In that moment, I truly believed if I said I was a Christian, I needed to help vulnerable people. Because of his love for me, Jesus died. Because I’ve experienced love, I want to share it with others.
After several months of training, we got our first placement in November of 2017. We had two kids for 6 amazing months. Then one day, we got a phone call out of the blue, ‘I am so sorry. There was a surprise court date… I have to pick them up in a few hours.’ I get asked a lot how hard it is to say goodbye knowing I probably will never see them again. I’ll be honest. I hate this question. No, they didn’t die but my relationship with them did. I grieved a lot. I’m still grieving.
Foster care is not about me and it never will be. A child’s need for love and safety is more important than adult feelings. More important than my grieving. More important than my comfort. I could never put into words how painful it is but what I can say is it doesn’t matter because each of the children I’ve said goodbye to needed a safe place to feel loved for a time and that is more important than how hard it is.
A few weeks after those kids left, we got a call for a newborn baby girl. 2 weeks later, she left. A few weeks after, we got a call for a toddler girl. 2 months later, she was gone. I had also just found out I was pregnant and was very sick. In the span of 6 months, I had said goodbye to four children. I was burnt out, sick of the system, and convinced what I did as a foster parent was pointless. I was ready to quit, and it had not even been a year of fostering. Then we got a call for Elianna.
I had told myself I was going to say no if the state called and asked me to take another child. Struggling with compassion fatigue, burnout, and secondary trauma had me extremely exhausted. I just couldn’t do it anymore. But then the state called me in September of 2018. ‘We have a 6-month-old little girl who needs a place to stay… she’s medically complex.’ And despite the burnout (I think most foster parents can relate to what I am about to say), I heard my voice saying, ‘Of course, when can I see her?’ I really had not thought of having a child with medical and特殊需求但是我内心说这个小女孩本来是在我家。
The first few months were really hard. Elianna had several doctor and therapy appointments every week and with each passing day we would find out something new she was struggling with or needed a new doctor for. One day a social worker called me and said, ‘Natalie, you’re newly pregnant and this little girl is a lot of work, if you need us to find her a new home, it’s okay. I can get you an easier kid.’ But I didn’t want an ‘easier’ kid whatever that means… I wanted her.
Being a特殊需求妈妈now for over 2 years has taught me a lot. I want to encourage other moms whose children have special needs. Moms who spend time in hospitals for their child. Moms who Google things late at night worried about what their child’s future holds. I’ve been there. I’m still there. But there is so much hope. Not in Google. Not in treatments. But in the love you have for your child and even more so, the love God has for them.
Once a few months had gone by, things started to settle down and we got into a good routine with her medical needs. Her case was a different story. The social worker assigned said this was the largest file she had at the time. So much was going on. An intense amount of hurt and anger and lies and brokenness. We felt overwhelmed a lot and even the judge would later say, ‘Oh, I remember this case.’ Either my husband or I went to every court date and every meeting. I was either at a doctor’s appointment, court date, therapy appointment, or nursing our new infant. Although that season was hard (and a blur), I wouldn’t change it for anything. Everything we did for Elianna pales in comparison to the joy and love she brought to our lives.
The most common comment I get from others when they hear my story is, ‘I’m so glad I found you! We want to adopt through foster care!’ I love adoption. Many friends and family have adopted. And I think if you want to adopt and nothing else go for it! But don’t do foster care. Yes, there are times when you get to adopt through foster care but that’s never the ideal. Foster care is for reunifying families.
当我们第一次开始意识到这种情况下going to adoption, I had a mix of emotions. I had worked with her mom and family for almost a year. This was not an adoption story where a mom places her child for adoption, and we agreed to adopt. Her biological mom’s rights were removed by force. A family was being ripped apart. I knew terminating her family’s rights was the right decision, but that right decision came with lifelong consequences and grief. Once rights were terminated, Elianna became a legal orphan.
It broke me she was legally an orphan. There is so much happiness in adoption but to fully celebrate the happiness, we have to also fully embrace the heartache. Finally, on December 9, 2020, we adopted Elianna. Because of the pandemic, we had to do it virtually from our home but that did not seem to happen that day. So many people joined to watch the adoption on Zoom. I still am so grateful for how many people love this little girl. It was one of the happiest days of my life but another mom’s most heart-wrenching.
What about us? Will we adopt again? I’m not sure, my prayer is every child who comes into our home through foster care is able to safely and successfully reunite with their biological families. This is foster care.”
Read more stories like this here:
‘I told a woman at the gym my son got into college. She replied, ‘Don’t celebrate too openly, other families may still be waiting.’: Special needs mom explains importance of celebrating milestones, ‘Let us have this’
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