The below column was written by a WCPO staff member. Because this column involves children, we have agreed not to name the author to protect her children's identities about this sensitive matter.
“I want Daddy! I want Daddy! I want Daddy!”
My son sobbed those words over and over and over on the night he arrived in our house.
We weren’t supposed to have a second foster placement so soon. We were still adjusting to life with the 15-month-old we had taken in only a month earlier. In fact, we had turned down two other placement calls in the weeks prior.
But there was something about this boy’s story that we couldn’t refuse. He was not even three and already his life was so complicated. He reached our home as a lanky little boy with one tiny backpack. It held a couple of T-shirts and shorts and a Winnie the Pooh blanket that was soft but smelled of vomit.
I knew I couldn’t cry along with him. I just held him for hours, whispering: “It's OK. I love you.”
This was the moment I thought I could never do. It was the anxiety about this moment that once made me say, “I can never be a foster parent.”
I share this to say one thing: I know your fear.
I know the heart that wants to help but worries that it will be messy. That it will be hard. Even worse, that you will open your heart to a child only to have that child removed and sent somewhere else. The fear that some relative will speak up at the last minute and take custody of that special boy or girl.
Don’t be afraid. Just love.
I knew my heart would be broken if a child I loved didn’t end up staying with us forever. I put up a stubborn front and said I couldn’t risk it.
Finally, my husband talked me into going to an orientation class just to listen. I learned that my county had the highest number of kids in need of homes in the state. I learned that there was a desperate shortage of people willing to answer the call. There were children born addicted to drugs, children verbally, physically or sexually abused.
Thousands of kids in my county alone who just needed some stability.
I realized a different heartbreak: the heartbreak of what happens in a child’s life if someone doesn’t at least take a chance.
So we took the chance.
The crying fits and the night terrors eventually stopped. Three weeks after we met our son, we celebrated his third birthday. I watched him blow out the candle on a Buzz Lightyear cake bigger than he was. He opened a mountain of presents, played in a sprinkler, kicked a football. He chased his new cousins. He hugged his new grandparents.
He started to call us Mom and Dad.
There were six months of ups and downs. Our little boy was inexplicably terrified of my grandfather. He had to be reminded over and over not to play so rough at daycare. But we also had first visits to the beach, first baseball games and nightly playtime in the tub.
Finally, the day came and a judge asked us, “Why do you want to adopt this child?” It’s a weird question to answer. In so many ways, he already felt like he was ours. He owned a piece of us. We wanted to change his life, and he had already changed ours. We wanted to adopt him because we loved him.
Foster care is not easy.
There will be days that child will rebel. There will be days that child will cry for someone else. There will be days that your case worker shows up for a surprise home visit just when your house is at it’s filthiest.
I ask you to be brave.
Be brave not for yourself but for the thousands of kids who deserve an advocate.
Don’t be afraid. Just love.
Interested in finding out more about being a foster parent?