My adventures as a foster/adoptive parent.

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It’s Not Fair

“It’s not fair!”

This is a line that my son screams at me over and over again.  He does it during tantrums and it often doesn’t make sense in the moment.

I want to scream these same words but I am sure I can use them properly.  I do not want to scream them at my son, not at anyone in particular really.  I just want to scream them into the universe because really this isn’t fair.  This life that my son is living, that we are all living with him, is not fair.

It’s not fair that his brain developed during trauma and therefore can’t function the way it should.

It’s not fair that on top of this trauma, something is inherently different about the way my son’s brain functions adding mental illness on top of the trauma foundation.

It’s not fair that everything my son does from the moment he wakes up until the moment he goes to sleep at night is complicated, twisted, and warped by thoughts that make no sense to him or to the people around him.

It’s not fair that every feeling he experiences is an assault on his body that he can’t interpret.  It all comes out as anger and it seems to make less and less sense with each passing day.  On top of this, he can’t allow anyone to help him carry these powerful emotions and actively resists anyone who tries to be there for him.

It’s not fair that my little boy can’t just be a little boy.  He doesn’t know how.  His brain stopped being a little boy when he was too small to even remember as he experienced neglect and violence I can only imagine.

It’s not fair that he’s spent more hours in therapy and therapeutic care than I can count and none of it has really helped him.

It’s not fair that resources to support people like my son are few and far between.  He is left to the mercy of what we can figure out with the support of therapists who are wonderful and devoted but at most times as uncertain as we are.

It’s not fair that he has to live with the daily side effects of medications that are not really even improving his quality of life.

It goes on and it’s just not fair.

I don’t have a solution right now.  I don’t have the steps that lead to the hope for the solution but I do have a son.  He is just a little boy.  A little boy who is angry, sad, confused, and not able to be happy with his family in his own home.

There’s no pretty bow I can wrap around this story.  There’s no powerful lesson that I can share with you right now.  I just want you to know that stories like ours are out there because awareness is important.

Our family lives with this reality every day.  We have to advocate for our child because we love him and we chose him.  We choose him.  This is adoption and it’s not always a fairy tale or happy ending.  It is a raw, painful, life journey that is taking us to places we only hoped we would never be.

Hope is not gone.  Hope is not lost but oh this life, it is so not fair.

More to come…






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Fostering on Adoption Day

There are many wonderful things about being a foster parent. There are also many heart wrenching things. We love all our kids and they are all OUR KIDS. When a child is with us, they are family and they belong. The amazing thing about adoption for us is that this powerful bond will not need to be broken. For the first time, we don’t have to dread the planned day when a child is taken from our arms.  Today we are celebrating the fact that the plan is for our boys to stay and the happiness I feel is indescribable!

On this day I am also thankful for the gift of the children who have only been ours for a time because really there are no promises of forever with any child whether biological, foster, or adopted. We are all only given our children for a time.

I cannot think about the joy of this adoption without also thinking about how much I miss the other children who have enriched my life.  Wherever you are my little ones, I celebrate your life today and every day and I am so thankful our paths merged for whatever time I had with you.

The irony of watching one of my current foster children, whose future family is yet to be determined, eat the adoption cake that was lovingly prepared to celebrate our boys permanency is not lost on me.  Today is a day to celebrate our boys and our growing adoptive family but today I also celebrate our two foster children who are here with us. You are important too.  We love you!  May your future be only the best and may we be a part of it in some way even if we are only a distant memory.  I am proud you will join us in family pictures today because you are our family and you are wanted.


You just never know what a day will bring…

This morning I got a phone call from DCF that I was not expecting.  Actually, any time my phone rings and the caller ID says DCF, I never know for sure whether the call will be something routine or something life changing.  It is crazy how one phone call has the potential to change the course of your life.  Pretty much anytime DCF calls, my hand trembles a bit as I answer the phone.  I just never know what to expect.

As it turned out this phone call was about a little boy.  Apparently he was waiting for a placement and most likely would have to wait all day.  Our social worker wanted to know if I would be willing to have the little boy come stay at our house for the day so that he would not have to spend hours just hanging around the DCF office.  The social workers work hard to take good care of kids who have to spend some time at the office but it is just not the same as being in a real home.

We had a pretty low key day planned so I thought today would be the perfect day to have an extra kiddo.  I grabbed some sippy cups and snacks and loaded the kids in the car to head to DCF where we would pick up this new little one.

As we drove I explained to the older kids that we were going to pick up a little boy to play with us for the day.  I explained to my daughter that he was about the same age as her youngest brother and she could help me play with him.  I am always amazed at how eager she is to welcome new children into our home.  Immediately she began to talk about what she would show him and what he would do at our house.

This little guy had been removed from his parents the previous night and spend the overnight at an emergency foster care placement.  He was returned to the DCF office this morning to await a long term placement.  When I arrived at the office around 11:00 he had already been taken from his parents, placed in an overnight placement, brought back to DCF and now he was to go with me.  I was overwhelmed by how confused and scared this little guy must be.  At less than two years of age, I knew he had absolutely no understanding of what was happening.

As my eyes met those brown eyes I could see competing emotions of sadness, fear, fatigue, and confusion.  Strangely, this little person bore something of a resemblance to my own son.  I could not help but consider how my baby boy would feel if he was separated from his family and left with strangers, all well meaning, but none really knowing him and what he needed to feel safe.  Considering the circumstances, I was amazed at how calm the little guy was.

He held back a little as I tried to take him from the social worker that held him but he did not protest much more as I took him in my arms and began to talk to him.  He allowed me to put him in the car and buckle him into the carseat.  He saw the juice cup and cereal bars that I had in the front seat and immediately reached for them.  Amazingly, he munched his snack and drank his juice without as much as a peep the whole way home.  My kids kept talking to him and saying his name as we drove.  I was pleased at the way they seemed to welcome him into the fold and want him to feel comfortable.

We arrived home and once again this little one had to enter a strange and unfamiliar place.  He clung to me at first but then he became more brave as the other kids began to play with toys.  He allowed me to put him down and he explored a little.  He ate some lunch with evident pleasure at the foods that I gave him.  After lunch, I put him down for a nap.  He cried quite a bit as I tried to help him settle down.  I would leave him for a bit and then go back every few minutes to reassure him that he was alright and could go to sleep.  Finally after quite some time, he closed his eyes and fell asleep as I stood over him whispering “Shhhhhhh, you’re OK” over and over again.

He slept for a long time and was awake only a short while before it was time for me to bring him back to DCF.  He seemed happy to see the social worker when we got there.  Sadly, I am betting he thought she would take him back to his family.  I was told that he was going to be placed with kin but the workers were not sure if he knew the kin or not.  Even if he was familiar with the kin, he was about to go through yet another transition.  This little boy was being forced to be more brave in one day than I think I have had to be in my entire life.

The kids all called goodbye to him as we pulled out of the parking lot.  It was sad to see him go.  Even though he was with us for such a short time, I felt so protective of him.  He was one of my children, no matter how short the time he was with me.  It was my job to help protect him and try to comfort him during a difficult time.

It never ceases to amaze me how each individual child I am entrusted with immediately awakens in me another protective bond of mother love.  It is incredible to me how my heart seems to undergo an instant transformation when I see a new, scared little face.  The capacity for love in my heart seems boundless.  It multiplies and develops a part that is just for this new little person that needs me.  How wonderful it is that love is such a thing that can be expanded and multiplied at a moments notice.

It was a very unexpected day today but it was a very good day.  My heart carries the face of a new little one who is already only a sweet memory to me.  I do not know where he is but I hope tonight he is cuddled up feeling safe and loved and that tomorrow will bring some familiarity and peace for him.  Sweet dreams little guy and go wrapped in my love.

Angels of God,
From heaven so bright,
Watch over my children
And guide them right.
Fold your wings ‘round them
And guard them with love
Sing to them softly
From heaven above.

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Saying goodbye

Grief. I have felt it so many times it seems. A kind of grief. It is the loss of a child but not a death. I feel it anytime one of our foster children moves on to a new home. It is not the same kind of grief for every child because each situation is different. Some scenarios offer more comfort because they come with less risk for the child or the opportunity to stay in touch.  Though time eases the pain of these separations, it does not take it away.  Instead I find that I have learned how to carry this pain with me without becoming a constant tearful mess.  I have learned that I can survive the pain, though there have been moments when I really did not think I could.

People sometimes ask us how we keep from getting too attached to our foster children.  I have difficulty understanding the concept of not becoming attached because I really cannot see any other alternative.  I am attached to the children placed with us from the moment we hear about them.  I am still attached to them when they leave.  I think this is what they need from me.

One of my biggest fears about foster painting from the very start was saying goodbye to our children.  I knew it would be difficult for me and I really did not know how I was going to be able to handle it.  I think I just pushed it out of my mind.  As our first child was placed with us, I looked at goodbye as something that was not going to happen anytime soon and I tried not to think about it.

The first time we said goodbye was to a baby girl who was with us from the time she came home from the hospital until she was about six months old.  We spent time with her in the hospital NICU holding her and rocking her before she was ready to come home with us.  I think I bonded with her as strongly as I would have bonded to a child that I gave birth to myself.  She knew only us as her parents and we were with her for almost every moment of her life.  She left us at about six months of age to go to her adoptive home.  It was and still is a wonderful home.  A home with her biological brother and two wonderful, loving parents.  There really could not be a better situation to hope for as a foster parent giving up a child.  Though I knew that there was not a chance that this baby girl would not be loved and cherished in her new home, my heart still broke to see her leave.  I drove her to her adoptive home on that morning that she left us.  I remember placing her in her crib in her beautiful new bedroom.  Her father said he would give me a few minutes to say goodbye and left the room.  I really do not even know how to describe the pain I felt as I said goodbye to that precious baby.  I do not know how I turned and walked out of the room, leaving her behind.  I remember the emptiness of our home when I returned without her.  It was such a crazy mixture of feelings.  I was utterly heartbroken to be without my baby but also convinced that she was with the family that was meant to have her.  They were so kind to us as we struggled with our sadness.  I think the craziness I felt in my grief caused me to reveal a bit more to them of my pain that I would have liked.  They showed us nothing but gratefulness and patience as they asserted themselves as parents.  We have visited with them since the placement of their daughter and we still are in touch with them.

The second goodbye we were forced to say was to our very first foster daughter.  This situation was different because we really let ourselves believe that she was going to stay.  She was placed with us for almost two years.  From the moment she arrived, it felt like she was meant to be with us.  She was a little bit like me and a little bit like Julie in an amazing way.  We both connected with her and knew we wanted her to stay with us forever.  We were informed one day that her goal had been changed to adoption and we immediately made it clear that we wanted to adopt her.  Not long after this, her biological father came back into the picture.  He began to visit with her.  Somehow, he managed to get DCF on his side while doing almost nothing that he was supposed to be required to do.  He was not necessarily a criminal or a “bad” man, but there was something about him that just did not seem right.  In addition to this, he had been out of his daughter’s life for some time.  She did not know him or express any desire to be with him.  To us, it felt like DCF did not know enough about him and that they did not know what type of life he was going to be able to provide for his daughter.  She was very bonded to us and it was clear that she did not want to leave our home.  Despite all of this, DCF decided to change the goal for our little girl back to reunification with her father.  Not long after, she left our home to be placed with him.  We fought so hard against this by trying to prove that it was not in our little one’s best interest to be with her father but none of our valid points seemed to be heard.  I was overwhelmed with grief.  In addition to the moment of saying goodbye, we watched our little girl become more and more unhappy as she spent more and more time with her father prior to going to live with him.  She had been a happy little girl who finally felt safe with us and all of this was slowly taken away from her.  To this day I really do not know how we survived that goodbye.  I still feel like it is not final.  I feel as if I could get the call any day that our little girl is back and that we can take her home.  Actually, this did happen for  a short period of time.  A year after she left, she came back to us for about ten days due to some circumstances with her father.  We hoped and prayed that this time she would not have to leave but again she was taken from us once.  We have not heard from her since.

The hardest goodbyes are the ones where we know it is not likely that we will ever see the child again and we know they are going to a less than ideal situation.  We never stop hoping we will see our kids again after they leave, even if we know deep down that it will probably never happen. I find myself carefully looking around as I drive through our town, on the unlikely chance that I might see one of the children who I no longer have contact with.  Once I thought I saw a little girl who had been one of ours.  I turned my car around immediately to see if it really was her.  I just wanted to see her and know she was alright, even if she did not know I was there.

We said goodbye to a little one just last week.  She was with us for more than a year.  She left a huge empty place in our hearts and home.  I keep looking around, not seeing her, and thinking that I better figure out what she is getting into.  Then, I realize that she is not here.  We try to confine our grief  to small more manageable moments cushioned by the craziness and joys of daily life.  I miss our little one when I find one of her favorite toys or an outfit that we somehow forgot to send with her.  I miss her when I serve one of her favorite foods or when one of the kids asks me where she is.  I miss her when I tuck my other children into their beds and walk by her empty bed.  I miss her all the time but only allow myself to stop  and feel it in these small moments because somehow that is the only way to keep from letting the pain sweep me away.

Saying goodbye to a child does not get easier with the more times we have to do it.  One thing we know though is that we have the capacity to survive goodbyes.  We have done it over and over again.  We know that it is possible to pick up the pieces of our heart and continue to care for our other children.  In fact, we have learned that being surrounded by other children that need us forces us to remain focused on our role as nurturers and not get lost in the grief of a goodbye.  Our remaining little ones remind us why we risk the pain of goodbye in the first place.  We also hold on to the thrill of knowing that there is another little one out there who needs us and we eagerly await their arrival.




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Birthday Reflections

Baby  Bizz

My beautiful daughter Isabelle Rose was born four years ago.  She just celebrated her fourth birthday this week.    I think the picture above was most likely taken on the day she was born.  Based on the scrubs of the person who is holding her, I think this was most likely taken in the hospital.  I found this picture while doing what Julie calls “Facebook stalking” Izzy’s biological parents.  It was on the Facebook page of Izzy’s biological grandfather.  I was so excited to find it because we do not have any pictures of Izzy from before she came to us at about 8 months old.

We do not really know anything about the day Izzy was born and very little about the subsequent 8 months of her life.  We know that she was neglected…horribly so at times.  Her parents did not hate her, they were just like children who treated her like a toy to be played with when they felt like it.  They argued like kids over who would change her and they fed her very irregularly.  One day they might feed her at 1:00 in the afternoon and then not feed her again until the same time the next day.  When they finally did feed her, they would feed her way too much and she would throw up from the shock to her system.  There are all kinds of reports about things that happened during Izzy’s early days.  Her biological parents proudly reported that they gave her a time out for falling off the couch at only a few months of age.  The time out consisted of hours alone in her crib.  There are also reports of other crazy events that Izzy endured.  I like to think that there were some good times and that her parents really did not mean to harm her, they were just not in any way ready to be parents.  DCF knew about Izzy’s situation from her early days and worked hard with the family to try to improve it.  They built much evidence on the lack of fitness of her parents for some time before they removed Izzy from her home on the grounds of neglect.

Izzy Sits

We got a phone call about Izzy one November day in 2010.  We had just moved our very first baby (who had been with us since birth) to her adoptive home shortly before that.  I was pretty heartbroken.  I do not think I put that first baby down for more than a few moments for the first six months of her life.  I loved her as if I had given birth to her myself and separating from her was one of the most painful things I have ever had to do.  I was not sure I was ready for another baby.  Our family resource worker called to tell us about Izzy after she had already called me about another newborn that was in the hospital.  She said maybe we could take Izzy for the weekend since the other newborn was not ready to leave the hospital.  She said that Izzy could be moved to another placement after the weekend and we could then take the other baby since initially we had wanted another newborn placed with us.

I went to DCF to pick up Izzy.  She arrived at DCF at right about the same time I did.  She was with two of our favorite social workers from DCF who had just brought her from her biological parents home.   She was dressed in a pretty cute little outfit but she was clearly dirty.  The social workers warned us that her parents had bed bugs in their apartment.  I remember the moment that they handed Izzy to me.  She was not very reactive.  She was a very floppy little thing who seemed to be totally unphased by the world around her.  The back of her head was pretty flat and the social workers told us that she mostly likely would need a helmet.  She had spent too many hours lying on her back or sitting an infant seat.  Immediately my “foster mom” instincts kicked in and I felt a strong need to care for her and protect her.

I took Izzy home where I introduced her to Julie and the rest of the kids.  I carried her infant seat right upstairs to the bathroom so that I could give her a bath.  After I had stripped Izzy and gotten her in the tub.  Julie came to take away the carseat and clothing and put it outside because of the potential for bugs on her clothing.  Izzy did not seem to mind the bath.  She let me clean her and dress her in clean clothes.  We then put a big headband with a flower on her.  She was adorable!  Julie and I both took to her immediately but the thought that she would stay with us for long, even forever, did not cross our minds.

As we began our usual experiments to figure out how Izzy liked to eat, be held, sleep etc., we discovered that Izzy made no sounds.  When she cried her mouth moved but no sound came out.  We knew from our training that this is a common side of effect of neglect.  If nobody responds to your cries, what is the point of crying?  I remember that we put Izzy in a crib next to our bed that night that she came because we were worried that we would not hear her if she needed us.Izzy Cake Face

The next day, I took Izzy to the Dr.  This is something we do with all the kids that are placed with us.  In Izzy’s case, she did not seem to be feeling well and we had been told that she had recently had some issues with ear infections and infected diaper rash.  Basically, we wanted the Dr. to look her over and check for any illness or signs of neglect that should be reported.  This experience at the Dr. is one I will never forget.  The Dr. wanted to get a blood sample from Izzy.  They were having a very difficult time finding a vein to take the blood from.  I remember Izzy just laid there without crying as they poked her with the needle over and over.  I think she really thought that there was no point in crying because it would not do any good.  It was heartbreaking to watch and I think the Dr. and nurse were just as shaken by Izzy’s reaction as I was.

Over that first weekend, we really enjoyed getting to know Izzy.  Even though she was 8 months old, she really did not do anything.  She was like a newborn baby.  Her core muscles were so week that when you held her, you almost thought you might hurt her internal organs because she was so floppy.  We could not help but be drawn to this little girl who had been cheated out of the first 8 months of her life.  We instantly enjoyed her and tried to get her to come out of her shell.Izzy flower in hair

After the weekend was over, we talked about feeling sad that we only had her for the weekend.  We really enjoyed her.  When we heard from our social worker on Monday that the other infant that they were going to place with us was no longer available, we were very happy because it meant that Izzy was going to stay with us.

Izzy was amazing from the very beginning.  It seemed like she passed a major milestone each week once she settled into our home.  It was like she was making up for lost time.  One week she rolled, the next she sat, and then crawled, pulled to stand, and finally walked.  Izzy had a zest for life that had not been tarnished by her early neglect.  Once she knew she was safe, she took the world by storm!

Izzy was not at all quiet anymore.  She was one of the loudest babies ever.  I do not mean that she cried all the time.  She just made noise, lots of noise.  She babbled, she cooed, she began to talk, and she learned to cry.  She also learned that the role of parents is to respond to their babies when they have needs.  For a while, she seemed afraid that we might suddenly stop caring for her.  She would panic if we did not respond to her cries immediately.  Eventually, she settled in to knowing that she was safe, cared for, and loved with us.Izzy pigtails

During the time Izzy was placed with us we were going through a very long, very painful, experience with our first foster daughter (I’ll call her Peanut).  Peanut had been with us for 18 months when the decision was made to return her to her biological father.  Just a short time before this, we had been told that Peanut would be on the adoption track and we were certain that we wanted to adopt her.  When we found out that she would go to her biological father, who she did not know and who was clearly a shady character, we were heartbroken.  Basically, we spent months slowly having Peanut taken from us.  We watched her become more and more unhappy as she transitioned to her father’s custody.  During this time, Izzy’s was taken off the reunification track and placed on the adoption track due to the fact that her parents were not making any progress towards proving they could take care of her.  We knew we would have the right to be considered as adoptive parents for Izzy but due to what we were going through at the time with Peanut, we could not even think about whether or not we should make the decision to adopt Izzy.  Our hearts were far too raw with the pain of losing a child to consider the risk of trying to adopt another child.

Some time passed.  Somehow, we survived the day that Peanut left.  I think we were numb to the world for a while.  I do not really even remember all that was happening during those very sad days.  As we weathered our grief, it was our house full of children that kept us from completely falling apart.  They needed us and we had to keep moving forward for their sake.  We were asked again if we were interested in adopting Izzy.  We spent some time thinking and we knew in our hearts that we wanted her with us for always.  It sort of snuck up on us.  I do not think that we really thought it could actually happen.  We had kind of lost  our faith in happy endings from “the system” after having our hearts broken.

As the time drew near for the trial to terminate parental rights for Izzy’s biological parents, we got more and more nervous.  We were so worried that something would happen or someone would show up to take the little girl we loved away.  We spoke about Izzy’s adoption as if it were a maybe and about being her parents as if it might not happen.  Every time we did this, we were overtaken by fear that the adoption might never take place.fam photo adoption

Finally, a trial date arrived.  Rather than go to trial, Izzy’s biological parents agreed to sign an open adoption agreement with us.  We spent quite some time in the court house waiting for this decision.  During this time, we talked with both of Izzy’s biological parents.  It was a strange time to be near the people who Izzy came from and see how she was like them but also know that she was so much a part of us.  I am glad for that time, even though it was strange.  Someday I will tell Izzy how I watched her biological parents give her the best gift that they could, the gift of parents who could love and take care of her.  I was impressed to see them respectfully stand up in court and swear before the judge that they understood and agreed to the open adoption.

Once the open adoption was agreed upon, there was more paperwork to complete.  Since we had already passed a home study, what was left was other paperwork that had to be filed with the court.  Finally we got a call with a date for our adoption finalization.Adoption courtroom

We invited our whole family to the finalization and also our most special friends who had watched us fall in love with Izzy and choose to adopt her.  We planned an adoption party to celebrate the fact that our beautiful little girl was here to stay.  The whole experience was like a wonderful dream!

Izzy and mama match

Izzy’s adoption was finalized two years ago this May.  I am so thankful for Izzy!  She is a daily joy!  Her sense of humor and view of the world are so unique.  Her zest for life is intense and contagious.    She made us parents but she also made our parents grandparents and our siblings aunts and uncles all for the very first time.  It was a wonderful and beautiful experience to watch our family fall in love with Izzy the way that we did.   We were blown away by their love, care, and support for us and the way that they welcomed Izzy into the family.

We are now in the process of finalizing our second adoption.  I can hardly believe how blessed we are!  This has been a wild and often terrifying adventure but we have so very much to be thankful for!

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Let me introduce you to our kids…

Every child that is placed with us opens a new chapter of adventure in our life. They teach us and they change us. One of the most amazing things about being foster parents is that as each new child joins our family, we know our life is going to change. Each child adds something that we never anticipated. They teach us something that we never knew we needed to learn.

I will never forget where I was and what I was doing the moment we got the phone call about the placement of our first foster child. I had been jumping at every ring of the phone since the very first day we had let DCF know we wanted to be foster parents. That day in January, we were told that there was a two-year-old girl who needed a foster home. I remember when her social worker brought her into our home. She seemed so quiet and yet willing to trust us despite the fact that she had never seen us before. She changed our life from the moment she arrived. She made us parents for the very first time. She was the first child that we were totally responsible for that we had to make decisions for on our own. She was perfect. I could write an entire post on her and how she changed us but since I want to introduce all of our kids, I will stop at this for now.

We met our second foster daughter in the NICU of the hospital. She weighed only four pounds and was absolutely perfect. I couldn’t believe that they let us walk right into the hospital and start caring for her. We brought her home a few days later. She taught us about what it is like to care for a newborn. She taught us about waking up at night for feedings and that we could survive on interrupted sleep. She taught our first foster daughter about what it might be like to be a big sister, a role that she thrived in. She was the first child to leave our home so she taught us how to say goodbye, pick up the piece of our broken hearts, and be available to love more children that needed us.

Our third foster daughter joined us in the Summer. She bore a striking resemblance to another girl placed with us at that time. They could have been twins. Actually she was a few months younger but you would never have been able to tell. The girls were fast friends. Our third foster daughter’s arrival taught us about the adventures of siblings close in age and how much patience sibling rivalry can require. We also learned the importance of connection with a child’s biological family. We got to know this little girl’s family during the almost two years she was placed with us. When she went home to be with her family, we were able to stay connected. Now she spends many weekends with us and is the best big sister to the all our other little ones.

Our fourth foster child was an adorable little boy. He was about 9 months old when he arrived. He was our first real introduction to the health mysteries of children with histories we really did not know much about. As it turned out, he had Cerebral Palsy. He taught us about being parents to a little boy for the first time and also how to advocate for our own child with special needs. He taught us that we had room for a fourth child, something we had not considered before.

Our fifth foster child is now our adopted daughter. We didn’t know that we could adopt her though when she was placed with us. Actually, we thought we would only have her for the weekend. She taught us about the horrible effects of neglect on a baby. She came to us at 8 months not doing anything a baby her age should. She didn’t even cry with a sound. We watched her blossom in a safe environment and we fell in love with her. She made us adoptive parents for the first time and she taught us about the joy of knowing our child would never be taken from us.

Our sixth foster child will soon be our adopted son. He came to us at about a year old. He was a tiny, adorable little boy who either cried or slept and nothing else. He taught us about patience and about how important the early years of life are in allowing a child to develop emotions in a healthy way. He has come so far in his time with us.

Our seventh foster child was an adorable little girl. She was a dream child. Other than making every meal a torturously lengthy process, she did not have any issues. We joked that she was a 30-year-old trapped in a 2 year olds body. She joined our family and was instantly adored by everyone in it. She taught us about the effects of witnessing physical abuse and the fear it can make children internalize. It was amazing watching her trust for us grow when she learned that we would not hurt her.

Our eighth and ninth foster children were a sibling pair. They taught us about the bond between siblings and how important it is for siblings to remain connected with each other. They also taught us about what it is like to raise an older child in foster care. We still have contact with their family so we see them from time to time.

Our tenth foster child came to us at two days old straight from the hospital. He is soon to be our second adopted son and he is the biological brother of our other son. I got a call one day that I could pick him up at the hospital the following afternoon. The social worker mistakenly told me he was a girl so I packed a pink outfit for him to wear home. He taught us about the joys of knowing that there is no part of your child’s life where you have not been able to protect him. He taught us what it is like to have a child with you since birth and how much that changes about his growth and development. Right now he is teaching us about raising a child with Autism. We could not be more blessed by his presence in our life.

When our eleventh foster child arrived, she looked like she came right off the set of Monsters Inc.. She looked exactly like the character “Boo.” She had so much hair when we got her at 6 months of age. I brought her home sleeping in an infant seat with a hat on. When I took her hat off, I laughed out loud at how much hair she had. I had never seen a baby her age with such a head of hair. She has taught us so much about tenacity as she has faced each step of her development with unwavering perseverance despite some physical challenges.

Our twelfth foster child is a little girl with some severe special needs. She taught us immediately about the importance of the proper care and intervention for children with special needs. She continues to amaze us with her growth and development with the appropriate interventions and challenges us to teach her how to function in daily life.

In addition to these 12 foster children who stayed with us for at least 6 months, we also have had several other children who were with us for shorter periods of time. Each of these children holds a part of my heart as well. There was a little boy who was with us while his mom recuperated from surgery and two other boys and two girls who stayed with us while their foster parents were traveling (not all at the same time). We also had one little boy who stayed with us until he was able to be placed with relatives nearby. Another time we spent the afternoon with a little boy who was waiting to go to a long-term foster home that evening. Though we did not have much time with these children, they are also important to us and we count them as people who are a part of our family.

Right now we are at a time of transition for one child in our home. This means that soon that child may move on and we will have an opening for a new placement. While we are so very sad to say goodbye to this little girl who we love, we can only take hope in the fact that there is another child out there that needs us.


Funny things people say to foster parents…

A family like ours that has so many small children is bound to attract some attention when in public… It probably doesn’t help that at any given moment, at least two of them may be screaming bloody murder. After we attract the initial attention usually confusion follows as people take in a scene of two women with five small children of all different colors. I think some people assume that some kids belong to each of us and therefore that is why they don’t all look related. Some people are not content to just wonder and feel the need to make a variety of entertaining comments. I really don’t mind this for the most part as it makes for some great stories.

Once Julie was picking up a prescription for our adopted daughter at Target. We go there so often that most of the people in the pharmacy know us and know that we foster and adopt. Julie thought the pharmacist she was talking to knew our history. He asked her where our daughter got her blonde hair (Julie has dark brown hair). Julie thought for a moment and then replied “I think….I think her father has blonde hair.” Needless to say she got a very funny look from the pharmacist until she cleared up what she meant by her comment.

Frequently, one of us gets brave enough to take a group of our kids alone someplace to do errands etc. Usually walking through the store we get one comment the most. “Wow! You have your hands full.” It’s fine the first time but by the time you leave the store and you have heard it about ten times it’s not as amusing. The funniest part is that usually this gets said to us when we don’t even have all of our kids with us.

Some time back I was leaving my doctor’s office after an appointment. I had two babies with me nearly the same age but clearly of very different nationalities than me and each other. A nurse held the door for me and my stroller and as she glanced at the babies faces she said, “Well obviously they aren’t both yours.”

A while back I was on my way into a store. I had two of our kids with me and they were about 6 and 9 months old respectively. The 6 month old looked very much like Dora. She had fair skin and lots and lots of dark hair. The 9 month old was Puerto Rican and had beautiful deep chocolate colored skin. I had arrived at the store a couple minutes before it opened so I was waiting in the entry way. The kids were in a double snap and go stroller in their infant seats. A women approached me, looked at the babies, and asked if they were twins. Though I was surprised she thought this as the babies looked so different, I told her that they were not, just very close in age. She kept staring at them and saying to me “Are you sure they are not twins?” I told her I was very sure.

Once we were at the Verizon store dealing with some phone issue I was having. We only had one foster daughter at this time. She was adorable and bopping around the Verizon store. When we approached the counter, the salesperson said “Is that your daughter?” As new foster parents, we weren’t that suave with our vague answers to such questions so we said, “No. She’s our foster daughter.” He looked very confused and asked me “What does that mean?” I explained to him that her parents couldn’t take care of her so we were caring for her instead. His immediate response was “Why would anyone want to do that?”

There seems to be this magical thing that happens when you put two or three children into a stroller at the same time. Immediately you start to get people asking if you have twins or triplets. One combination raising such a question was our very radiant white caucasian daughter and our adorable asian foster son. Another combination was three kids of all different nationalities and ages.

A few times we have had children that bear a striking resemblance to each other and are of nearly the same age. This happened with two little girls placed with us early in our experience as foster parents. People frequently would look at the girls and ask us how old our twins were. Julie found it highly amusing to respond with, “Well this one is 2 and this one is 3.”

We like to take walks to the local parks and beaches from time to time. This generally involves a double stroller and a triple stroller. We have had people stop their car next to us and ask if all the children are ours or if we are a daycare.

Another amusing comment we have gotten is, “You take the kids out?” This is amusing for obvious reasons. Of course we are not going to keep them locked up in the house! They actually can handle being in public just like any other children.

Once I was having a snack with my daughter and son at a coffee shop. My daughter, as I have mentioned, is about the whitest child in America. My son is a gorgeous shade of chocolate brown. At the time, my daughter was probably two and my son only a few months old. He was in an infant seat facing me and my daughter was sitting at the table. My daughter was rapturously enjoying a doughnut. When she loves something, everyone in the area can tell. She exclaims about how wonderful it is and dances for joy. A woman sitting near us noticed how happy she was and kept commenting on it. The women was a bit older and probably had the same skin tone as my son. After a few minutes, she commented that my daughter did not get my curly hair. I agreed with her without giving any detail. A few minutes later, I began to gather our things. My son was sleeping in his seat and hadn’t stirred since we were there. He was facing away from the woman. The women said, “I need to come over there and see your baby.” I smiled and said “sure” and she came over. The second she saw my son, she said in shock “He has a black mother!” I was taken aback but I said, “Yes, I think he does.” She just stood there looking at him and said, “He doesn’t just have a black mother, he looks like he has a black father too!!!” I again agreed with her. She was acting like I stole him. I wasn’t sure what to do so I just said goodbye and headed out laughing to myself.

What well meaning strangers say to us more than anything else is that we are saints and that they could never do what we do. This is the hardest comment to take because we know we are not saints. We are people who were lucky enough to have the choice about whether to experience the pain and joy that fostering brings.

The saints are the people who do not get the luxury of choice. They are our foster children who do not choose to live their lives in the shadow of parents who have often given them every disadvantage possible. They are our family and friends who are just as important in our children’s lives as we are. They love them, treat them like family, and make them feel like they belong. We did not ask our family and friends permission before we exposed them to the world of foster care but they support us and our children without complaint. The saints are also the biological parents of our kids who against all odds work hard to pull their lives back together to get their children back. They are the parents who allow their children to remain in contact with us after they regain custody because they understand that we love their children too.