“We started fostering 4 years ago, in hopes of adopting a little girl to complete our tribe. In foster care training, they told us we were signing up for heartbreak. I was a bit of a dreamer and naively thought, ‘not us!’ Surely we would get lucky and adopt within a year. Nine foster kids later, here we are in the middle of a story I could never have imagined. The first time I laid eyes on little sisters J and D, I was completely enchanted and felt in my heart they were my forever daughters. When the girls were placed in my home, their case was in the adoptions unit and it felt like a dream come true; they even looked like my boys! (The hearts over the girls faces are for foster care privacy policies).
There were many happy days as my boys played with the girls and made them into princess warriors.
I mean, there were some super hectic moments. Our house was LOUD. The girls brought instant drama and chaos that we had never experienced before, they definitely spiced things up. Not to mention the typical sibling rivalry. My youngest son (5 at the time) had to adjust to the fact that he wasn’t the baby anymore…but it stretched him and put some hair on his chest;) Sure the girls were a bit wild at times, but they were MY wild, and it worked. We worked. They were my perfect storm.
In the months that followed, things felt hopeful, until suddenly the judge made a rare decision to reverse his ruling, and the girls were set backwards on a track to reunify with their birth father.
So. Many. Tears. And I’m a girl that rarely cried before foster care).
The process of reunification dragged on for many months. It was brutal and there were times I didn’t think we would survive, it felt like the hunger games arena up in here. For 13 months, I drove the girls to FOUR visitations per week. The trauma from going back and forth was unreal. We all had a bit of PTSD from it. Some days all I did was sit and rock the girls on the floor while they raged in confusion from all the instability. I learned that you don’t have to be ‘the perfect parent’ to foster, you just need a willingness to sit on the floor and wade through the waters of grief with them.
As painful as it was, I tried hard to foster a relationship with both of their birth parents (birth mom was in the picture as well, just not to the same extent as dad was). I did what I could to help when a need would arise…such as fixing mom’s broken truck, taking the birth parents to church Easter Sunday, and out to lunch…and even a new car seat when mom had another baby. Regardless of how or why the girls entered the system, the girls still loved their parents very much. No matter what. Because kids are magical and forgiving like that. And even when it was HARD for me to hear, it was an important truth I had to honor. In the beginning I would just clam up and refuse to engage little D with the constant questions about her parents. I was immature and felt threatened. But let’s just say I have grown a LOT in that area.
The first attempt at reunification with birth dad was rather unsuccessful; he was overwhelmed by the girls’ demands and juggling their 2 older brothers as well. That summer it felt like 1 step forward, 2 steps back, until the social worker decided ‘Enough!’ It was time to take a little break.
Sweet relief! (even if just temporary).
I knew it was the calm before the storm. Sure enough, that fall the social worker said it was time to try reunification again. Dragging the girls through reunification the first time was brutal…and doing it TWICE? Unbearable. There were no words to describe the pain and fear I felt at the prospect of entering the arena again (and I may have thrown a few fits as well).
I think I cried more that year than all years of my life combined. Sobbing uncontrollably in the bathroom more times than I can count. I didn’t think I’d survive this earth without the girls. But the human spirit is stronger than we realize and I held onto HOPE for dear life…this hope was as essential to me as the very air I breathed–HOPE for a miracle as each court date passed, and the girls continued to stay in my home.
Finally in court Dec 2017, the judge and lawyers asked us if we wanted to keep fighting for the girls (hence dragging things out further). I held my breath wanting to shout ‘YES.’ As my husband sadly shook his head no, he knew it was time to send the girls back to their father. It was the hardest decision I ever had to endure, but I felt peace in my heart that it was the right thing to do. It’s SO hard to say goodbye.
I have so much compassion for people undergoing reunification, and have been able to encourage and support many foster mamas across the country. So even though I felt like the poster child of failure, I was able to relate to the vast majority of foster parents going through the same thing. The foster/adopt community is the most supportive tribe a girl could ask for!
After the girls left, I wanted to start fostering again, but my husband wanted a break. In reality, I REALLY needed the break too, I just didn’t know it. Like the kicking screaming toddler who is shouting I DON’T NEED A NAP…and everyone is all ‘clearly, you need a nap.’
I learned how to take care of myself on this break. I got my first facial. And now go bi-monthly. I learned yoga. I made new friends. I started playing piano again. Basically I learned how to have a life outside foster care and re-bonded deeply with my precious boys over music, backpacking, and even snowboarding.
People often ask how my boys cope with so many goodbyes?! Well, it’s not easy but my boys have each other and sweet neighbor friends to play with. They are resilient, though truth be told we ALL long for permanency. My boys take great pride in their foster sisters. I often overhear them joke and reminisce with great affection, about each foster kid that’s been in our home (9 foster kids so far). My oldest son recently informed me he wants to adopt one day! That was EVERYTHING to me…glad I haven’t ruined their childhood; Rather, I feel we have enriched it in ways I never imagined. Yes, their childhood is VASTLY different than my own. As a young adult I remember saying ‘I could NEVER do foster care’ but it’s so cool that my boys just view fostering and protecting children as a completely normal part of life.
This fall we finally opened our home to foster care again, I was never so excited! We were placed with a precious newborn we named Birdie, because she reminded us of a lil injured bird that fell from her nest. As Birdie healed physically, I felt my heart mending in ways I didn’t even realize were broken. It felt good to smile again, and to move on from the heartbreak of losing the girls.
Until the phone rang this December, with a call that turned my life upside down: the girls were back in the system. It just BROKE ME that the girls had to deal with this again, I was a weepy mess for them. Since I only had 1 open spot left, they could not place the girls with me (they often make exceptions to keep siblings together but this requires paper work and time).
I thought I had moved on from the girls, turns out I was wrong. You never really move on…for better or worse our hearts are tied together for eternity. Thankfully, we were able to get the girls placed with my dear foster friend, who was going to hold them for me until we could get approved for another spot in our home.
It felt like my own special brand of torture, that the girls were back in the system, but not with me. They felt SO close yet SO far. For the next 2 weeks, I visited with the girls every waking hour of the day. The girls ran to me shouting ‘MOMMMMMY!’ It was a joyous reunion with nonstop hugs and kisses.
But my gosh I was never so stressed waiting in limbo, to hear if the girls would be placed with me or not! Finally the following week, the girls were officially placed back in my home with the bittersweet understanding that they would probably be reunifying with birth mom sooner than later.
It was EXACTLY one year ago the girls left. They returned to my home EXACTLY 1 year later to the date, the irony is not lost on me.
So for now, we have 7 kids under 1 roof: 4 boys, 3 girls.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine this. Call me crazy but I LOVE having a full house. Some days it’s very scary to think of the girls leaving, but I have my faith to keep me going. I survived last time and know I will survive again. Foster care has forced me to live in the moment and to grab joy by the horns. My motto in life is to love hard and fly high on the wings of anticipation and if I crash, go down in a fiery blaze of glory. So for today, the girls, Birdie, and I will fly high.
We find out later this month the fate of these 3 girls. But regardless of what the courts and papers say, the girls will always have a room in our home and hearts. And who knows, one day they may land back with us.”
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