Thank you so much for sharing your story with us! For those who don't know you, tell us about yourself.
You mentioned that this month is Foster Care Awareness Month. For those who are interested in fostering, what advice would you give them?
I always like to remind people to enjoy the process. Some of the best times in our marriage were the days we deep-cleaned the house together to get ready for our home study, packing snacks for our long drive into the city to attend classes, late nights filling out paperwork laughing so hard we couldn't breathe. Our placement came quick enough, but we will never get the process back. It's a lot like pregnancy. So much fun preparation -- soak it in!
We are so inspired by your willingness to become a foster parent after your experience in the system as well. Did you always foresee a future as a foster parent for yourself?
The short answer, yes! The long answer?
I went through so much trauma as a kid, and because of it, I was angry all the time. I remember feeling so abandoned. I just wanted someone else to hurt the way I was hurting -- even if it was someone I loved the most.
“I hate you! You aren’t even my real mom! You’re STUPID! I didn’t even want to be adopted into this dumb family!” These are all things that I said -- ahem -- screamed at my foster (now adoptive) mom. My mom never missed a beat. She never flinched or wavered. She would close my bedroom door, sit on my bed, and calmly ask me to sit with her.
“I’ll make you a deal. I am going to put my arms around you now. If you can get out of my grasp, I will let you run away. Anywhere you want to go. Ok?” So I sat on her lap and kicked and screamed and wailed. Every time I thought, “This is the time I’ll finally get out.” But it always ended the exact same way. I calmed, leaned into her, and wept. She had this way about her. I can’t explain it. It was like she was made for me. Now that I’m a mom who has mothered kids from hard places, I have a secret spot I like to go to cry so the kids don’t see me. I often wonder where my mom’s secret spot was.
Adoption, although a truly happy ending, doesn’t erase the broken beginning. I cry every single time I think about the relationship I had with my adoptive mom. I think I was afraid of how much I loved her. How could I love a woman who wasn’t my biological mom? How could I love her this much? Now that I’m older and see how much she endured for me, WITH me, I love her even more. Sometimes, when I feel life start to spin out of control around me, I can still feel her strong arms around me reminding me that it’s OK not to feel OK all the time.
My mother's love changed me. I promised myself that one day I would gift that love to someone else.
You just announced that you're adopting your foster son! Congratulations! What does the foster-to-adopt process look like?
Each state is different, but our state doesn't have a "foster to adopt" program. Basically, you are either a foster parent or a pre-adoptive parent. The pre-adoptive homes only get calls for children who have already been or are very close to being legally freed for adoption. Since we are strictly foster parents, going into it we knew our kiddos would be reunifying. Sometimes, if reunification isn't a safe choice, they might present us with the option to adopt, which is what happened in our foster son's case. He came to us fresh from the NICU and has been with us for just shy of two years. So when they asked if we would be interested in adopting, we couldn't say yes fast enough! We cannot wait to legally become something we have always been -- a family.
If you don't mind us asking, what has been the hardest thing about fostering?
Letting go of control. I am a recovering control freak. When I was a kid, I walked through so many traumatic situations that were out of my control. The older I got, the more I realized that having control made me feel safe. So I tried to control everything. It was one of the only coping mechanisms I had. Well, foster care and control don't really go in the same sentence. I had to learn that the hard way. There is a deep sadness that comes with watching someone we love transition out of our perfect suburban neighborhood into a shelter. That was by far one of the hardest things we have ever walked through as a family -- talk about a lesson in letting go of control! On a positive note, we have built an amazing relationship with that family and are hoping to have them moved into an apartment very soon. I will be the first person there with the boxes and packing tape. Recovering control freak, remember?