“My journey into foster care began with a very vivid dream. I had a little boy and baby girl. I don’t remember all the details of this dream, but I specifically remember the feeling I had when holding that precious baby girl, while the little boy snuggled into my side. It was a love I felt deep in my soul. I can still feel the warmth of their bodies. It was so real and powerful, I couldn’t just brush it off as just a dream. I thought, ‘God sent me this dream to inform me of my calling.’ I never knew, let alone thought or believed, foster care is something I could or would do. It was never part of my life plans, but as the old saying goes, ‘We make plans and God laughs.’ I had no idea the roller coaster I was about to embark on, but I jumped in with an open heart and innocent dreams.
It took me forever to get licensed. I was met with so many unnecessary roadblocks, I began to question my calling. One day, on the brink of giving up, in my morning prayers I demanded God give me a clear answer that very day. A few hours later, in the course of my duties as a nurse, a man I was preparing for surgery revealed he was a former foster youth. He shared his story, spoke of his foster parents, and said, ‘Their love and kindness shaped the person I have become.’ This was not the last time I asked for a sign, but whenever I asked I got a clear direct answer… EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
Every answer made my drive stronger and my mission clearer. I did everything I could to prepare to be the best foster parent! I found an amazing support group. I studied trauma-based care through books and podcasts. I went to seminars. I talked to anybody and everybody who had experience with foster care. I was ready!
One day, after 2 long years of waiting, I got the call at noon—I was officially a licensed foster parent! At 4 p.m., I got a second call: ‘We have a baby girl, will you take her?’ YES! I left work in a hurry and ran to the store with two friends, grabbing anything and everything I thought I needed. At 6 p.m. that night, I had a sweet baby girl in my home. It was INSANE! Despite all of my training and preparation, I found I had more questions than answers. ‘What am I doing? How much does she eat? Which formula does she drink? Does she have any medical issues? Can I really do this?’ And then she looked up and smiled at me. I said, ‘Yes, I can do this!’ She stayed for two nights. I cried my eyes out when she left. God sent her to me to get my feet wet. She was my first baby, and I’ll never forget her.
A few weeks later, the phone rang again and they told me about a toddler boy who needed a home: ‘He is a hitter and a biter. Will you take him?’ YES! He was separated from his mom and siblings and dropped at my door with nothing but the clothes on his back. No shoes, no paperwork, nothing. He ran from me to the door, crying and frightened. Then, he ran from the door to me because he was frightened. I was frightened. More questions.’What has he been through? What has he seen? How do I calm his fears and make him feel safe? Can I do this?’ By the time he left 2 weeks later, he was trying to call me mom. By then, it was me he ran to when scared. I was able to make him feel safe. I cried my eyes out when he left. God sent him to tell me, ‘You can do this.’ He was my first boy and I’ll never forget him.
4 weeks passed, and just about the time my heart was almost healed and I had settled back into my old routine, the phone rang again. It was time for me to meet my sweet, sweet, baby boy. He was with me for 979 days. I taught him how to eat, walk, talk, count, color. For this single mom of one, he was my entire world. Everything I did, thought, planned, and cooked revolved around him for over 2 years. His case was a constant roller coaster of emotions. There were times when my love for him was the only thing keeping me from throwing in the towel. This case tested me and my faith on multiple levels. It taught me grace for myself and others. But more than anything, it taught me what true love really is. I have never loved anyone the way I love him. He will always be my baby and I’ll never forget him. He left a few weeks ago and the wound is still open and raw.
There is not an hour that goes by when I don’t think about him. The feeling of my insides crumbling comes in waves. I have never physically felt my heart hurt before this. Sometimes I wonder if I will run out of tears, but they keep coming. Then comes the inevitable question I ask myself, ‘Will I do this again?’ Yes, because even though foster care is hard, these snuggles are worth every single tear, anxiety, fear, and bout of nausea. I choose to remember his laugh, the way he called whipped cream ‘coconut,’ the way he would shake with excitement when he saw the people he loved, the way he lifted his eyebrows, closed his eyes, and slowly shook his head when he ate something delicious, and the way he would say Jesus in his nightly prayers. There is a lot of brokenness in foster care, but the key is to find the ‘beauty in the ashes.’
Over the past few years, I have found beauty from my biggest blessing—my village. As a single, full-time working foster mom, I could not do what I do without my amazing friends and family! My village has gone above and beyond to be an active part of my journey from day one, and continue to carry me through today. They have been fingerprinted and background-checked in order to babysit. They threw me a Shower of Love to welcome me into motherhood. They have run errands when I could not get to a store. They have gone to court with me so I did not have to wait alone. They have gone to the hospital with me to hold my hand in the waiting room. They met biological family members with me when we didn’t know how it would go. One friend of mine even built a fence on my back porch so my kids could play outside while I prepared dinner.
Believe it or not, my village has grown over the past few years through support groups, social media, and work. I am never without a shoulder to cry on, a phone call to vent through, or a person to share fun pictures with. My village consistently refills my heart fuel when it’s running low. Most importantly, my village has loved all my children from the second they stepped foot in my house. They celebrate every milestone, birthday, and holiday as if each child is staying forever. When going through the process, this is everything I could have wished for and more! With that being said, something I did not prepare for is the responsibility and burden that comes along with everyone you love experiencing a broken heart with you. My nieces and nephews lost a cousin. My parents lost a grandbaby. My grandmother lost her great-grandbaby. The list goes on and on. I signed up for this, not them.
Then a good friend reminded me of a wise, old Pooh Bear who once said, ‘How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.’ They do not regret loving my kids, they are not resentful for being placed in this situation. They are grateful to be a part of this, we are the lucky ones! There have been times when I question, ‘Why am I doing this to myself?’ This is by no means an easy calling. Galatians 6:9 states, ‘So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued in doing good, for the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’ Dealing with the system, appointments, unfair situations, trauma behaviors, and just being a parent, can make you fatigued. But, knowing I am living God’s word by passing on my blessings gives me the spiritual caffeine I need to keep going. I know God sees this.
The harvest for me was seeing my first little girl wake up happy her first morning without her parents. The harvest for my toddler boy was by the end of day one he started talking and laughing with me because we were no longer strangers. The harvest for me with my boy was just being able to be his mom for as long as I was, and all the joy that came with it. God has shown me over and over and over to trust Him! I don’t know what my family will look like next week, but I do know that I was made for this. Therefore, I will continue on with an open heart and innocent dreams.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Danielle Conroy of Audubon, New Jersey. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Support her clothing line here, where sales benefit foster children. 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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