“I first met Daniel working at the Keg during my first year of university. I was a busser, and he was a cute chef that came to chop vegetables in the back. I foolishly thought professional chefs were obviously trained and experienced adults, and immediately developed a crush. He came over and I asked him in my weird, awkward, university question: ‘What do you want to do with your life?’
I am actually surprised he didn’t walk away, looking back now. Instead, he began telling me all about how he wanted to work in an orphanage, and his previous travels overseas. I was shocked. I wanted to work in an orphanage too. Obviously doing it with this cute guy would be great…but I didn’t tell him that. I didn’t want to come across crazy in our first encounter. I instead casually mentioned my shared desire, and our conversation went on from there. A month later we were dating and quickly fell in love.
Interestingly, it turns out you DON’T have to be an experienced chef to work at the Keg…you can, in fact, be a teenager. Age aside (he was only a year younger than me), we knew early on we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together and were engaged 6 months after we started dating. Shortly after he turned 18 years old, and I turned 19 years old, we were married. Everyone thought we were crazy and thought we should go travelling (we learned quickly on in our life the strange obsession people had with us travelling), but we loved each other and knew our life together had a purpose. Within our first year of marriage we started discussing our shared passion for children without families and came to the realization we wanted to adopt.
We weren’t your typical adoptive applicants. Besides everyone thinking we were crazy…again… most families we knew were older, were facing infertility, and were looking for healthy newborns. Our first instinct was to adopt overseas from one of the many orphanages we knew had children waiting. However, due to our age, we didn’t qualify for most countries. We discovered swiftly, however, that we qualified to adopt out of the foster care system from what is known as the Waiting Child program. Kids in this program were typically 3-18 years old and had special needs. We knew we wanted to provide a home to a child who needed a family, so this program sounded perfect. We began the home study process as one of the youngest couples in our province; Daniel was 19 and I was 20 years old.
A year later, after numerous educational courses, trainings, criminal record checks, physicals, and our homestudy, we were almost complete and ready to be matched. We were in our second to last home study visit when the social worker turned to us with a funny look. She said that although she knew us well and believed we would be capable and loving parents, on paper, we still sounded like teenagers. She said it would be a good idea if we put our application on hold for 2 years and came back at that time to continue with the process. Since the matching process relies on other social workers reading our file, we understood why someone of our age would sound questionable. We made arrangements to return the following week to finish up the home study and make preparations to put everything on hold.
The next week, as we entered the office of our social worker, we saw a funny look on her face. ‘I have a proposal for you!’ Our jaws dropped. A proposal is when a social worker matches a child to a family. We thought we were being put on hold! We thought we were too young! A proposal? She proceeded to tell us about a little baby boy, only 2 months old, who was ready to come home in three weeks. THREE WEEKS! We said yes, overjoyed at the opportunity to welcome a child into our family, and frantically made preparations to prepare for an infant. A few days later we pulled into the foster home and met our son for the first time. There are no words that can truly explain that experience, but I can say it is possible to love someone you just met. A week later, after visits, extensive stalking of the foster mom on how to change a diaper and make a bottle, we brought home our first son. Our hearts were bursting from the seams with love and pure joy.
Through that process we had the opportunity to meet our son’s foster mom and foster family, and learned about the need for foster parents, particularly safe baby foster parents (a foster home that takes prenatally exposed and at-risk infants). We signed up immediately, and 10 months later welcomed our first foster baby into our home. Through our fostering journey, we welcomed many children who came and went, but some we were blessed with the privilege of adopting. A little boy straight from the hospital was one of them, his younger sister once she was born a year later, and a 4th daughter a year after that once she was born. We had four beautiful children, were deep in the world of special needs, but I knew I wanted to be involved in a different way.
Once our youngest daughter was born, I signed up for school to become a social worker. I didn’t know if I could do it, or how long it might take, but with my inspiration from the movie “Conviction” I knew that even if I only took one course a semester, I would eventually reach my goal. To my surprise, and even with the addition of 1-2 more children through foster care, I managed to graduate 4 years later with my Bachelor of Social Work, and founded a charity supporting other adoptive and foster families. Through our many years, we had discovered the many gaps and needs in the system, and the importance of bringing awareness to those around us. In Canada there are more than 30,000 children waiting for their forever families, and in the United States there are more than 114,000. The number of children waiting overseas is in the millions. The amount of children in foster care is even higher, and the numbers and statistics of children who age out of foster care without finding a forever family is horrendous. Many struggle with homelessness, mental health, suicide, addiction, prostitution and their own kids entering the child welfare system. The need for families is huge.
Today we have 8 beautiful children ranging in age from 1 to 13 years old. Add in there 2 puppies and 2 kittens for good measure. In my spare time I run our charity from home, and occasionally complete home studies for other hopeful adoptive families. Our fixer-upper inspired house is crazy, loud, sticky, and our home décor is usually glued back together multiple times, but our house is filled with love. If I could go back in time, I would do everything again, to have the opportunity to know and love all of these amazing children.
I want to encourage others, however, to not wait for the perfect time to foster or adopt. Many are scared. Many are worried about the cost. Many want to wait until their children are older. But I want to urge everyone today to consider adoption, which is FREE when you adopt out of foster care, or to become a foster parent, to help support a child when they need it the most. If fostering or adoption is not for you, then consider supporting an adoptive or foster family. While our journey has been the hardest and most challenging thing I have ever done, it has also been the most rewarding.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Amanda Preston. To find out more, contact your local child welfare or adoption agency. You can also follow her blog at www.mylovelycrazylife.com. Submit your own story here. For our best love stories, subscribe to our free email newsletter.