‘I was clutching at my children, afraid to lose them. I was desperate and it showed.’

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We like pretty bows, clean lines and happy endings. We weigh the pros and cons so that we can know what the risk is before we invest. Control is our coping technique.

Early on in my journey of foster parenting, I often felt out of control. Each change in our case would hit me like a wave. Tossing me to and fro as I desperately tried to find my direction, in the chaos. My ship was caught between the waves of finality, loss and the unknown, leaving me worn and exhausted.

I was drowning in the crashing waves of court reports and visitations reports. I was clutching at my children afraid to lose them. I was desperate and it showed in how I raised them and interacted with bio-parents. One day I woke up realizing I couldn’t do it anymore, I was drowning. So I eased up and let it go, I embraced the visits as moments my kids needed, I viewed our trauma outbursts as healing, I let go of my expectations of how the case should go and I focused on them.

Mom takes a photo with her 5 children while they all sit on a couch together
Melissa Pennington Photography

I let go of the plans, control and the known, dropping the reigns of sensibility, allowing myself to embrace the questions. I did not get into this journey to build a family, but to provide a home. Some of my kids have found their forever homes here, and some just needed us for awhile. The foster care world is unpredictable and even a little unfair at times.

I have learned I can’t live life as a foster parent with the thought always being, ‘Will I get to adopt them, will they be forever in my home, will they be a Klepfer?’ Instead I must live life with the lens that I have today. I have this moment with them, to impact, change and love them.

My view of order, justice and control has changed so much since beginning this journey. Happy endings look different than the story books we read as kids. Sometimes my home isn’t the best match for a kiddo, sometimes we aren’t the forever family, sometimes we are the soft landing place for these kiddos as their parents fight addiction.

Each case has a team of people around it simultaneously fighting for rights, safety, laws and contingency plans. The timelines, plans and actions don’t always make sense but the result of foster care is always bittersweet. When a case comes to an end either through termination of parental rights and adoption or through reunification of a biological family loss happens. It’s the messy reality of foster care.

In this past year I have signed papers for the next official and forever Klepfer, said goodbye and hello to a little boy who has come and gone three times in my home and sent another to his happily ever after with his Aunt who will keep his biological family intact. There is no promise how the story ends, but we can’t let the ending change the process.

These last 4 years have taught me many things. what love is, that broken hearts mend and no matter how often I think there isn’t enough, there always is. I have been humbled, changed and challenged to my core. My perspective has shifted through the rhythm of loving well and letting go.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Julianna Klepfer, a 30 something, single, foster/adoptive mama. She lives with her crew of seven, ages 11, 9, 7, 4, 3, 18 months and 6 months, their two dogs and 6 chickens in the hills of Iowa. You can follow along with her ever changing family at My Joyful Broken Heart.

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