Thanksgiving is a day that we are all reminded that we need to be thankful and that is absolutely what I intend on writing about but what I am thankful for besides the obvious (the most wonderful husband on the planet, the most awesome children, and the bestest friends anyone could ask for!), are two little boys who walked into my life on the day before Thanksgiving 2004.
I usually would prefer to write about current events, but today I would really like to write about that day and all of the joy, hope, frustration and insanity that day would eventually bring into my life.
We were new foster parents, having only been licensed for a short time and only receiving out first placement just a few short weeks before. I was working full time and helping a dear friend coach cheer. I got a call that day asking that even though we had room for only one more child, would we be willing to take these two brothers who needed to be placed together. Being the super excited, more than willing to jump in with both feet foster parent, of course I said yes and my life has never been the same since. Instantly I went from a new mother of two, to a mother of four. And boys no less! I had no idea what this new adventure would bring me.
Sometime that evening the case manager brought me two terrified, hysterical boys dressed as if it was July and 105 outside. No shoes, no jackets, no nothing. And of course, we had no clothing that would suit them as we had never had boys before. We had an amazing support system and our family and friends scrambled this Thanksgiving eve to find warm winter clothes, jammies and underwear for our newest family members. And for that we will forever be grateful.
The next few days were interesting as we were learning about these two boys and they were learning about us. We also had the long weekend without the contact of case managers, or CPS support to try and figure out our new situation. Trying to figure out odd behaviors, learning things about what made these two kiddos tick and trying to transition them into our family and routine was at times frustrating, scary, and even comical. Looking back, it all happened surprisingly smooth and everything seemed to fall into place rather quickly; almost as if it was always meant to be.
In hindsight, I think that the hardest part was learning about their “behaviors” and why they did some of the things that they did or felt the way that they felt. Even today, 6 years later I sometimes have to remind myself why certain little things can cause such a ruckus in their lives. Unfortunately, all of the foster parent training in the world cannot prepare you for many of the things that you will ultimately face when dealing with these broken little hearts. And in our time, training did not even delve into behaviors and how to deal with them. It doesn’t teach you that these kids are going to react because they had a visit, and then they are going to react because they didn’t have a visit. They are going to react because their visit was cut short. They are going to react because they saw something on TV that triggered some memory or experience they once had. My boys were absolutely traumatized once because I got pulled over for a broken tail light and they were certain I was going to be taken away. For most of these kids, the police are the bad guys that take mommies and daddies away; not the hero’s that most other kids think they are. They are real fears and real emotions. I really don’t want to go into specific details about my boys’ case, why they were taken into care, the trauma and struggles that they faced. That is their story to tell, someday. The people closest to us know what happened. What I described above is a very general idea of what nearly every foster child in the system has experienced.
But none of that is what I want to write about. I want to tell you about our journey through the laughter and through the tears. We had no idea that day we started down the road to becoming adoptive parents. We had no idea that this day would forever change our lives.
The case went on for many months, almost in a mundane way. It was very status quo. The boys went on their visits, we had team meetings, they went to preschool, we began to bond as a family and we learned. We learned about these precious boys. We learned about the system. We learned about frustration. We learned about heart break. We learned about disappointment. We learned about laughter and we learned about tears. Then at some point CPS decided that biological mom and dad were not doing what they needed to be doing in order to get these kids back. After many months of services being offered to bring this family back together the state was finally done and they were headed towards severance. We were sitting in a meeting that day, discussing case progress(or lack thereof) and the case supervisor nonchalantly announces that they are no longer calling the case plan “reunification” but now its “severance and adoption and would we be willing to adopt the boys?”. My husband and I had never even discussed this as an option. Why would we? The case plan from day one was always reunification. We never hesitated. We looked at each other and simultaneously answered yes. Looking back, I find it odd that we would make such a huge decision without even the slightest discussion on the matter. Again, almost as if it was always meant to be.
From there the next few months would mark the beginning of our journey. Family that never knew these boys would come crawling out of the wood work like cockroaches. People wanted to step in that had no vested interest in these kid’s lives other than their own gain. Never in my life have I ever seen a family so at odds and so willing to tear each other to the ground for their own benefit. Finally after months, the state had their chosen family to present to the court as the boy’s adoptive placement, and it wasn’t us. The state’s interest is to almost always keep foster children with their biological families. Rarely, unless there are truly no viable prospects does the state present a foster family as their preferred placement for adoption. Thankfully for us, we had a judge who felt that the boys were very much bonded to us and there wasn’t much of a bond with the family members who were chosen. In fact, there was no bond there at all, as the boys had never even met these people and had been in our home for well over 15 months. This was probably the most frustrating part of our story, during this time the boys were allowed to visit these family members out of state in order to attempt to form a bond and get to know their would be “new mom and dad”. One of the most defining moments for me was a time when I had to fly with them and drop them a state away with these people they never knew. I was to immediately get on the next plane home without my boys. I cried the entire flight back, feeling as if I had just completely abandoned them. This went on for months while the court was trying to decide what was best for these kids. During this time it seemed like we were fighting a two front battle. One battle was to get severance on the mother and the other was who the adoptive parents would be. Finally the court made its decision and for by the grace of God it was with us. We still didn’t have severance but at least we knew they would be with us until they either went home or were with us forever. Eventually we would get severance and then we could begin the adoption proceedings. All told, we went through months and months of court hearings and tons of red tape to ultimately be able to give these boys our name. But the boys weren’t the ones that were given the gift, we were. We were now their parents and it was the greatest honor ever bestowed upon us.
Throughout all of this we realized that we weren’t just fighting for the boys, we were fighting for all of us, OUR FAMILY.
We learned so much during that time. We learned what family meant. We learned that blood isn’t always thicker than water. We learned how to parent these two crazy boys that almost always kept us on our toes (and still do!).
They have taught us so many things. They have made us laugh and made us cry. They have frustrated us beyond belief and made us prouder than a peacock! We have thousands of stories to tell, like the nipple incident (which I fully intend to blog about someday!). I can truly say that since that day so many years ago there has never been a dull moment in our lives. And for that I am thankful.