“My husband and I were very interested in starting a family, and we were open to many different avenues of having children. Private adoption and surrogacy are just plain expensive options, and I knew there were a lot of kids out there who needed something we could offer. We started taking foster care classes shortly after we got married, knowing we were hoping for a newborn, but also knowing it was rare and there was a long list of other couples in front of us. My husband, Craig, wanted to go through all of those firsts, with a baby that would be ours. Going through the training classes were gut-wrenching. Mainly because foster kids are put in the foster system for terrible reasons, but also because it’s frustrating having to go through so many hoops when so many other couples can start families on their own terms.
Because of COVID, our training and home visits slowed down, but we persevered. In March of 2020, we were finally getting everything in order on the back end. COVID struck and I was furloughed, which gave me the push to finish the kids’ bedrooms in record time. Foster care is a complete roulette wheel, but we created a gender-neutral kids bedroom for up to two, and a nursery. Hopefully we would get a newborn, but we were open for another older child. I painted murals in both rooms, and assembled all the furniture. It started to become real. Then came all the waiting. We thought our social worker had forgotten about us. It was the perfect time for us, I was stuck at home, and yet months went by with no word.
On June 15th, I was texting Craig about what he wanted to do for dinner and then I got the call from our social worker. Three kids had been taken away from their mother and had spent the weekend at a safe house. We weren’t expecting three, and my first instinct was to say no. I didn’t know how we were going to go from zero to three instantly. I was told we were the only individual home in the county who could take three kids, since we technically were cleared for three. She said the kids would go to a group home otherwise. No pressure, right?
When we got the call, I wanted to say ‘yes’ right away, because we had been waiting for about four months at the time, and if our social worker had said they had a group of wild hogs who needed a good home, I would probably have said yes to that, too. Craig and I were very ready, more than ready, in our heads, at least. I asked our social worker how much time I could have to respond, and she was gracious, but told me they’d like to have an answer as soon as possible. I called Craig right away and we talked over what I knew about the kids. We got the wrong information at first, that it was two boys and a girl, and that the little girl was an infant (S was almost two when we got her).
We were updated a few times that morning with their correct ages and why and how they were removed from their home. It was a literal game of telephone, with our social worker talking to another middle man at the foster center where the kids were being held. We were concerned about possible drug exposure, we were concerned they were all so young, and we still wanted a baby who we could raise from the very beginning, and now we would be a full house and unable to care for a newborn if one would become available.
I remember us both asking each other if we really were going to do this. I think we were just testing each other, seeing if there was any wavering. He kept asking, ‘Are you sure?’ And without answering, I asked back with more intensity, ‘Are you sure?’ After a few volleys, we told each other these kids don’t have anyone else, and this kind of opportunity may not come around again. We were excited, this was what we wanted, and we were just so happy we ‘got the call.’ I think we were both on the same page from the beginning, that we had blinders on, but we saw the finish line, and so the rest of the call consisted of, ‘We’re doing this, so what do we need?’
I looked around our house. We didn’t have any clothes, we didn’t buy any diapers, we didn’t have toys, or kid-friendly foods, or sippy cups, pacifiers, Wet Wipes, you name it! We needed A LOT. Even after setting up the bedrooms, we spent over $1,000 at Target on the first day. We got the rooms ready, but it was impossible to buy the day-to-day things, since we had no idea what the genders or ages of the kids we were getting. I ran to the store for the basics: car seats, stroller, diapers, and so forth.
I’m thinking back on what my state of mind was when we heard three kids all under six years old, and I must have been so focused on getting them out of their bad situation, and not on the reality of three kids under six. It’s all kind of a blur now, since I know these kids so well. I can’t believe we said yes, but I’m so glad we did. I got the initial call at 10 a.m., and by 3 p.m. that afternoon, three little kids came running out of a car and into the house. J, just turned five, our little class clown and social butterfly. L, three, sassy and smart. And little S, not quite two years old, but full of sweetness and light. None of them were wearing shoes, and they literally the clothes on their backs, that was it.
It was a tornado of opening doors, jumping on couches, me holding a toddler who didn’t want to be held, our three dogs sniffing and jumping around; it was a crazy first day. Craig had to run out to grab even more things, because as soon as you think you have everything you think you might need, you don’t have the right size diapers or enough milk, or what do kids eat again? I started to freak out that Craig was going to leave me with these three kids all by myself. In fact, the first month was just me and the kids all day long; it was taxing to say the least. God bless iPads, nap time, and Cheerios.
We were crazy to get three off the bat, everyone thought we were out of our minds, and we probably were. I have a niece and nephew and I’ve been a Sunday School teacher, but wrangling three hyperactive kids who don’t know the concept of rules, or quiet time, or a healthy sense of fear, was a stretch that nearly broke me. Over these months, it’s been a surprising journey. The kids have made great strides, and it’s been so wildly fulfilling to see J learn to read, and S talk more and more and express her personality.
Learning to love the kids was easy, and the kids have so much love in their hearts, I just have to be around them and I’ll instantly be in a better mood. The kids also come with a lot of trauma, much of it buried deep under the surface, that they don’t fully know how to express. Because Craig and I are inexperienced, it’s been so difficult to tell when one of our kids has a meltdown if it’s a normal kid thing or a foster kid dealing with abandonment/neglect issues. I’ve been sworn at, doors slammed in my face. J locked me out of his room and I had to drill out his door knob.
They’ve broken lamps, picture frames, and fallen down the stairs a dozen times. L has gotten bitten by a dog, stung by a bee, and some light roughhousing with her brother left her with a small chunk of her big toe cut off. (It grew back, it’s fine.) I think we got pretty lucky, we’re almost eight months into our foster parenthood and things could have been a lot worse, or so we’re told. The kids are relatively well-adjusted, intelligent, and happy kids. Their parents are working hard to reunite with them and we support them in doing so.
We don’t know if these kids will stay with us forever, and we constantly go back and forth on whether or not they will or they won’t, but we’d like these kids to stay in our home for as long as they need us. It’s very difficult not knowing the future, and not knowing if we’ll have these kids for two more months or for the rest of our lives. I knew about this hardship going in, but that’s been the trickiest thing so far. How do I balance these emotions? How can I keep a ‘professional’ distance? I don’t, I can’t. I’m all in this, and if they go back to their parents, I’ll be heartbroken. Yes, I’ll be happy they’re with their parents, but we shared so much in this short amount of time.
Going to the beach has become our typical weekend escape. We’ve had successful trips to the dentist, and not-so-successful trips to the grocery store. J is our little kindergarten mathelete, and I’ve found the best conditioner for L’s very curly hair. We’ve shared their first plane rides and first time in a hotel. We’ve done swimming lessons, and Christmas morning, gardening tips, importance of stranger danger (including dogs), and watched video game tutorials on repeat.
If this all ends, we’re not sure if we’ll do this again, for sure, never three at once again, but I will always encourage others to do this. I’m very happy and relieved we were able to help these kids out during a very hard time in their life, and I hope they look back on these times and don’t remember the fear, but they remember the normalcy we tried to give them.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jeff and Craig Pearson of Oakley, California. You can follow their journey on Instagram, here and here. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories like this:
‘I don’t think any social worker will jump to place a child with a 20-year-old, single male.’ I agreed and said, ‘I’ll be patient.’ I checked all the boxes.’: Former foster kid becomes adoptive dad to 3 boys, ‘Fostering is love’
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