Sometimes you meet someone, even for a brief time, and they leave an impact on your heart and in your life. Jules is such a person for me! She's BEYOND inspiring and I'm so thankful she is sharing part of her story here for you all today! Be sure to visit her blog: My Joyful Broken Heart...you will get sucked in and unable to stop reading :)
I am often asked for my story, people are intrigued that I am here, at 30, living life as a single, adoptive/foster mom. For me the story is rather simple, I saw a need that I could do something about, so I did. The seed was planted in my soul, after years of watering, it was ready to sprout.
My journey has been a long one coming, from a young age adoption was written on my heart. As a child I would secretly hope that someone would leave a baby on my doorstep, I was intrigued and inspired by stories of people in third world countries opening their homes to orphans, collecting them from boxes on the streets and raising them as their own. I grew up in a home where our door was always open, friends were always over and holidays were a mix of blood and non-blood “family.” My parents first and unknowingly instilled in me a heart for foster care, I watched them open our home and love well.
Early December 2014, what I assumed would be a pretty typical week. Sunday, we had a guest speaker at church, she was talking to us about foster care on behalf of a local ministry. Monday, I pass by a billboard asking me to become a foster parent. Tuesday a radio ad about becoming a foster parent. Wednesday meet someone new, they happened to be a foster parent. Thursday meet another set of foster parents. Friday, finish the week out nicely with an article in the paper about foster care and the great need in our community. I have learned something key in life, when I notice a common theme I slow down and pay attention.
I noticed the theme but what I was supposed to do with it? I was single, had a fun job which meant I didn’t make money and did I mention single? There was something there and I just couldn’t shake it. The following week while having coffee with my friend, Keeva, I briefly mentioned the fact the foster care kept coming up. She shared with me that she had a friend who had stepped into the life of a single foster mom a few years before, she fanned the flame that was flickering in my soul.
Feeling inspired, that night I went home and began to research the foster care laws for my state and discovered:
I had to be at least 21 years old.
Not on the sex offender registry.
Prove that I had some kind of steady income.
Check. Check. Check.
They didn’t disqualify me for being single, but I sure did. I decide to press in, not being able to shake the feeling that I could do something for this world. I went to an informational meeting and the next thing I knew I was enrolled in classes and well on my way to a license. Could I do this? I was more than qualified, the things I assumed disqualified me, did not. The things I viewed as inadequacies were not in fact shortcomings but realities, things I only needed to work around. I was beginning to realize that I did in fact have the tools I needed, singleness being one of them.
The classes are a combination of scare tactics, designed to weed out potential predators and/or people who just aren’t ready for fostering and a ton of self reflection homework, revealing to us our own needs and strengths. As someone who loves self reflection, I was ready. The information was not surprising to me, I watched our full class of a dozen couples (and me) dwindle to 3 families at the end. The three of us stood together on the last day, unsure of what was to come.
My classes finished up and I began receiving calls for placements. They pair up your preferences with kids who need homes in the system, you get a call once they find a match and it goes something like this:
“We have a 8 year old boy who needs a home. Looking like a 3 month placement. Has the following behaviors (insert laundry list of flaws that the child has). Would you like to accept this placement, do you have any questions?”
So you make a decision, quickly based on a list of flaws of a stranger, you know is hurting. I am given the chance to talk with a worker who has worked with the child in order to get more information and I am also allowed to meet the child but in the end you have no idea what you are getting yourself into.
I got my feet wet with respite, temporary care usually just a few days to weeks. I took in a sibling group of three, 10, 7, and 5, their current foster home had been damaged in a storm and they needed to be placed somewhere else for a few weeks. Those three weeks, were a reality check, my life was changing drastically, think a fish flopping around out of the water. We survived and actually enjoyed each other, I was able to see them occasionally over the year until they were returned home. My respite kiddos got picked up on a Wednesday and I received a call for another sibling group 7, 5 and 3, my crew. I picked them up on Thursday, you can read about our first night together here.
We endured two years of foster care together, the ebb and flow, changes, questions, fears, tears, visits and court hearings. Those years changed us, we fought the hard battle and in hindsight I didn’t realize just how tired we were from fighting until the termination came through.
March of this year, the court order finally read termination, the fight was over. The bittersweet reality that the rights of two parents are severed and given to me, the line that once read birth mom’s name, was replaced with mine.
On we made our adoption final, we stood before the judge and a room full of our loved ones and declared forever to be a family. That was the moment we all sighed relief, the moment my kids really began to heal, change and feel safe. The moment we knew that nothing would ever separate us, we were a forever family.
Now that my crew has the security they have longed for we continue to open our home to foster care. We receive calls and decided together whether this child seems to be a good fit. I have watched my babies truly pay it forward. They inspire me, I have seen them love well, opening their hearts wide, grabbing the hands of those who need it.
Our story has some ache as well, my crew has a biological baby sister, who has come and gone from our home twice, she left our home for the second time this past June. Our hearts all ache for her and long for our family to be complete. Foster Care gets tricky, in order for us to have her, birth mom must fail, again. We have learned to always be waiting and ready for her return. We pray for protection and healing, wondering if this time rehab will stick for birth mom.
Over the two and half years I have been a mom, I have looked deeper in my heart, foster care and the reality that surrounds it. I have walked into courtrooms, therapy offices and DHS conference rooms, I have heard stories that make my stomach turn and break my heart, I have seen the faces of addicts, the brokenness of the system and it’s little victims as they cry. I have watched our baby come and go, the road has been long and at times it hurts but I can say in the last two years I have received an incredible gift, I have seen such beauty come from the ashes.
So my friends, if in the depths of your soul, that little flicker of a dream is there, press in. Look deeper and take the practical steps towards making that dream a reality. Maybe it is one more step, one more word or one more plan but do it, take the step to do that one more thing. I have discovered that there is unexpected blessings on the journey.
You can follow our family story here.
Julianna and The Crew