Tim and I have been incredibly blessed to have a positive relationship with our son’s birth family.
In fact, the absolute best piece of advice we received in resource family training was to be friendly with birth parents. In some cases, this is probably incredibly tough to do. But in our case, a little bit has gone a long way.
I think it’s easy to see birth parents as the enemy in the foster care system. But regardless of whatever mistakes parents have made, they almost always still love their kids. It is tough to try to connect with them, but all outcomes of success include benefit for the child, so it’s worth it!
Here are a few simple ideas to break the ice and extend an olive branch to birth parents:
As a career banker, I’ve spent the last 25 years looking for ways to manage and minimize risk. So you can imagine that when my husband and I were looking for the best options for us to become parents, the very last thing I wanted to hear about was something called “Legal-Risk Placement.”
After all, it has the word risk right in the name and, as a manager, I like to be in control. So instead, I set about finding the “safest” and easiest way for us to become parents. That approach led us through a three-year process to adopt a little girl from China. Not only did we lose much of our savings in the pursuit, we also lost the most precious thing of all—time.
That year, 2008, was a difficult year. We learned it was unlikely the China adoption program would move forward and both of the companies for which my husband and I worked were in crisis, eventually being sold. And that same year, five of my cousins had babies. It was a wonderful gift to have these beautiful children in my life … and yet also painful.
At times, that question—continually and casually posed by family and friends—threatened to overwhelm me. If I had been pregnant with another child, it would have been celebrated. Instead, the prospect of adding to our family through adoption from foster care was met with raised eyebrows and concern.
Our biological daughter, Amelia, was 4 years old when we began the foster-to-adopt process. There were so many fears surrounding the uncertain world of foster care. In the hopes of offering love and safety to another child, would we destroy our own child’s sense of security?
For some families, the fear that their own biological children might be hurt physically or emotionally is enough to make them steer clear of foster care altogether.
As a parent, you want to protect your own children from the harm and hurts of this world. But what if we are called to something greater?
For many people, the idea of having a 7-year-old child and a grandchild at the same time, even if the grandchild is quite young, may seem out of the ordinary.
But that is where God’s will has taken us.
My wife, Shirley, and I have two adult children, Leigh Anne and Ken—and two younger children, Savannah, 9 and Autumn, 7, both of whom joined our family through adoption. Our family grew in size when Leigh Anne and TJ were married last year and blessed us with our first grandchild, Maeve, this year.
Shirley and I were empty-nesters. We never thought our path in life would change in the direction it did. But, in the fall of 2007, God presented us with the blessing of becoming parents again.
Savannah, at the time less than 3 months old, needed someone to provide love and protection. God placed this challenge and blessing upon our hearts, and we began a journey that encompassed every emotion you can imagine.
I always wanted to be a mom; in fact, when I was younger, I knew I would adopt someday. I just always knew.
When I was 25, I decided I would go to an information night for foster-to-adopt; this was with another organization than Diakon Adoption & Foster Care. I was a teacher at this point and ready to be a mother.
The training was quick and painless and I was approved. But, if you foster or adopt, you will quickly learn that waiting is part of the experience.
Following approval, I said yes to foster-parenting a girl, but was not selected. Before long, however, I was asked to provide a home for a 15-month-old girl on a foster-to-adopt basis. A few weeks later, the exciting part began and I still recall that day 18 years later: A little girl walking in with her social worker. That was followed, however, 20 minutes later by the toddler’s mother coming by with a different social worker.
Adoption has always been something that my husband, Tim, and I knew would be part of how we would build our family. It just didn’t happen exactly as we planned.
Tim and I knew we wanted to have biological children first; later in life, we would adopt. I am a planner—and this was my plan.
What we didn’t expect was that having biological children would be so difficult. After my having had three miscarriages by the age of 22, we decided to see a fertility specialist, who suggested genetic testing. We learned that I had an autoimmune disorder that was likely the cause of the pregnancy losses.
While all of this was occurring, we had begun the process of becoming foster parents with Diakon. We knew we wanted to start our family and we didn’t want to wait.
We received our first placement in February of 2010, a gorgeous little boy who needed a mommy and daddy as badly as we needed him. He was born prematurely, at just 26 weeks’ gestation, and had spent his entire life to that point in a hospital—yet that didn’t affect his amazing and joyful spirit.
As the mother of a large family, I am often asked all sorts of questions about doing foster care, but the one posed most frequently is “How do your girls feel about it all?” … followed by, “I am sure it takes away from them, doesn’t it?”
Well, I’m glad you asked.
When Jeff and I first considered foster care and adoption, we had many questions and thoughts and scenarios. Foremost, being the birth-parents of four daughters, we were concerned about their safety and happiness. They would be sacrificing a lot as well and that sacrifice wasn’t to be taken lightly. They would share their rooms, their toys, their time and their parents.
How would they feel when a child left? Would they understand it at all? We would bring it up often and always spoke the truth. We didn’t have a lot of the answers to the questions they had—and a lot of the questions they had were the same ones we had.
A few months ago, I brought up the idea to my children to raise enough money for each of us to donate a filled duffel bag to a child in foster care.
You see, most of the children who have come to our home arrived with their items in a garbage bag.
After we decided to take on this project, we shared the idea with friends. We also presented it to our Sunday School program. And what began as a project to gather enough items for six bags turned into an amazing project that raised enough for 37 of them!
Oh no … it’s “the Holidays” already ….
As I reflect on what the holidays mean to me, I dig deep into my heart and find peace and serenity and a sense of joy and family—and then the world and life take over.
The house to decorate, cookies to be made, presents to be bought, cards to be sent—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For those who are caregivers of others, the holidays can become even more of a chore, even something to dread.
In fact, during the holidays, the biggest stressors for many people are relationships, finances and physical demands. It’s therefore important to listen to your body, reflect on the true meaning of the season, and do what makes you happy to keep the holiday period a peaceful season.
I love Black Friday shopping. The crowds don’t bother me and as my children get older the more expensive the list of requested gifts gets. Buying stuffed animals and Barbie dolls won’t suffice anymore, so Black Friday and Cyber Monday have helped me save quite a bit of money shopping for three teenagers!
After making my way through the shoe and electronics departments, I still enjoy browsing the board-game aisle because on the snowed-in days of winter and lazy days of summer, our family enjoys playing cards and games even as the kids have gotten older.
I was looking at Black Friday game sales, reminiscing about the days of Chutes and Ladders when it dawned on me that many of these children’s games also apply to situations we encounter throughout our lives. Chutes and Ladders teaches a great lesson about maneuvering the ups and downs we encounter throughout life. Just when we think we have lost it all, for example, we shoot to the top again!