I’m so thrilled to introduce you to my amazing friend Kaia. I met her last year and she is just the type of mom I want to be. She’s hilarious and creative and compassionate and just the type of woman who gets it. Today, she’s sharing how she went to a busy mama of four young kids to a foster mom to an adoptive mom. This is a guest post you are going to want to dwell in and soak up her story.
It’s 5 a.m., and I’m trying to be extra quiet to not wake them. Somehow they seem to know I’m not within a 30 foot radius, and they come for me. Always. It’s almost like I’m wearing an invisible ankle bracelet that is somehow connected to them. It must start beeping to alert them I’ve gone out of range. Beep…. beep….beep..beep.beepbeepBEEPBEEPBEEP!
I’m not complaining, really. I usually don’t mind being found. Usually.
But this foster care and adoption stuff is a big deal to me, and I’ve been trying to carve out a chunk of time since Kayla asked me to share a little bit about my story.
It’s been kind of tough lately to find that time, but this is a start. I’ve made it downstairs undetected, and have found a dull pencil with a chewed off eraser, and an old notebook that says, “Jack’s Third Grade Journal”. So far, so good. Let’s do this.
My husband, Joel, and I have been married 14 years, and we have seven kids, ages 3-18. There are 6 under our roof right now, as our oldest (and newest) started her freshmen year of college this Fall, and is away, living on campus.
We decided to become licensed foster parents about 8 years ago.
At the time, we had four little kids, ages 2, 3, 4, and 5.
I knew I was done being pregnant (four years, pretty much in a row, was long enough for me). I wasn’t so sure, however, if I was ready to say I was “done”. At least, I thought maybe we could help out watching little babies in foster care, by doing respite care. Respite care provides foster families with short-term child care, basically when they need a break. This was our plan: To be respite providers, when needed. Funny how God’s plans are a little different than our own.
The thing is, when you actually hear of a REAL situation, of a REAL human being who has a name, and needs a home, it does something to you. You hear yourself saying, “I think maybe we can do this.”
About a month after being licensed, I picked up our first placement, a two year old little girl. She ended up staying for a few months until she was moved to a friend of her birth family. Yes, my heart was broken when she left, but we survived.
I couldn’t help but think of all the other kids like her who also needed a safe and loving home.
We told human services that we would be willing to take little girls, toddler to age 3, that would ,hopefully, become “adoptable.” (It’s very difficult, in most cases, for case managers to know what the outcome of a case will be. Things can change in an instant, and often do. While I definitely know of cases where friends have fostered and adopted kids in a relatively short time frame, it can often take a very long time for this process to play out. We ended up learning this first-hand.) We thought we were done with the baby stage, and we wanted the foster kids to be younger than our youngest. We also already had 3 little boys, and we thought it would be nice for our daughter to have a sister. Yes, you can actually be THAT specific as far as what age and sex you think is right for your family. Again… that was OUR plan. Ha! God apparently knew a little bit better about what would be right for our family.
I am so thankful we listened and trusted Him, as I can’t imagine my life without any of my kids. We ended up fostering and adopting two little boys, who are brothers. Both of which joined our family as newborns. I literally felt my heart almost burst in my chest the second I laid eyes on both of them.
Ok… so I could say “And we all lived happily ever after. The End.” But, yeah… my nose would start growing and my friends and family would start rolling their eyes. Being a foster parent and and adoptive parent is TOUGH. Really hard. My skin has certainly gotten a lot thicker. It can be quite humbling, at times. A lot of people don’t “get it”. People say the most ridiculous things, often in front my kids.
Sidenote: Please be careful when discussing foster care and adoption stuff in front of my kids. I love talking to people who are interested in becoming foster parents, but stuff like, “Why did they give him up?” or “Does he have any problems?” are completely inappropriate.
Warning: When I say be careful what you say in front of my kids, I mean ANY of my kids, not just our adopted children. My kids fight like cats and dogs at home, but in public, if they think one of their siblings are getting picked on, they are like a pack of wolves. You don’t want to mess with them. Just trust me on this.
I also love seeing how compassionate my kids can be. They are pretty good at noticing the kid who is being picked on or sitting alone, and inviting them to join them. This is something kids learn from experience. I believe being a foster family has taught our kids to be less judgmental and more accepting.
Being a foster parent is scary, but not in the ways you might think. The scary part for me is having very little control, coupled with all of the “unknown”. It took us years to adopt our two little boys. Every time we thought we were getting closer to adoption, we were told the case was being delayed. There were so many ups and downs, and I almost thought I was going crazy a few times. The thought of losing them terrified me. Thankfully, I have some amazing friends who were pretty good at “talking me off the ledge.” I can only imagine what a broken record I must have sounded like, and I am so grateful for those who spent so many hours just listening to me, and offering words of encouragement and hope. I can’t stress how important it is for foster parents to have a strong support system.
Looking back now at that difficult time, I know everything happened because God allowed it to. We needed to go through all of this for so many reasons. God has shown me that He is in charge, and I need to fully rely on Him.
He has taught me how to fight for my kids, even when so much is fighting against them. Through this all, I have become a stronger person, and I’m not as afraid to stand up for what I believe in, or to fight for those who have no voice.
Through all of the trials, we have also been able to maintain a positive relationship with their birth mom. Without her, we wouldn’t have these two amazing, smart, hilarious little boys.
We were honored to go to Washington, D.C. last year to attend the Angels in Adoption event.
What an awesome experience that was. This was also where we met Kayla and Jonny! While we were there, we also met so many incredible young adults who were former foster kids, some of which, “aged out” of the system.
On the plane ride home, Joel and I started thinking that maybe we should consider helping out an older child that needs the love and support of a family.
Fast forward, one year later, we now have an 18 year old, who is pretty darn awesome. We feel so thankful to have her in our family.
I’ve learned that you don’t always have to have the “right” words or most eloquent way of speaking to make a difference. You also don’t have to be perfect, that I am sure of. I screw up every day in this motherhood gig. I yell in the morning when kids aren’t listening. I went ballistic when Halloween candy wrappers were left on the floor, eaten by the dog, and puked all over the living room last weekend.
One time, I totally flipped over a lightsaber fight that started all “fun and games”, but ended with someone crying (like most of them do), and with me going temporarily insane.
I grabbed the lightsaber, bent it in half, and ran down the street to chase the garbage truck that just passed my house, only to chuck it in the back the next time it stopped.
All this, while my little kids cried on the front step yelling, “MOM!! Nooooooo!!! My lightsaber!!” I can only imagine what the neighbors must think sometimes. I am constantly embarrassing myself and being embarrassed by some of what happened around here.
It’s true: Sometimes all you can do is laugh, get a grip, and move on. Seriously.
But when it comes to the stuff that really matters, we’re doing okay. Life is pretty full right now with all of the activities my kids are involved in, but on those rare occasions when they are all home, playing a game of basketball together, I will watch from the kitchen window and be overwhelmed with gratitude. I know someday my ankle bracelet will be cut off and I will no longer be as “needed”.
But for today, I have been “found”, and I will cuddle this little boy in the batman pajamas, who is asking for hot chocolate.
What a tremendous gift it is to be a mom.
What a blessing it is to be a family.