Saturday, December 3, 2011

And so it began...

One question I am frequently asked is "why do you adopt children from foster care?"  Sometimes I am ornery and ask a question back.  Depending on the sincerity of the person asking me, I might respond with, "Why do you ask?" or "If I don't, who will?" and one time when I felt like the person was being judgmental and rude I actually said, "Well, why WON'T you adopt a child out of foster care?"  Regardless, it is an understandable question, but not really one that is easily answered in casual conversation.

My husband's and my journey began many years ago, ok, many many years ago.  We were in college, newly married and feeling very grown-up.  We knew we wanted children "some day" but recognized the time was not right to start a family.  I  knew of a foster family in my hometown that would take on foster children and it got me to thinking about the possibility of providing temporary care to children in need.  My husband, bless his heart, let me follow my heart and attended the DCFS informational meeting with me.  The meeting was a real eye opener for us.  If you have never attended one, I strongly encourage you to do so.  It was filled with valuable information on the children that come into state care.  Information about the number children that come into care was overwhelming.  Then there was the ages, the races, the abuse, the poverty and neglect.  It was heartbreaking to get a real picture painted in my head of what it was like to end up a foster child, and yet, I knew I couldn't possibly understand what a child really went through or felt like sitting in a foster home.  Words like lost, hurt, abandoned, scared, and angry came to mind, but really that is just the tip of the iceberg.  After that meeting, my husband and I chose NOT to do foster care.  I bet you weren't expecting THAT statement.  =)  The truth of the matter was that at that time, foster children were not allowed to leave the state with their foster parents.  This presented a insurmountable problem for my husband and I since our parents lived in another state about an hour and a half a way and we generally drove up to visit them at least twice a month.  Tearing through DCFS red tape twice a month to bring a foster child with us really didn't seem like a good option.

Skip forward 4 years.  My husband was about to finish his Ph.D and I had just given birth to our first born son.  As I looked into his beautiful little infant face, I was overcome with emotion and dedication to this precious life we had created.  I wanted only the perfect life for him.  I knew my job was to love him, protect him and guide him into adulthood.  Don't ALL parents want that for their children?  I believe they do, but perhaps cannot always provide it.  One evening as my husband and I sat snuggling with our little boy while watching the news, a strange video came on.  The newscaster was at a "prospective adoptive parent party" for children in foster care.  That alone caught our attention, but what really made our hearts break was when the newscaster interviewed a little girl.  I don't remember her name but I will always remember her face.  She was about 9 or 10 years old at the time.  The newscaster asked some general questions about the party and the girl smiled and said she was having fun.  They talked about the food, the go carts and the video games that were available to the kids at the party.  Then the little girl looked straight into the camera and said something that changed my life forever.  With sad eyes, she looked straight at me and said, "I just hope that somebody thinks I am pretty enough to adopt this time."  This told us two things, 1 that she had been to one of these parties before and had not been adopted and 2 that her self esteem was so low that she truly believed that she would only be adopted if somebody thought she was pretty.

Needless to say, we called the newstation and they told us to contact The Adoption Exchange the next morning.  When we called, we were asked by the staff if we had a completed home study.  We did not and so they advised us to contact our local DCFS.  They went on to say that they had received many phone calls on this child and that she probably wouldn't be available by the time we had a completed home study.  We didn't follow through since it seemed like the child wouldn't be available anyway.  The perception we got was that there were plenty of parents willing to adopt these children.  Oh boy, were we wrong.

To be continued...

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