We are fostering-to-adopt!
I was truly afraid to tell people about it. I felt like people would think we were crazy to throw ourselves into more inevitable emotional stress on top of the battles we are currently facing.
When Maddy was diagnosed with autism, the first question her doctor asked us was if we wanted more kids, informing us they were at much higher risk for autism because our first child had it, and especially because she is a girl. We didn't have set in stone plans, but I had always told Mike I wanted 3 or 4 kids. So in my heart, our family wasn't done yet.
For several months I felt like I wasn't allowed to have more kids because it would be irresponsible or dumb or I wouldn't be able to handle another child with autism, and it was devastating. After a while, I realized that I would regret forever not having tried to have the bigger family I wanted. I am a firm believer that God does not want us to make decisions based on fear, and after praying through it, Mike and I decided to be open to more children. After a very brief stint of "openness," we weren't pregnant, and we were both feeling an odd unrest about the entire thing. I was struggling intensely with some of Maddy's stuff. So we put on the brakes and talked and prayed. Had we made the wrong decision?
Two years ago at our old church, we had an annual "Orphan Sunday." I had never been open to adoption. It felt like a plan B in case we couldn't have our own children, and we already had two kids of our own. It never crossed my mind as something I should consider. I hadn't known anyone who was adopted growing up and hadn't been exposed to it really, and didn't have a clue what foster care was until we got married and I was introduced to it through some friends and family. Well, that Sunday changed everything. Mike and I walked into the parking lot, got in the car and said "We need to adopt kids."
Around the same time, my sweet nephew was in the process of being adopted through foster care. Something about inviting him into our family, and feeling a love that was not any different than that I felt of blood relatives, and watching my brother and sister in law brave the tough journey and work their tails off to give him a forever home... it all deeply affected me.
Well, God's timing is everything. I was ready to start the process immediately, and somewhere I had in my head that I wanted to adopt two sisters, both older than Maddy and Owen. Our kids were young enough that the whole birth order thing wouldn't really matter, and it's the older sibling groups that have the hardest time being adopted. The idea of foster/adopting an infant felt self serving somehow, so we had our plan. Two elementary school aged girls; sisters.
We went to our orientation, the first step in the process. Somewhere between the stories of birth children being stabbed with butter knives and the incredibly negative undertone of the entire thing, we left feeling disillusioned and unsure. Thank God for that, because our plans were not right for us. We had no idea Maddy had autism, we had no idea that our life would look the way it currently does, and it just was not supposed to happen back then. But we knew it would happen eventually; it was all a matter of timing.
Well, here we are; I will be required to be home for Maddy for 20-35 hrs/week of therapy in our house for the next couple of years at least. I won't be working any time soon and I likely won't get to start the Master's program I'd planned to attend either for a very long time. Owen will be starting preschool and I'm going to have a lot of free time on my hands and not much to do with it. This is the perfect time for us to have little ones in our home. And this time, we are sure that adoption is the way that God wants to fulfill that.
We have had many conversations and prayed over our family and for discernment, and here is the plan (but we aren't married to it, we know God has a way of changing plans up :) ):
We will be fostering infants from 0-6 months old, any race, boys or girls. Only one baby to start, but we are open to two after a while if we feel we can make it work. They will be "red flag" files, or kids whose case plan is leading toward severance of parental rights, making them available to us for adoption. There is no guarantee we will get to adopt the child at all up until the day we go to court and the judge signs the paper. It is a very intense roller coaster of a thing; at any time, an unknown family member or person could come forward to claim the child, and the court will always give the child to next of kin before foster parents.
I am blessed to have seen many successful adoptions of infants through foster care, including my nephew; I know it can and will happen if you stick with it :) You always have to be on board with the case plan and also realize you are a foster parent first; as a foster parent, the goal is always reunification with the birth family. I know these things in my head, but I also know that each child will be very hard to let go of.
The babies we will be caring for will suffer physical abuse, prenatal drug abuse, neglect, etc. Some of them may be born in prison and come straight to our home from there. It's going to be difficult, but I am humbled and blown away that I get to be part of caring for them and showing them God's love even if for a short time.
I can't wait to meet my future children. We already have a boy name picked! Which, if you know anything about Mike and I picking names, is a bit of a miracle. When I asked Mike how many he wanted to adopt, he said "as many as we can handle!" Also a miracle. Who is this guy?? :) For now, I think we're sticking with two! But hey, you never know.
We would love your prayers!