Tuesday, May 18, 2010

For the Love of A Child

Meet my sister Christine.  In this picture she's holding Taylor on her 3rd day of life.  She looks so happy doesn't she?  Probably because she's holding a baby :)  My sister loves babies and she's always trying to get me to have more.  This is my favorite picture of her.  In the background you can see my Brother In Law James and their first born son Andrew, just shy of 1 year old. 
Fast forward 5 years, and oh so much has changed.  Her family has grown by 3 children, totaling 4 now, she's cut her hair, but she still loves babies.  She's still my crazy sister that loses her keys and always forgets something each time she visits our house, but my respect and admiration for her is beyond measure.  Now more than ever I am convinced that she is one incredible human being.

I briefly mentioned last week that my sister had found out on Mother's Day weekend that she and James were granted parental rights of Erica and that the official adoption process would begin.  If things go well, Erica will be their official adoptive daughter before the end of summer.  What I didn't mention is that Erica, along with their other 2 adoptive children, is a foster child.
I hadn't been too familiar with the fost-to-adopt system until Tina and James decided to go this route.  I think many people, like me, are familiar with the other 2 traditional ways of adopting, either via private adoption or out of country adoption.  For Tina and James, they knew the private adoption route would be too expensive for them, often costing families upwards of $20,000 before the process is complete.  The same goes for the out-of-country adoption route.  Families usually have to travel to the country they're adopting from, and sometimes even stay in the country for a certain amount of time.  With money as a factor, in addition to having a birth child of their own, they decided to go the route of fost-to-adopt.

Daniel was their first fost-to-adopt child and they received him when he was just 1 day old.  He was the 8th child born to his mother, and all of his brothers and sisters had already been taken away from her.  She had drugs in her system at the time of birth, and she was accused of child negligence after leaving her children alone for days at a time while she took off with her then boyfriend.
Two years later, after the birth mother was given at least 4 chances to prove she could get her act together, that is find employment, a place to live, and of course become clean and sober, the state of California terminated parental rights to her and granted Tina and James parental custody.  We as a family all went to the court house and filled the chambers to watch the proceedings.  It was a glorious moment.
In this picture we are all happy tears and smiles, but the road to get to this point was anything but.

Angie was the next child they agreed to foster-to-adopt (well technically the 3rd which I mention later).  She is the sweetest little soul and she has been in my sister's care since she was about 15 months old.
When you agree to become a fost-to-adopt family, you agree to of course take a child into your home as your own.  Loving and caring for that child, giving them a second chance.  But you also agree to opening up your home to countless visitors from the state, including attorneys, social workers, adoptive agency workers, Child Protective Services, the birth family, and on and on.  You also agree to potentially have your heart ripped from your chest when a child you cared for and loved for months, even years, gets taken out of your home and placed back with the birth family.  It's a huge risk, but a risk that Tina and James have been willing to take.

There are no guarantees with this system.
My sister can attest to that after a baby girl they loved for a year was taken away and placed with her birth father.

The foster system is not always kind, and is often flawed.  When Erica came to live with my sister, she had already been in 5 foster homes in the 2 years since she had been taken away from her mother.  She was missing 4 of her top teeth from neglect, undoubtedly from a poor diet mixed with lack of oral hygiene.  Besides the cosmetic damage, her heart was a bit damaged too.  She had "trust issues" as the state claimed.  Who wouldn't after being bounced around to 5 different homes in 4 short years of life?  It was a scary decision for my sister to bring an almost 5 year old girl into the family, especially one with some potential emotional scars.  People often view foster children as damaged goods and beyond repair, especially those beyond the baby stages.  Sometimes potential adoptive parents think it would be easier to just start with a fresh clean slate, ie, fresh clean baby.

But when she and James met Erica for the first time and they saw her toothy grin, their hearts melted and they just knew they had to bring her home.  It also made the decision easier knowing that they would be helping to keep a brother and sister together.  You see Erica is also Daniel's half sister.

Besides the risks involved, there are tremendous hurdles that are involved with fostering to adopt a child of the state.  I often think how harried and busy my life seems with my 2 young children, but then I think of my sister and all she has to juggle and I really don't know how she does it.  I did mention that she loses her keys often right?  This is what a typical week looks like for my sister:
     -Visit from State of California Social Worker x3
     - Visit from Serenity Infant Care Home x3
     - Drive foster children to scheduled weekly visit with birth mom and/or family x3
     - Drive foster child to therapist
     - Sometimes additional court visits if necessary
     - Various phone calls with State appointed attorney for foster child and adoption agency x3
This is on top of the normal day to day juggling act of taking children to school, soccer practice, swim lessons, etc.

And did I mention she is the newly appointed PTA President?  That really has nothing to do with being a foster parent, but just wanted to throw that in there because I'm so proud of her!

I think the waiting part of the fostering to adopt system has got to be the hardest part.  There is constant waiting with this system, that is unfortunately run like any other bureaucratic agency.  Waiting for hearings to be scheduled, waiting for judges to hear cases, waiting for judges to make decisions, waiting to see if the birth mom and dad will step up to the plate, waiting for the phone call that will determine your families fate.  It's excruciating. 

Of course when the foster family learns that their dream of adopting their foster child is going to come true, it's hard not to think about the mother whose dream has also been shattered.  I imagine losing a child that you bore has got to be the hardest thing to face, no matter what state of being you are in.

Today my sister took Erica for her goodbye visit with her birth mother.  She said there were many tears shed, and many kind words exchanged between the birth mother and herself.  She thanked my sister for loving Daniel and Erica as her own, and told her the only thing that was making this easier was knowing she would be in their home, where she would be loved.  My sister, while so happy to have Erica, expressed sadness and remorse for this mother whose life had spun so far out of balance that she lost her children. 

The decision to adopt is obviously very personal.  I have said before to my sister that I don't think I could do it, but I am thankful and appreciative for those that have it in their hearts to do so.  If you might be interested in learning more about the foster-to-adopt system, you can visit the Serenity Infant Care Home site, a nonprofit foster and adoption care agency here in Southern California.  They are the facility that has helped place her 3 foster children in my sister's home, and they are in desperate need for quality, loving foster homes.  My sister also recommends the site adoptivefamilies.com

Thanks so much for reading my sister's story.  We as a family are so blessed and appreciative of God's grace.  To have our family grow by leaps and bounds is a wondrous thing, and to know that 3 children are being given a second chance that they wouldn't otherwise have had is amazing.


  1. Praise the Lord for people like your sister.
    What a gift she is giving these children and what profound ways this must impact her own life!

  2. Your sister sounds absolutely amazing! No wonder you are so proud. Wish there were more people in this world that would be that selfless and giving towards children.

  3. Praise Jesus for your sister and her family's strength. They are truly glorifying God through their laughter, tears, trials, and tribulations. They are living out James 1:27!

    Thanks for sharing this!

  4. what an amazing heart your sister and brother in law have! it's so wonderful to hear that people aren't dissuaded by the bureaucracy the government has created. blessings to your whole family!!

  5. Andrea, that was great to read. Thanks for sharing.

  6. What an amazing family your sister has! This was such an informative, loving, and well written post.

  7. Great post. Your sister is so fun (and busy). There is a 5k walk to benefit Serenity Infant Care Homes on June 5th. You can register for only $20. It's a short easy walk and very family friendly. This is an event that a friend of mine started at our church. He and his wife adopted their daughter from Serenity about 12 years ago.


  8. What a great story - thank you for sharing it. Your sister and brother in law are very special people. What a blessing for your whole family!


  9. oh the tears are falling...your sister & her husband are saints amongst the masses, who are unaware that people can be sooo loving & giving...with the fear of these little children & babies being removed from them at any time...you obviously have a very strong and tightly loving family to all support them so wonderfully in this HUGE process...& that toothy grin is seriously a HAPPY one!
    thanks for being my 60th -that is a happy sign in itself!
    have a lovely day...
    melissa x

  10. That is wonderful! Those sweet, innocent children get a second chance. Congrats to your sister and husband for opening their hearts and home. It takes amazing people to do what they do!!

  11. Wow! Thank you for sharing such a story!
    I really enjoyed talking to your sister at the Craft Fair. What an amazing mama.

  12. Thank you all so much for reading my sister's story and all of the lovely comments. I spoke with her last night and she was so overwhelmed by all the support and encouragement. Even kind words from strangers always mean so much. Thanks again lovelies!

  13. Thank you for sharing Andrea! What a beautiful post. :)

  14. Thanks for emailing me. I'm so happy to hear that her stories are turning out happily. I'll be back.


Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment. I read and appreciate every single one. If you enable your email address I'd love to respond :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...