My husband and I spent three-and-a-half years in the foggy defeat of infertility before deciding to pursue adoption. We took heart in a Biblical passage, from Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “They are for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” We were ready to embrace that future, and it felt as though the sun was shining again. But we had no idea where to start.
I connected with a woman in my church, who had adopted 10 children through foster care. After speaking with her, and hearing about her happy family, we knew adopting through foster care was the path for us. We chose infant/toddler adoption.
We had three options: straight adoption, “legal risk” adoption, and “foster-to-adopt.” Straight adoption involved children who were legally free for adoption at the time of placement. “Legal risk” adoption involved children for whom termination of parental rights was imminent. In “foster-to-adopt,” children would be placed with us if the caseworkers felt there was a high probability of termination of parental rights and adoption (as opposed to children for whom reunion with the parents was expected). But because parental rights would not have been terminated at the time of placement, we would face the painful prospect of parenting a child whom we might not ultimately adopt. Foster-to-adopt scared us, so we considered the other options.
But after our training was completed, we learned that, even though the straight adoption and legal risk programs placed children as young as six months who were legally free for adoption, infants were placed via the foster-to-adopt program almost exclusively because of the length of time required to terminate parental rights. It was when our agency’s social worker told us that she routinely turned away opportunities to place infants because she didn’t have enough foster-to-adopt families that we decided to accept a foster-to-adopt placement. Although the fear of losing a child we had raised from infancy was terrifying, we decided to trust God to prepare us for whatever came our way.
About eight months after we started our foster parent training, we became the proud parents (legally, the foster parents) of siblings, an active 22-month-old boy, Nathan, and a one-and-a-half-week-old baby girl, Emma. Despite the joy and excitement of becoming parents, there was the nagging fear that we wouldn’t become a forever family.
For four months, we fulfilled the most difficult part of the adoption process — required weekly visits with the birth family. Every Friday, I took my babies to a dingy office, where I handed them over to their birth parents, who often appeared to be high. From the beginning, it was clear that there was little chance of their making the changes necessary to avoid termination of their parental rights. On one hand, I was thrilled to be one step closer to that piece of paper that made us legally a family. But I was also angry at them for not fighting for my little angels.
Our story has a happy ending. We finalized our adoption of Nathan and Emma first, and we brought their biological baby brother, Isaac, when he was a week old. Nathan is now a happy and intelligent five-year-old, whose enthusiasm for life is contagious. He has been reading since he was four, with very little instruction — once he learned the letter sounds, there was no stopping him! Emma was born five weeks premature, with three different drugs in her system. Though still very petite, she is developmentally on target. She is a complete princess, but she also loves to catch (and kiss) frogs! Emma displays some attention problems, and we are evaluating her to see whether this is age-related or whether, given her drug exposure, she might have ADHD, as Nathan does. Isaac is a thriving one-year-old today. He never stops moving and exploring!
Both Nathan and Emma understand that they all grew in the same tummy. We have been honest, explaining that, although their birth parents love them, they made very bad choices and were not able to take care of them. We are blessed to see the paternal grandparents regularly, and we have limited contact with the birth mother.
God does indeed have a plan for our lives, and I hate to think of what we may have missed if we hadn’t been willing to follow it.