My wife and I were foster parents to our two daughters for almost three years before we got the incredible opportunity to create our forever family on National Adoption Day last year. What a ride it has been. We knew from the moment we married that we wanted children in our lives. However, having married later in our lives, a biological child was probably not going to happen. So, what now?
Soon after we married, we were introduced to the foster care agency run by our church. We had heard about the great things they were doing in our community in South Florida. It wasn’t long before we started talking about the possibility of becoming foster parents. We sought out a meeting with a representative of the agency, and before you knew it, we were in training.
When I look back, the last three years seem like a blur. About a week after our training ended, we got the call that a little girl was waiting for us. We were licensed for one child. However, when we got there, we quickly learned that there were two girls – sisters – who were removed from their homes that day. You can imagine the feeling we got when we realized we could only take one. How on earth were we going to separate two sisters? These girls had just lost their entire world, and now they would lose each other.
Yes, we took the older child home. But we spent the next six weeks updating our license. Pretty soon, both girls were in our home, and the rest is history. I can hear those two girls playing downstairs right now, as my wife is cooking dinner, and I can tell you there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for helping us make the right decision in keeping these kids together.
I must tell you though, I sure wish I had known a few things before we started. For one, I sure wish I had known that foster parenting is not like regular parenting. Sure, you do all the normal parenting things. But I had no idea until we got into it, how much we would have to fight for our kids. Between court hearings, family visits, paperwork, and all the other challenges, foster parents are asked to do things normal parents just don’t have to do. If I had known, I would have been more prepared. I can tell you there were many frustrating nights my wife and I spent discussing our next move. During those times though, we never wavered. Our goal was clear. Whether they were reunited with their biological family or stayed with us forever, we would fight every day for their health, healing, and wellbeing.
Another thing I wish I had known about foster care is how great the need really is. In South Florida where we are from, the county we lived in had more than 2000 children removed from their home in one year. Yet there were simply not enough foster parents to take these children in. We remember very clearly one day when we were made aware of nine newborns coming into care in one day. Not all of those babies made it into a foster family that night. Some were forced to go to a group home. Had I known the extent of the crisis, I would have become a foster parent years ago. I would have become more involved in the process somehow. Today my wife and I are always looking for a way to get the word out and make our community aware of the number of children in need.
Even though the journey was not always easy, foster parenting and adopting our children was by far the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Sometimes, people will find out I am a foster dad and say that our girls are so lucky to have me. That is a really nice thing to say, but my answer is always the same. I am the lucky one. I am so grateful they came into our lives, and I get to call them my family. Even if I had known more about foster parenting, it would not have changed my decision. My hope is that regardless of the challenges and the unknowns, that you can close your eyes, and take that leap of faith. There is a child out there that is depending on it.