“I’ll never forget the moment my daughter was placed in my arms. She was full of dark hair and had red marks on her skin from the tape that held her feeding tube in. But she was happy. Except I didn’t know she would be my daughter for years after. She was also placed in my arms by her mother.
Adoption is called for
Let’s go back to the beginning. I knew from a young age that I wanted adoption in some way or another. God had placed that desire on my heart from an early age. We discussed this when I began dating my long-time friend from church camp, who I later married. adoption It was a part of our family plans, and we knew it would.
I attended college to become social worker. I worked as a Child Protective Services investigator. This experience taught me a lot about foster caring. Our friends were foster parents and our grandparents fostered. It became clear to us that was what God was calling us to do; to love a child in our home until they can reunify, and if they can’t reunify, open our home to adopt them.
We thought we would first have a few biological kids, then foster and adopt our last. We were able to have a few biological children first, then foster and adopt our last one. But God put a wrench in this perfectly planned plan when we failed to conceive. I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, and we learned it would be very unlikely for us to conceive ‘the old-fashioned way.’ Thanks to modern medicine and prayers, we conceived our oldest son, Elijah, in 2017.
At 15 months, Elijah and I began to talk about the possibility of expanding our family. We weren’t sure if we wanted fertility treatments or if God was asking us to foster. There were many discussions. It was so difficult for me to pray and I shared it with trusted family members and friends.
The next day I was driving along the highway praying to God for guidance on our next steps. I begged God to guide our family on the right path. I was praying when I noticed a highway sign. It was a billboard for the agency that my friend told me about last night and said they needed foster parents.
It was almost like God had hit me with a frying pan. The agency had us scheduled for orientation and we began the process of becoming licensed foster parents.
To love and protect children, to keep them safe, as well as support their reunification with their families of origin, we became foster parents. We knew at some point, we would probably adopt a child that couldn’t reunify. But I thought if we started when our son was this age, by the time we adopted a child, they’d have a nice age gap.
Our First Placement
I was at home when I received the text regarding our first placement. It was about 2 p.m. when our licensor informed me that the agency had made a call to the county for a newborn girl. It said a word or two about why she was coming into care, and asked if we’d be interested. I called my husband and he agreed to accept.
We originally didn’t want newborns, but I told him we should say yes, even though we most likely wouldn’t get her (because everyone wants newborns). I think I was happy to say yes on our first placement call.
Just a few minutes later, my licensor called me. I knew they didn’t call you to say you weren’t chosen. I frantically jotted down as many details as possible about her, and she was to be discharged from the NICU within two days.
I was later contacted by our licensor and was told that the baby girl’s mother wanted to meet my husband and I. She wanted to meet the people responsible for caring for her child. I was both excited and nervous.
A few days later, we were at the children’s hospital meeting her. A caseworker was present and helped us to communicate. The mother wanted to know if I was a stay at-home mom. I replied yes. She then asked if Ariana was my baby. I said yes.
As I sat with this sweet, little girl, wired up to monitors and wires, my mom told me that I could visit them as often as I wanted. She stated that she wanted Ariana get to know me better and to bond with me before she was discharged. At this point, discharge had been delayed by a few days.
It was an honor to be recognized. Ariana’s mom and I spent hours together in the NICU. We spoke about our lives. We shared our stories. Ariana’s mom did a few errands, and I was able spend some time with her alone.
Nurses came in to say how rare it was for a foster mother and biological mom to get along so well. While I know I was kind and respectful to her, and honored her role as Ariana’s mom, she was just as kind to me.
I was handed my daughter by her mother on discharge day. I can remember myself talking to myself and telling myself that I needed to keep my head up, even when I was feeling broken inside. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.
This baby was already my favorite and I was thrilled to be able to take her home from the hospital. This was the moment Ariana was placed in foster care.
My husband and I walked out of the hospital, with bags of clothes her mom had given us, and a baby we hadn’t even known existed days prior.
Get Settled in Our World
I texted Ariana’s mom often with pictures and updates. We got along well when she went to medical appointments with me. We were still part of the broken, painful system of foster care, despite how well we got along.
It was hard to send Ariana for supervised visits twice a weeks. Although she was safe, my mama bear instinct wanted to protect her.
My days were filled by supervised visitation and specialist appointments for Ariana. Court dates and home visits also came along. It became apparent that the chances of a successful reunification were decreasing over the months.
February 2020 marked the official change by the courts to the goal of reunification to adoption termination and termination of parental right. A hearing to terminate her mom’s parental rights was scheduled for May 2020. The world was then shut down. Covid revolutionized how we do everything.
Ariana was just one-year-old when I realized that we would have to visit her mom online instead of meeting in person. I was chasing a toddler around our house, trying to keep her interested on Facetime for our biweekly visit with her mom.
Court hearings weren’t being held in-person, so the termination hearing was rescheduled over and over. As long as her mom was entitled, we continued to visit her and she had the right to continue to work on her case plan.
I was devastated. It was obvious that the end was certain. But every delay meant Ariana was left in foster care, in limbo. I held onto God with all my might and prayed, trying desperately to remind myself that His timing was perfect.
Debating our willingness to foster another
A few months later, the in-person visits resumed. I was shocked to see her mom again after so many months. I brought it up to the caseworker, who in July confirmed that Ariana’s biological mother was pregnant with a baby boy.
Before that, my husband and I had decided that after Ariana’s presumed adoption, we would take a long break from fostering. Foster care can be exhausting. Your entire life revolves around the agency and your biological parents. We needed a break. The pregnancy was a turning point in our lives.
My husband was not with me on this decision. He said no, while I said yes and agreed to accept the placement of the child if he was placed in foster care. There were many tears shed over this decision.
We could care for another child. Could we care for three children as young as three? If not, could we be the reason biological siblings couldn’t be raised together? If we don’t say yes, will the agency search for another family to take them both?
We decided to say yes. And I thank God daily that covid delayed Ariana’s case. I would like to think we would’ve said yes to the new baby no matter what, but if we hadn’t seen their mom pregnant in-person and had time to process our decision, I don’t know that we would have.
Easton was born in August 2020. CPS decided that his case was exceptional and discharged him from hospital to another person. Although we aren’t sure all the details, I was anxious about the unknown. I begged God for his safety; if he was meant be with that person, that was fine. But please keep him safe.
CPS used a blind review board for Easton’s decision about whether he should stay with the person or go into foster care. I was sick. I lay down on my couch, praying to God that peace would be granted and that Easton’s best decision would be made.
While I was praying, my cell phone rang. I received a call from our agency informing me that Easton had been placed in foster care. I said yes with a firm sigh!
Becoming a family of five
A few hours later, a CPS worker pulled up in my driveway. I was thrilled to be able to meet the sweet boy. His mom had sent me a few pictures, but I couldn’t wait to snuggle him. He was very small, and could easily fit into preemie clothing. His sister had the same hairstyle as him. Then, it was five.
The next month, the hearing occurred that terminated mom’s rights to Ariana. Although it was the best thing for Ariana given the circumstances, it was not a happy time.
A friend of mine described termination hearings as funerals, and I couldn’t agree more. In public court, every fault, mistake, or barrier made by the parents is read aloud. While it was a reminder at how evident it was that this needed to happen, it doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking.
While he was working towards Ariana’s adoption, Easton also had a goal to reunify his family, which is what it is for most cases within the first year. Many agency staff transported him to his weekly supervised visitation with his mother.
Our lives were once again crowded with visits, specialist medical appointments, and home visits. It was hard to work with Ariana and support a reunification program for Easton.
We finalized the adoption in April 2021. While everything changed, nothing was the same. Yes, she shared my last name. Yes, she can legally have her hair cut and cross state lines without her permission. But the day to day didn’t change.
I’ve been her mother since she was a week old, in some fashion. I was still making her hot dog, still running around her yard and still tucking them into bed at night. But I knew she was here for the long haul, and that peace is indescribable.
That summer, the goal was changed in Easton’s case from reunification to termination and adoption. After multiple delays due to covid, rights were finally terminated in March 2022. His adoption was finalized in September 2022.
In some ways, adoption is what I consider my idol. I wanted to be able make my own decisions about my children without the assistance of an agency or my biological family. I wanted to be sure that my children would remain with me forever. All of this is true, but adoption is just the beginning.
My adopted children still feel the effects of trauma, foster care, and being separated with their biological mom. Trauma isn’t fixed from an adoption certificate. While it is possible to heal and maintain permanent trauma, there is much more work to do.
As I look back, I still can’t believe I have three children. This roller coaster of foster care is the craziest, most unusual ride I’ve ever done. This is the most difficult thing I have ever done. I can’t imagine doing it any other way. No matter how they came to be my children, these three are mine. I’m honored God chose me as their mother.
Lean in if you feel the urge to become a foster parent. Pray about it. Talk to other foster parents. Participate in an orientation. It is the absolute craziest, and absolute best thing, I’ve ever done. And if we hadn’t said yes, we could’ve missed all of this.”
This article was submitted to Love What matters by Annmarie of Wyoming, MI. Follow her journey on Instagram. Subscribe to Love What Counts to be part of the Love What Matters family Newsletter.
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