“Have you ever had a crazy idea? You know, one that even you can’t believe you’re even contemplating?
My husband, Phillip, will tell you I am the queen of crazy ideas. And he knows each time I say, ‘Hey, I was thinking…,’ it’s going to mean a lot more work for him.
I had one of those ideas a few years ago, and it completely changed our lives – so much more than I ever thought it would.
In spring of 2017, we moved from Denver to Houston. We settled in with our ward (congregation) at the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka, Mormon) and starting making great friends. It quickly felt like home.
At the time, we had two kids. Our oldest was about to turn 4 years old that summer, and our son had just turned 1 shortly before the move. I’d had a miscarriage between the two of them, and I had another miscarriage that summer. We wanted to grow our family, but my Crohn’s disease was making my body a bit uncooperative.
One thing that helped me settle into our new ward and our home was becoming involved with CASA, which stands for Court-Appointed Special Advocate. These are volunteers in the community who are assigned to one foster child (or sibling group) and report to the judge overseeing their case about their status. One of the women in my ward was a full-time CASA supervisor, and she was training volunteers about two months after we moved in. I gladly volunteered, as 4 of my 9 siblings were adopted out of foster care.
We were happy. We had a wonderful church family, great new friends, and Phillip loved his job. I was sad we hadn’t been able to have more children, but I trusted in the Lord and His timing. In the meantime, I could help other children who needed it with my CASA work.
About six months after we moved in, the missionaries brought a new family to church who were interested in learning more about Jesus Christ. This was a single father with five children, ages 12 to 1. We wanted to get to know them better and invited them over to dinner around Thanksgiving.
At that dinner, we learned that the children’s mom had left them, and he was leaving the 2-year-old with his mother-in-law. That week, however, he went to pick her up after work and found her playing with a used drug syringe. He didn’t want to send her back, but he had nowhere else to leave her after Thanksgiving break was over.
That hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn’t even hesitate, or even stop to talk to my husband – I just blurted out, ‘She and the kids can all come here!’
I’ll never forget the look on his face when he realized I was serious. Relief combined with concern; after all, he’d only just met us!
But we decided to do it.
This man would bring his 3 younger kids over at 6 a.m. each morning on his way to work – the 2 older would catch the middle school bus from their home. The two younger would ride the elementary bus from our house. Then after school, all 4 of them would come back to our house until he picked them up after work, which was around 6-7 p.m.
It went great for the first two days!
Then, the 2-year-old woke up from her nap scratching her head furiously.
Apparently lice are a lot more common than I thought. I’d never had it as a kid, and I never knew anyone who had it. Thankfully, a woman in our church had had it before, so I called her.
We ended up having the kids stay with us for an entire week while they de-liced their house. That was a bit rough.
It’s really hard bringing two families together into one place and adapting to each other. I felt overwhelmed, but I learned so much from it.
After that week, we went back to the original plan. For about 4-5 months, we kept up this routine. I was so burned out by the time spring break rolled around.
And then I had another miscarriage, which caused my Crohn’s to flare.
At that same time, this father decided to move his family back into his sister’s home, so they could save money and have that security.
It was heartbreaking all around. But we still keep in touch. I love seeing pictures of them and watching them grow; they became like my own children.
This experience gave me courage when the following year, we were asked to do it again – but this time, it was a drug addict single mother who was told by CPS to find a home for her kids or lose them to the foster care system. Since the oldest boy (12) was a member of our church in a neighboring ward, we heard about it through the grapevine.
This time, I made sure to ask my husband first! Since it was only two children (boys ages 12 and 4), we felt confident we could handle it.
Then the CPS worker called to ask why we didn’t want to take the sister, too – we didn’t even know there was a sister! But we agreed.
This time it was much more difficult. The children had needs that we couldn’t even begin to meet. The 12-year-old boy had several mental illness diagnoses, and the 4-year-old boy was non-verbal and still in diapers taking a bottle. Within a week, I knew we were in over our heads.
We reached out to a local foster organization to ask for advice. They recommended we become certified/licensed foster parents and have the kids be put into CPS custody as opposed to the unreliable mother’s custody.
With the support of our ward, we began the process. And these kids acclimated incredibly well to our home. The boys were calling me ‘Mom’ and their 10-year-old sister became like a big sister to our oldest daughter.
But then we ran into an issue – the CPS office told us we could either keep the kids but have them in their mom’s stewardship, or CPS could take custody but would have to re-home them.
It was, and still is, the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make in my life.
Do we have these kids, who loved and trust us, be uprooted? Or do we leave them with us, but unable to get any medical and psychological care?
After lots of tears and lots of prayers, we knew that we had to do what was best for the kids and their health. With extremely heavy hearts, we turned them over to the foster care system.
It turned out to be the best decision we could have made.
Within days, they had health insurance and could once again get vital medications. Their mother was able to get assistance and into an in-patient rehab facility.
We kept in touch with them, and now, 18 months later, it’s incredible. They’re happy, healthy, and together as a family. Their mom got clean and has stayed that way, and now she’s a wonderful force for good in helping other moms.
Even though we couldn’t keep those kids, we decided to continue on our journey to become licensed foster parents. We wanted to give a home to others who needed it, so we asked the foster agency where we could do the most good.
Imagine our surprise when they told us the most difficult children to place are, in fact, not older children!
Instead, it’s infants. Newborn babies who are not eligible for adoption.
You see, the people who want to invest a tremendous amount of time and work into caring for newborns are doing so because this is how they are going to grow their family. Usually, it’s parents who can’t have children of their own, and they want to have a newborn and have them grow together as a family.
Unfortunately, many newborns aren’t eligible for adoption because their parents are still working their services with CPS to try to regain custody. And there’s a chance that they can. Most people aren’t willing to take the risk that they’ll fall in love with a baby and have them for a year, only to have to give them up.
So, that’s what we said we’d do – we’d take the babies who weren’t eligible for adoption and care for them until their parents either got them back or lost their rights.
However, life has a very funny way of changing things.
The week we found out we had passed all of the certifications and were now eligible to receive our first placement, we found out we were pregnant with baby #3.
Our foster plans had to be put on hold until he was at least 6 months old.
He was born 3 months ago, so we have 3 months left.
This journey of taking in children who aren’t our own has been incredibly life-changing. We’ve seen a perspective on life that we never could have imagined or dreamed.
It’s been a roller coaster of emotions, ups and downs, highs and lows.
But you know what? We wouldn’t change it for the world.
And we hope to be able to keep going on.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tiffany Thomas of Saving Talents. 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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