Monday, March 31, 2014

The ups and downs of foster care and adoption

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

 Recently, I got two of my essay's put into a book.  The lady who put the book together told me that a man in the writing class she attends approached her and her sister and asked them if they would put together a book by adoptive moms about the trials of adoption.  He wanted this because so many people who want to adopt but haven't yet only focus on the sweetness of the new baby, without ever comprehending the trials that often go along with adoption of any sort: domestic, international or foster.
Then I began to notice that several blogs I follow and links on facebook were about the trials of foster care and adoption.
I love facebook.  I have renewed a lot of old friendships on there, have kept up with my grandkids and even my own children I don't see often and have made new friends.  One of my missions on facebook is to help other moms realize that children are truly kind of fun.  Sometimes when we are in the midst of it all, we don't realize that.  But I am older and have raised several children to adulthood and watched them move off away from me, and I realize how terribly quickly it all goes by.  I don't want anyone to miss just enjoying their children before they aren't children anymore.

Another mission is to encourage people to foster and adopt children in the foster care system.  In doing that, I am afraid most of the time I only write about the funny and sweet stuff.  And maybe that's not fair, because along with the sweetness, it can be HARD!  It can be scary, and it can make you cry a lot.
So, with fairness in mind, I thought I would write a blog, exploring both the pros and cons, so that in encouraging you to consider this mighty work with God, I won't leave you with the impression that it's all - as the song goes and I age myself - "sunshine, lollipops and rainbows."  It's a hard, messy, tear stained, hurtful, scary, wonderful, happy, awe inspiring, loving and fulfilling experience.

So I am going to list some things, both good and bad, that have happened to me in doing foster care and foster adoptions.  I have actually had it pretty good, considering what some of my friends, both in real life and online have gone through.  I don't regret it one bit, although there are many things I will be just glad NOT to do over again.  And other things that still make me tear up because they were so beautiful.  Some of these things are experiences with children I have gone on to adopt, others are experiences with children who went on to be reunited with their families, or adopted by someone else. 

I will start with the cons.  These are only a small handful of things that I have actually gone through on this journey:

falling in love with a sibling group, only to watch two of them go back to their mother, a situation that no one but the main worker thought was a good idea and, years later, that fear was an actuality.

desperately wanting to adopt the baby of that sibling group, a baby who we were attached too and who was attached to us, only to have one social worker who should NOT have had anything to do with it fight us every step of the way.

and after that child was awarded to us by a judge, and we were going through the six month period before we could finalize his adoption, having that social worker tell me, "I can still remove this child if there is a serious incident."  And realizing she was watching, and had the power to decide what the serious incident could be.

fallling in love with a little boy I cared for from birth to seven months of age so desperately in the days when foster parents were not allowed to adopt their foster children, and watching him leave for an adoptive home.  And never knowing again what happened to him.

and many years later, falling in love with another foster baby I had from six months to twenty six months of age, and wondering if I would EVER be whole again when she was reunited with her extended family in another state.  The grief I felt had to be akin to a death.

standing in a court room while the father of the above baby accused me of sexually abusing her.  Sitting there in my long dress and headcovering, not allowed to say a word, just having to sit and listen and be ordered to take her to the doctor to have it checked out.  And she wasn't abused, the doctor determined, but by the time the exam was over, I almost felt like she had been...

having the same daddy scream and scream right in my face over a bruise on the baby until the social worker who tried to keep Luke from us hotlined me herself, and I had to be investigated.  Again, I was cleared.  But that was hard!

having a social worker call me and warn me NOT to bring baby to visits because daddy has gone crazy and they don't know what's going to happen.

having a social worker call me on a different day and tell me to meet them several blocks away and they will bring baby to me because daddy has gone crazy and they are afraid for my safety if I come to pick the child up.

having my 15 year old son tell me he doesn't care what I say as I am parked a few blocks away waiting for the social worker to bring baby, he will NOT lay down in the back seat if daddy shows up, but instead will fight to the death to protect me.

having a four year old I am in the process of adopting stand at my feet and declare "you will NEVER be my mommy!!"  "I will NEVER love you!"  "I only love my other mommy!"

trying to explain to a two year old that he's going back home to "mommy", who he has rarely seen in the past seven months, and doesn't really remember and only knew "me" has mommy. And watching him walk out the door with a social worker, then suddenly turn back and run to me, and I cupped his little face in my hands and assured him "it's okay" even though I wasn't sure it was, before he went on down the walk.

realizing my newly adopted two year old has a serious problem with rages so bad even my big 16 year old son can't control him.

having an adoption agency call me and ask me to adopt that same little girl I wanted to adopt seven years ago, the sister of my first adopted child and to take her little sister along with her, and I say yes and go through all the classes and spend the money I need to spend in order to get re licensed, and get accepted by the adoption agency, only to have the rug jerked out from under me when it was taken to CPS, who decided I couldn't have the girls after all because I am "too religious."

to have a child lay cuddled in my arms in bed while she describes the things that have been done to her.  And to later tell me things that she has seen.

to have people who don't understand what this is all about get mad and say things to me that hurt deeply, and make me cry.

to have to leave the church I love and moved to be with because they don't understand what I am doing and won't accept it.

Those are a few on the cons.  Now on to the happier pros!!

watching over the years as God gave me six sons to replace that foster baby twenty years ago that I loved and had to give back.

hearing a judge say "I move that the Raley's be allowed to adopt the minor child" when I went to a court parental termination hearing (after the social worker who was fighting us went on leave for a short time) praying only for hope that the baby won't be given to someone else.

leaving that same court hearing and looking up to see a church sign that declares "My peace I give you.  John 14:27" and feeling like God had just reached down and patted me on the head and said, "See?  I told you he was yours all along!"

seeing the children from that first sibling group I wanted to adopt seven years before, and watching the older girl sob as she hugged the little brother she had forgotten she had.

to have the child who stood at my feet and declared she would never love me, put her arms around me and tell me she DOES love me after all.  And she just didn't understand back then.  And I am her ONLY mommy.

to watch the little boy with rages come under control with diet and turn into the sweetest, most beautiful child who only has problems very rarely.

to have the mommy of the foster baby whose daddy was such a nightmare to work with friend me on facebook because "you were always so good" to her daughter.

to watch later as that same mommy regains custody of her daughter and see in pictures that the little girl looks happier than she has ever looked in the pictures I've seen of her over the years.  Her eyes no longer look so sad.

to have the adoption agency call me when the adoption of my sons sisters fails, and tell me "we try not to drop the ball, but we really did in this case.  Your family is the only stable influence in these girls lives.  Are you still interested in adopting them?"

hearing that my little daughter, on her last day of public school before she was adopted, when asked by her teacher to tell the class what "adoption" means, replied, "Adoption means you stay, and you never have to leave again."

hearing the little sister of this sibling group ask me over and over after her adoption, "I'm just one of your regular kids now, right?"  and "You won't forget I'm adopted tomorrow, will you?"  yes, you are, and no I won't!

To have the 16 year old tell her sister this is the first place she has ever lived where she felt safe.

There's so much more I could write on both pros and cons.  This is just a little bit.  I have learned that anything worth having is usually hard.  Pregnancy is hard.  Giving birth is terribly hard.  Fostering is hard.  Adoption is hard.  But in the end, the things you work the hardest on are usually the best things in life.  You don't appreciate something you don't put effort into getting near as much as you appreciate things you brought forth in blood, sweat, tears and anguish.   Like the Bible says in Psalms 126:5, I have sown in tears with all my children and still do, but I am reaping with songs of joy.

And sometimes, I even think of the oldies songs of my youth when I think about my life!!

My life is sunshine, lollipops and rainbows
That's how this refrain goes.
So come on Join In. Everybody.
Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows
Everything that's wonderful is sure to come your way
When your in love to stay.

All but two of my children and all of my grandchildren on Easter 2013


  1. I have always enjoyed your blog because of its realness about life with all your children. I was surprised to see that someone felt compelled to write on the realities i.e. negatives because there is so much out there on the "sweetness." We were in the process of attempting to adopt from the foster system, but had to stop as I became pregnant with our 5th child. My experience has been that everyone is more than happy to share the negative. Having 4 children I know that it can be hard, but so much negativity was not helpful. These children have been through so much that is truly unimaginable for so many of us, whom are we serving in being so negative. Alas, I've appreciated your realism in what you have shared about all your children & your willingness to see the child within. Adoption definitely comes with its difficulties, but biological children are no guaranteed picnic either. Regardless of how a person receives their child they are all hard work. Like hard work they come with great rewards.

    Thank you for your realistic encouragement

  2. You are right, Carrie, in that I heard so much negative comments from people who were trying to discourage me from doing foster care. I didn't pay much attention to them because I knew they hardly knew what they were talking about. I was just afraid I myself might have done the opposite on facebook, so I wrote this blog. But I included the PROS as well as the CONS, because so many of my cons, turned into pros!!

  3. I can echo a hearty AMEN to your blog! I've been there done that and still doing that. We've fostered almost 17 years in the states system, adopted 3 daughters and have 3 bio children. Seen the joys & sorrows of this life in these children.I keep telling my children everyday is an opportunity to give Jesus' Love to one of these souls. I was also adopted as an infant but found my birth family as an adult. I also know it's not for everyone as some of the nicest people don't understand fostering or adoption. Keep up your encouragement :)


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