Once upon a time, I would have laughed at the title of this article. I would have told you that it would never happen in my home. But the truth is, foster care (and subsequently adoption from foster care) has changed me. I am no longer the person I once was.
When we finally were able to adopt our daughter after much trial and tribulation, I swore that I would welcome children in as long as they would stay. Was that the right attitude to foster care? Probably not. But I knew my heart would break into a million pieces if I had to send another child back to their biological parent.
And then there was my Baby Girl. I loved her the moment I knew that our son’s biological mom was expecting. Not as my own, but as hers. I loved her deeply and completely. While I didn’t agree with all the decisions her biological mom made, I really, really wanted her to succeed. The biological mom and I had talked extensively over the past years about how hard losing a child was. I had a taste of that when our daughter went home to live with her biological mom for a relatively short period of time. I thought I might die without her not knowing how she was.
When Baby Girl entered foster care the first time, her biological mom was distraught, worn out, and full of regret and grief; and all the while I was angry with her choices; I wanted her so badly to get healthy and regain full custody of Baby Girl. She tried so hard, she worked the plan, and a few short months later, Baby Girl moved back in with mom. It was a great day: a day to celebrate—so celebrate we did with ice cream cake and photo books of the time, she spent with us.
We continued to support mom and Baby Girl. Unfortunately, mom had a hard time and Baby Girl entered foster care once again. During that time, we continued to support and encourage mom in her healing, and a few months later they called us all in for a family meeting. We were considered family as we are parenting Baby Girl’s biological brother. Before this time, my husband and I had put ourselves in as a permanency option for Baby Girl. However, leading up to this, after much prayer, many discussions with each other and the social worker, and having to draw stiffer boundaries for our son, we decided to remove ourselves as a permanency option for Baby Girl. That decision nearly wrecked me.
During that meeting, Dad (biological dad) stepped up. He stepped up in a big and very welcoming way for Mom. Us stepping out made it possible for her to maintain her rights and for Him to step into a father role. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was the exact answer to our prayers. In the end, we all came together to make the plan for Mom and Dad to split custody and for Baby Girl to stay with her biological family.
I was on an adrenaline high leaving that meeting. Then, reality struck. She was no longer ours. She never really was, but it felt like she was. And soon she moved back to her home with her biological dad, and he is a wonderful father—loving, so very loving, supportive of Mom, and, really, it was the best case scenario for Baby Girl and her family. Thanks to her loving dad and step mom, we get to be a part of that family (partly because of our son and his connection, and partly because they are welcoming, loving people).
We were recently able to go to their home and celebrate Baby Girl’s third birthday. It was a truly joyous day, especially for our children who hadn’t been able to see her since she moved home with them. She ran and leaped into my arms and at that moment I knew everything was as it should be. I still miss her daily, but we try our best to celebrate her win. She was allowed to stay in her family: a family that is imperfect and loves her wholly and deeply.
We take every moment we can to support all of her parents. While her mom still struggles, she is doing her absolute best to maintain a relationship and stay in her life. Sometimes that’s all you have and it’s enough. Her dad and step mom work hard to make sure that mom is invited, able to make it, and it’s a group/team effort.
I won’t pretend it’s always easy, but it is worth it. We receive pictures and updates all the time. They live a very active life and there’s always something going on. It’s a new beginning and Baby Girl embraces it all (sometimes with donuts and a perfectly timed nap). But the fact is, she is with her family. While I understand that it’s rarely the case when a situation like ours can work out, or does work out, I understand what a beautiful and rare situation it is. I will do everything in my power to support them and help them make it work.
I don’t have all the answers, and I’m sure I’ve made a million mistakes along the way. The most important thing is not always getting it right, but continuing to try. Because I was blessed with these marvelous children, I was also blessed with their birth families for life. I will be the first to admit that I need to work, very often, at putting my own stuff aside and making the right decisions for my children and all the people that they love. Because we were all raised in vastly different environments, we have different viewpoints on life, raising children, and what it means to be a family. But this family has embraced us and included us in every way. And we are infinitely blessed and honored by that decision.