On a rainy, December evening, my husband and I crowded into a small room with several other parents and individuals at an adoption agency’s informational meeting. While they talked about all of the positives of adopting a child, they wanted us all to be prepared that the journey to be a forever home for a child in the foster care system wasn’t going to be easy.
At the time, we accepted these harsh realities, but we had no idea what they would really mean until we had these children in our home. While we wouldn’t trade our experiences for the world, it hasn’t been a journey without obstacles. Here is some of what we’ve learned along the way.
1. You won’t always get all of the information
When we received our first placement, we didn’t know what to expect. We barely had time to prepare ourselves mentally before three kids showed up at our door, clutching backpacks and looking unsure of the future. While we got basic information about the children who had just entered our lives, we didn’t have a whole lot to go on.
2. Most CPS case workers really want to help
The foster care system is not always everyone’s favorite government entity. But it has been our experience that those who devote their careers to being CPS case workers are generally really concerned about the well-being of the children they protect.
When we were placed with our current foster daughter, I watched her case worker stroke her hair, talk lovingly to her, and talk about all the fun she had taking her to and from visitation with her birth mom.
3. You will do a lot of waiting
From waiting to attend court dates to waiting for the day that you can call your foster children your own, there is a lot of waiting associated with the system. It is definitely an exercise in patience.
4. You will learn a lot about your marriage
When your home is filled with five children, and many of them are feeling the anger and frustration of being in a stranger’s home away from all they knew, it can be difficult to put your marriage first. But, if you decided together to be a team during these tough moments, then you will make it through to the other side stronger than you were before.
5. You will be surprised how quickly you fall in love
When I first laid my eyes on my biological children I was overcome with emotion. These tiny people were a part of me, and I instantly loved them. I watched their baby faces turn into toddlers and then into school-aged children. I know every scratch and scar.
Although I love children and we knew God had led us to adopt, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to love a foster child as much as my own, especially if they might someday leave. But, as I rocked them to sleep, smelled their freshly-bathed skin, and heard their belly laughs, I knew my heart’s true capacity. I could love these children completely, if only for a short time.
6. It is worth the struggle
Even though caring for a foster child is not always easy, it is so worth it. When you see that scared, quiet child who barely spoke when they came to your home smile, laugh, play and chatter about their day, it makes all of those difficult times disappear. In those moments, you can see that your efforts are making some small difference.
Jessa is the Editor-in-Chief of Hooray for Family and the mom of three energetic children. She has a BA in Mass Communication/Journalism from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and is a long-time resident of Central Texas. When she isn't writing and editing, she enjoys playing board games with her kids, teaching Sunday school and channeling her creativity into craft projects.