One family. Two years. Eight children.
That’s a quick summary of our life. When people who don’t know us ask about what it’s like to be a foster family, they usually don’t ask more questions. But I can see the questions in their eyes as they look at all the kids with me. They judge us, and you can see it on their faces when they say, “Well, I could never do that,” and then go back to their own lives. “I could never do that.” So, let me answer the questions you’re scared to ask. Sit down, relax, and let me tell you about it.
Hi Grace, a little baby girl was left alone at the hospital. She doesn’t have a name yet. We need to take care of her for a little while until we find her a nice home. Can you come and get her in an hour?
We were at Target, picking out pants for the 12-year-old we were taking care of when I got a phone call. Without saying anything, my husband and I agreed to help. We quickly got some clothes and diapers, picked up a car seat from home, and 45 minutes later, we held a sweet little girl named Safe, who became part of our family.
4 months later.
“Hi, Grace. The doctor wants us to take Safe (we can’t change her name) to the kids’ hospital. It seems she wasn’t examined when she was born, and there might be some things we didn’t know about. Can you come back from your vacation early to take her to this appointment?”
We set up an appointment. They used her real name on the speaker, “safe surrender”. People stared at us as we went to the nurse. They didn’t say it, but I could tell they were thinking, “Why did her parents give her that name?” The doctors did many tests on her heart, kidneys, and spine.
They found some problems since birth that need a few surgeries and some time with a special bag. We had more tests, appointments, and had to explain to the doctors why our baby has a unique name.
“Hi, Grace! I got your message. She has some serious medical needs. Do you think your family can take care of her? We might need to move her to a special home if necessary.”
We took care of it. We stayed with her when she woke up from surgeries. We hugged her when she was sad. We learned how to take care of a colostomy bag. We bought things we needed and paid for them ourselves. We got her new clothes that fit with the colostomy bag.
We saw her get better. We saw her start to trust us. We loved her, and she got better. She had another surgery when she was 10 months old to fix the colostomy bag, and she never had problems again.
“Hi Grace, we put a message in the newspaper to find Safe’s dad, but nobody has answered. It seems like Safe might need a new family through adoption. Would you like to be Safe’s new mom or dad?”
I want to stop my story for a bit. Our fostering journey is really about one simple thing: hope. Hope means waiting and wishing for good things to happen. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t make us saints (really good people). But it makes us believe that there’s more and better things for families going through tough times and kids who are feeling sad.
Sure, let’s talk about the questions you might have but haven’t asked yet.
“How can you care for lots of kids and then let them go back to their homes?”
I really, really hope that the families of those people have figured out better ways to deal with tough times. I also hope that we’ve made strong and important connections with their original families. And, I hope we get to meet them again, but in happier situations.
“How do you deal with really bad behavior?”
Believing in good things helps. When we feel really angry, it might actually be because we’re sad inside. If we can handle the anger, there’s a chance we can reach the sadness. And if we can reach the sadness, we might be able to start feeling better.
“How do you handle all the changes happening in your home all the time?”
I believe that even when things suddenly change and might be scary for kids, our home can be a safe and comforting place for them. I’m hopeful that we can help them feel better and get used to a new way of living together.
“I would feel really sad all the time. How can you even stand listening to their stories?”
Every night, I wake up many times because kids need me. I sit in a rocking chair for a long time, holding small bodies and comforting them until they stop crying. I help with injuries, give medicines, participate in special therapy at home, and fill out a lot of forms asking for different kinds of help.
I also listen to a little kid talk about scary things at home and see a teenager struggle with feeling sad. I keep checking the fridge to show the kids that there’s always food. I go to meetings where we talk about how to help kids in school, and I speak up for them.
But you know what else I do? I cry. Some days are really hard, and I ask my husband if I can stop because it feels like too much. But he tells me that having hope makes everything feel lighter. So, every day, I take a deep breath, hold on to hope, and start all over again.
Now, let’s go back to our story.
“Hi Grace! Great news! We’ve picked a date in March for your adoption party! You can invite anyone you want. Some social workers will be there too because they want to make sure everything goes well.”
At ten o’clock on 3/14/18, I stood up in a special place. I promised to tell the truth. I saw our friends and family, 75 people who took time from their day to celebrate with us. I looked at my husband and the sweet little girl who lived with us for 14 months. Her name, Safe Surrender, showed how she came into the world. She lost a lot, but we hoped for a better future. I talked a bit, and then…
“Grace, what name did your family choose for her?”
I looked at my daughter, and when I replied, she smiled at me really big.
“Her name is Arya. Arya Hope.”
She is 3 years old and really funny! We recently celebrated the day she officially became part of our family for the second time. We’re taking care of other kids too – Arya has an older foster sister, an older foster brother, and a little foster brother.