It was a chilly autumn day last fall and Cody and I were galavanting about in the tiny town of Hico, TX. We went to visit Cody’s brother and friend and wanted to just get out of the city for a weekend. My brother-in-law, nomadic hippie that he is, was living in an upstairs apartment of sorts in a family’s barn. May not sound like much, but it was a rather endearing set up…except for the outdoor makeshift toilet that included a large bucket, toilet seat, and twigs and tree limbs surrounding it on three sides to provide a little privacy. A few creatures got a rather spectacular view, however, as they had built their anthill at the base of this toilet. I used it once.
We met the kind family that owned the barn and beautiful country home on an expanse of land with a garden and a stream. They had 4 children ranging in age between 8-12. As I spoke with the wife and mother of the family, she told me that all their children were adopted through a foster to adopt program. I really had very little knowledge of how foster to adopt worked, so I asked her to tell me more. As I listened, I wondered, “How?”….how does anyone do this? In short, the state places a child in need of care with you, but the state’s first goal is to reunite them back to the biological family, so the caseworker is working hard to help that broken family be mended and become suitable for the child to return too. The range of time that a biological family has before their rights are terminated varies, but can be estimated to be between 1-2 years. If the family doesn’t prove to be suitable for the child after the allotted time, their rights are terminated, and then the foster to adopt family can move forward with legally adopting the child. The need for foster to adopt families is huge, the financial cost is mild compared to more traditional adoption routes, and the wait time is much less, but the risk of loss is greater.
Most of her children she received as tiny infants. And for nearly two years for each one, she didn’t know if they would stay forever or be taken away.
“How did you handle your emotions living with that reality that your baby may not stay?” I asked.
She looked at me thoughtfully and said, “I put my heart in my hands and offered it to God and these children. I had no guarantees, but I trusted the Lord and we took the risk.”
And for them, all four children that were placed in their home stayed and were eventually legally adopted.
But that is not the story for many foster to adopt families. According to Buckner Foster to Adopt program, 60% of the children that are placed in a foster to adopt home do return to their biological families.
I admired this woman. What bravery. What courage and sacrifice. Her and her husband both said that if we ever decided to take that path to make sure our marriage is strong. She said it wasn’t easy, but well worth it.
I walked away from that conversation convinced that I could never embark on that journey to build our family. To have a child that you love and care for and nurture as yours possibly taken away? Nope. Nopity nope nope nope. Not gonna do it. Not for me.
Since that conversation on that cool autumn day, I’ve encountered or heard of a number of other families on this foster to adopt journey. Initially I found this annoying. Not the families doing it (they are rockstars), but that it kept being brought to my attention was bothersome. I didn’t want to consider it. As far as I was concerned, that envelope was sealed, that door was closed, that window was shut, that water was drained, that file was deleted, that hair had been cut, the fat lady had done well sang y’all….ok ok, I’ll stop 😉
So why was I continuing to hear about foster to adopt all of sudden? To be fair, I was engaging in more conversations about adoption in general as it was something we had begun researching and talking more about. But still, sometimes it would come up in such odd ways.
I had arrived at church early and found a seat in the pew behind a family that had two young children. Cody was grunting with some other men across the room, so I sat there alone. The young toddler turned her body around and peered over the pew and smiled big and bright at me. I began to smile back and talk to her. Her mother turned and said hello. We exchanged a little bit of small talk. Then, out of nowhere the mother told me that her daughter was a foster child and that they were just about to finalize the adoption that month.
Oh. Wow. Amazing. We talked for a few minutes more about their experience. I told her that we were considering foster to adopt as well. She smiled and wished me the best.
Which brings me to say, that while I thought the fat lady had done well sang her little heart out on this issue meaning that foster to adopt was off the table as far as I was concerned, apparently she didn’t sing loud enough for the Lord or Cody to hear.
In our conversations about it all, Cody gently asked me to keep my heart open to the possibility of fostering to adopt. He saw many good things about it and didn’t want me to close the door on it completely without first praying. I knew he was right (turd), so I left the door cracked.
The openness and willingness in my heart really began to change a few days after we met with a kind couple who are in the thick of fostering to adopt right now. We asked many questions and shared concerns we had about it all. They were open and honest and helpful.
Shortly after that evening, Cody continued to express that he was more drawn to foster to adopt than traditional adoption for a few different reasons. Most of the time when he had said this, I felt frustrated cause he is always supposed to think like me, right? But this time when he shared his heart on the matter again, I was surprised to find that my heart also felt drawn and more open to fostering to adopt.
What the what?!
Another friend of mine who started their paperwork this summer to become foster to adopt parents told me that this journey of infertility has already brought enough loss. It’s painful. There just isn’t a way around that. So, they decided to take this step toward fostering to adopt despite the risk of loss and more pain because the impact they could have on a child or many children’s lives would be worth it. Pain is a part of the game, but at least this way a child, fresh out of a broken home, is receiving their love whether for a season or for forever.
Winter, spring, summer, fall, winter, spring, summer….and now approaching another fall. I am not where I thought I would be in all of this. We still don’t have a baby despite the many passing seasons. And yet, what a valuable hike it has been as infertility is teaching us things and now, dare I say, we might embark on a trail as foster to adopt parents. No decisions have been made, but it is clear that the fat lady failed on her singing career and there is a breeze flowing through what is now an open window of more possibilities. And the ants remain steadfast in their anthill home at the base of an outdoor toilet in a tiny country town where we first heard about the courageous and beautiful path that is foster to adopt.