‘Will you take in 3 sisters?’ We had NO experience. They came in like a whirlwind. I panicked.’: Foster mom describes ups and downs, ‘I’d make the same choice over and over’

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“It started in November of 2016. My wife, Emily, had stopped traveling for work and with her home full-time, I realized how much I had been subconsciously putting on hold while she traveled about 75% of the year. The fourth day I found myself sobbing on my commute home, I knew it was time to talk to her about everything weighing on me.

I came home from work, waited for Emily to arrive home, and I told her we needed to talk. I laid it ALL out and while I wish I had delivered it differently, it basically fell out of my mouth as, ‘I want to be a foster parent and adopt and if that’s not something you want to do, then we better just end this now.’ I was so passionate about what my (sudden) purpose was that I was ready to burn my life to the ground and start over.

Courtesy of Jordan Mac

Needless to say, Emily was shocked. She stared at me, mouth agape like I had just told her my name wasn’t actually Jordan and I actually had a secret family overseas living in an attic. Keep in mind, we had just celebrated our first wedding anniversary and had been together for 5 years, without kids ever being a requirement for me. It took a few days of discussion, arguments, and hurt feelings to come to a decision to move forward with the foster care process.

In February of 2017, we started the training process. We had selected an agency with a very large need in a location close to our home and I was shoving us down the road as fast as I could, knowing kids were showing up every single day who might need us. It took 8 months to get our license. The waiting, especially for our license, was BRUTAL. Things were lost, left on desks, and just generally forgotten about, which is all to be expected in the chaotic world of foster care. For anyone reading this who is considering jumping in: get ready to wait and wait and wait some more. Just when you think you can’t wait one more second, you do.

Courtesy of Jordan Mac

On a Sunday in October, we got our first call: a third-grade-boy. We said yes and I panicked for most of the afternoon. Emily was driving home from Washington D.C. and I was at home running around like a maniac. About 2 hours after the first call, we got another call to confirm he was coming. I ran to the store, realizing we had no ‘kid food’ (you know, milk). Around the time he was due to arrive, we got a third call and we were told there had been a mix-up with the location of his home. Children are typically placed within the jurisdiction where they live. We were crushed and sat together on our kitchen floor sobbing for a good while.

In December, on a Thursday at 3 p.m., I got a call for another child. This time it was a 15-month-old boy with some moderate medical needs. I called Emily, we both said yes, and were told we would get a phone call in the morning after the removal was complete. I raced home, set up a crib, got the car seats situated, and put one in each of our cars. I also packed two diaper bags, one for my car and one for Emily’s, since we weren’t sure who would be picking him up. We then got absolutely NO sleep.

Courtesy of Jordan Mac

The next morning, I was staring at my phone for most of the workday. I’m pretty sure I did maybe an hour’s worth of work between the hours of 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. In the afternoon, after I had convinced myself he wasn’t going to come at all, we got the call he’d be at the office for pick-up around 4 p.m. I struggled through the last few hours of work and when I stood up from my desk, I looked out the window to see snow falling. We live in Virginia, so snow is NOT a common occurrence. This was certainly going to make the day even more interesting than it already was.

I arrived at the office and chatted with the CPS worker as we walked until a very tall man turned around, holding a very sleepy toddler in his arms. I looked at the worker next to me and asked, ‘Is that him?’ She nodded and I choked back tears, trying not to literally run down the aisle of cubicles toward the child that would make us moms.

Courtesy of Jordan Mac

The man placed him in my arms and I felt the weight of him. I can still feel it, actually. I remember the sound of his breathing and the smell of his hair. I don’t have any idea how long I stood there staring at him, but eventually, I settled into a chair and filled out the copious amounts of paperwork. Suddenly, we were done. I walked out of the building with a stranger’s child in my arms, buckled him into a car seat, handed him a bottle, and drove home as carefully as I could manage. I carried him up the stairs to our porch and Emily met us at the door. She took him in just as I had and I watched her anxiety and jitters melt into serenity and love.

Courtesy of Jordan Mac

We were done for right away. He was literally perfect. We spent the next 4 months getting him caught up on milestones, transitioning him from formula to solid foods, and forging a great relationship with his mom. He reunited with her in April and while we were devastated to see him go, we knew he’d gotten the jumpstart he needed to be a happy, healthy little boy. We still get pictures of him periodically and he is as cute as ever, rocking that same toothy grin we loved so much.

It would be almost a year before we got another placement, which nearly killed me. In that time, though, we were connected with the family who had received placement of the third-grader we had been called for. Evidently, he needed WAY more than we (or any family) could have provided him. I am 100% certain if that had been our first placement, we’d have walked away from foster care altogether. Also during that period, we had begun discussing changing from the locality we were with to another one that was in dire need of foster families. They were really drowning and we knew our services were more needed by them than the agency we were with.

Courtesy of Jordan Mac

It took about a month for our paperwork to be gathered up and the same day our locality was supposed to send our file over to the new county, we received our first call in 10 full months. Despite being the middle of a shift, the placement worker urged us to consider because it was an emergency placement, as in ‘this child is here right now with nowhere to go.’ We said yes because the pull to help was just too strong.

We received a 6-month-old girl and she was reunited with her guardian in 8 weeks, eventually ending up with another relative out of state. Shortly after her return home, communication with our agency broke down, and before we could finalize our switch, our time as foster parents was over. We struggled to recover for another year and faced continuous roadblocks. We even went as far as to hire a lawyer to help, but there was nothing to be done.

Courtesy of Jordan Mac

We began to discuss other avenues to continue our family while grieving the family we thought we’d have. We talked to private adoption agencies, our primary care physician regarding pregnancy, and even went as far as to join an independent adoption Facebook group. Nothing seemed to be the right thing.

And then we found our saving grace: A. A had been participating in a local foster care Facebook group and mentioned she worked for a therapeutic foster care agency (TFC) in the area. We exchanged a few messages and then we talked on the phone. I spilled the beans about everything that had happened so far; I left no details out. I was honest about the mistakes we had made and the things we wished we had done differently. I shared our frustration and grief. She commiserated with us and wanted to help, so we set up a meeting.

Courtesy of Jordan Mac

We met face-to-face about 2 weeks later and fell in love with her and the agency. We’d never worked with a TFC, but we knew a bit about how it was different from working with a county. We took home a whole packet of paperwork and I got started. The packet was complete and given back to A within about 5 days. We were so excited to be starting over with an agency that ‘got’ us. A and her boss were persistent about working with us and giving us a chance. We were licensed (again) in April of 2020 and we are so thrilled with our choice of agency. They are supportive, knowledgeable, and diverse. They are respectful of us as foster parents and acknowledge what a struggle it can be sometimes. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take your time to find the right fit. The highest need and the busiest isn’t always the best choice. Find an agency or a county you feel good about, deep in your soul.

Courtesy of Jordan Mac

In July 2020, we got a call, ‘Would you take emergency placement of three sisters? They’re 10, 12, and 13.’ We had only ever had babies and really wanted to stay under the age of 10, specifically because we are young and had zero experience with older kids. We were also leaving for a week-long trip to another state in 48 hours.

Despite our reservations, we said yes and 3 hours later, they were on our porch. In the chaos of the afternoon, I had put together their room, had to go buy a third mattress, and rearrange at least a million things. They came in like a whirlwind, talking and laughing and doting on our animals.

Courtesy of Jordan Mac

All of a sudden, we had three daughters. We filled out paperwork, thanked the social workers who had come along ,and stared at each other in the kitchen. Just like that, we were parents again. Those three girls are still here and are worth those years of struggle, despite the hard days. It can feel unfair to be responsible for healing all of the damage that has been done when you aren’t the reason it’s there. Raising older kids, even just temporarily, can be a challenge and there are some days I just want to walk away (mostly to take a dang nap in silence). Then there are moments that bring me back around and keep me anchored to this life we chose. Like the time a child at their camp was standing too close to me and my 13-year-old yelled, ‘Hey! Get away from her! That’s my mom!’ And the first time my 12-year-old came over to me and initiated a hug and told me that she loved me. And the time my 10-year-old proudly picked out a shirt that read, ‘I Am Strong Thanks To Mom,’ said, ‘Look! It’s about you!’ and wore it like a badge with her hand in mine as we left the store.

Courtesy of Jordan Mac

There’s no amount of struggle or fear or frustration that could change how I feel about these kids, the ones that came before, and the ones that will come after. I will echo so many foster parents by telling you, honestly, the hardest part of foster care is the adults and not the kids. I’ll take a runaway teenager over a jaded social worker any day of the week. This is what we’ve chosen. And we’d make the same choice all over again.”

Courtesy of Jordan Mac

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jordan Mac. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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