“I’ve been writing this post for years… literally. Our foster care journey started 3 years and 26 days ago. To fully understand our story, to be able to thank all the wonderful, generous people who helped us get here, and to see how deliberately and intricately the good Lord works, we have to start 4 years, 8 months, and 28 days ago. This was the day we decided, ‘Let’s have a baby!’
From February of 2015 through March of 2016, we did fertility treatments, until our doctor recommended we stop (unless we used donor eggs). We did nine rounds — seven rounds of IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) and two complete rounds of IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization), with egg retrieval and transfer both times. After round two, we were pregnant. We had beaten the odds! We spent 11 wonderful weeks pregnant. At eight weeks, we saw the heartbeat and were released from our fertility doctor, Dr. Wilshire, to our OBGYN.
The last words Dr. Wilshire said to us as we were leaving our appointment were, ‘You have a 96% chance of having a healthy baby.’ At 11 weeks, we had the first appointment with our OBGYN. They asked if we wanted an ultrasound at this appointment. Of course we did! We arrived, went up to the third floor for the ultrasound, and lightheartedly chatted with the tech as she waved the wand around on my belly. There was silence from her, and then we heard, ‘I can’t find a heartbeat.’
It couldn’t be true; I had no symptoms of a miscarriage. Those were unbelievable words. I loved that baby, and it was devastating. The rest of the day is a blur. I cried. I spent a week googling and reading every miracle story I could find. I made another ultrasound appointment for a week later for confirmation. The second ultrasound was much like the first. Still no heartbeat. We did a D&C, and a month later, we were back in Dr. Wilshire’s office.
Because we got pregnant on the second round of IUI, we probably continued too many rounds of it. But, that glimmer of hope would get us every time. After round seven, we did a consult with Dr. Wilshire, and he recommended moving on to IVF. We met with the financing department, put all our eggs in the IVF basket, and signed for a pretty hefty loan. We started injections, pills, and ultrasounds. We went to retrieval and retrieved four eggs. Two of them made it to day five!
We transferred those two beautiful embryos. A few days later, a blood test confirmed numbers were right for a pregnancy. Two days later, after another blood test, the numbers fell. Not pregnant. We picked ourselves up, consulted with Dr. Wilshire, and decided to do one more round. Again, injections, pills, ultrasounds, and retrieval. We retrieved five eggs, and three made it to day three. We transferred all three, as this was our best chance. But the blood test came back negative. Not pregnant.
Recommendation at our consultation appointment was to discontinue treatments. Luckily, my husband was much more logical on this subject than I was, and we did discontinue treatments. I would have continued on until I had exhausted every treatment, every medication, every loan company, and every option out there. Although we stopped fertility treatments, I couldn’t give up. So, from there, we visited a private adoption agency.
We had already exhausted all of our funding options with IUI and IVF. We’d had our blood analyzed, went to a somatic reprogramming, and I did 6 weeks of acupuncture (and I hate needles!) I had a regiment of essential oils I used twice a day for months. I drank wheat grass juice (which tasted terrible) daily. When I wasn’t drinking wheat grass juice, I drank Chinese herbal tea, which tasted worse than the wheat grass juice… think dirt. Anything remotely tied to fertility we tried! Call it dedication, call it desperation, call it whatever you want. All I could think was, ‘I was meant to be a momma. This isn’t the end.’
And then… foster care. My mom visited with a friend about our fertility journey, and this friend encouraged us to look into becoming foster parents. A few short weeks later, we were sitting in our first of nine classes to become foster parents. We were licensed in June, but moved counties and had to be re-licensed through our new county. In October, our new license went through. We received three calls before THE CALL. One call was before we were fully licensed in our new county, so we didn’t have the option to say yes or no. One call, they were able to find family members to take in the kids. And one call, we were out of town.
However, on October 22, 2016, we were fully licensed and in town. It was a Saturday morning, and we were walking through Wal-Mart when the call came in for a 20-day-old baby boy. Ryan took the call, and about 90 minutes later, we were driving to the Children’s Division Office to pick him up. A Children’s Division investigator placed the most beautiful, sweet, snuggly, dark-eyed, dark-haired baby boy in my arms. It was love at first sight; immediate, unconditional, pure love. That moment is forever etched into my mind. I can only guess it equates to the moment right after giving birth, when the doctor places a newborn baby in the mother’s arms.
From that point on, the roller coaster started and continued for 20 months. Our case goal was reunification, and we were supportive of that goal. However, there are so many pieces of information you don’t find out right away. This was baby #5, bio mom didn’t have custody of any of her other children (and hasn’t for a long time), and the dad was unknown. There was a long list of possibilities, none of which wanted to come forward, with drugs, no car, no driver’s license, no house, and no job. As the days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, we bonded with/to this baby boy. The thought of reunifying this sweet, innocent baby and putting him back into a cycle of poverty and drugs, sent me into hysterics.
We visited with bio mom twice a week from October through January. I drove him an hour and 15 minutes over to the Children’s Division Office so she could visit him. Most days she was late, and she never brought any of the needed supplies to care for a baby (diapers, wipes, formula, bottle). In January, she moved into a domestic violence/homeless shelter. I spent the next three months taking my precious boy to a shelter twice a week, with a caseworker telling me judges will reunify kids to parents in shelters (which also sent me into hysterics).
One day in April of 2017, when we showed up for our visit, she had checked herself out, or was asked to leave (we will never know which). We didn’t see her again until August when she showed up randomly for a court hearing. A drug test was requested, and she tested positive. Our next family support team meeting was two days later (bio mom did not attend), and after ten months in care, it was recommended the case goal be changed to termination of parental rights.
In January of 2018, the case goal was officially changed in a court hearing, along with a Termination of Parental Rights Packet. Service was issued on bio mom and prospective bio dad, and we had to attempt to serve them. After 30 days, neither were able to be served. Since neither could be located, it had to be published in the newspaper for 4 weeks. The bio parents had 45 days to respond to the publishing. No one responded. We had a court hearing in April of 2018, and the judge ruled to terminate parental rights. We could breathe again. This meant no more visits.
She hadn’t visited since August of 2017, but I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, wondering if this was the day she would decide she wanted a visit. After a Termination of Parental Rights Hearing, bio parents are given another 45 days to appeal the decision. So, again, we were waiting. In the meantime, we met with an adoption staffing team and interviewed to be the adoptive parents. We were given the go ahead to hire our own attorney and to prepare to adopt our beautiful boy.
At the meeting with our attorney in May of 2019, we realized we wouldn’t be able to finalize the adoption until the end of June 2019. Our fostering license was set to expire beginning of June 2019. Our attorney advised us to renew our license, otherwise it would delay the process. We hadn’t planned to renew our fostering license. But, if this was what we had to do to finalize the adoption, we would.
Our licensing worker met with us and we went through several mandatory trainings. We renewed our CPR certification, were fingerprinted again, and were set to be re-licensed by June 19, 2019. And then this crazy thing happened. On June 8, 2019 (my sister’s birthday), I was at work and received a phone call from our licensing worker. My first thought was something went wrong with the renewing of our license. Instead, she shared that our boy’s biological mom had another baby, and this baby would need placement too. She asked if we would take placement. I told her I thought so, but I needed to call my husband. When I called Ryan he said, ‘Tell her yes!’ So I did! And in just a moment’s notice, we became a family of four.
We went to see this precious, baby girl on Friday night. The nurses and doctors at the hospital were amazing. They set us up in a private room and brought a beautiful, dark-haired, baby girl in to us. She looked so much like our boy! It was surreal. We weren’t sure we would have the hospital experience with a newborn, so we will forever cherish this night. The nurses let us hold her, feed her, and they talked to us about her. We could stay as long as we wanted that evening. We were in love. She was perfect, just as perfect as her older brother.
She was on oxygen, and had been since arrival, and would need one more night before being discharged. We stayed a few hours on Friday, and then, Saturday morning, they called to let us know she was ready to be discharged. We jumped in the car, zoomed over to the hospital, and brought our precious girl home on June 9, 2019.
Just a little over a week later, on June 19, 2019, we finalized our boy’s adoption. He was 20 months old. This was one of the very best days of our lives. We are forever thankful we made it to adoption day, and that he will forever be our boy… legally, lawfully, officially! We were so very happy in that moment. However, the relief I thought I would feel wasn’t there. Our story wasn’t over. We now had a sweet, little, baby girl to love, care for, and protect. Now, you would think because bio mom hadn’t changed her lifestyle (this new baby’s urine and meconium tested positive for methamphetamines, as well as bio mom) and the state of Missouri had just involuntarily terminated her rights on another child less than two months before, this time around the process might run a little smoother. Nope.
We were informed bio mom and any potential fathers would be given another 15 months to work towards reunification. Also, instead of one hour per week of visitation, it was increased to 12 hours. Again, hysterics. I have many ideas on what ‘working reunification’ looks like. Giving bio mom 12 hours per week of visitation, after her being in the same situation she was two years before, and after what I was told she just did to her unborn baby, is not one of them. Anyway, we scheduled 12 hours a week for several weeks. Mom showed up one time, late and without anything the social worker told her to bring.
In October of 2019, our case got transferred to a new social worker who got in contact with bio mom. Bio mom wanted to visit, so we set it up. She came, visited for a little less than an hour (she was scheduled for one hour), and left early to visit her probation officer. We didn’t hear from her again. We continued on until February, when our case got transferred to another new social worker.
Our girl needed an MRI, so the social worker contacted bio mom for permission. Bio mom responded, gave permission for the MRI, and said ‘By the way, I told you the wrong dad. The real dad is ____.’ The social worker relayed this information and shared she was under the impression new dad wanted to be part of our baby girl’s life. What? No. It had been 8 months. At that point, my patience was worn thin, my nerves were frazzled, and I went into full panic mode.
I called around, found an attorney who said he could help, and hired him the next day. We needed a new home study, because the one from Children’s Division wouldn’t work for a private adoption. We found an adoption agency to do this for us and had it expedited. Once again, we tried to serve, this time, all three parents. No response. We published in the paper for 4 weeks. Then we waited 45 days for a response. No response.
And then, on November 18, 2019, after several stressful minutes in the courtroom, the adoption of our beautiful 17-month-old baby girl was finalized. (We definitely have to thank our girl’s guardian, ad litem, who went to bat for us in the courtroom and was instrumental in getting the adoption finalized.) Best day ever. Amazing, wonderful day. I prayed and prayed and prayed for this day. At this moment, we think our adventure with Children’s Division is over.
I mentioned all the people we need to thank: Our families, who welcomed our babies with open arms. The love they have for our babies was/is never a question. I especially need to thank my sister and my mom, who listened to me cry hysterically, and had to talk me down off the ledge after just about every visit for the first six months of our fostering journey. Our school family who found out on Monday (twice), we were placed with a baby on Saturday (twice) and had us completely outfitted to care for a baby boy and then for a baby girl. I especially need to thank my superintendent, who was more than supportive during all of this journey, and continues to be; my special programs secretary, who is my right hand ALL THE TIME; and my two speech language pathologists, who had a gift basket sitting on my desk mid-morning Monday, among the many other things they helped me with/through those first several months. We also need to thank our friends who love our babies like their own, will help us at a moment’s notice, and give us confidence in our parenting abilities. There are so many others I know I’m forgetting. Just know we are so very thankful for your love, help, prayers, gifts… everything. We could not have made it through this journey without you.
I also mentioned the ways the good Lord worked through this process. I truly believe it is only through divine intervention we were able to get through this process as quickly as we did and finalize two adoptions. I can only attribute this to the good Lord knowing I couldn’t handle the alternative. Interestingly enough, when we visited the therapist and did the somatic reprogramming, the last comment she made was that we would have a baby within 9 months. I thought, ‘Yeah, right. I would have to be pregnant right now.’ That was around March of 2016. Seven months later, we had a newborn baby.
Another time, several months after our boy was placed with us, I remember driving home and praying for a sign everything was going to turn out okay. The song, ‘No Such Thing as a Broken Heart’ by Old Dominion was the next song on the radio. The chorus: ‘You know you can’t keep the ground from shaking, no matter how hard you try. You can’t keep the sunsets from fading; you gotta treat your love like you’re jumping off a rope swing, maybe ’cause the whole thing is really just a shot in the dark. You gotta love like there’s no such thing as a broken heart. You gotta love like there’s no such thing as a broken heart.’ Hearing this song at that moment, quieted some of my anxieties, and I am positive it was a sign from above.
Another was at our August 2016 court hearing. We were at the courthouse early and were sitting in the waiting room outside the courtroom. An older couple was sitting on the bench across from us. We always dressed our boy in dress clothes for court, and the couple commented on how nice he looked. We chatted back and forth about our boy, just general niceties. Neither of us got into details about why we were there, whether we were foster or biological parents, etc. This was the court hearing where bio mom showed up after months of hiatus. As bio mom made her way over to us and leaned over to pick up and hug our boy, the older woman grabbed my hand and said, ‘I will pray for you.’ I could barely hold it together at that moment (for many reasons), but was so comforted to know this woman could see I needed prayers and was willing to pray for us. I know this was a message sent from above. I could go on and on, but these were three examples that came to me as I was writing this post.
These are the big highlights from our journey. I am always willing to talk about more of the details, listen, offer advice if I can, share resources, etc. I want to share again, we are the lucky ones. We are ending our foster care journey with the two finalized adoptions of two perfectly amazing kids in a relatively short amount of time. This is not the norm. We have foster parent friends (multiple) who have been ‘working reunification’ with bio parents for 5 or 6 years. It is a difficult process.
Consistency with following Missouri’s statutes surrounding kids in foster care is needed across counties, across circuits, and across the state of Missouri. The last big foster care reform happened in 1997. This reform was to help kids not languish in care. It put into practice the termination of parental rights when a child has been in care for 15 out of the last 22 months. Think about what families, adults, teens, kids, and babies are dealing with today; 15 out of 22 months for a baby/toddler/kid/teenager to be without permanency is too long. We need stricter laws, regulations, and statutes surrounding foster care. And we need to elect strong leaders to positions to enforce these laws, regulations, and statues. I urge you to call, write, email, and text your legislators and representatives. Ask them to make foster care reform a priority on their platforms.
*Also, I feel like I need to share that this post is in no way intended to offend social workers, juvenile officers, guardian ad litems, or any other member of the family support team. I have both family and friends who work in social services. My cousin works in this field and does a great job. She spends many family dinners being on call, taking calls, and leaving early to help kids and families in crisis. She has given me great advice during our time being foster parents. In our experience, almost all of the social workers (six total), juvenile officers (2 total), and guardian ad litems (2 total) we worked with over our three years were following the laws and regulations they are bound to, whether they agree with those laws/regulations or not.
**I didn’t mention, but wanted to add, our fostering journey is over, but we are very hopeful our fertility journey is not over quite yet. During our fostering process, we met a wonderful couple who also struggled with fertility. They donated two beautiful embryos to us. Stay tuned for our next chapter!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Julie Bird. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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