Have you ever thought about those pivotal moments or haphazard decisions that completely change the course of your life? I can pinpoint a couple of vivid moments in our adoption story where a simple choice has led us to where we are now.
Choosing Foster Care
Watching television with a group of friends one Sunday evening, I had randomly mentioned that I had always thought about doing foster care later in my life. A couple of friends had their laptops out and were Googling it as we girls were chatting. We were saying things like, “it would have to be after I am married because you can’t take in kids as a single mom” and “maybe in twenty years after I have kids and they are grown.” At that point, one of the guys had the website up and said, “It states right here that you can do this now as a single parent. You have a spare room, so why not just call and see what it is all about?” He wrote the phone number on a post-it, handed it to me, and that was that.
A few days later, I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. I went into the bathroom where I was working as a teachers aide and called. I remember my heart racing and almost hanging up. I spoke with the lady who gave me all of the necessary information. She convinced me just to take the classes to learn more about foster care. Mind you, I was still in college at this time, yet I decided to take the foster parenting classes that spring. With absolutely zero chances of adopting a child, I requested children on a short-term basis. I was in college to become a teacher, so my focus was child psychology at the time, and I felt I could assist with their transition. My intentions were to help these children realize that the world isn’t such a horrible place. I wanted to spoil them, travel with them and talk to them. I simply had a goal to help them transition into the next phase of their lives. Little did I know, that was not my fate.
When my licensing worker called, she said that they had a 3-year-old little girl who was part of an interstate compact and needed a place to stay until everything went through. This little girl would be transitioning from foster care in Illinois to grandparents in the state of Washington. I went into the meeting only to find out she was 4 instead of 3 AND she had a 2-year-old little brother. They asked if I had any interest in taking them both to reunite them as they had been apart in different foster homes for approximately year. This broke my heart…of course I would take them both. I was nervous yet excited. I had never been a parent. I was young but determined.
Becoming a Parent Overnight
A couple of days later, on September 4, 2009, I went to pick up Mireya and Christopher. I drove to get Mireya first. She hopped in the car, clearly used to being taken from home to home, and the foster parent she was with threw her trash bags full of clothes in my trunk and said, “Good luck.” Looking back now, this makes me angry. I am fairly certain she did not even hug Mireya or give her any sort of a goodbye. Because I was only anticipating one child, I hadn’t bought a second car seat, so I asked Christopher’s foster mom at the time if she would meet me at Walmart. It is a running joke in our house now that I got Chris from Walmart, as if he was on the grocery list. We stayed in touch with the family where Christopher was staying for quite a while. They are great people from whom I learned a lot as we were starting out.
So, then what? I didn’t know how to be a parent. These children didn’t really know how to be siblings. Oh, how they had such tiny, shattered souls. They had been through so much. Bringing them together again was an amazing thing to watch. They were angry, sad, closed-in, and almost haunted. It took everything I knew about kids to get them to play, create, imagine—but most of all, smile and laugh. The workers assured me that we would be transitioning them to Washington around Thanksgiving. Fast forward to November: the interstate compact is a mess, and we had court every other week trying to figure it out. Could I keep them until Christmas? Absolutely.
We Thought It Was Goodbye
Fully thinking that this beautiful little girl and this wide-eyed tiny boy were leaving my home soon, my sister April, lifelong best friend, Nicole, and I decided to give the kids one last trip to remember us. I got approval from the judge, and we took off to Disney World. We had a blast, took plenty of photos, visited the beach, and spent a lot of time in the most magical place on Earth. Life was good. We were happy with the memories being made for these kids. We arrived back home right before Christmas to find out that Mireya and Christopher were not heading to Washington. The lawyers and court systems in Illinois and Washington had not come to an agreement, so they needed to stay here. Once again, can I keep them a few more months? Definitely.
Now it was springtime, and all involved were still not close to having everything figured out. By then, the kids had been with me for 7 months. The kids were loving their new school and daycare. We had adjusted to our new normal. The kids were actually happy for the first time in their lives it seemed. For two toddlers who had reactive attachment disorder, they were now thriving! They were making progress educationally, emotionally, mentally, and socially. Both Mireya and Christopher were opening up to me and peers around them. They would smile! (Which is huge if you would have met them the first day). They loved their lives it seemed and felt comfortable with my family and friends who were around us constantly. They were safe. They had people. They had each other. They had love.
I made the decision early on to include Mireya and Christopher’s biological grandparents in this experience since the goal was for them to return to Washington. We began phone calls every Sunday that fall. (Nine years later, the kids still call every Sunday!) I felt as if this was an important part of their transition. The next spring, their biological grandma sent me an email, asking if there would ever be a chance that I could keep her grandchildren forever. She said she had never seen them so happy. She only wanted what was best for them and felt another move may hinder their progress. Whoa. I wasn’t sure what to think, so I talked it over with my family. How could I do this? I was still in college. I needed to student teach, which meant no income for 16 weeks. I was too young. Too scared. On the flip side, how could I let them go? Plain and simple, I couldn’t. I decided that I would adopt. My very first foster children. To this day, my ONLY foster children.
Meant to Be
We began the adoption process once everything with the interstate compact was dropped and parental rights were terminated. Then, after the long process with lawyers and court dates, on June 14th, 2011, Mireya, Christopher, and I went to the courthouse along with our family, and we made it permanent!
Mireya is now 13 years old and Chris is 11. They are well-adjusted, smart, kind, and creative children. Are we perfect? No way, but this choice has been perfect for all three of us. It was out of our hands the whole time as if a greater force brought us together. It was a God thing…truly meant to be.
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