“When my foster kids first moved in, family, friends and neighbors were curious. We were open to general questions about whether we were fostering and if our kids were biological siblings, but outside our immediate family and close friends we stayed pretty vague with personal questions about why our kids were in foster care in the first place.
It was really important to my husband and me that we let them decide what to share and with whom. What brought them into foster care wasn’t our story to tell. It was theirs.
Inside our home, we coined a term ‘this is a family conversation,’ which is followed by age-appropriate topics to various questions like details about their biological family and why they were in foster care. At the time we also had two rescue canines whom the children adored and their backstories made being adopted very relatable.
As the adoption finalized and our kids began learning how to write their new last name, I began to realize that the school system and our community were full of families. We told the families my children regularly played with that they were adopted and applied the same boundaries with the depth of details we shared. The families continued to be our friends and never made it weird. In fact, they would ask if we knew other families they knew who had also adopted children.
Filling In The Gaps
My son was in kindergarten as we went to court to finalize our adoption. A few months later he was asked to bring a baby photo to school. We didn’t have any. I remember being so upset and feeling like it was an unfair request that would make our son feel different from all the other kids. I had a whole plan of how I was going to respond to the teacher but my husband (a teacher himself) persuaded me to delete the email draft.
Instead, he helped me see the teacher wasn’t trying to leave our child out. The teachers for his grade were trying to do something fun and didn’t realize that not all families could participate in the same way. We opted to send an older photo rather than a baby photo to school.
Meanwhile, we were doing regular play therapy and during one of the sessions the play therapist commented on how my daughter and I had some of the same mannerisms and facial expressions. She noticed something that made us look like a family even though we weren’t related by blood.
A year later, both of our kids were now in elementary school and as they share with close friends that they are adopted, their friends question how that can be because they look so much like their dad who is the school’s art teacher.
The pandemic hit during my kids’ final years of elementary school and something my son did really opened my eyes. During the fully remote school portion of the pandemic, my then fifth grade son decided to write a paper on foster care adoption. His teacher had told him he could pick any topic and this was what he wanted to write about.
But, when we did online research the information he found wasn’t written for a child to understand. So his teacher suggested he switch topics. But he insisted this was the topic he wanted to research and present on.
He told her it was important that his peers understand this part about him. So even if it was hard to research, he wanted to help them understand it.
Around the same time I asked my children if they would be open to being guests on my podcast, The Forgotten Adoption Option. I would provide questions in advance and they could decide not to participate at any point. They looked everything over and were all in.
We recorded the interview from my bedroom and they took turns talking about being adopted. The conversation was so brave. They used their voices to share about being a forever family, the first time we met, and some of their memories of being in foster care.
It was during this season that I became increasingly aware of the thousands of children like mine who were still waiting to be adopted and my heart started to shift from feeling frustrated to desiring to help others to see and understand foster care adoption. Circled by a pile of some of my family’s favorite children’s books, the words for a children’s book literally came out of my mouth.
My daughter sat next to me as I composed the audio recording into Google Slides. We sat around the Apple TV as a family to do art critique on the illustrations. It felt fitting to debut the book which is titled Are You a Forever Family? during National Foster Care Month.
Fast forward and my children enter middle school and puberty begins. They start meeting more peers and express confusion when they tell a friend they are adopted and the peer responds, ‘No you’re not.’
A few months ago an 8th grader that attended church youth group with my tween/teenagers was working on her Girl Scout Silver Award and wanted to focus on adoption. We met weekly and created a lesson plan for elementary school teachers to celebrate adoption and the families created by it using the book and activities we created along with free coloring pages from the book.
This past May I got to co-teach that lesson in the same elementary school my children had attended. And while teaching in a kindergarten classroom, I got to witness a little girl boldly raise her hand eager to tell her class she was adopted.
Our current ‘family conversations’ at family dinner are about whose fingers, toes, and teeth they have and how tall they will become. When my children’s biological family had their goodbye visit, they each sent home a photo album from the time they got to spend with the children.
My children are able to request these albums anytime they want and these albums have been a great resource to answer these questions and new ones like how much facial hair my son might get!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Marcy Bursac of St. Charles, Missouri. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook. Have a story of love, kindness, or healing to share? Visit our submissions portal to submit today.
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