‘We need Native American families for these kids. Are you interested?’ It took us two seconds to say, ‘Yes, we’re ready.’: Foster mom shares journey, ‘Every child deserves a family’

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“My husband and I decided to adopt after our second child was born. We had talked about it for ages but finally decided it was time. We wanted to be a part of something special, be parents to a child who needed one, and we felt adoption was the answer.

We started the process right around October 2018. We did the paperwork, the home-study, created a profile book, met with lawyers, and booked an adoption consultant. We did all the things we needed to make it happen. We were ready! But then, about 5 months in, we started to realize this may not be the path for us. Our hearts just weren’t in it. We felt like we were heading in a direction that didn’t fit our mission. Something didn’t feel right, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was.

In the summer of 2019, after failed attempts to be matched with a potential family, we connected with a lawyer that finally gave us the missing piece we had been searching for: foster care. He was a lawyer that specializes in Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) cases of adoption. ICWA is in place to protect the tribal communities and their children. Because of this act, all Native American children are to be placed into homes of a family connected to a native tribe. It’s a way to protect the heritage and the upbringing of that child. My husband is of Native American descent and that qualified him to take in, and possibly adopt, Native American children from his tribe.

I will never forget the question that kept me up for many nights after that: ‘Would you be interested in fostering children? We need Native American families for these kids in the system right now.’ How could we say no?

I had never considered foster care before. I have seen families do it and have admired their willingness from afar. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, that is truly wonderful, but there is no way I could do it.’ So many questions kept running through my mind: ‘Would I get too attached? How could I give this child back after caring for them for so long? Would I be able to bond with a child that isn’t mine? What if the child was too much to handle?’ If anyone ever brought it up as an option to me, especially when I mentioned adoption, I would brush the idea off and say, ‘It’s just not for me.’  I think what I didn’t realize then, but I realize now, is I always possessed everything I needed to be a foster parent.

Courtesy of Casey Mayo

All you need to foster a child is arms to hold them, a home to protect them, and a heart that has room to love them. Everything else falls into place. Once you hold a vulnerable child in your arms and feel them relax into your chest, you realize you would move heaven and earth to protect them and give them the life they can’t create without you. These kids show up at your door with nothing, truly NOTHING, and they need EVERYTHING.

When given an opportunity like this, you will rise to the occasion. You feel empowered and superhuman. There is something about that call to action that will make all the endless appointments, the broken-hearted moments, and middle of the night crying sessions (where everyone is crying) 100% worth it. When you see that child smile back at you, giggle when you find that tickle spot under their chin, push themselves up to standing, or excel in any developmental milestone, you know you are doing good work.  You are the very person they need in that moment.

After we spoke to that attorney, we immediately began to put our names on the lists of the social workers and lawyers dealing with ICWA cases. I will never forget when we got the call about two special kids. They needed a possible permanent family and they were specifically looking for my husband’s tribe. It’s so incredibly rare to find members of my husband’s tribe out in Los Angeles, CA and here they were. It took us two seconds to say, ‘Yes, let’s move forward. We are ready.’ We committed to take in two additional kids and turn our family of four into a family of six.

Courtesy of Casey Mayo

We started immediately, doing family meetings with them, playdates, etc. They were becoming like our own so quickly and we were in love. But right after Christmas 2019, it all fell through. We encountered a major obstacle in one of the little one’s story that made it impossible for us to move forward. This happens in foster care sometimes. Stories change and you have to be flexible and ready. After that happened, we doubled down. We knew deep in our hearts foster care was the way to go and we were ready to jump in with both feet and try again.

In March 2020 we officially listed our names on the list for foster families, to take in any and all kids who needed a family. We made a note if ever there was a Native American child to need a home, to place them with us. It took a few weeks, but we finally got the first call. It was like Christmas morning! I couldn’t believe we were about to have a baby boy in our home again. We had been waiting for this moment since we started our adoption journey back in October 2018. It was here!

Courtesy of Casey Mayo

Baby D was a breath of fresh air in such an uncertain time of COVID-19. He was cuddly and sweet. The kind of dream baby you see on TV shows and commercials. I soaked up his snuggles and my children kissed him with ferocity, loving him like he was their brother. It took about 1 week before they broke the news an aunt for Baby D had popped up and was willing and able to take him and raise him. While I knew this was the ultimate goal, it was still hard to wrap my mind around. Things feel certain when you have a 7-pound life laying on your chest, dependent on you for everything. ​

Courtesy of Casey Mayo

The foster system is set up to reunify. It’s the goal. When you sign up to be a foster parent, you are signing up to be a temporary place for a child to grow and thrive. You are signing up to take them to doctor’s appointments, help with their therapy and development, make room for them in your heart so they feel the love from you they are missing out on from their biological parents. But you are also there to help connect them to their biological family. If Mom or Dad is showing up for visitations, you are supporting that. If they are asking for pictures, you oblige. You are a parent, but they are still their mom or dad. And if Mom or Dad isn’t an option, you are there to hand off a cared-for, loved child to a biological family member. It’s the best-case scenario. And while it’s not perfect, you take a deep breath (say a prayer or send out all the good energy you can out into the universe) and believe they have the best intentions for the child you helped when they needed you.

Courtesy of Casey Mayo

So yes, I handed him off with tears streaming down my face, but I was joyful because he would be sewn into the fabric of his biological family, growing up knowing where he came from and who he was and hold the hand of someone who carries his DNA.  I still think of this baby often and his picture will always hang on our wall.

Shortly after Baby D left, we had another baby dropped off late in the night of June 2020. His story is his to tell, but his trauma was large. While he was just a newborn, he had already endured a lot in the womb, but he was as sweet as could be and fit into our world perfectly. With him, we really got to know the foster care system. We went to appointment after appointment. We had to do stretches with him multiple times a day. His body was stiff, but his spirit was anything but that.

Courtesy of Casey Mayo

When you hold these sweet babies in your arms, you are entrusted with a lot. They need you showing up for them. They need you fighting for them. No one else is doing it. My husband, Cody, took the words right out of my mouth the other day when he said, ‘Man, they are just so vulnerable. They are completely reliant upon me.’ And it’s true. If we didn’t step up and say, ‘Yes, let’s do this. Let’s help these children,’ they would be left to fend for themselves or have the system try to fight for them. Because we said yes, Baby B left our home better than when he arrived. He was pounds heavier, way more limber, and developing beautifully.

Courtesy of Casey Mayo

About a month before Baby B left, we got a call from a social worker who had a child who would be released from the hospital soon after Baby B was going to be leaving. Because of my husband’s Native American background, they called us first because they would be a part of the same tribe. We said, ‘Yes, absolutely.’ We went from one newborn to another. It’s been a year of newborns, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Courtesy of Casey Mayo

Baby Bear is the best gift. He’s sweet, tender, quiet, patient and so unbelievably precious to our family. My kids have taken to him like you wouldn’t believe. We don’t know the future for him, but we know he’s here for a while. Even when you hear words thrown around like ‘permanent’ or ‘adoption’ or ‘loss of reunification services,’ you hold on loose and remember the mission you were called for: We are foster parents. We say yes because we are needed in a moment of crisis. We are parents when there is a need for parents. We are caregivers. We are selfless in this calling. We are agreeing to do this with no expectations for anything being given to us or expectations that they will be ours.

Courtesy of Casey Mayo

Foster care isn’t for everyone. It’s hard. It’s a lot of work. I think it would surprise most. They are completely capable of doing what we do. All you need to be a foster parent is a heart that is ready and willing to give. The other things come once you have a baby in your arms. You hold them and you become more patient, more willing, more secure in this mission. You find a strength you’ve never known you had inside of you. And best of all, you FALL head over heels for these kids. It’s not hard to bond. It’s not hard to let them be a huge part of who you are. You are being entrusted with life and you will do anything for that life because that is what love does.

Courtesy of Casey Mayo

Because of this journey, my husband and I have coined the phrase, ‘Foster is family,’ in our advocacy of foster care. We hope to break the stigma that says, ‘If you have a foster kid, you are just a foster family.’ What you really are is simply… a family, a family for a child who doesn’t have one, and who desperately needs one.

Having a supportive family can truly be the glue that holds a person together. A good family helps us thrive and is there when we fall or there to celebrate our victories. Family is a place to feel safe, and I believe every child deserves a family. We are blessed to be that family for any child that is in need, whether it be for a week, or for a lifetime.”

Courtesy of Casey Mayo

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Casey Mayo from LA, California. You can follow her journey on  Instagram  and on YouTube. 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.

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