Jennifer Jones and her husband had a faith-testing experience as they transitioned from foster parents to adoptive parents. Jennifer shares her thoughts with us here.
It finally happened! On April 22 we adopted our son! It's been such a long time coming, and I've been waiting so long to be able to write this, so I have couple thoughts on it.
Adopting through Foster Care
We first began the adoption process back in 2007 and were approved in early 2008. Part of being approved was attending classes on adoption. At one point on a Saturday, a woman came and talked to the group of us about adopting through foster care. At the end of her presentation (and really, at the beginning, too) I thought, “There is no way I would ever go that route—so many things not to like about it.” Let me count the ways:
1. Birth parent involvement. Isn't it so much better to just get a baby and do it all yourself?
2. Damaged children. Things like attachment issues and possible issues stemming from neglect or abuse.
3. No certainty. Who would want to bring children into their home only to see them leave again?
But let me answer those concerns from my perspective seven years later.
1. Birth parent involvement. I'm not going to pretend that this isn't also the hardest part of being a foster parent, but it has been surprisingly rewarding as well. Hard parts: Being hated for what you're doing and there's nothing you can do about it. Having less control over the child's life than if they were yours. Being judged for your style of parenting (true, all parents feel judged, but not usually by their children's biological parents). Despite all that, it is a really neat thing to be involved with another family too. In our church we talk about supporting the family. I have found no better way to support families than to work actively toward keeping a family together. I've been a cheerleader. I've tried to be a positive example for good parenting. (Ugh! I can't even write that! I feel like I fail as a parent every day!) I've rearranged my schedule and driven many, many miles so that I can help with visits. I've done what I can to keep our son's birth family in his life so that he can maintain that connection as he gets older. Can I even say I've made some friends? I would say that, aside from the kids, the birth family has been the best and hardest part.
And as a small aside, I'm proud of myself for facing my (embarrassing) fears of people who are different from me—different races, different cultures, different economic backgrounds. It's been nice to not be so afraid.
And as another aside, this post doesn't sound like it because I'm writing from a specific perspective, but I'm glad to realize that "those parents" are a lot like all the parents I know.
2. Damaged children. There are no guarantees in life—for anything. But I was seriously afraid of having a child who was … I think you all have heard the stories. But even if our son ends up having serious anger issues or whatnot, the fact is that because I love him like I never thought I could love someone, that seems at least approachable and manageable (easy to say when he's three and a half!).
3. No certainty. I have to admit, this was hard. He's been living with us for over two years, and there's been a lot of up and down about his future with us, even though we had the expectation from the very beginning that we would eventually adopt him. We've also had other children in our home who we haven't ended up adopting. People ask me, "How can you let a child go like that? Doesn't it just break your heart?" Maybe I'm a hard-hearted person, but no, it doesn't (see number 1). Of course I miss them, but I didn't set myself up with the (serious) expectation that we would adopt them. I can't say for sure how I would feel with my son if he'd ended up leaving. The thought of it turns my stomach. But I assume I would have had a similar "c'est la vie" attitude if it was moving toward that point. But I can't imagine it. It's too painful.
Overall thoughts about adopting through foster care: It's not something to do just because you want to adopt. But I see no other way our son could have come into our life, and he just fits into our family so perfectly.
I will try not to let my monster of jealousy out for this one. When I hear about people who adopt (a) infants after (b) waiting for a couple of years, I think, “What the?!” What I wouldn't give to have known my son all his life. The part about waiting years, though, I'm at peace with that. Like I said above, we started the adoption process back in 2007 (really, 2006, but we couldn't get approved until 2007). That's a lot of years, folks. If I were competent at arithmetic, I would tell you how many. OK. I'll figure it out. Nine years-ish. That's a long time, no matter how you slice it. What was so wrong with us back then that NOBODY picked us? In fact, nobody has still picked us. I guess that's the hardest part: being rejected. Rejected through silence.
But whatever. The thing that matters most is that our son wasn't born back in 2007! He wasn't born until 2011! So there was no possibility of him being with us back then! And if we had had children, would we have taken the path we did through foster care to get him? (See above.)
I learned a lot through waiting. I'm not a very patient person (all right, everyone says that). I'm more patient than some and less patient than others. I don't remember where I first heard of the idea of zen, but I think it was here in Wisconsin, and it was really life-changing. I remember one instance where I practiced it actively. I dropped a whole loaf of sliced banana bread on the ground and it had to be thrown away (I think). I consciously made the decision to not be upset about it because there was nothing I could do about it anyway. That's kind of the point I got to with waiting for a child. What's the point in being angry or anxious over something you have no control over? It helps with being a parent too. Harder to practice, though. :)
I'm not sure if this post was a rousing advertisement for becoming foster parents, but I hope it was. Being a foster parent has helped me and gave me a son and two sometime daughters. So that's pretty great, too, no matter how it's sliced.