“My husband and I have been married for 11 years now. When I met Todd, I instantly became a stepmom to his 5-year-old daughter, and after we married, we had two more girls of our own. Zoe is now 18, Nora is 10, and Ruby is 7. Having Nora and Ruby did not come easy. We experienced a year of infertility with Nora, and I delivered her at 25 weeks. She was born weighing 1lb 14oz and overcame all odds in the NICU. She’s now thriving at the age of 10. Ruby’s pregnancy was complicated and stressful, but we were able to keep her in until 36 weeks.
For us, it was enough stress and excitement. Between the two girls’ medical issues, we would jokingly say the insurance would pay us to not have any more kids. I knew any more biological kids were out of the question – I simply could not carry anymore safely – but I didn’t feel our family was complete. I had no idea what this meant for us or the future of our family, so I did what I do with everything else in our lives: I left it up to God to tell us.
About two years ago, I started feeling God nudging us to do foster care. I approached my husband with the idea and he quickly said no. My husband is a great man, but taking on someone else’s kids wasn’t exactly appealing to him. So another year went by, and I kept feeling God’s nudge on me to do foster care, but this nudge was beginning to feel more like a shove! I went back to Todd and told him this wasn’t going away, and God was only pushing this harder on me. Todd replied, ‘We better look into it then.’ And we did.
I didn’t have a whole lot of experience with foster care at all. In fact, the only experience I had was when I was in grade school and middle school, my aunt fostered newborn babies, and I remember cuddling them any time I was over at her house. But I had no idea what it looked like to be a foster parent day in and day out. Let me preface our story by saying I am medicated for anxiety; I despise change and would much rather live a life flying under the radar. I am also an introvert until I get to know you and hate being put into uncomfortable positions.
For me to jump into foster care goes against everything I am comfortable with, but I knew it was where God wanted me. We started our foster care classes at the end of March 2021 and were licensed foster care parents by the middle of July 2021. We were on the way down to vacation when we got a call saying we were officially licensed. So we tried to soak up our vacation a little bit more than normal, knowing our life was about to never be the same. The way back home was filled with anxiety for me, since we were about to flip our comfort zone upside down.
We got our first placement two weeks after returning home. The placement was a teenage girl and her 2-year-old sister. I was not prepared at all for this placement. It was nothing the girls did that left me feeling this way. My anxiety just took over, and I felt extremely uncomfortable in my own home. I was not equipped to parent this teenager and all she had been through. Without going into detail about their case, the placement lasted 10 days and ended with the police having them removed from our home. I swore I would never do foster care again. I cried for days, feeling like a failure. Like I had failed those kids, failed my family, and failed God.
My husband and I took three weeks to pray, learn, and educate ourselves more on foster care. During those weeks, I felt like God was telling me to keep going, and I wasn’t thrilled about it if I am being honest. We decided to change our criteria to younger kids, between ages 4-9 (ages I was much more comfortable with). Four weeks after our first placement left, we got a call about a one-day-old baby girl, and I screamed yes! So much for those new age criteria. We all fell madly in love with our baby girl, and I knew exactly why God had been pushing me to do foster care—for her.
The goal of foster care is always reunification. We loved our sweet girl like she was ours, but knew she was not. Helping support her biological parents was not easy, but if the goal was what was best for our girl, then I knew it meant reunifying her with her bio family. I learned very fast foster care is not just about fostering the child in your care, but about fostering the entire family. Three months into fostering our sweet girl, and four days before Christmas, we got a call on a little boy who needed placement ASAP. This little man had been in foster care for two years, his parental rights had already been terminated, and he was looking for a forever home. We asked a hundred questions, said yes, and then rushed to get his room ready.
We picked him up the same day. Although Christmas might be the craziest time to accept a new placement, it is also the best! We rushed around getting him stuff and trying to make sure he felt just as loved as all the other kids in our home on Christmas morning. It was by far my favorite Christmas I have ever experienced—having a house full of kids all ecstatic for what Santa brought them. There was just so much joy in our house that morning. More joy than I have ever felt. Most of the Christmas morning was spent just smiling and being incredibly thankful God chose me to parent these kids – all of them. It will be a Christmas I will never forget.
Our sweet girl was reunified with her biological parents in the middle of January. While dropping her off was one of the hardest things I have ever done, I knew it was the right thing for her. We stepped in when her parents, and God, needed us to, and now it was time to step back out. We have already seen our girl since she went back and plan to still support her and her parents in any way we can. We will soon begin the adoption process for our little man. And though we know it will be bittersweet when our little man learns about his past, we feel blessed to be the ones to raise him, to call him our son, and to watch him do great things in this life.
I am not naïve to know this road will come with many ups and downs, but he is ours, and we will be here for him every step of the way. I couldn’t love him more than if I had given birth to him myself. I pray he always knows he was wanted, he was fought for, and he is loved. Not to be all cliché, but we started our foster care journey in hopes to help change the lives of kids, but really our lives are the ones that have been changed. So far, foster care has taught me more about myself than I ever could have imagined. I have learned what I am capable of handling and what I am not, and it’s okay if I can’t do it all.
If I am not equipped to help certain ages, then me saying yes to those ages would only hurt those kids. I know my priority is reunification as long as it is safe and healthy for the child. I know, being raised in a white middle-class family, I have zero idea what these kids have experienced, or how it will all impact their future. I also know it is my job to educate myself on raising kids who have experienced trauma, seek therapy, and know how adoption may impact our little man now and in the future.
What I have learned most is to trust God and his Will for our life. None of this change could have been possible without following His will. We had no idea being obedient to His call would lead us to our son, and we could not be more thankful we did. We know we are only at the very beginning of this journey, and we have so much more to learn and experience. Once we get our house settled back down and healed from our baby girl leaving, I am sure we will say yes again. I have already started praying for the next little boy or girl who will come into our house, scared and alone, and I have no doubt God will guide every step of the journey.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Renee Fowler. 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.
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