When a woman is getting close to delivering a baby, they say she goes into nesting mode. Well, I think that is true when anyone is prepping their home, to welcome a new child into it. When we started down the journey to become foster parents, DSS (the Department of Social Services) expects you to have everything prepped and ready to go ahead of time. So, you prep a nursery/bedroom for a child in your "expected" age group, you get any needed car seats ahead of time, and some gender neutral clothing items. Then, you wait, you wait for the phone call to ask if you can take a placement. When you get the call the information is minimal, you will get an approximate age and gender- that's usually all.
As Justin and I were looking into adoption options, I wanted to go the "safe" route of private adoption. Now, even typing that out, I have to laugh at myself. The safe route, boy was I in denial.
But, we had a friend that worked for DSS, and Justin thought we needed to reach out to her instead. So we did both. We looked at private options, but Justin just did not see how financially we could do it. The average cost of a private domestic adoption is about $43,000. (NY Times)
I just wanted to be a mom, and if Justin felt led to look into fostering, then who was I to say "No."? So, I called our friend Whit and said "We want to take you to dinner to pick your brain. We want the good, the bad, and the ugly." She graciously agreed. So we picked a nice restaurant, and we all met for dinner. We asked her every question we could think of, and we left there feeling pretty confident God was calling us to be foster parents. Mind you, I am already terrified because this was not what I felt was a safe route. We would get attached, and then what if that baby went home? After all, accepting the calling to be a foster parent is about fostering a relationship between a parent (or parents), who is less equipped at the time to bond with a child they are unable to care for, for a time. But, I had prayed so hard to God to help lead Justin's heart towards adoption, that I was not turning back now. I knew if God was calling us to it, he would cradle our hearts.
Usually, when you go about getting your foster licenses it can take 6 months or longer. Not for the Abbott's. I have never seen my husband so devoted to something. Every time they sent us a paper to be signed, we had it signed and back by the next day. We completed the process in less than 4 months!!! We had completed background checks, home studies, home visits, physicals, home improvements, and any other hoops we needed to jump through.
When we got the notification we were licensed it was a Friday afternoon, and I had to work the weekend. We were so anxious they would call that weekend. Well, they waited until the following Monday to call. They had a 2 month old baby girl and ask if we could we take her. I was at work when they called, so we had our quick chat and said yes! Within 2 hours time, we were home with a beautiful baby girl. Mind you, we previously did not have kids, so we were instant caregivers to this tiny little girl.
There was not much sleep the first few weeks, as we adjusted to parenthood. We got to spend her first Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas with baby K. She had a beautiful head of black hair and was such a sweet baby. We went to the court hearings, and at first DSS had lead us to believe that baby K would likely be headed for adoption. Boy were we excited, and everything was so new and fresh. We were going to be parents- officially!!!
But, deep in my heart I knew something didn't feel right. I had already started the grieving process, and bargaining with God to let me keep her. I would sing her to sleep each night, and just pray I could keep her. Now, my heart felt conflicted for her birth mama too, and I would pray for her as well. We started to realize that baby K's mom was doing her treatment plan, and the initial hiccups were more of a language barrier than anything. So, we started to pray for the transition of baby K, for her heart, and for our hearts as well. We got a week's notice before baby K was reunified home with her family. I cried so much during that week. But I also wanted to make things special for her birth mama too, for the time they had spent apart. So, I put together a scrapbook with pictures and memories. We sent food, formula, and anything we could to help make it a successful transition home for baby K. I worried about how she lived in our house almost 6 months where we spoke English, and she was moving home to a house that spoke only Spanish. But, I knew God would work it all out.
When baby K left, I took every ounce of baby gear we had and put it in the nursery. Then I shut the door. Because, as weird as it is to become instant parents, it's even more difficult to no longer be parents in an instant as well. Our lives had revolved around caring for a baby, and poof she was gone.
Justin and I took a trip that weekend with friends to get away. We needed to clear our minds. We stumbled upon a new church on Easter weekend that year, and that was a life changing moment for us. We loved our home church, but we found a community of other foster and adoptive parents at this new church. Because, that is what you need in foster care- you need a community, a tribe that is there in the thick of it with you. You need other parents living through the same struggles you are, and that get you.
When God called us to foster care, I never knew the community that would lead us to. I have met so many wonderful friends through being a foster mom. There is a conference that I look forward to attending every year, that is devoted solely to foster and adoptive moms. Now, as a seasoned foster mom, this year marked 5 years as foster parents for us. I get asked a lot "Do you not become attached?" My honest answer is "Yes, you most certainly become attached. If you did not become attached and form those bonds, then you are not doing your job right as a parent."
The other popular question I get is "What do you do if they leave?" My response to that is you grieve. You grieve the loss of that child in your home, and being part of your family. Because, it is a death to your family. There is not odder feeling than having a "death" to your family unit, but knowing that child is alive and well and no longer in your home. You REJOICE for the reunification of the birth family, but you morn the loss in your family. (Because the goal of foster care is to foster, to fill the gap between where the parent and the child are until there no longer is a gap.) Each family does this differently, but for us we moved all the baby stuff to the nursery and shut the door. I went even as far as giving myself guidelines, for when I could just lose it and cry. I told myself I could cry in the nursery and in the shower. Otherwise, I would have not been able to continue to function. I think that's a really important thing to do- to make space for grief, not to ignore it and not to be stuck in it.
I understand that a lot of you may not ever become foster parents and that is ok. But, friends I charge you to support your local foster care system. Here are some ideas for ways for you to help and support foster families:
offer to babysit for a foster family
take them a meal or organize a meal train
bring games or activities that are age appropriate- a home movie night box
send them supplies and clothes to care for their placement
become a respite worker to care for children short term while the family cares for themselves
listen and be a friend
mow their grass or help around the house
prepare for the child's arrival- their space to make it cozy
have a play date once you give them space to adjust
send them somewhere fun
I have one friend that has just randomly asked what size diapers my son was in, and very large boxes of diapers have shown up from Amazon. My favorite is when a family gets a new placement providing food, because its hard instantly having a new little one in your home. Each year our church holds a dedication on Orphan Sunday, to dedicate the babies and children that are currently in foster care. It is one of my very favorite services each year and its always in November. This year Orphan Sunday is November the 8th. If this is not something your church participates in, try finding a local foster family you can offer some extra support to that day. We can not do it all as individuals, but as individuals we can each do something to help support children in need!
Read Melissa's Family Adoption Story: Love Builds a Nest
I am excited to get to know all of you that have joined our community here at Grits, Grace, and Granola. To speak with you on the joys and struggles of relationships, motherhood, and life in general. To come along beside you as we learn and grow together.
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Keep feathering your nest,