problems with trust and relationships. I’ve subconsciously pushed good people away because of trauma, and also probably hurt people in the process.
There was a time in my teenage years when I made a decision to be adopted and went through the process just to be let down again. After that I felt like I was okay with being on my own, but deep down I always wanted to feel like part of a family and not so alone. I kept telling myself, I don’t need anyone, and I portrayed an image on the outside that I didn’t need anyone. That was one of the reasons I joined the military, because I didn’t have to rely on anyone and I can run away from my problems. When that didn’t work out, I came back to the states from Iraq after surviving a bombing attack and was welcomed home by a family that made an impact on my life that I will never forget. This family only saw me for a few days for respite. In my eyes, respite is basically a vacation for the foster parents from the child, and it only makes the child feel even more divided. If you truly called that child your own, you would have another family member watch them, or better yet, take the child on the vacation with you. During that weekend, it was almost like I forgot that I was in foster care and the best way to explain it is that I belonged there. I was constantly laughing, and even during Christmas this family bought me a gift so I didn’t feel apart from it.
From the moment they met me they treated me with love and respect. I felt like it was over so quick, and now I had to come back to reality with knowing I was still in foster care. I got to see them for a few times after, but after some conflict I was unable to see them for awhile. This family reached out to me on multiple occasions and was always there, wanting to listen and provide any assistance they could. Even in basic training they wrote me and sent me care packages when no one else did. They constantly made an effort to be a part of my life, and I couldn’t understand why they kept reaching out. I honestly thought they would eventually stop, but instead they came to my AIT graduation and even called me multiple times when I was overseas. Even after I got out of the army I was never judged and they always told me that no matter what I have a place to stay and call home. When I came home and saw a room decorated for me and a key chain attached to a house key, I was almost so overwhelmed that I didn’t even know how to respond because I have never had anyone put so much effort in making me feel loved.
Now what we all didn’t know is that building a relationship on a daily basis wasn’t going be so easy. I had a lot of things I was running away from, and now that I was back home, I had to face them. I was of age where if I wanted to see my biological family I could do so. During that process, I had to learn that some of my biological family members were not healthy for me. This was causing me to make bad choices and, unknowingly, I could have fallen back into bad habits. This was causing confusion and conflicts in the house, and it was hard on everyone. I was so lost, and I even started to think unhealthy thoughts and only led me to further build walls. This family asked me, one day before I came home, if I wanted to be adopted and instantly- I didn’t even have to think about it -because I just knew how much they loved me and I wanted to be a part of that forever.
While of all this was going on, having a pandemic wasn’t helpful either. It pushed the court dates back and instead of taking a few months, it took years to be adopted. At one point I even thought they were waiting to see if I would change my mind. I made these thoughts up in my head and continued to do so. My love for this family was in question at that point. After waiting for so long to be adopted and having these conflicts going on when it finally did, I honestly didn’t feel worthy of it. Things got better for a little while, but then I kept making bad decisions all while my family was fighting for me and I felt I was alone. I would say one thing and do another because I knew what the right thing to do was, I just kept falling back into temptation. It wasn’t until I realized that the decisions I was making were the easy decisions, and when I decided to make the hard decisions I could begin to heal and overcome the demons I was battling. During the process of healing, I learned that you have to take control and give up control at the same time. To expand upon that, I had to take control of wanting to get help while taking initiative but at the same give up control to allow others to help. The people that genuinely care about your health, well-being, and push you to do better is what FAMILY is for and this family that never gave up on me has turned into my family.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Elizabeth (mom), Bryan (dad), and Isiah (son) from Virginia. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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