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.
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.
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.
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.
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.