I read The Suitcases when I was 8 or 10, and I knew then that I was supposed to be a foster mom.
I didn’t hear an audible voice or see a bright light, but there was a certainty in my generally indecisive soul. This is what I was supposed to do.
Unfortunately, I thought that I was supposed to go to college, get married, have babies biologically, and then do it. The first part happened right on schedule, and then, nothing.
I taught kindergarten, stayed active in my church, acted and worked backstage in the theatre, bought a house, but still no husband or babies. Hmmmm....
God’s plan was for me to foster. I had assumed the rest.
Finally, in my young 30s, a sermon kicked me out of my “patiently” waiting seat. I made some calls, attended foster care and adoption fairs, selected an agency and pursued foster care licensing. By myself. And I waited.
On December 15, 2004, I got my first placement. Little O was a sweet girl who became a headline for a day, then became mine. She finally smiled while we shopped at Target (girl bonding even at 8 ½ months!), and at that moment our hearts were bound. I quickly learned her emotional triggers, treated her medical needs, introduced her to solid foods, and dressed her like a princess. I loved her completely, for 2 days.
Then I let her go.
It was the right thing to do. She went to her daddy, who had good family support, and God blessed me with little comforts. She went to all of the relatives, but cuddled in with him. Months later I was recognized behind the wheel in a parking lot by the Child Protective Services worker, who confirmed that all were doing well.
Still, it had only been 2 days. I spent just as long after in my bed, crying, sleeping, crying, reading, crying…
That’s the thing with foster care. You love, completely. You grieve, completely. But you know that you will survive. Somehow, with God’s grace and peace, you will survive. And you do. And so I did.
I became a specialist in newborns, even preemies. Mr. T was with me for 3 ½ months, Mr. J for 9 ½, Mr. E for 3 ½, Miss J for 3 ½, and then Mr. J.
Mr. J didn’t have a plan like his predecessor J, whose grandparents saw him regularly until he was available to be adopted. He was with me for almost a year when they changed his goal from reunification to adoption, but there was nobody in place.
I had been a single foster mom, but surely I shouldn’t be a single mom? Especially a single white mom of a young black boy? How could I give him all that he needed? Yet, how could I let him face the abandonment of the only mom he’d ever known?
I approached J’s social worker with the possibility of adoption. Her response was that she’d already told her boss and the attorney that I should, but just to pray about it and let her know. That was my first affirmation. Still, I prayed. I sought wise counsel. I got shingles.
Finally, I told my parents. I’d put that off, since my mom had been planning grandparenthood at least since my college days, and I’m the oldest! I already had my brothers’ blessing and commitment to be men in J’s life. My mom, of course, was over the moon. So, I started the whole process of home visits again, this time to make J a legal part of my family. He, along with all the others, was already a part of my heart.
Another little guy came to stay for a while in the process, and finally the day came when I received the call that I had been approved and could sign the adoption petition. On my way uptown, I received a call. I thought the agency was congratulating me. I was wrong. J had a 2-day-old brother. M, his brother, came home to us that night.
I didn’t think I could take another, but this time it only took a few days in the hospital with my “failure to thrive” little guy to know he was mine. Now, at 6, he’s definitely thriving.
My family is not what I pictured, but is exactly what God planned. It is not always easy, but I am surely blessed. He used my two precious boys to make me who He planned me to be: a foster Mom.