‘I sat in a hospital room as we mourned her mother’s last breaths. I held her trembling siblings.’: Couple fosters 9 kids, adopts 1, ‘Their arms around your neck are worth it’

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“I think I need to start out this whole thing by prefacing just a little. I am Kat and I have been married to JM for 10 years now.  I am an Enneagram 8 and he is a 9. That jazz basically means we are essentially opposite in every way, which according to whoever makes up the rules about enneagram numbers, means we are like fire and ice. A force to be reckoned, with due to our intertwining strengths and weaknesses. Extrovert/Introvert, Calm/Emotional, Steady/Takes chances, etc.

So, why in the world am I mentioning all that in regards to foster care? Because I think it is one of the things which has helped us survive. Foster care is truly a rollercoaster. A wrecking-your-world decision to help mend brokenness. Ready to hear about it?

In 2016, our first biological daughter was born.  Perfect in every way of course. Towards the end of that year, I began to think about how I wanted to live my life in a way which ‘backed up’ my beliefs, so to say. As Christians, we held close the value that all life is valuable…. but were we living that way?  I brought up foster care to JM, and he didn’t really feel led that way. I couldn’t shake it, though. I was feeling this calling to foster care. Instead of nagging and pushing my way through, I didn’t bring it up again and just quietly prayed about it for 3 months. In the middle of a random day, JM texted me from work saying something like, ‘What do you think about adoption?’ I brought up foster care and we agreed to a conversation that evening.

The rest is history! A whirlwind of classes, paperwork, and researching followed. We were officially licensed in May 2017 when our daughter was 15 months old. Our original age range was 0-1 and just one kiddo. A few weeks after our license was finalized, we got a call for a 5-month-old baby girl, and a few hours later, she was being carried through our front door. You know what is crazy? They basically just hand you a child, a few things of paperwork, and walk out the door. It is really just the oddest thing.  It made us feel nervous, a bit overwhelmed, and gave us that initial ‘what are we thinking?!’ moment! The call itself was also a bit challenging because we found out she had two siblings, so they were looking for a place to take all three, but due to the significant age gap and other things, were having a hard time finding a place. So, that initial call left us still not knowing if she was coming or not until maybe a few hours later they confirmed that she was in fact, coming!

Courtesy of Kat

Having two children under two was a big shock. It was a really tough balance to have two that little on top of juggling all the newness of foster care. There were visits, therapies, doctor appointments, caseworker visits, CASA visits, court, etc. to navigate in addition to getting used to another child. It took us a good two months to get into our new normal and felt a little like survival mode until that point.

The case was hard. Like, really hard. It was hard because of all the unknown, a difficult caseworker, and being told one thing in our home and another at court. The rollercoaster of not knowing what was going to happen down the road was really difficult to get used to. We saw the brokenness of the system. We learned to advocate. We met and built relationships with her parents.  We took a failure to thrive little pint of a thing, and helped her get on the curve, one excruciating feeding at a time. I sat in a hospital waiting room with her family as we mourned her mother’s last breaths. I held her trembling siblings. We attended the funeral as a whole family. As the months dragged on and on, we had no idea what to expect for the future. At the 13 month mark, she was finally reunited with her dad. We celebrate at a Mexican restaurant with her dad, step mom, and sister, and followed it up with trip to a trampoline park. It was the perfect ‘see you later.’

But even though it felt like it was a great way to wrap up everything, it was also hard and emotional. I had rocked this child to sleep for 13 months. She knew me as her mom. We treated her as our own, and we knew Juliet would also miss her terribly. It is really tough to balance the emotions of ‘we accomplished our role in all of this’ and also grieving the loss of a child that we had raised for so long.

In the midst of our first placement, we did respite care for an 8-year-old and a 2-year-old. A month later, they joined our family as a long-term placement! So, here we were in our first year of fostering with four kids! These two also reunified with their parents in a happy reunion, and we love celebrating their birthdays each year with their families!

Courtesy of Kat

These times of getting together with our former kiddos are so sweet to us!  We love catching up with the kids and families and seeing how they have progressed and succeeded in that year. With our littlest kids, they often don’t remember us, but seeing their parents remind them who we are to them is just so sweet and humbling. They could easily want to push that part of their lives away and move on, but instead they choose to let us continue in their lives and for that we feel incredibly blessed.

Almost four years have passed now… we have fostered a total of 9 kiddos and had another biological kiddo in November 2019.  Six of our fosters have reunified, one we adopted in September 2020, and two are still with us currently. Right now, we have five kiddos ages five and under! Our littlest kiddos are essentially triplets… twin 18-month-old foster daughters and our 15 month biological son. Having ‘triplets’ has been an amazingly wonderful adventure! It can obviously be difficult to juggle so many littles, but it is so wonderful to watch them care for each other, protect each other, and love on each other. I love watching our kids learn about sharing their lives and their homes and possessions. It is so fulfilling. It can be challenging to load everyone in the car (feels like I just ran a marathon) or serve meals fast enough to keep the triplets from screaming, but sweet little arms around your neck or kisses make it all worth it!

Courtesy of Kat

I have to rewind just a little and talk about our adoption! Our son, Leland, came to us at 11 months old… there was something about him that felt so different when he came to our door.  It was late, dark, and cold. We had waited hours for him to finally arrive after we got the call for placement. There was police involvement, ups and downs of where he even was, and so many calls giving us more and more information in a very complicated case. The months dragged on as we waited to see what would happen, and it started to become clear adoption was on the table. Just as the legal side of things for this to take place started to happen, COVID hit, delaying everything. When we finally got our adoption date, we were all so thrilled! Adoption day didn’t look like we had wanted, with a courtroom full of our family and friends, but we did have a fun zoom hearing with our supports AND a big parade! Some of our family from out of state came to town and what started as little parade turned into an hour of non-stop horn-honking, gift-giving, and flag-waving! It was incredibly touching to see our friends, neighbors, local fire and police all come out to celebrate this very special day! 20 months from start to finish and now he is all ours!

Courtesy of Kat
Courtesy of Kat

The process of adoption can be a long and challenging one. Biological parents are given around 15 months (this can vary greatly though) to work their plans and reunify with their children. If the parents do not do what is required, DCS begins the process of Termination of Parental Rights (TPR). This process starts with assigning everyone lawyers and making sure everyone involved knows their rights. After some time has passed to give all parties time to formulate a case, a trial is started. Sometimes it lasts 30 minutes ,and sometimes days depending on the circumstances. For us it was short and an emotional day to hear all of the reasons that reunification was not possible. Although we often see the happy and positive sides of adoption, there is also loss and we need to acknowledge this for our kids’ sake. Once the judge grants TPR, there is a timeline for appeals to be made if needed. This did not happen in our case and we were able to just work on our loads and loads of paperwork to get to adoption day! After that, things move very quickly! It really is a whirlwind after all that time of waiting.

Courtesy of Kat

Throughout it all, I am continually amazed at how our biological kiddo, Juliet (now 5 years old) handles it all. She is compassionate, kind, and protective. She gives herself and her life so freely. I often hear from others how they hesitate to foster due to their biological children, and to that I would show you Juliet. She has grown leaps and bounds, and learned important life lessons some adults don’t even grasp. She welcomes each new child in with gusto, and continually asks us for ‘more kids.’  She has created relationships with her foster siblings’ parents, and has asked to also have them as her parents. She prays for them to ‘make good decisions’ and cheers for them when they do. She has mastered celebrating a reunion while also being okay with the sadness of losing a sibling and friend. I think someday she will doing awesome things with the skills that she has learned.

Courtesy of Kat

Fostering and adopting come with very high highs and very low lows. We have an incredible support system of family, friends, and neighbors. They frequently help with childcare, drop snacks on our porch, bring meals when we get a new kiddo, support us on emotional days and on and on. We have learned over the years things are not as they seem. You might initially think you are in it for the kids, but we have learned to be in it for the families. Helping support families as they battle addiction and other trauma of their own has opened our eyes to a new world of hurt and we will never be the same.

So, what makes the hard all worth it? Seeing a kiddo grow and blossom, helping them get their first ‘A’ in school, watching them demolish milestones which were delayed, celebrating a happy reunification, watching a mom or dad beat addiction, hearing ‘I love you,’ and so much more. I keep a small box of treasures from our journey – a snippet from a first haircut, a special outfit, drawings, and hand-written thank you notes from parents. Through all the tough, the sun comes out…. a kiddo grows, a family heals, and our ‘job’ is done.

Courtesy of Kat

Interested in becoming a foster parent? Find a support group on Facebook and start reading! Grab some books on childhood trauma and addiction and study. Reach out to your state Department of Child Services and see what their process and requirements entail (this varies per state). Follow other foster parents on Instagram and watch their stories! You can follow us as well!”

Courtesy of Kat
Courtesy of Kat

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kat. 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.

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‘Are you ready for another?’ What would we do with a newborn? We knew he was supposed to be with his siblings.’: Couple adopts 4 siblings from foster care, ‘They changed our lives’

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