Today on #FosterFridayLive we are getting REAL about adopting from foster care with mama to many, Christina. She is going to share her personal story about becoming a mom through biology, foster care, and adoption. Christina and Ben became foster parents in 2011 after hearing about the need in church. Their worship pastor was in the process of adopting and said “Our family has a bed and there is a child who needs it.” That was powerful for them and led them to start the fostering process immediately.
The goal of foster care is always reunification- returning to biological family. However, there are more than 100,000 children currently eligible for adoption in the United States. These children are in foster care all over the country through no fault of their own and they need loving permanent homes. Ranging from 0-21, the median age of these children is eight years old (according to AdoptUSKids). There are often little to no fees for families wanting to adopt from foster care.
Foster care made you a mom for the first time. What was that like for you?
It was a big transition. My husband and I had been married for five years almost and we knew we always wanted to adopt. Anytime you throw a child in the mix, there are scheduling things, another human living with you, trying to meet all their needs. Our first placement was five at the time and just the rush that comes- going out and getting a wardrobe, school supplies- it’s crazy, but awesome.
We do a lot of respite and emergency. We’ve had about five long-term placements.
When you decided to start having biological children, did that change your fostering and adoption goals?
When we found out we were expecting, we had two girls with us that had been with us for over a year and parental rights had been terminated. That was challenging. It was almost like, “we don’t know what to do with all of this.” We have to make so many decisions right now. One thing is for sure, there’s a child in my belly that we need to care for. We weren’t sure about adoption then which was crazy because we both always knew that we wanted to adopt. We just felt like the timing wasn’t right.
My personality thrives in chaos. It’s always the more the merrier. One thing is, we knew we wanted to teach our biological children that as much as we loved them, the world does revolve around them. So that’s a temptation because I adore my kids. You know, we have enough going on with ours so it’s easy to put that (fostering) need on hold. But honestly, this life is more than about us. We want to teach that to them. It’s always felt natural to have a lot going on.
You’ve said “yes” to adopting from foster care, but you’ve also experienced saying “no” when a placement became available for adoption. How do you make that decision as a family?
That is a deep, deep part of our story. I know the girls that we fostered and did not adopt are where they are supposed to be. But still, there is a lot of pain because I think of all the “what ifs” and so that has definitely affected us and honestly it is what led us to our adoption now. That story has been redeemed for us. The girls are in an awesome adoptive home. We just couldn’t ask for more, but yes there is some guilt associated with saying no. I have really had to deal with that. Even in preparing for this and talking to a friend that is fostering right now, just getting it on paper- all the questions you have in your mind. You have questions when making any big decision, but especially this one- it seems to validate that guilt. It is a big decision.
A friend helped me compile some thoughts and questions that naturally arise when you’re making this decision. It alleviates some of the guilt to know that other moms are going through the same thing. They can say, like this sounds horrible but I had this thought. We all do it. There are the questions and the feelings of “is this the right thing?” Especially with a partner, you might not always agree. With the girls one day we felt like, “we can do this.” And then the next day we felt like, “we don’t know what this entails. We’re going to have a newborn.” So we would just go back and forth and that’s hard because then you feel instability and like “I should know if I want these to be my kids forever.” You hear other people say that- “I knew he was my son,” or “I knew I was meant to be her mom forever.” And that’s their story, and it’s beautiful and touching, but it isn’t everyone’s.
These are some of the thoughts that may come through your mind as you’re considering adoption:
- Will I ever love my child as much as I love my biological children?
- Will this adoption place a strain on my marriage?
- Is my faith strong enough to deal with the challenges that may come from trauma or genetic issues?
- If this adoption keeps them from siblings, am I willing to support and continue those connections as appropriate?
- Am I willing to postpone my empty nest to raise another child?
- Will my trans-racially adopted child struggle with identity? And will I know how to guide them if they do?
- Will my other children suffer?
I think we can admit that sometimes these questions sound harsh, but that’s why we’re having this conversation. If you pretend that you don’t have these questions when you do, it just leaves everyone feeling alone, confused, and guilty. They are all fair questions, but we don’t want to talk about them out loud.
We did eventually decide not to adopt those girls. There is redemption to the story. We love the family that they’re with. We just could never get on the same page about it. We honestly couldn’t decide. One day we were in and the next day we felt way in over our heads. Still, I’m not going to lie, I still want to be their mom. I’m very honest about that. I miss them. It happened for a reason but that does not mean that there is not pain associated with it. I don’t want to experience the “what ifs” anymore. That was really really hard, but it lead us to this adoption now.
When you adopted Z, you already had two young boys and became pregnant with your third biological child. How did you make the decision to say yes and commit to this adoption?
I was on a little getaway with my husband and I was relaxing and I came across an article on Facebook for a Daniel’s Law baby. I was a social worker before staying at home with my children. That was common and I was a little bit callus to it. It’s horrible, but it happens. This time was different in my heart. My heart was beating out of my chest and I couldn’t go to sleep. So I woke my husband up and he said, “well, let’s pursue adoption.” And even though it wasn’t the child that we had read about in the article, we started the paperwork on Monday morning to get approved to adopt. Our story may be a little bit different because we were already fostering- not the child we ended up adopting, but we were open to foster care. Our oldest son was having trouble with children leaving so we really wanted that stability for a couple years.
So the way I went about it was just telling our case workers that we really wanted a permanent placement. We got two calls for children in need of a forever home. One was an infant in the hospital and one was a toddler, little Z, who we have now. We finalized our adoption in May. For us we made the decision with a lot of prayer. The need is greater for a two year year old. A lot of people want to pick up a baby from the hospital, but not a lot of people want a terrible two. It’s a hard age. So that’s kind of how we came to that decision.
You experienced some challenging times with Z’s behavior. How did you handle that in the midst of pursuing adoption?
I think that our attitude going in helped and I’ll come back to that. I want to be really candid. There was a time where we were fostering him before adoption was finalized, but we went in committed. There was a time where he just decided to quit sleeping and crawl out of his crib a million times a night. I just felt on the brink of, “I can’t do this.” Just physically I felt like I couldn’t do it. It was just ugly in our house. I was on edge. No one was getting sleep. I just thought, “is this too much?” And I just really needed to seek wise counsel. There were so many people with a heart for foster care and adoption that really encouraged me. Without that I really think I would have made the call to DSS and said, “I can’t do this.” It was other people who held us up and told us that we could do this. We don’t talk about it, but adoption disruption does happen. It can be a lot harder than you imagine.
Tell us about your very joyful adoption day!
Z was in our home for about a year and a half. Of course, adoption day was so exciting. We were able to see little glimmers of hope. At first, there was still some effects from different things he had been exposed to. It’s his story to share so I don’t want to go too much into that, but there were just some things that kept us from bonding a little bit. And I just really prayed and asked God to let me see who this child was going to be. Just seeing him act silly gave us so much joy and excitement and helped us feel like this was our kid. I totally feel that way now. It was just commitment. God takes us in without risk and that was our motivation through all of it.
We decided to let our six-year old choose how we celebrated the adoption. There were a lot of times in the process that he didn’t want to share his mom and dad or didn’t want to share his toys. We really wanted to make it exciting! We went to Great Wolf Lodge– an indoor water park in Charlotte. We had the best time celebrating. Our newly adopted child would go around telling everyone his new full name. That was fun. So much pride and joy in that. Every day is still so sweet. I feel every day like, “I could have missed this.” There have been so many sweet rewards that we were committed to even if we didn’t get them- they’re just icing on the cake.
What advice do you have for anyone thinking about adopting from foster care?
Don’t throw in the towel when the going gets tough. My parents just always taught me, you don’t quit on a bad day. There is an easy button with foster care and adoption before it’s finalized. I was having those thoughts, but I just tried to wait it out. I didn’t want to run based on my feelings. You don’t have an easy out with your biological children. Just stay committed. Use respite care. I regret not doing that more early on. I felt like we had to be able to do this on our own and that is so not true. The truth is our kids come with special needs that are sometimes draining. And it’s okay to need a break.
Watch the full interview with Christina on Youtube.
How has foster care and adoption touched your family? Tell us below 👇