‘I heard my daughter’s name be announced as a ‘Nichols’ in the courtroom, and I Immediately sobbed.’: Mom reflects on emotions of foster-to-adopt journey

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“When I was 19 years old, someone very close to me went through a crisis and lost custody of her children. It hit me like a ton of bricks because I loved them so much, but I knew I would not be able to care for them so they did not have to enter the foster care system. This was the first time it really hit me that kids were being removed from their homes every day and needed somewhere to go. My husband and I are high school sweethearts, so he was with me every step of the way throughout this time, and we talked about how we would someday be foster parents.

Fast forward a few years, we had our first son. Then about two years later, we had our second son. I thought often of my loved ones and the heartbreak everyone around them was feeling. When our second son was about 18 months old, we went on a date night at a local pizza joint, and the Lord had brought both Joe and me to the exact same place. We were both ready to begin fostering. The need in our community was high and an opioid epidemic was running rampant.

I was nervous to tell him I was ready to become a foster parent because I was sure he would say not yet. But to my surprise, he said, ‘I don’t know why we haven’t already.’ That place and that November night will always have a place in my heart. I was very motivated to get the process started, so I called and started the paperwork as soon as I could, and we did all of our training and home studies in just three months. On March 20, 2018, we were officially licensed.

Unfortunately, it took us months to get our first placement. In the meantime, we did a lot of respite care for other foster families. Respite care is when a foster parent babysits for other foster parents so they can get a break. All of the little boys we cared for were the absolute sweetest kids. I think of them often, but especially a 6-month-old baby boy we watched every other weekend for a few months.

On July 6, 2018, I received the phone call for our first foster son. I was shopping for tennis shoes and had put my phone away because I had been anxiously waiting on a placement call for months. I had my two boys with me and when we got back to the car, I opened my phone to see I had 10 missed calls. After I was finally able to say ‘YES’ and I dropped off the boys, I anxiously hurried off to our private foster care agency, only to find out I went to the wrong place—he was at the county child services agency!

Finally, I get there and see the sweetest 5lb baby. The tiny little three-day-old baby lived with us for 3.5 months. I loved him fiercely. On September 19, 2018, the sweet boy went to live with his grandma. I met his grandma and she thanked me for being his mom in those months she couldn’t be with him yet. Those words were such a gift to me. Grieving a child who is still alive is something only those who have gone through it understand.

Waiting for the next call was incredibly frustrating. Here we are, in a town that NEEDS foster parents, and we’re still not getting calls. I talked to the placement coordinator who assured me not to worry, but I did anyway. Until one day in early November of 2018, I decided I would reach out to the county worker who matched us with our first foster son. Two days later, I was getting out of the car to walk into Target when I received the call for my daughter.

They asked if I was willing to hear about a 7.5-month-old little girl who needed a foster home. She was in an emergency placement at the time, but the following week they were going to move her to us! Needless to say, the trip to Target had just gotten a whole lot more exciting! I had never shopped for a daughter before, so I got to buy dresses and bows for the first time. But if you are familiar with the foster care world, you know you do not take off the tags until they are actually in your home.

Finally, on November 14th, Joe and I drove down to the county children’s services office and met her. She had on colorful striped pajamas with strawberries on her feet. Her chubby cheeks and newly-toothy smile were captivating. I bonded with her instantly. With foster care, the goal is always reunification until it is no longer an option. We did everything we could to support her biological mother by bringing her for extra visits and coming to her court hearings.

Mom holding her toddler daughter in her arms while the girl laughs
Jaela Marie Photography

Sadly, after six months, it became clear reunification would not be possible. Although we were devastated, we knew we would love to give her a permanent home with us, and I remember feeling the Lord place in my heart that we would adopt her. Unfortunately, it was not an easy path to adoption, and as we were met with many ups and downs along a two-year-and-nine-month-long emotional rollercoaster, I questioned sometimes whether that feeling from the Lord was right.

Outdoor family portrait of mom carrying her daughter, dad sitting on a stool with his son on his lap and and their oldest son standing next to them
Jaela Marie Photography

Every time a new ‘down’ was on the horizon, someone would tell us, ‘That’s possible. But don’t worry, it won’t happen.’ It happened. Our court date was pushed back five different times. Finally, in 2020, the judge granted the state permanent custody so the county agency could officially allow us to adopt her! It was very obvious to me I was seeing God’s work and His promises come to be.

Outdoor family portrait of mom and dad looking at each other while sitting next to their 4 kids
Jaela Marie Photography

After being in the foster care system for over 3 years, we adopted her on February 10, 2022. When I heard my daughter’s name be announced as a ‘Nichols’ in the courtroom, I immediately sobbed. The feeling of joy and relief were overwhelming. Our years of foster parenting have come to an end…maybe forever, or maybe not. Only the Lord knows. But for now, this is our time to really settle in as a family.

Judge talking to a dad holding his adoptive daughter at the courtroom
Jaela Marie Photography
Mom dad and their 4 kids standing next to the judge at the courtroom
Jaela Marie Photography

For any new foster parents out there, it’s a wild ride and you’ll never be the same, but I promise you’ll never want it any other way.”

Mom and dad carrying their adoptive daughter by her arms while she looks happy and thrilled
Jaela Marie Photography
outdoor family portrait of mom and dad sitting on grass with their 3 kids
Jaela Marie Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tia Nichols. You can follow her 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.

Read more amazing adoption stories here:

‘Did he think we abandoned him?’ I was still grieving. He hardly slept day or night. I struggled to feel connection.’: Couple foster to adopt, ‘If you don’t get attached, you’re doing it wrong’

‘She’s sending me away. She says I’m a bad kid and I’m wrecking her life. Why doesn’t anybody love me?’ I held his little hand, crying hard. ‘Will you adopt me?’: Woman adopts boy from foster care, ‘He’s the missing piece we didn’t know we needed’

‘At 11, his adoptive parents abandoned him at a hospital, never to return. ‘Mr. Peter, can I call you my Dad?’ I began to cry uncontrollably.’: Single dad adopts 11-year-old boy from foster care after biological, adoptive family abandon him

‘That night I cried in my driveway for a child. 10 minutes later, I got a call. ‘Can you take in 1-year old twin boys?’: 26-year-old single foster mom says ‘I was called for plans bigger than myself’

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