I always wanted children, but it took me a long time to become a mother. After battling infertility and failed artificial insemination attempts, I finally had Danielle when I was thirty-seven. As a single mom working two jobs, my mother helped me care for her. But the desire to have more children never left me, however time did not allow me to birth anymore.
In 2011, I decided to become a foster parent, as my mother had passed away, leaving just Danielle and me. Even though I worked a lot to provide for us, I still had more love to give and thought Danielle would do well with another child in the house. She welcomed the idea, and I wanted to impact another child’s life. I never considered adoption at the time, I just wanted to help, even if it was temporary.
I completed the required training, background check, and state inspection of my home. I received my license that November, and two months later, on January 30, 2012, I was notified that a little girl was being placed in my home. Danielle and I were very excited about the changes that were happening in our lives and began to prepare for the new addition to our family.
That excitement quickly turned to trepidation when we met seven-year-old Imani. She had just lost her grandfather, who was her primary caregiver. Danielle was also seven when my mother died, so there was a connection over her loss. Imani had lived with family members and friends, but none of those situations worked out, so she was placed with me.
She struggled daily with anger, grief, and separation from the changes in her life. Imani had a difficult time dealing with all her emotions, and that frustration was directed at me. She would act out, break items in the house, and destroy my property. She was deeply hurt and broken which made it was difficult to see her in pain while feeling helpless to do anything about it. It felt like being with us just made her life worse.
I knew that she didn’t have a choice to come here, so I tried to be very understanding. There’s no way to sugarcoat it, life back then was tough. There were tears, feelings of desperation, and hopelessness, while I wondered daily how I was ever going to get through this. I soon learned that I had to let the pain of each day die when I went to sleep every night. I couldn’t take the pain into the next day. I wanted my home to be a place of healing, as Imani had already been through so much.
Life went on. Our life with Imani continued, but she was hard to get close to. We tried therapy however it didn’t work. Imani just wouldn’t talk and share her feelings. She could go weeks and not say a word.
Although Imani’s birth mother was unable to successfully parent her, she was incredibly intrusive and disruptive. She threw Imani big birthday parties and bought her extravagant gifts for Christmas. Imani never missed an opportunity to tell me, “You’re not my mom!”
Over the next two years, there were additional children temporarily placed in my home. Two years to the day Imani came to live with me, we received notice that we were getting another foster child. Later that day on January 30, 2014, two-year-old Angel came to live with us.
Dealing with NJ’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P), formerly called DYFS, brought its own set of challenges. My life as a foster mom was like fighting against a machine to help these girls, and my faith was often challenged. I had to accommodate multiple visits a month, including the caseworker, doctor’s appointments, therapist sessions, and state inspector; I endured all of this while trying to maintain my home and give all three children what they needed, when they needed it – as a single parent.
The inspector’s visits were the most painful, as it seemed like it was her job to point out everything that was wrong with me. During every visit she would say subtle things to make me feel bad during my inspections and visits. She would insult my home in any way she could find. I found her remarks to be hurtful, as there was never a kind word said, and not once did she express any gratitude. On top of that, I was regularly attacked verbally by the birth families. Thank God for my support system and village, I had strong girlfriends that helped and supported me. Although it was nerve-racking having to always coordinate for help, I never had to call out of work or miss an important event due to not having childcare. God truly provided the assistance I needed.
I had to consider Danielle’s feelings, who continued to see her life turned upside down and still balance the needs of all three children. It wasn’t easy; it was challenging, my life was extremely busy, but there were fun times sprinkled in. I poured into them, loved them, and prayed over them as much as I possibly could.
I wasn’t always able to parent them the same way due to restrictions from foster care. I couldn’t always discipline Imani the way, I disciplined Danielle. For example, Imani had “rights” to her phone, so I couldn’t take it away as a consequence of bad behavior.
Through it all, I kept God first and asked for His guidance continually. There were days I would ask myself, “What am I doing? Why am I doing this?” But I knew it was because God had called me to this and there was a purpose He needed to fulfill. He was trusting me to be the vessel to help my kids.
The goal of DCP&P is always reunification if possible, so they moved forward to reunify Imani with her birth mother, which was unsuccessful, and she was placed for adoption. Of course, I was asked if I wanted to adopt her. The previous years had somewhat taken a toll on me, and I didn’t think I could do it.
I had little support from my circle for proceeding with adopting Imani. Everyone focused on the hard times, the tears, and the sadness. I was advised to think long and hard before answering. So, I did the only thing I could, I went to God for direction, begging Him to tell me what to do. But He didn’t respond to me, not at first. Weeks went by and I heard nothing. I kept praying and praying and praying until one night, God spoke to me and said “I already called you. She’s already there with you. Why are you waiting to hear back from me again?”
I began the process to adopt Imani, which was finalized on April 6, 2017. Imani is an amazing young woman with a good head on her shoulders, a good heart, and a love for the Lord. She has dealt with so much in life, yet she is extremely strong and determined. And she’s loved. So very much loved.
As for Angel…I adopted her two months later, on July 25, 2017. Her nickname is Sparkle because she is truly a light. She’s smart, caring, compassionate, and enjoys reading especially her Bible.
I birthed one, but all three girls are my children.
What I’ve learned is that no matter how people advise us, or no matter how we may feel, we must seek God for direction. And if He has called us to do something, we can trust that He will help us through it, whether it be foster care, adoption, or anything else important in our lives.
Watch over your children as they sleep. Let them know peace and love. Let the dark days and memories be replaced with happy times and the possibility of what the future holds. Help them see the purpose of their lives and to keep You first. Help them hold on just one more day.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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