“My name is Carrie, and my husband and I have 9 kids total. I started out my journey into motherhood with 4 biological kids, but the wild winds of foster care lead us to the adoption of our first sibling set who were in need of a home. We planned on being done adding to our family after adopting them, becoming strictly a foster family after that, but then we got a phone call – ‘Do you have room for more?’ We said yes.
Two years ago you came to me, with vacant eyes and mute. You were in shock from what you had gone through, your little life before us was way too harsh for a toddler. You wouldn’t let me hold you, so I’d sit close and talk quietly. Slowly you came to me, and I to you. In those early days how could we have foreseen that I was setting the stage to be YOUR forever mom? Baby girl, you came along next! How could we say no? A link in the chain that must be not be broken. Siblings! It was a rough start for my tiny girl – a NICU stay and drug withdrawals. We endured hard stuff, but we made it. Reunification was in play, and that’s OK. That’s the point of foster care – to be difficult and hard, but there is also a lot of good. Your birth mom and dad suffered too. I think if we stepped back, instead of feeling anger and disgust at the birth parents of our foster children… perhaps we would see that ‘these parents’ would be the same children 10 to 15 years ago that we would have compassion for today. Poverty and addiction, abuse and neglect. It’s a cycle. A heartbreaking, unfair cycle. And sometimes the only way to break that cycle is permanent removal of the children. These children need homes, and we have been that soft place to land for countless kids over the years. We will forever and always be that for
Ty Julius and Mya Lou now, because they have been adopted! They are the beauty that rose from the ashes.
As a little girl I would play ‘orphanage.’ I would get all my baby dolls, lay them out and take care of them. As I grew up and came across stories of child abuse and neglect, I was horrified by these things. How and why do these tragedies happen? What can I do to help this? The idea of fostering was always there but always pushed aside, as many would-be foster parents do. ‘Not yet, we are too busy’ or ‘We just had a baby,’ or the ‘You will get too attached.’ We finally went against all our hesitations after having 4 biological kids (crazy!) and jumped in. Because there really is no perfect time, and getting attached is the point. Kids need that, it’s human nature to attach. But I also want to be very real and honest — you do not always enjoy all the children that come into your home. Yes it’s true! Seasoned foster parents can attest to that.
Some children you would walk to the ends of the earth for, but others are hard. Hard on every level. These kids are hurt to the deepest level of humanity. They have been betrayed by the ones set forth to care for and love them the most. That hurt runs deep and seeps out of these precious kids in all kinds of ways — self-harm, destruction, rages, injuring pets and others. The first 24 months are vital to a child’s development. When those babies are not held or responded to, and are instead met with abuse and extreme neglect, significant irreversible damage has been done. That’s exactly what happened to the first set of siblings we adopted. They have come so far, from being drug and alcohol exposed in utero, to being left alone, under fed, and almost dying. They are most certainly ‘damaged.’ They struggle socially and emotionally. They will forever suffer the lasting effects of their early childhood, no matter how much they are loved.
In the foster care and adoption world, love is not enough. We have fostered countless kids from all situations… and unfortunately, it’s all true. There are starved kids, sexually abused babies that would scream when I changed their diapers, physically abused children, filthy homes and rampant drug use. But intermixed in all of that was goodness. Goodness in the kids just being kids, goodness in the social workers doing everything they can for these kiddos, juggling many balls for the betterment of all the children. They tirelessly work to keep siblings together, to do the right thing. ‘Can you take them?’ Yes, we will make room. MAKE ROOM. Not just in our home, but in our hearts. One more baby, one more kiddo. We will make room.
On May 18, 2016, our eldest son’s 16th birthday, I got a phone call.
‘He’s 2, nobody has room. Can you take him?’
Yes we will. So after my big kid passed his driver’s test, we drove to CPS and pick the little guy up. He was petrified. My 16-year-old bent down and said, ‘Hi buddy, it’s gonna be ok,’ and scoops him up, talks quietly to him and walks slowly. That is ‘Making Room.’ On your 16th birthday, instead of wanting to drive away in the excitement of passing your driver’s test, you instead choose to drive to the county office and calm a broken child. A child that later would become your brother.
Almost like the dash in between dates of birth and death on a gravestone, so is that dash in between the date of removal of a child and the reunification/adoption. That dash is important. That dash is lots of court hearings and bio family visits, drug tests and parole violations. Social workers and endless paperwork. Therapy sessions, doctor visits, family searches and many unknowns. We are all working towards the reunification of these hurting families. That’s the goal! I would mentor these mommas, try to encourage them and pray for them, as they have suffered themselves as children and women. I try to lift them up, for if they fall, the child falls as well. Most of the time these families heal, reunify. Sometimes though, despite the efforts of all involved, it just doesn’t work. It is sad and heartbreaking. They just do not have the capacity to care for them, as they can barely care for themselves.
We are blessed, super busy and a little crazy. Lots of food, laundry, and humor is vital. Our kids have learned about compassion, and heroin… what it means to violate parole, and how to test for drugs using a hair follicle. They’ve learned how not all moms and dads know how to be moms and dads. They have made room in their hearts for all of this — to include every new kiddo who walks through the door, to offer up their special stuffed animal to a scared toddler who can’t sleep, to hold the babies that miss their mommas. We keep kids safe.
This is my story, my experiences. Just as all birth stories are different, so is the journey of foster care and adoption for families. I am not a rarity. Every day across this country foster and adoptive parents are doing what we do. I hope this encourages others to open their homes to kids in need rather than scare you away. For every moment that crushes you, there are five more good moments that will win over that wound. These kids need you! Don’t worry about ‘getting attached.’ We are all adults, I think we can handle the sadness of goodbyes. These kiddos cannot handle the absence of a warm hello.”
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