Adoption Awareness: Sam’s Story {Part 1}

by GfG on November 7, 2013 · 4 comments

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November is Adoption Awareness Month and I’m a big fan of adoption.  I am praying my heart out that God brings us more children through adoption. Some day I hope to share our story for that, but until then, I’d like to share stories every November of how God brought children to their forever homes via adoption.

I’d like to share Sam’s story.  She is a precious young mama.  I was blessed to meet her at our former camp.  

Her story is amazing.  Today, part 1 and next Friday, part 2.  

Fostering and adoption were a part of my life before I even married.  My dad says he always knew he was going to foster children. Before he even married my mother, he had plans to have a big family and then foster babies when he was done having bio children.

Over twenty years later, when my two sisters and I were in college and my two brothers were in middle and high school, my parents quietly went through classes and licensing requirements needed for becoming foster parents in New England.

While they initially intended to only foster infants, God had different plans, and He has stretched and equipped them to take in a wide range of children, including sibling groups. In the last ten years, my parents have fostered over 30 children. To their surprise, they also have adopted three little girls.

I lived at home my last semester of college as I finished an internship and prepared for my wedding. During that time, my parents took in two young brothers and, a week later, an infant girl (who, unbeknownst to anyone at the time, would become my first adopted sister).

I fell in love with these boys. They were traumatized and difficult and affectionate and flourished at our home. They lived with my parents for 18 months until they moved on to an adoptive home. They were in my wedding. They were part of our family – even though we knew it wouldn’t be forever.

Extended Applejuice WEB

It was this experience that encouraged me and my husband, Jason, to start discussing foster care. We were young newlyweds, but we saw the important need in our state for loving foster parents to take in children.

We knew because of our parents’ various experiences that we would be working within a broken system, but were willing to do so.

Jason and I decided that when we finally bought a place with more than one bedroom, we would begin the process of becoming licensed foster parents. A month after moving into our two-bedroom condo, we attended a foster/adoption open house to begin the process and began the extensive paperwork.

It took about 9 months. It wasn’t too invasive and  didn’t seem incredibly unreasonable. When we became licensed, Jason and I agreed that we would accept elementary-aged children at that time, because both he and I were working.

Our first placement was for an 8 year old girl with a beautiful, musical name, Harmony*. She and her social worker were unhappy with her current foster home, so we were to be Harmony’s third placement in four months. Jason and I were nervous, but put on a brave face.

She was eager to explore, and she settled in well her first evening. We made plans that weekend to visit a science museum. We were honest and real as Harmony quickly opened up in an effort to make a connection.

Because she was already enrolled, dropping her off the next morning at school was relatively easy and I went to work. Her social worker called me mid-day and told me rather bluntly that Harmony would be placed elsewhere after school because her birth mother lived too close to us and it could turn into a dangerous situation for everyone involved.

I was…. angry! Why didn’t they handle this before they placed her with us?! Why subject this girl to another move and more uncertainty?! We knew we were working within a broken system, but this was quite a disheartening introduction.

 But God was moving. We prayed that our positive evening with Harmony gave her hope and… we were parents, if only for a few hours!

We were encouraged that her introduction into our home seemed to be nice, smooth, and natural. We chose to move forward, seeing the good in that short encounter.

Our next placement was about a month later. Keesha* was 5 and Tatiana* was 10.They were being removed from a foster home in which they were unhappy. They, too, settled easily into our home. They arrived at the beginning of a vacation week from school, so Jason and I were blessed to be able to take some time off work and connect with them.

We enjoyed each other, connected through music, and they made fun of me as I tried SO HARD to learn how to braid African hair. Returning to school was difficult for them, as they were driven an hour to school each morning and came home late and exhausted.

They also gave us our first experience with bio-family visits: they visited with their brothers and parents twice a week. After a month, their social worker notified us that they would be moving with relatives. This was the plan all along, and we were pleased that the girls seemed to be moving to a long-term solution with their brothers.

And God was moving. Again, we were given peace at the conclusion. Anyone that knows me well would tell you that I am emotional. I love kids, and I get easily attached to them. So it was surprising to me that, even though I had so much love for them, I was at peace with our two girls leaving. I never saw or heard about Harmony, Keesha, or Tatiana again.

About a month later, Philip* was placed with us. He was almost 5 at the time.

Philip was pulled directly from his home, but he, too, was eager to explore our home and was happy to get to know us. Philip was obviously not used to the structure we tried to create in our home, but he was quick to figure it out. Being consistent at home made it much easier for Philip to settle – he knew what to expect from us.

We put Philip in a preschool program for the few months leading up to the summer before kindergarten, as he was quite behind academically, and Jason and I were still both working. He integrated easily into my extended family and was embraced at our church.

I was the director of a summer camp and Philip loved spending the summer with me. Camp proved to be an incredible experience for him, as he tried many new things, became very confident around adults, and loved the attention he received (Because he was awesome. Seriously).

camp WEB

We look back at our year with Philip fondly. Many things were tough, as he came with a lot of baggage from a rough early childhood, but he thrived in our home.

We met his father a few days after Philip moved in as a result of a visit timed incorrectly (ugh, Philip had a terrible social worker…) and it was okay. Philip’s dad was just so grateful that his kids were safe and he felt like this was the “kick-in-the-pants” he needed to get his life together.

Working with a bio-parent that knew he had to do better and was willing to put in the work was a pleasant surprise.

After Philip’s summer at camp with me, Jason and I reevaluated our work and family priorities. We knew that in the long run, it was our goal for me to stay home with children if possible, but wait – I had my dream job! At only 25, I had been camp director for 3 years of a day camp that served 700 children a summer.

It was incredibly fun, had better pay and benefits than Jason’s work, incredibly awesome and full summers for my kids, and a moderately flexible school-year. Why give that up? Especially for children that we didn’t even have.

But God was clear. He set up some circumstances at work that made it easy to leave. Jason was picking up some different work opportunities and was committed to fully providing for our family. And I really, really, really, really wanted a baby.

So, mid-fall, I quit. It didn’t make sense to my extended family. It didn’t make sense to my friends. Yet, they all trusted that I knew God’s leading. So we leapt.

Even though I was sure I was to quit the camp job, Jason and I weren’t entirely sure if I was supposed to be looking for different work or part-time work or nothing. So as I quit camp, I applied for another position running a grant-funded after school program and was quickly offered this position. However, the more Jason and I thought and prayed about it, we knew it wasn’t supposed to be.

At the time, I declined the position because it was in Philip’s school district Philip. I knew that if I took the position, he would be a part of the after school program. We also knew that he was going home soon, but he would continue to be a part of this after school program even after he went home.  That was going to be too much for me to handle.

I had accepted (and agreed) that Philip was (and should) go home, but I couldn’t trust my emotions if I was going to be seeing him every day after he moved back home. I was not sure how beneficial it would be for Philip to see me daily as well as he transitioned back home.

So I declined the job. However, this position is an important part to our story and God’s timing. Even though I declined the position, the fact that I even applied for it proved to be part of His plan. You’ll see.

{Part 2 … come read what God did!}

Have you been a part of foster family life?

*Names changed to protect the children.

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