No, I didn’t choose for my kids to be removed from their biological parents.
No, I didn’t choose for the foster care system to be so incredibly broken.
No, I didn’t choose for bio mom and dad to fail.
No, I didn’t choose for CPS to leave my kids with me 5 MONTHS after I decided I couldn’t adopt them.
No, I didn’t choose for this to be so painful. It just was.
As a foster or adoptive parent we hear these three more often than you would think, “You choose this.” As if we are supposed to be immune to the pain, suffering, and incredible complexity and unpredictability that comes with foster care simply because we said yes. This would be like you choosing to get married, and while you are venting/sharing/complaining about something in your marriage, your unmarried friend says to you, “well, you chose this.” As if you’re supposed to know in advance all the complexities and difficulties that comes with marriage without ever being married! I’m baffled why foster care is treated different.
Yes, I choose to follow Jesus and following Jesus is not for the faint of heart. Following Jesus means loving people that are not kind to you, stepping into risky, unknown situations because He calls us, or maybe choosing something you never imagined you’d have to choose. That’s what happened to me.
I never imagined I would have to choose whether or not to become a forever mom as a single person.
I never imagined I would have to choose the FUTURE for two little boys’ lives.
I never imagined I would have to choose whether to inflict more trauma on them.
I never imagined I would have to make these choices alone.
So I gave my choices to God and asked Him to choose. And He said Yes. So I said Yes. And guess what? Every day of my life is pretty hard. But I know Jesus and He wouldn’t want my life to be easy. He longs to grow me so that I can glorify him with every choice I make. And I choose Jesus.
Five years ago I was eager to learn more about foster care. I just finished a book study on The Connected Child where I met foster parents for the first time and was all fired up to use my new trauma-informed skills! With a deep compassion for kids in need and a mind thirsty for knowledge on all things foster care, I attended a local foster care conference hosted by Fostering Hope Austin. My bright-eyed, bushy-tailed self attended that conference with such vigor, excitement, and hope. I was finally following God into His real purpose for my life. Hooray!
Attending that conference was my first glimpse of finding other people like me, who had a passion for orphans and wanted to help in a big way. You know when you find your people and it feels SO GOOD?! I even met other single women and thought, “OK I am NOT crazy for desiring this as a single person!” Here we go!
I dragged my sleep-derived self into A Future And A Hope completely exhausted and so grateful to have a few hours to myself. I had become an Insta-Mommy just 7 months ago. I was in full-fledged foster mom role to 1yo and 3yo brothers. Diapers, bottles, and nose-wiping had become my life. Lawyers, case workers, paperwork, and visits with bio parents became my norm. My evenings of dancing, hanging out with friends, and having dinners out were replaced with the bedtime routine and sitting home alone. The excitement and hope had left me. I was a shell of who I was just trying to survive each day without losing my mind from the mundaneness and neediness of having two littles.
But then I walked into Jason Johnson‘s session. He was doing a session for prospective foster parents, which I wasn’t, but for some reason I went anyway. He was standing at the door greeting people and I introduced myself. He expressed gratitude for having a single mom in his session, since of course he was not. I sat down next to a single woman named Cecile. She would end up becoming a long-time helper for me and the boys. As soon as Jason opened up his session for questions, a single woman stood up and asked how she could do this as a single person. Jason called on me to respond. I have no idea what I said or how I delivered it but I suddenly realized I had another purpose. I had become a wealth of knowledge about the foster mom life and I would have jumped at the opportunity for someone to tell me the things I know now before I dove in. Even though I felt dead from exhaustion I could still help other single women who want to foster and therefore help even more kiddos.
The session ended and I found myself surrounded by more single women asking questions. I had lunch with a table full of single women. It was a beautiful sight to see so many single women of all ages stepping up and taking the big leap to become a foster parent. My energy, my hope, and my joy had returned. Let’s help more kiddos!
BOB!!!!! Bob Goff is all I can remember about AFAH 2019 and it’s all that matters because this man is SO radical, inspiring, and a true ambassador for God!! It’s ALL about Bob! Read his books, listen to his podcast and there’s no way you won’t leave more inspired to do good in this world. Be like Bob!
By this time I had been beaten up emotionally, physically, and spiritually by the tumultuous events of our case. I had been shocked, furious, and considered putting in my 30-day notice. But God. God raised me up into the light with two little boys that I now know were going to stay forever. We were on our way to adoption.
Pre-pandemic life. Need I say more? And Luke Caldwell with his amazing story of 7 (now 8) kids. 5 kids adopted all with special needs. #GOALS As for me, I was an adoptive mom now navigating the world of a school-aged kiddo, how to handle family trees for school and questions about why they don’t have a dad. I was still trying to recover from my own trauma of the failed reunification and adjusting to the life of a permanent single adoptive mom.
Virtual AFAH. I had the honor of being on a panel this year and it was a privilege to share how life-changing it was for me to become trauma-informed. If only our culture could shift from judging people harshly for their behavior to instead having compassion for what that person must have endured to cause that behavior. And if only we could better help the biological parents so that they can be free from their addictions and stop the cycle of bringing more babies into foster care. If only more people stepped up and said YES to foster care.
I am excited to share with you that I will be a Breakout Speaker this year talking about what else (?!) but being a single foster parent! 😀 I hope to help other single women….I mean people (you think we’ll get any single men in the session?! One can only hope, right? 😉 ) learn more about what it’s like to step into this rollercoaster as a single person and how to build a strong support system. See you at AFAH!
I was 9 years old when my mom turned 40 and from then on my little ears were filled with how awful being 40+ is. “40 is when everything goes downhill!” she would say begrudgingly as she pulled on skin here or there, pointed out wrinkles left and right. The words stuck with me and have formed a pretty awful picture of 40. Well, today I am 40.
Never in a million years did I imagine I would be a 40-year-old single mom. I got married at 22 because that’s the picture I desired. A picture with a husband, a biological kid or two, an adopted kid or two, a house, a yard, and a dog. Ya know, the ideal family!! But then my picture was ruined. God led me on a path through darkness and then redemption. As terrible as it felt I am blessed by it because I would not love Jesus the way I do today without those experiences. He allowed that pain and suffering so that He could heal me completely. And now I am a living example of his grace, forgiveness, and restoration.
Thus, I repainted my picture (with God’s hand on the brush this time!) and am thrilled that it includes such adorable little faces. But, there’s still someone missing. I desire a husband for me and a dad for my boys. 40 and single. It hurts. It feels wrong and uncomfortable. It feels hopeless at times. It’s exhausting and depleting. It’s frustrating and infuriating. An older male friend once told me he doesn’t date women over 40 because they’re bitter. Am I bitter? When I look around at my lack of options you bet I feel bitter sometimes. But with Jesus I remember that He is good all the time. He has a reason for my singleness at 40. My life is to glorify Him and not myself and what I have or don’t have.
Still, I mourn. I mourn that I may never be pregnant and have a biological child now. I mourn that even if I get married my future husband and I will likely never get to celebrate a 50th, 40th or even 30th wedding anniversary. I mourn that my future husband didn’t get to see X’s first steps or J’s first soccer game. I mourn that he’s missed the opportunity to form that early bond and attachment to my sons. I mourn that he wasn’t there for milestone after milestone in our lives. So I grieve. I grieve the loss of that dream, AGAIN. And I continue to wait patiently and contently.
I can grieve but also believe God is the God of miracles. I can feel sad but also feel peace in knowing God has my best interests in mind. I can cry but also feel Him crying with me. If anyone knows how alone feels it is Jesus. He suffered alone, he was betrayed by his friends, and he died on that cross alone. Following Him doesn’t guarantee me a pain-free life on Earth. It guarantees me a pain-free eternity with Him. So I will follow Him wherever He leads me whether that is to remain single or get the pleasure of sharing my life with someone. I will uphold my Kingdom values and be as Christ-like as I can be for my boys and for the world. I will let Christ define what 40 means and not my mom! After all, with God, time and age are irrelevant. He created time. He sits outside of time. And I pray my time on Earth is stamped with Jesus regardless of it being husband-less or husband-full.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Mother’s Day just passed and I always think about my boys’ birth mom. My heart aches for all that she has endured. They say there is nothing more painful than losing a child. And she lost two.
For a time, her story and mine collided. I met her standing in the lobby of a Child Protective Services office with her children in my arms. Her babies were handed over to me a few weeks prior. Can you imagine having CPS or police take your children away and deliver them to an unknown location with unknown people?! It breaks my heart. The unknown of their whereabouts and how they are doing would be crushing.
Early on, my interactions with her were of course…AWKWARD! Picture this – here I am a brand new mom, brand new wide-eyed, naïve foster parent, trying to figure out how to get this woman to like me, trust me, and know that I’m on her side. Thanks to the letter writing a relationship began to form. Quickly, I picked up on the fact that was she was seeking guidance, mentorship, and friendship.
Yes, it is the strangest thing to be “momming” someone else’s children 24/7.
Yes, it is very hard to figure out how to take care of them blind with no ability to ask birth mom what they like/don’t like in the beginning.
Yes, since J (almost 3yo) had nearly no words he called me “Mama” and her “Mommy” which became completely normal for all of us.
Yes, it’s complicated to love a child “all-in” knowing they are leaving but if you put the child and their parents ahead of yourself, it’s really very simple. It’s the Gospel.
Yes, loving people that did harm to the children you love is tough, but not impossible.
After months into this process I finally had the opportunity to sit face-to-face with her. I did my best to learn as much as I could about her, to try to understand her, and to find out what happened to their family. As I listened to her tell her story I had a wide-eyed moment of, “her and I live in completely different worlds!” COMPLETELY. And yet we don’t look all that different. Prior to this moment I had not known anyone personally that lived (not even paycheck-to-paycheck) day-to-day in regards to money and food. Questions like the following were their normalcy: Do we have enough money today to eat tomorrow? Do we have money to put gas in the car? Which gas station or fast food joint should we eat our next meal (every meal!)? It was in this moment, I realized I was different. I realized how extremely privileged I had been to have grown up in a stable, two-parent, middle-class home where not once has money ever been a concern. My heart wanted to rescue her too! And boy did I try.
The year the boys had two moms was definitely messy. But that is foster care. Foster care is unpredictable, ugly, and heartbreaking. In many ways it doesn’t work at all but in many more ways it does. Despite the horror stories you hear, children do get rescued. But I will always stand by the fact that the cycle doesn’t end with rescuing the children. The cycle ends when the birth parents are rescued and restored. And this still remains a huge gap in our society and culture. These young parents need us more than ever. They need our example, our guidance, our strength and our hope. If Jesus can believe in you, can’t you believe in them? It’s likely they have never had anyone believe in them or love them properly. It’s likely they grew up neglected, around drugs, alcohol, dysfunction, and trauma. They are just grown up versions of these foster kids.
I always wonder when our family will grow without me knowing. Maybe it already has. My boys could have siblings or half-siblings born anytime, anywhere. During this season our families are not one. I made that choice when I decided to adopt so that J and X could heal from the traumatic years they lived through. At this point, the story is about what is best for them and at their tender young ages, I still believe that consistency, love, and stability is best for them. I share photos with their birth parents and keep them updated on how they’re doing. And one day I hope there is a beautiful reunification so that J and X can know them.
One last thing, I often hear people (both kids and adults) ask, “why didn’t they want them?” or say “I can’t believe they didn’t want them.” Please don’t say this. Please don’t let your kids hear you say this. My children were wanted. My children were loved as well as their parents could. She loved them dearly. Her choices were the best she was able to make at the time. She tried. But ultimately she failed. This is the reality of foster care.
March 9, 2018. I was dropping X off at daycare when my phone rang. This was yet another life-changing phone call. In foster care, everyone says, “Be ready for anything!” and “Anything can change at anytime!” Well I just had my first REAL taste of that since my boys arrived. The 3-month return home that was outlined for us was just reduced to 6 WEEKS. The first step being an 8-HOUR visit alone with their biological parents this weekend. For the last 8 months, the boys haven’t spent more than 2 hours at a time with them, never alone, and never at their home. I’m angry, I’m sad, I’m a mess. Let the craziest emotional rollercoaster of all begin. — feeling heartbroken.
March 14, 2018. 5 WEEKS LEFT: I now have a 6 weeks’ notice that the babies I’ve had for 8+ months will be leaving my home. J is 3.5-years-old and Baby X is 15-months-old. I realize now I should be grateful for the 6 weeks even though I was originally told 3 months. I also realize that at our court date in April, the judge could order them home immediately. I’m preparing my heart for anything (if that’s even possible!). As of now, the transition timeline is:
Week 6 (last weekend): 8-Hour visit
Week 5: 8-Hour visit
Week 4: Overnight (24hr) visit
Week 3: Overnight (24hr) visit
Week 2: Weekend (2 nights) visit
Week 1: RETURN HOME on weekend
Why did they decrease it? I don’t REALLY know. In this process you don’t get a lot of answers. I do know it means the parents are doing “well” (but they’ve always been). The state doesn’t want to “drag it out” any longer. From my perspective there is not a logical reason to speed up the MOST CRITICAL part of this whole thing; they should’ve gradually started moving us here a couple months ago. A fast transition home will be traumatizing for them, especially Baby X who is SUPER attached to me. I’m pretty sure I am the only consistent caregiver these two have ever had. We survived the first, unsupervised visit pretty well. I officially know what the feeling of “someone is taking my baby away” feels like. #notagoodfeeling I have permission to get X’s first haircut (this is the ONE thing bio parents have a say in #funfactsoffostercare). I invited bio mom to start coming over one night/week to learn the evening/bedtime routine, connect with X, connect with me, and just be in a healthy/normal/loving environment!! They said yes, so I am hoping and praying she comes and has a positive and eye-opening experience. I need prayer about what to do or not to, to say the right things, to be able to encourage her, etc. This is crazy, uncharted territory!!!
March 28, 2019. 3 WEEKS LEFT: Yesterday at daycare drop-off, J melted down in tears. NOT ONCE has that ever happened. EVERY DAY he runs off exuberantly. He loves his daycare, loves his teacher. He keeps melting down. He is now carrying around sadness. He is overly pining for attention. The SLIGHTEST thing has him in tears. I guess this is the reality of this stage of the foster care process. The first overnight (24-hour) visit last weekend went as well as expected! They were fed, they seemed to sleep, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. They even made it to church the next day (our planned location to exchange the boys) not only on time, but VERY early. This made me chuckle because this is exactly what it’s like parenting little people! The kids have you up SO EARLY that you just want to get out the door and get to church as early as possible for FIRST service! Ironically, having only myself to worry about, I was late. I’m so thankful for this transition as I had a glimpse of what life will be like without them – going to church alone again. The look of exhaustion on Bio Mom’s face that morning at church… #priceless. I am hoping they had quite the reality check of what life will be like with these two EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME. We de-briefed at length and I am very excited for our growing relationship. I think they are starting to really trust me, see me as a someone that truly supports them, and are even looking toward me as a mentor. Love it!! This weekend we’ll have another overnight (24-hour) visit and then next weekend they’ll have them all weekend. This is such a weird process!! People ask how I’m doing and I can’t even describe it. It’s. Just. SO. WEIRD. I’m going to miss these two cuties like crazy.
April 6, 2018. This week marks 9 MONTHS with the boys. We had a court hearing this week. Thankfully, no surprises and there was an agreement that, although, April 14 is the official return date, everyone is open to the parents/me agreeing on a slightly extended timeline. We met with a Child Coach from my Child Placing Agency to help us better understand what J is going through (he keeps melting down in tears) and how we can help him. We can’t decide if “ripping off the band-aid” and sending them straight home or somehow drawing this out longer is better for him. But then we have Baby X who doesn’t really know them as his parents. I want the perfect solution but I can’t find it!! My perfectionist side is all twisted up and confused. We are talking about these kids’ forever lives! The bio parents have been coming over twice a week to spend the evening with us. They (especially mom) have really opened up about their lives. I know things now that I’m not sure I wanted to know. I know why J could barely speak with he arrived at 2.75 years of age, I know why CPS was called on them and what happened on removal day, and I know why they’ve lost nearly all their possessions. We come from different worlds and it’s A LOT to process. I’m constantly struggling with what to say/not to say, how to love them, how to educate them, how to support them but not enable them. My brain is on total overload. There is a lot of uncertainty right now, but what I do know is that next week will be my last full week with the boys. They will be spending the next three nights with their parents and I will walk them through the daycare drop-off procedures on Monday morning. We are going to re-assess how that goes and make a decision about the next weekend/week. BIG SIGH…I can’t imagine a time where I don’t get to hug him and kiss X’s fat, squishy cheeks. And to think, if something happens and I don’t get to stay in their lives, he will never remember me.
April 13, 2018. THE GOODBYE is here: I am wrecked. Am I alive? Not only is tonight my last night with the boys, my dog of 14yrs is dying (for real this time, unless he gets Miracle #2!). He is my first baby. I was told I need to figure out “how I’m going to grieve.” These words don’t corroborate in my brain. How do you grieve?? I thought sobbing on the floor alone was the right answer. Apparently NOT. The boys had three nights in a row with their bio parents last weekend. They returned with bronchitis and a fever/ear infection. Their parents are really not to blame for this but they definitely didn’t do anything to help them. I was irritated. But, all in all, it gave me three days home with Baby X to get my fill of snuggles, hugs, and kisses. I also got the arm and leg work out of the century! 27-lb squats, lifts, etc., rinse and repeat! You don’t need to work out – just get a GIANT baby and a toddler!! #bestshapeofmylife
THE TIMELINE: After lots of praying, I decided that sticking with the April 14th return date was the way to go, but have the boys come back to me for the next couple weekends and have me help out at their house one evening per week. THEY AGREED.
THE DROPOFF: Tomorrow morning, I’ll be dropping off my dining table/chairs, 20+ Amazon boxes filled with gifts from all of you, two suitcases of clothes, toys, and the boys. I don’t even know what else to write right now.
March 15, 2019. Adoption Day. Travis County Courthouse, Austin, TX.
What does it feel like to become a Forever Mom to two little boys that you planned on only being Temporary Mom?? PRETTY UNBELIEVABLE!
It took exactly 6 months from the trial date to our adoption hearing. During that time I learned about the many wonderful benefits of adopting a child through foster care! I wish more people knew about these! Check out 10 Facts About Adopting Through Foster Care to find out more.
I never expected to adopt children as a single person. I definitely don’t think it is the ideal situation but foster care is not an ideal situation. The circumstances these biological parents endure are not ideal. Children being removed from homes is not how God designed it. Yes, I believe whole heartedly that a two-parent home is best. This life is not easy in any way at all. It’s extremely draining and it’s impossible for me to fulfill the role of “dad.” But the life they had before me doesn’t hold a candle to what they have now. And I’m not talking about money or material things. I’m talking about stability, felt safety, and attachment. And best of all they will know Jesus. And HE fills in the gaps! So when I’m doubting if I’m enough, I remember who God says I am. He reminds me that I was made for this. I endured the hard times in my own life so that I could be prepared for such a time as this.
From Termination to Adoption
Numerous steps happen between termination and adoption:
Over the next 90 days the biological parents may appeal the termination and thus drag out the case for many more months.
Any family member can still come forth and request custody within those 90 days. Although I felt pretty confident this wouldn’t happen there is still anxiety.
J got a psychological evaluation.
CPS composes a medical history report on the biological family
The case file is redacted, given to me, and is required reading for me
The following is an excerpt from my monthly updates at the time.
October 2018. After grieving the loss of what termination means for my boys, this weird thing happened…a total mind and heart shift…suddenly things became peaceful, beautiful, and fantastic! I felt like my kids were the GREATEST, CUTEST, most amazing kids on the planet! A very spiritually mature mom told me that having kids brings you closer to God’s Kingdom. And I’m pretty sure I’m just scratching the surface of this concept. The love I feel for them is so fire-y and intense. I feel like I’m in love but on steroids and it’s exciting and scary all in one. I feel immensely blessed. For the first time in my life, I get to freely love someone that is NOT leaving. It’s a feeling I plan to hold tight to for as long as God allows me to. And to think, this indescribable feeling that I have right now for my kids, is how God feels about me as his daughter. In fact, I’m confident the way He feels about me is on an unimaginably higher level. So THIS is what I stand on today and will continue to stand on as a single mother raising two boys. When the days are really hard, the nights really lonely, and the routine never ending, I cling to Him for my identity, my worth, and my strength.
November 2018. I gave away the last of the Amazon boxes. 77 items were donated to the boys and their biological parents for the reunification back in April. I ended up using all the things the boys and I needed, gave away some items to another single foster mom, then gave the last dozen items to our former CPS caseworker to give to another bio family whose kids are returning. Each time I go through the boxes I feel sad. I’m using items that were supposed to be theirs. Things that were supposed to go in their apartment. I basically picked out a whole kitchen for them (they had nothing, and people kept giving)! I chose color-coordinated teal colors. Another picture I was sure was happening that never came to be. I’m confident that if these two people had had SOMEONE mentoring them, fighting for them, loving them….this whole picture could’ve looked completely different. And my kids wouldn’t have had to lose their parents.
December 2018 marks 1.5 years the boys have been with me. 1.5 YEARS!! My one and only dream was to be a mom. It was the core of my being and what my Heavenly Father intricately designed me to be and yet….it took 37 years, an immense amount of tears, heartbreak, loss, redemption, healing and restoration to get here….and survive. I sit now, on the other side of the thing that depressed me for so many years – no family, no husband, no kids – and this side is FANTASTIC. I feel so happy that I’m scared to feel it, because for sure, all the mess is going to come back. And it might….but I’m trying to SOAK and REST in this love without worry. This. Great. Love. I love when I stoop down to the boys’ level, look closely into their faces with the biggest smile and with my heart exploding with love and they can’t help but burst into a huge smile. Greatest. Feeling. Ever.
March 2018. Last visit from CPS! We completed adoptive placement paperwork which is only in affect until tomorrow when the adoption is consummated. I signed a myriad of other agreements about the adoption assistance, the case file, the medical history, the discipline policy, etc. In this world, you just sign, and you try to make sense of what the caseworker is telling you. I read the 822-page case file and was struck with grief again reading through why CPS was called to their house and what their house was like each time the investigators arrived. I read through interviews with the parents, family who lived there, and neighbors about what they witnessed and bio mom’s reaction to her boys being removed. SADNESS. Can you imagine if you had no one to call or no one who would step in if CPS asked you to find someone to take your children? No one. As hard as it is to read the more I know the better parent I can be. And finally some missing pieces of their history was getting filled in.
My final visit to the courthouse. What a change from the hearings before to go for a happy occasion! Friends arrived, my parents arrived, and the boys are dressed to impress. Our adoption lawyer told J that he was better dressed than most of the lawyers (I DO agree!!). We filed into the court room. We held up our hands and swore to tell the truth. I tried to restrain X from grabbing the microphone while answering “Yes” on repeat to all the things they asked I would do. “Yes, I will love and cherish them forever. Yes, I will take care of them forever.” It felt like I was getting married! 😀 The great thing about adoptions here in our county is that only adoptions happen on Friday so you know everyone you see is there for the same wonderful celebration. The courtroom is decorated in stuffed animals and everyone is in a joyous mood! I was so nervous I have no idea what else happened but WOW I am so honored to be a part of such a cool thing.
The next day we had an adoption shower thrown for us. When my babies arrived almost 2 years ago I didn’t get 9 months to prepare, I didn’t know how old they would be or what size clothes they needed, and there was no baby shower. In the foster care world babies come without celebration. BUT NOW was our time to celebrate! A few sweet ladies from my Community Group planned, coordinated, and invited. I’ve been throwing my own parties my entire life (as a single person you get used to it!). It took me a minute to step away from the Party Planner role and let them take the reigns but I am so glad I did. It came together exactly how I envisioned it. I got to hand out catchy-sounding awards to all of my over-the-top helpers from the start of this journey, I was able to thank all those who were there for us in various ways, friends spoke about their experiences with the boys telling funny and heartfelt stories, and we prayed….it was simply unforgettable. Once-in-a-lifetime moment.
How Do I Feel Post-Adoption?
Amazing! My love for the boys really does grow sweeter as time goes on! They melt my heart on a daily basis and I squeeze and kiss them up every day! I no longer have kids in foster care. This is so weird! I stare at uncovered outlets knowing that I don’t have to cover them anymore, but I still do. I still have my vitamins and medicine in a locked box. Where did I have them before?! I can’t remember. I look at my fire escape plan diagram mounted to my front door at kid level and I don’t want to remove it. I have no idea why not. And for the first time when thinking who could take my kids on a camping trip I realized THEY DON’T HAVE TO BE CERTIFIED!! Although I’ve cleared out nearly all the baby stuff, I continue to wonder what if there is another baby and maybe I shouldn’t give it all away?! With foster care at any moment, any time, I could just get another baby?!?! Not that I would, but for this baby lover it is a thought I have!!
A dark side of adoption that is not always talked about is the loss and brokenness that occurs when a child loses their biological family. There is a family that had to be broken apart so that mine could be formed. I still feel a sense of loss because the outcome I had expected didn’t happen. My boys lost their mom and dad. A mom and dad whom I poured everything into trying to get to know, mentoring, supporting, and loving didn’t succeed. I’m not someone that deals well with failure and although the failure was not mine it still feels like an enormous failure for me.
October 15, 2018. In less than 10 minutes without either parent present, their rights were terminated. With a few words from a judge and later a bunch of signatures on documents, this man and this woman who birthed these sweet boys no longer had any legal rights as parents to them. Zero. I stood there in front of the judge with CPS, the kids’ Guardian Ad Litem (GAL), mom’s lawyer, and dad’s lawyer listening to them present the current state. Mom and Dad had essentially agreed to the terms by which their rights were terminated which in this case was a failure to complete services. We learned this the Friday before the trial date which really means there wasn’t a trial at all, just some formal procedures. I was asked a few questions about how I mentored the parents and I choked through my words when answering. I was extremely nervous and overall just sad that our case had come to this point and no parent was even present.
I walked out of the courthouse feeling relieved that this milestone was complete, feeling accomplished that I successfully got both boys off to school and made it downtown to the courthouse in freezing rain by 9:00am, and feeling saddened how quickly and simply two people’s lives are changed forever. They had given up. At this point they knew I was adopting them. After I made my decision I wrote them an email explaining why I decided not to adopt them earlier and why I was saying yes now. It is very important to me to maintain a good relationship with them. I never want them to harbor negative feelings toward me (they do know where we live after all). But mostly I want to be the best representative of Christ so that maybe one day they may know Him too.
This is what I wrote them. Up until this time we were having occasional short video “visits” with dad; nothing with mom. I often get asked if it’s an open adoption and this answers that question too.
Dear [bio dad] and [bio mom],
It’s been over 15 months since the boys arrived at my home. They are more beautiful (inside and out) every day. They are bright, smart and hilarious. They are precious gifts from God and deserve the BEST life.
6 months ago, just after the boys were supposed to return to you, I was asked to adopt them. At that time, I couldn’t imagine them NOT returning to you since that was the plan. That was the goal we worked on for 9 months, and I was completely blind-sided by what happened. Every day of that 6-week transition period was challenging, but delicately planned. Hours spent preparing myself, protecting the boys, and helping you. I expected nothing less than a successful reunion. So when it didn’t happen, and then I was asked to adopt, I just couldn’t bring myself to come to that conclusion in such a short period of time because adopting them had never crossed my mind.
I’ve been able to spend the last 5 months processing the idea of spending forever with them. Things have been peaceful, calm, and joyful. I’ve been able to picture us as a family, forever. I now can’t imagine anything different. They are thriving here. Their transformation has been phenomenal (so, people say!). They’ve had 15 months to attach to me and at this point, there is no way I can live with the consequence of severing that and putting them through the trauma of losing 3 parents at their young ages. It would have life-long effects. I am capable, willing, and want to adopt the boys. I am madly in love with them, even, some days, I feel obsessed with them. 🙂 My love for them grows sweeter every day. They are so happy here. And we have so many people that love us, support us, and will continue to be there for us.
I sacrificed my whole life (short of quitting my job) for 2 little boys that were complete strangers to me. I have showered them with love through the tears, sadness, and confusion of this situation. I have given them a firm, safe, and stable foundation. I continue to hope for the best and believe God will heal everyone in this family which includes you. I believe He can and I continue to pray for both of you. You are a precious part of this story. But the boys are the #1 priority right now – their safety, well being, happiness, mental/emotional health, brain development, and relational development. They deserve the BEST chance at life, and I want to give that to them.
They will always love you. I will never forget you. I need you to trust me. Trust me with the timing of them knowing you. Knowing you now is so hard on J and it is affecting his mental/emotional health. He is deeply wounded by what happened. From his perspective, the 2 people he loved more than anything in this world, left him with a complete stranger. And then instead of being able to heal and move forward, he is reminded every week of those abandonment feelings, and the deep wound is re-opened. Each week I deal with the emotional repercussions of the calls with you. He is sad. He is confused. And it his heart-breaking. His wound will never heal if he knows you now. He is just too young. But you have my word / my promise / my guarantee that when they are old enough, and they want to know you, I will help them do that. As much as this may hurt you, he is hurting SO MUCH more and needs healing/closure so he can grow up to be a healthy/happy young man. I am happy to send y’all email updates and pictures along the way. It would be my pleasure. I am so sorry that it has come to this. I know that it wasn’t the plan, but sometimes we have to grieve the plan, make sacrifices, and do what’s best for those we love.
If you have any questions for me or just want to talk about this, feel free to write, text or call.
Oct 2018. One week before the trial. My personal deadline to make, yet again, the most difficult decision of my life. Nearly 6 months prior I decided I would not adopt J and X. I truly felt I was making the best decision for them. They were supposed to move to a foster-adopt home within a couple weeks….they didn’t. They were supposed to move after a couple months….they didn’t. This was an epically difficult season. Pushing through exhaustion to continue loving and parenting two kids that love you like a mom but you decided not to keep. I kept trying to guess at when they might leave and each time I prepared myself, I was let down again. You simply cannot predict anything in foster care (a lesson I learned much too late!). I finally decided to shift my thinking from “when are they leaving” and guessing at when my life would return to “normal” to “they are NOT leaving” and started making decisions and changes as if they were staying forever. This helped me tremendously. I made daycare changes, restarted those Amazon subscriptions for diapers, wipes, etc., and signed them up for things in the future.
After I decided not to adopt, Mother’s Day came and went uncomfortably. Summer arrived. I saw X through minor surgery to have tubes put in his ears. Our 1-year anniversary arrived on July 3 with a “farewell” party to the boys. An entire community was saying goodbye after all. I tried to get away to Colorado for a reprieve but then last-minute decided to bring J along, leaving X for an entire week. This was the first time I’d been away that long from my chubby, adorable 1.5yo. And guess what happened when I returned?
The next morning I was dropping X off at daycare. Have you ever had a baby cling to you for DEAR LIFE?! As if there’s burning hot lava underneath him and he’s TERRIFIED of you letting him go. I could NOT peel him off of me. He cried and clung. And, of course, I lost it. I sat down on the floor with him stuck to me just sobbing. Both of us sobbing. All this, after just one week away from each other? What happens when I’m gone forever? 😢
Trial was scheduled for September. The trial is when the legal rights of both parents are going to be terminated. This is a necessary step before a child is legally ready for adoption. This would be the end of the conservatorship case (before it becomes an adoption case). But thanks to more unpredictable events (Grandma suddenly wants them or Bio Mom returns and wants to work services again), the trial is cancelled. I cannot describe to you the frustration I felt during these months. It’s the ultimate test of how much you really trust God. Absolutely everything was out of my control. My future (and the boys’) hung in the balance with some CPS workers, lawyers, and a judge.
Oct 15, trial is set and it seems the date will stick this time. Meanwhile, I’d been pondering over the last couple months what it would be like to be their Forever Mom. I had to be ok with potentially being a single mom forever. Years ago I realized that my life wasn’t my own. God was in charge and I was going to sacrifice everything for Him, even if that means my life as I thought it should be. No husband. No house with the picket fence. Just me, my cute urban, yard-less townhouse, and two squishy, cute little boys. Could I do it? Is God wanting me to SAY YES?! “His will be done, not mine,” was on repeat in my head.
Bio Mom and Dad had nearly vanished from the picture so for the last few months we felt like a “normal” family. I caught a glimpse of what life would really be like as their Forever Mom (i.e. no visits, no stressing over bio parents, etc.). Normal felt nice. Maybe I could say yes?? More prayer, more pastoral counsel, more therapy, and more talking to ANY SINGLE MOM I knew to get perspective, guidance, and advice.
I called out to God day and night for weeks. I enacted my FMLA and took 6 weeks leave from work so I actually had time and space to rest, think, and pray. I made a quick trip to Banff, Canada with a couple girlfriends to help reset.
Lord Jesus, WHAT do you want me to do? Do you have another family for them? Or is it me?
I asked Jesus to bring me a dream nightly. God speaks in dreams, speaks through people, He speaks in many forms. Now, I am someone that never remembers my dreams. Maybe once a year I will remember that I had a dream but then I wouldn’t be able to recall anything. Then one morning I awoke to the loudest voice in my own head. I literally heard myself saying “They are going to be adopted!!!” but I wasn’t actually speaking. Ok, yes, it was strange! I even looked around because I was so confused! Who said that?! The image in my head was of myself standing up on a stage with my arms outstretched making this joyful announcement. The feeling behind it was that I was adopting them. But immediately my over-analytical brain kicked in…..WAIT….I didn’t say “I” was going to adopt them I said, “they were going to be adopted!” 🤦🏻♀️
I waited it out….continuing to ask God for super clear clarity. Did I get it? Not exactly how I would’ve wanted it but isn’t that how God usually works? He doesn’t always make it super clear. Sometimes he doesn’t answer or speak at all. We just have to be good stewards of his Word and be sure our actions align with Him. I stepped out in faith, again. I had enough certainty for me to know that this is where God had led us. He wanted me to be their forever mom. They were supposed to leave three times after all! He designed this wild story to redeem these two boys. And so….I…SAID…YES!!!
Therefore, one week before the trial I emailed the lawyers, CPS worker, and my case manager to inform them of the news. THEY. WERE. STOKED.
In early May 2018 I made the heartbreaking phone call to our CPS Case Worker to inform her that I would not be adopting the boys. I had to force the words out of my mouth. I couldn’t believe I was saying them. The tears flowed. “OK,” she said, “we will move forward with finding an adoptive home.” I nodded through tears unable to respond. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.
Have you ever ran a marathon?
I actually haven’t but I ran this metaphor by a marathon runner and she approved. 🙂 I was running a marathon for 7.5 months. Every day was a struggle. Every day all parts of who I was were maxed out. I served and served and served with little to no filling of myself. I gave and gave and gave. I shelved my own needs because the boys needed so much more and it was only going to be temporary. I was physically and mentally broken down. When I got the call that we were starting to transition the boys home over a 6-week period I focused 110% on making this transition for a 3.5yo and a 1yo as smooth as I possibly could. No matter what it took. I now had an end-date. The end was coming. The success story was coming! I could see the finish line…only 6 miles left (or in my case 6 weeks) and so I just kept pushing in, pressing in, and running as hard as I could to cross that line. I navigated awkward situations with the biological parents while trying to get to know them, tough questions and LOTS of tears from J, and tried to instill as much Jesus as I could into this family during the last few weeks.
The Finish Line Vanished
<< 24 hours before the final return of the boys to their parents >>
Suitcases were packed, Amazon gifts collected, friends coordinated, a final heart-felt goodbye letter written, and an explanation given to J that he would no longer be living with me (his home for 9 months), but instead he would be living with mommy and daddy now. We. Were. Ready. And then I get THE TEXT that flipped everything upside down. “He’s in jail.”
And that’s when the finish line was yanked out from under my feet just as I was going to cross it. And then CPS immediately asks, “Are you open to adopting them?” Sooo…I was expecting to hand them over to their parents tomorrow and now you’re asking me to keep them forever?! 😳
Did I love them? Not a shred of doubt.
Did I want the best for them? YES
Did I want them to lose their mom and dad? Never.
Thus, I had to keep running. No water breaks. No rest. No time to walk. Keep running. Switch into repair mode and fix, fix, fix. Try to explain to J why he can’t go see Daddy anymore. Try to help bio mom who is basically now homeless, jobless, and broke. Now I’m running even faster.
First, CPS gave me 24 hours to decide about adopting them. After some pushing I was able to draw it out to two weeks and that’s when I said no. I was convinced they deserved a mom (who wasn’t losing her mind) and a dad. J loved his dad so much, who am I to deprive him of that? I couldn’t. I wasn’t going to be selfish just because it would hurt me. Not once in 9 months had I considered the idea that they wouldn’t return to their parents. The entire idea was foreign to me. Without a solid answer from the Lord, after seeking pastoral counsel and personal counseling, I landed on “no.” It was awful. With my own decision I had broken two little hearts. I had chosen to add more trauma to their already broken situation. But I had to continue being their Mama for some unforeseen amount of time. Then, in came the flood of grief (that post to be continued…).
So CPS located a new family. We met this family. And the boys were supposed to move there…but they didn’t…two more times.