Adoption Day: The Reality of Adoption in Foster Care

Adoption Day #3

After 726 days in foster care, our youngest is finally adopted and I can finally relax knowing he is never leaving our home.

The Beginning

Every placement has tested our strength in its own way, but JJ’s case was especially difficult from the beginning. We had so many ups and downs I thought my heart could not take anymore.

In February 2017, a very young mom and dad made an impossible decision to relinquish their rights for our daughter, Zoey. At that time, we learned mom was pregnant and relinquishing her rights to Zoey would give her a chance to raise her new baby. So many thoughts went through my head. Should we be preparing for a newborn? What if mom isn’t able to care for the new baby but runs away like she tried with Zoey. We hoped this time would be different but we were constantly worried for this new baby and mom. We feared mom would try to give birth at home…again..and have complications…again. Unfortunately, all we could do was wait and hope for the best.

We had some contact with mom through email because we wanted Zoey to have a connection with her birth family if possible. We learned from mom of JJ’s birth in June of 2018. My heart hurt not knowing if this poor baby was safe.

The Call We Feared Yet Hoped Would Come

In September 2018, we got the call that JJ had come into custody. Mom did not have the resources to care for him. As I listened to my wife explain he was being fed watered down formula and hadn’t had a clean diaper for awhile, a million thoughts ran through my mind. I kept thinking the system had failed him and this family. Why didn’t he come with us when he was born? Then I heard my wife say, he’s waiting for us to pick him up. I didn’t know what to expect. What condition was he in? I was angry, scared, anxious, nervous…but ultimately relieved that he was now safe.

To my surprise and relief, he looked healthy. He was perfect. The splitting image of his sister.

In that moment, I felt a flood of emotions again. We have had many placements, but this baby…he was my undoing as a foster parent.

I was angry with mom, but also sad knowing she has yet again been separated from another child. I was angry with the system that failed this family in so many ways. Another baby born to a teen mom that grew up in the system.

I loved this baby before he was born and instantly felt a bond with him when I picked him up. I had been so good at caring for children without allowing myself to get too attached, always knowing reunification was the goal, but in that moment, all I cared about was protecting this baby.

Zoey and Koa were so excited to have a baby brother.

The Reality of Foster Care

We had many ups and downs through out his 726 days in care. No show visits from mom, dad in and out of jail, JJ screaming in fear when Dad visited after not seeing him for a year, family members wanting custody, and more I can’t even talk about.

Not only was I dealing with my own feelings with this case, I also had to think about Zoey and Koa. They both were very attached from the beginning. They wanted to help feed him, play with him and just love him. Koa was old enough to ask questions and verbalize his feelings. He was regularly asking when could we adopt JJ and why couldn’t their mom give us JJ like she did with Zoey. I didn’t have the answers. I worried like never before about how fostering was affecting my children. How would they handle the separation if JJ left our home?

In addition, JJ had a rough start. He didn’t make milestones, he had many specialist visits to see if he had physical problems or just delays due to his rocky first three months, physical therapy, multiple ear infections, tubes in his ears, adenoids removed. So much for a tiny guy less than 2 years old.

In February 2019, mom and dad again relinquished custody. It felt like deja vu because once again we learned mom was pregnant. A flood of emotions…again.

Birth Family Connection

After many conversations with case workers, fellow foster and adoptive parents and our family about our fears, anger, and sadness, we decided we needed to work harder to have a better connection with the birth family. Despite my frustrations with mom, I knew one day my kids would ask about their mom. I had to put my emotions aside to what was best for them.

We connected with mom and Grandma in June 2019 and started doing visits in the community. Mom looked healthier than ever. She was finally accepting help and doing the right thing.

Although mom seemed to be in a better place, I was once again preparing for the possibility of a new born.

This time was different, however. Mom was regularly communicating with me, showing up to planned visits and accepting help from the community. We gave her tips and advice and she openly accepted our guidance.

Zoey and JJ’s baby brother was born in August 2019. Although, he has some medical issues, he is thriving. Mom has proven she is ready to be a mom.

A Different Kind of Family

Mom and I have had many conversations about how she misses her children and regrets many decisions, but she is so happy and blessed they are a part of our family and she knows that she did the right thing. I know her heart aches even more than mine did while I was waiting for JJ.

We will maintain contact because we all agree that the kids need as much love and family as they can get. After three years of navigating the system with this family, I am happy to say we are all now one big happy, unique family.

Now that Jackson is a permanent member of our family after 726 days of an emotional roller coaster, I can finally bask in the joy of my family because we truly are happy and thankful for family.

Adoption Day:  The Reality of Adoption in Foster Care

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