As we were planning our marriage, my husband Eric and I talked about having four children. We had always considered adoption, but of course, that would come after we had our own children naturally. It was always in our hearts to bring a child into our home who needed a loving family.
However, God had other plans for our family than what we had anticipated. After one ectopic pregnancy that resulted in a miscarriage, and one failed in vitro fertilization (IVF). This was a very difficult time for us as my friends were starting their families with no issues. We would be invited to baby showers, which would get me down, yet I would work through my feelings each time so I could celebrate my friends.
Our circle was there to pray and support us, but no one could relate to us, leaving me feeling isolated and lonely. They were sympathetic to our struggles, but no one could truly understand what I was going through. Even though I prayed and prayed, God was silent. Where was He? This was such a dark time for me, and I started feeling like I could no longer trust Him.
After another IVF attempt, I finally became pregnant! Eric and I were thrilled to welcome our son Brayden to our family. We were excited to continue growing our family, but after more failed IVF attempts resulting in miscarriages, we decided to stop trying. It was just too much emotionally and financially. Other options we investigated weren’t feasible, so when Brayden was five years old, we finally considered fostering children with the intention to adopt.
We looked to God for direction as we started down this path, and He placed many other foster parents in our lives who supported us in this decision. We inquired about their experiences so that we could fully understand what we were signing up for. When we finally were approved to foster children, the roller coaster experience began. I thought a baby or toddler would be placed with us, and we would adopt them in a couple of years.
I quickly learned that it was not going to be easy to just foster a child that led to adoption. The Division of Youth and Family Services – DYFS (now called NJ’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency – DCP&P) would call us for any child whether they were an adoptable case or not – in the beginning, we saw how great a need it was, as we were being called constantly. And we would say yes because we could not turn these needy children away.
Looking back, I can see how God used this time as foster parents to develop my character. I matured in my relationship with Him. Often when dealing with DYFS, I didn’t feel like I had a voice, so I had to completely rely on God because there were no other options. I grew more compassionate towards people who had a different upbringing than me. I also developed patience both with DYFS and the children who we had the privilege to care for.
One day we received a call to take a sixteen-year-old girl and her eighteen-month-old son. This absolutely was not what I had in mind when I signed up as a foster parent. Our extended family expressed reservations about bringing her into our home and there was no excitement about us taking her in as a part of our family. As I struggled with the predicament, my mind kept going back to Matthew 25:40:
I always felt strongly that when I stood before God in heaven that He would ask me why did you turn that child away that I sent to your home? We trusted God said yes to her and her son. Although it had been a very difficult experience, as she tried to move out many times, there was good that came from it. She lived with us for four years, and we were able to teach her how to be a responsible parent. She also obtained her driver’s license, graduated from high school, got a job, and started college courses. We helped her buy a car and make plans for her and her son’s future.
Years later, seeing the impact that we made in her life made those tough years worth it. I ran into her recently, and after catching up, seeing her family, and learning about what she’s done, it’s a blessing to see beauty from the ashes. I felt that we had made a profound impact on her life, allowing her to make good choices and build a stable home for her own children. My prayer is that we’ve broken a cycle and that her children will never experience what she had to. Life with her was never a part of our plan, but it was in God’s plan.
We’ve had our share of struggles, like having five children under the age of five; or fostering a precious baby for fifteen months and wanted to adopt, only to have him return at three years of age as one of the worst kids we’d ever had. We had to have the caseworker find another option for him – he only stayed for a couple more months.
Experiences like this caused me to start losing faith in the system. We saw repeat kids in and out of the system, some so difficult that we had to ask for them to be removed from our home. Biological parents called child protective services to accuse us of hurting their children that we had selflessly moved into our home and family, and we endured subsequent investigations. All of those experiences caused me to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After years of not having the support we needed, we decided to no longer be foster parents.
Despite all of the negative experiences, God still blessed us immensely as we were able to add three children to our family through fostering. We adopted James, who is fifteen, and came to us when he was ten. Brycen is now twelve and was adopted at age seven. Our youngest is Briella, who came to us as a newborn is now eight.
Another thing I’ve learned is that bonding is very different depending on when a child comes to live with you. When I fed and took care of Briella, we formed an amazing bond. The bond between a parent and an older child is more difficult to form, especially when they remember or have a relationship with their parents. We regularly hear, “you’re not my real parents”, even after adopting.
There is underlying trauma that must be treated to form healthy child-parent bonds. Early painful experiences that resulted in their foster placements aren’t always addressed or treated, which can cause mistrust that is tough to overcome. We have dealt with major tantrums, crawling out the window onto a roof, hoarding and stealing food, stealing other items, constant lying, and the inability to follow rules or directions.
These traumas affect their lives at home, school, and socially. We still struggle in this area as we learn to deal with the behaviors and what’s causing them. Therapy helps, but there are days when I simply don’t know what to do. So, I take it to God and trust Him with the details. I remind myself that he gave me these children to raise for a reason.
Adoption has taught us to seek God and listen for a response. One day we were called about adopting a baby girl. She was African American and there were no parents involved. Initially, we thought it was the perfect scenario. However, our hearts were still hurting after saying a painful goodbye to the fifteen-month-old baby boy who we had loved and raised since birth. We didn’t think our hearts could handle another baby when there was a possibility of saying goodbye, so we declined.
Four months later, we received another call about adopting a baby girl. She was also African American, and her mother had dropped her with the police due to the Safe Haven Infant Protection Act, which allows parents to drop their children at a hospital or fire station with no questions asked. She was immediately placed into the adoption unit. As I prayed about it, I felt like God said, “If you don’t say yes to this perfect gift then there will not be another one.” We drove up to North Jersey to hold her and feed her in the hospital and she was indeed perfect. There were no drugs in her system, no diseases, and she was a great eater and sleeper.
We do have our challenges raising an African American child as white parents. Briella wants to have white skin and flowing blond hair. We have embraced her hair and encouraged her to remember that God made her beautiful. We intentionally request that she is not the only African American girl in her class so that she has a peer to relate to. We also don’t have any information regarding her parents, except a police report with her mother’s information from eight years ago. I’m sure there will come a day when she asks about her birth parents, but again, we put this in God’s hands.
Over the years we took in around twenty foster kids who have lived with us. Some stayed for one night and some stayed for years. Some were easy and others were very difficult. God taught me that each one belonged to Him. I was the tangible demonstration of His love for them. I wanted to communicate His love to the best of my ability.
While adoption has been a great journey to build our family, it has also been a hard and difficult one. God gave us these children to train up in the way they should go so that they can be His disciples. His love has endured through all the good and hard times. Adoption has been our way to honor and glorify Him. As we trusted Him with all our decisions, He brought the right children into our family. The right child isn’t always the easiest child or the perfect one but is the one perfectly designed for our family and God’s plan.
PRAYER FOR MOMS:
Thank you for choosing our children and bringing them into our family. Help us to trust you and remind us that you have these children in the palm of your hands. Give us strength, discernment, and wisdom with the day-to-day care and raising of these kids.
In Jesus Name, Amen.
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