“Do I start from when I was a child? I knew when I ‘grew up,’ I wanted to be a mother and I wanted to adopt. Maybe the beginning is when I met my husband and on the second date, I told him I was planning on adopting someday so if that wasn’t part of his plan, he should move on. (This was either crazy or ballsy, depending on who you are.) Maybe it’s the failed infertility, the needles, and the bulk boxes of ovulation tests I bought, and when we made the leap of faith to stop treatment and go all-in on being licensed for adoption. All of these were big, but when I think of the specific moment that started my story, it wasn’t any of those.
There were decades of hoping, years of planning, and months of our hearts breaking, but my story starts when my husband walked outside to where I was working and told me our agency had ‘found our kids.’ We had been licensed for adoption and foster care only 9 days earlier. We were on the ‘matched adoption’ path, with no plans to foster. Instead, we were planning on being matched with kids in the system whose parental rights had been terminated and needed parents. I must have told 50 people we were not strong enough to foster. We were hoping for a sibling set. We were told to expect placements of 7 to 9-year-olds and it would take 12 to 18 months to be matched. So, after only a week and a half, imagine my face when my husband walked out and said they found them. It was for two toddlers, brothers, who needed an emergency move. Moreover, the case was about to be closed so we also needed to change our licensing to fostering.
Again, this was not what we planned. When we got the call in 2018, I had been on my first day back from a 21-day business trip. We thought we had so much time and we were NOT prepared. We did what any millennial couple would have done in that moment: we spend a fortune at Target and converted a kids’ room to a toddler’s room in a matter of hours. I was supposed to pick the boys up the next day. My husband wasn’t able to get off work with such short notice so when it was time to pick the boys up, I had to do it solo. At first, that didn’t bother me. I am a champion at change, I am my best under pressure and almost nothing makes me nervous… I thought.
Then I saw that little 3-and-a-half-year-old there and I almost lost it. My heart started pounding and I knew I wouldn’t be the same again. I saw him sitting there and it terrified me and completely filled my heart all at the same time. I met his brother moments later and still don’t know how my heart didn’t physically burst. I love them in a way I can’t explain, and they have made our lives so full. I feel like I found the thing God had been prepping me for my whole life when I looked at them in my rearview window on our way home.
Honestly, I don’t know if I can really articulate the gratitude I have for these two. For me, the day we met our boys was the best day of my life. When I look at them, I see God’s goodness and promise so clearly. As for foster care, it is the very best most painful thing I have done and I would do it a thousand more times to be my kids’ mom. The next few months were insane and wonderful and back-breaking. NOTHING happened the way the initial worker said it would. What I have learned in almost 3 years is nothing ever does when you are working with the system. My boys are my heroes, then and now. They had endured more in their first years of life than most of us ever will. They are strong, adorable, sweet, smart, but mostly, they are kind. That is what I am most proud of.
We had countless workers (seriously, we blew through four CPS workers and three agency workers in 7 months) and our case was very abnormal. Our boys had to be moved hours away from their home city because it was too dangerous of a situation. They moved around a ton to keep them protected. The fact they landed with us is a miracle. It was a long road, made longer by some scary situations. Termination did eventually happen, then the appeal window closed, and we filed our application for adoption. Our boys picked out their new names and we thought the hardest part had passed. My oldest announced for his adoption he wanted, and I quote, ‘Thomas Rhett concert and a baby.’ I told him I could probably make one of those happen. We were a little postponed but our adoption would take place at the beginning of 2019. At least that is what we thought.
On December 26th, 2018, we got a call. There was a clerical error and no one showed up to a court date that was called. As foster parents, it is up to your worker’s digression to share with you the court dates and ours just forgot about it. The judge agreed to open the case and now we were going to have to fight for the custody of our kids from the people that had hurt them. I am all for reunification. It is preferable and everyone makes mistakes, but this was not that situation. I had read every single page of my boys’ file. All 1,476 pages of it. I know every single call, every complaint, every investigation, and every intervention. The people they came from were harassing CPS, the shelters, and the families they were placed with. To make matters worse, their CASA worker had bowed up, they had a new CPS worker, and their court-appointed lawyer didn’t bother to read the memos. We felt them slipping away.
This was not the way I wanted to end the holiday season, but I was ready to fight. I started putting excel documents together for the boys’ lawyer and hired our own lawyers. Every court date, we thought we were taking a step forward but we would get knocked down again. Our boys were getting restless and wondering when they would get to be adopted. It was getting so stressful. Oh and did I mentioned, during this time we also found out we were pregnant. That’s right, on top of all the craziness, my oldest was about to get his adoption wish.
There is a bit of a grey area with being pregnant and fostering. At the time, I was so protective of my kids, I was actually pretty upset I had gotten pregnant. I was fearful this was another thing the opposing lawyers would use to deem us unfit. These were my kids. I may not have birthed them, but I was their mom. The irony that the thing I had worked so hard for a couple of years earlier might be the thing that took away my whole world does not escape me. I was also very high risk. I had to go to the doctors weekly so we weren’t telling anyone until we absolutely had to. I know other mamas out there who have dealt with infertility or infant loss get it, but it’s hard to explain. On top of having the world’s best but most active toddlers, I was pregnant and had recently taken on a new role with my company that required frequent travel, while also fighting a court case, and I was puking every single day. It was a mess. That mess grew and my belly grew, but in May, we got the call we had won.
Our boys were going to be ours forever and we could set a court date. We wasted no time. We set it right away. My oldest, the Thomas Rhett-obsessed one, insisted we all wear black suits and black ties. Do you know how hard it is to find a black suit in 3 days, 6 months pregnant!? We did it, though. We were able to get exactly what we wanted and right after the adoption was finalized, we gave the boys their present: four tickets to the concert and an ultrasound of their soon-to-be baby brother. My oldest told me he thought my belly was just so big from tacos and he cried. He was so happy.
Today, we have three perfect little boys. An almost 6-year-old, an almost 5-year-old, and a one-year-old. We now support other foster and adoptive families by leading a community and interest group through our church and have had the privilege of walking through some of their darkest days with them. It is a true privilege and something we wouldn’t have been prepared to do had our case been any less ridiculous than it was. We are almost licensed again because we know although this was the hardest thing we have ever done, it was absolutely worth it. We are planning to add one more to the crew by the end of 2021.
We started this journey knowing absolutely no other families in the system and decided we could be the family that walks alongside anyone else that needed it. I try to help other foster parents with adoption resources while also allowing my boys’ story to stay separate. We wouldn’t have made it through without our support system. We had our family and friends literally waiting to testify and show up for us. At one point, we looked into renting a bus to go to court because so many people wanted to have our back on the stand. That is a community, and our support was amazing. It is the reason I do what I do today. Because the only thing better than support is having someone walk alongside you who has been through it and can help you navigate.
I am about to be 30, and I still have a lot of learning to do. Being a mother isn’t the only thing that defines me, but I have found my purpose in it. I am supposed to do this. I am supposed to support those that need it and fight for those that can’t for themselves. I am so grateful to share my story but I also would encourage anyone that is even remotely interested in foster care or adoption to DO IT! I have been blessed to be a parent through both adoption and biology, and there is absolutely nothing different about the love I have for my children. All three of them are all that is good in us. I have experienced the growth and pure joy of each of my kids. My kids know they are loved, valued, and believed in. There is nothing more important to me than that.”
Read more stories about foster care here:
‘Where’s their mom?’ She assumed I was kidnapping my son. She didn’t believe me when I said, ‘I’m Dad.’ The suffering of kids in foster care knows no color.’: Single foster, adoptive dad says ‘matching hearts make a family’
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