In 2015 my husband and I found out that our daughter was going to have a biological sister. The mother kept testing positive for drugs during her pregnancy and we believed that DCS would take the baby. We started Path classes to become certified to be a foster home. We left messages for the caseworker that had worked my daughter’s case, but received no phone calls back. The biological grandparents were in touch with the birth mother and even visited the hospital when the baby was born. DCS was going to place the baby in foster care until a church that did a jail ministry offered to have the mother and baby placed in their care to take her to a rehab center. They agreed. They crossed state lines. Six weeks later the mother showed up without the baby. She had given it up for adoption because she wanted to leave rehab and they said if she left with the baby, she’d be arrested.
We were devastated, but accepted the fact that our daughter would never know her sister. Two months later we were pregnant. We were ecstatic. I remember seeing the heartbeat on the monitor and thinking, FINALLY. Two weeks later I had a miscarriage. Another devastation. I allowed myself to mourn for about a month. Then I realized that I had a daughter that needed me.
On September 24th I was picking up my daughter from preschool when I received a call from a number I didn’t recognize. It was DCS. They had approved our home for fostering and had a baby that was born that morning and his 2 year old brother. Would we take them? Without hesitation I said “Yes!”. She asked if I needed to speak to my husband. “Nope, we’ve already discussed what we’d be willing to do”, I responded. Within 2 days we were picking him up from the hospital and 2 weeks later we got our middle child.
I’ll never forget when we went to the hospital to pick up our sweet little Jack. He had so much coal black hair. My daughter insisted on holding him. She instantly loved him. Three years later and they still have a special bond. I like to think of my youngest as my Rainbow baby. He was my baby after my miscarriage and he healed my heart.
We were told that parental rights would be terminated and we’d be able to adopt both boys. The next 15 months we had 3 DCS visits for the boys and 1 DCS visit for us. We also had therapy visits every week for our middle son because he was severely delayed. We had newborn checkups and catch up doctor’s visits. Unfortunately our middle son had none of his vaccinations, so he had 2 years of vaccinations to catch up on. I felt so bad for him to receive 7 shots his first visit.
Fostering a child that was exposed to drugs is not the easiest experience. It’s stretched me as a mom. However, I wouldn’t trade our kids for anything. One thing that has helped me is building a tribe of people to help me through. We’ve had speech therapists, occupational therapists, developmental therapists, preschool teachers, my mother in law, Sunday School teachers, and friends to help us. The 22 month old little boy that was non-verbal, severely delayed, malnourished, had attachment disorders, and had medical issues, is now a thriving soon to be 5 year old that has graduated from developmental therapy and speech therapy. He still struggles with his emotions and being overstimulated, but I know with time that he’ll conquer his struggles.
As a mom, the most amazing feeling I’ve had is to see this child that struggled so much excel. It’s little things like watching him play for 30 minutes with Legos or getting him to sleep through the night or hearing him say that he loved me unsolicited. The first time I heard him laugh or the first time I saw him smile, which took almost a year for me to see, was a Balm of Gilead. This little boy has formed bonds with family members and learned that he’s loved. We’ve had to work harder on him than any of our other children. I’ve struggled the most with him because I haven’t understood some of the issues that he’s having. Having a team has helped me realize how I can do better and I’ve relied often on their viewpoint of him.
Last night I witnessed a miracle. My middle child interacted with others and had fun at a Fall Festival. I saw him figure out that if he could play games, he’d get candy. I saw him skipping towards me with a smile from ear to ear. “LOOK!,” he shouted. “I got candy for playing that game over there!” I could almost feel his excitement as he jumped up and down in front of me. I said, “Go play another game and get more candy.”
He looked at me with astonishment, as if to say, “Seriously, Momma, you are ok with me getting candy?”
I chuckled with almost glee to see this little boy interacting with others appropriately. I also marveled that just a year ago he wouldn’t have been able to form that sentence. Last year we went to the same Fall Festival and I was on pins and needles, apologizing and explaining to people why my child was head butting them or hitting them. “I’m so sorry, he’s just really excited and he doesn’t know how to tell you that.” But, this year was a different story. I loved being able to sit at a table and have a real conversation with another adult and every once in a while do a head count for 3 tiny heads.
This same child has repeatedly asked me to take him to the Dollar Store after school. Day after day he persisted until he had a great day at school. No behavior issues, no pink slips to sign, and no fits in the car. As we got to the parking lot he crowed, “Dollar Store!”, Can we go inside?” As if in disbelief that we were finally going. Then he started negotiating. “Can I get 5 things?” When I objected, he asked for 2. I might raise up a good negotiator with him.
When he found a Lego car, he was jumping up and down in excitement. I could practically hear his heart sing as he danced his way to the register. He made sure to get one for his little brother. When we got home he followed me around the house, “Can you help me put this together?” We sat down at the table and together we put together two Legos. I never played with Legos as a child, but now I’ve figured out how to put them together. His little brother relinquished his Lego to play with a train that his brother was possessive over, but he gave it up because he loves Legos more. I wonder if he knew he’d end up with both Legos when we bought them at the store. Tricky kid.
Might I encourage you to take money each month and put it in a personal savings account to create special memories with your children. If you are currently fostering or have a special needs adoption, you are most likely receiving a stipend. Use that money to create value in yours and theirs life. I regularly put $25 per each kid into their savings account. When I reward them with good behavior or take them somewhere special, I don’t feel guilty because I’d previously budgeted for that amount. Some months I need to spend more and some months I spend less, but it’s building up in that savings account waiting for that moment when I hear, “Momma, can we go to the Dollar Store?”
You could say, it’s only a dollar, why budget for that? Well, I want to encourage my clients to live their lives with intention. Make every dollar count as you seek to add value to your life using your money.
Fostering to adopt isn’t for everyone, but without it our family wouldn’t be complete.
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Be sure to check out our Podcast interview with Wendy Mays as she discusses adopting 4 boys from Foster Care.