‘This is a FINAL decision. Once I sign off, you cannot change your mind.’ They’re a sibling group of 3. 2 of them had special needs.’: Single mom adopts siblings out of foster care, ‘Mama’ is my most cherished role in life’

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“I have always followed every dream I had – mission trips, college degree, lots of traveling, ministry school, home ownership, multiple career choices. So when I worked towards the goal of becoming a foster parent, my mindset was always, I’m able to give children a temporary, safe, loving environment so that’s what I’ll do.’ I always thought adoption would present itself once I was married and intentionally wanted to start a family with my husband. (People do ask me if I can have my own kids or if that’s why I adopted. But again, I never intentionally set out to adopt. I only had it in my heart to foster).

Courtesy of Abbie Phillips

My girls were my second placement of kiddos. It became evident that permanency couldn’t be sought with biological family so I was asked if I would consider adopting the girls. I was told these three girls had a very slim chance of being adopted together if they weren’t able to stay with me. Crazy right? To think that because D was considered an ‘older’ child, meaning harder to find an adoptive family. She was only 9. Or that they’re a certain race makes them harder to place. They’re a sibling group of 3 which also was a factor. And 2 of them had some special needs/behavioral considerations (adjustment disorder and generalized anxiety) that would also narrow their chances of an adoptive family stepping forward.

This is sometimes hard for me to share…because it presents these babies as a burden. And I NEVER want that message to come across. But on paper and in real life, their needs were messy and deep. Especially for a single parent. What most of you do not know, is that I said no. When presented with the option of adopting my girls, I said no. My heart knew something my mind could not understand. My heart knew they were mine. My mind said, ‘But they’re probably better off in a 2-parent household. They have a lot of needs. I don’t think I can do it.’

I had people in my circle telling me that my answer was okay because I had done all I could. Doubts, insecurities, even unhealed trauma from my own past completely warped my mind and told me I wasn’t the best option for them. That they deserved better or I wouldn’t be able to commit to them for a lifetime, or I would fail them in some way – oh those thoughts were causing so much confusion at the most critical time in the girls’ case. I even had people tell me I shouldn’t adopt since I was single. So then I started believing the lies that I shouldn’t adopt since I couldn’t give them what I desired for them – a father. I was standing in front of a massive mountain of self-doubt, created by my own insecurities and perceived flaws. I wasn’t enough for them. Maybe another family was meant to adopt them. A better family.

But then as the word ‘no’ painfully uttered out of my mouth, my soul was filled with incredible sadness. I was crying every day, crying every night. Everything about me was just so sad. The girls didn’t know. How could I tell them? How could I fail them like this? They loved me so much and were so attached. And I had just told the caseworker, ‘No, I cannot adopt them.’

About two weeks later I had this moment of clarity where I finally said to myself, ‘Your heart says yes. Your mind says no. But what does God say?’ I remember specifically praying, ‘God, I need to know what you want from me for these girls. If it’s a yes, that’s okay. And if it’s a no, that’s okay.’ Now, just know that even though that sounds so nonchalant, it was anything but. It was a HARD MOMENT of complete surrender, taking myself out of the equation and trusting God with an answer that was best for the girls. It required complete stillness on my part. No more trying to make sense of my world at that moment. No more rushing myself in spite of the fact the case still needed to proceed forward. Just painfully allowing my soul to hush.

And then something so beautiful happened in one of those moments, weeks later (because the answer isn’t always immediate) when I was still forcing myself to be still. I felt a rush of brave obedience and courage and I started seeing glimpses of the girls and me together in the future, as a family. My heart was filling my mind with pictures of our adoption, and my wedding, and future foster children, and my girls were happy and loved and cared for and treasured. By me. By my husband. By our family. By our church. By community. And there was so much peace. And so much purpose. And I knew it was God saying YES. And my mind settled. The storm subsided. The doubts bowed because peace was finally taking over.

I told the agency I was ready to adopt the girls. So many tears, happy tears by the workers who were involved in this case…we were all experiencing our own relief and happiness, knowing these girls would be exactly where they were meant to be.

July 5, 2017. Adoption day was filled with absolute assurance. As I opened the bedroom door that morning, a sweet voice says, ‘Morning mama. It’s adoption day.’ Butterflies filled my stomach. The girls and I dolled ourselves up to reflect what was on the inside. Joy and beauty. Confidence and assurance.  We were met at the courthouse by immediate family members, one of my very best friends in the entire world, and the team of professionals that were involved in our case. We all stood together, anxiously awaiting our turn in the courtroom. My lawyer pulled me aside and stated there had been a miscommunication with our paperwork and the judge needed further clarification before he would proceed with a decision. My heart dropped. I remember thinking, ‘What could possibly need to be clarified? Doesn’t he know how big of a day this is for us?’

Sometime later we were finally pulled into the courtroom. After a series of statements and questions, he finally looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘I’m sure you’re aware this is a final decision. Once I sign off, you cannot change your mind. You are ready to commit to these girls permanently, correct?’ My heart was beating out of my chest. This was the moment I spent many nights praying for. This was what I desired for myself and my girls. It was finally here. No more questioning. No more twists and turns in the case that left me a nervous wreck.  And although in my mind I felt myself nervously answer, my mom said I confidently replied: ‘Yes sir.’

A huge sense of relief washed over me as I heard the words, ‘Congratulations, this adoption is now final. You’ll soon receive new birth certificates for each of your daughters and their new names will be on there. You, and only you, will be listed as their mother.’ What an incredible honor. What an absolute privilege. I remember thinking, ‘I will never take this lightly.’Mama’ was now my most cherished role in this life. I was overwhelmed with complete joy, one like I’ve never known or felt in this lifetime up until that moment. 

Courtesy of Abbie Phillips

Please don’t get me wrong, there is deep grief felt on Adoption Day. I will someday write about that as well. But out of great pain, came great promise. A promise that we were in this together. Always. Regardless of anything. From that point on, they had a permanent place to call home; a family. Forever.  And that was most beautiful of all.

I vulnerably share all of that to say, God always has a plan. But more importantly, He always sees the big picture. Sometimes he may only show us glimpses at first, knowing the whole picture may just freak us out because it’s wild and wonderful and messy and chaotic and so AWFULLY BEAUTIFUL that we think we can’t handle His plan for our lives. Whether you’re of faith or not, there’s always a plan for your life.

Honestly, I’m at a place where I so honor the glimpses. I don’t need to see the full picture of my life. It’s TOO big. I’m still learning to trust. I’m still learning to walk in obedience. I’m still telling my head to hush sometimes. But I will say this, next time when a big, wonderful, scary opportunity presents itself for my life, I’ll consider the joy of my YES first, instead of allowing the safety of no to be my default. Just to be clear, the JOY isn’t that I adopted. It’s not about me at all. The joy is having these 3 girls wreck my world in the best way possible. The privilege of being a mom. The honor of raising fierce little women who know heartbreak but also know wholeness. The JOY is in the YES.

And now, two years later, my adopted girls and I welcome foster children into our home. It is our family ministry. I have fostered 7 additional children and am currently fostering a sibling group of 3 in addition to my 3 girls. We wouldn’t choose any other way of life. We were meant to do hard things. On the very hardest of days, when my will is worn and my love seems tapped out, the girls never fail to remind me that we do this as a team.

We were meant to open our home and love other children in need of family while they are away from their own. Why do I do this? Because there’s a huge need. And the children are worth it. Love takes work. Trust takes 100% effort. Patience requires consistency. Weakness is strength. And we are all in need of healing. Every single one of us.”

Courtesy of Abbie Phillips

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Abbie Phillips of Ohio. You can follow her journey on Instagram hereDo you have a similar experience? Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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‘I just want you to know, we are the family who adopted your son.’ She hadn’t gone a single day without thinking about him. ‘Can you be here in 2 weeks?!’: Adopted boy surprised with biological mom, now part of beautiful open adoption

‘I’ve had 9 children, by myself. One passed away. I’m expecting, but I have no idea when my ‘due date’ is.’: Single mom fosters multiple children and has open adoption, ‘It’s all on me, baby!’

‘Look at this little girl.’ She was born without hands, feet, or a mouth. We cried all the way through her file.’: Couple pursues special needs adoption, ‘She is truly remarkable’

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