We are mixing it up this week on the Honestly Speaking Podcast, as Mike heads over to the other side of the microphone, where he is interviewed by Sandra Flach, from Justice for Orphans ministry, and he shares what HE and Kristin have learned from their own 16-year adoptive journey.
Mike and Kristin have 8 children ages 8-31 whom they have adopted over the past 16 years. They have adopted domestically through both private adoption and foster to adopt. Mike and Kristin have faced many struggles along the way including learning how to parent children who have FASD and having a child in residential care. You know and love them already as the founders of Confessions of an Adoptive Parent. Here’s your chance to hear how the idea for Confessions was birthed, and to find out more about Oasis Community, our monthly membership site!
*Editor’s Note- This is a guest post by our good friend Lisa Qualls. She is a writer, speaker, mom of 12, and the creator of One Thankful Mom
, where she writes about motherhood, adoption, faith, and grief. Lisa is a mom by birth and adoption. Along with her husband Russ, their adoption journey has been marked by joy as well as challenges of trauma and attachment. You can visit her blog here
, and connect with her on Facebook here
Out of all the twists, turns, triumphs, and defeats that are often a part of the foster care journey, there are beautiful blessings in disguise when you least expect it.
You know what surprises me most – what I would never have expected? The relationship we have with my Zoe’s* family.
Last week Zoe’s mom had one of her regular weekly visits with Zoe and her sisters, but this time it was at our house. When I arrived to pick her up, she had ingredients for a meal packed in grocery bags, ready to cook for her kids when she got here. The little girls were dropped off by their foster mom and quickly ran outside to play with my son while their mom cooked and chatted with Zoe at the kitchen island.
It’s a question we’ve been asked quite often. We’ve even asked ourselves this question a time or two when we were still fostering. The answer is, yes! And here’s why…
“I gave up being a foster parent because I couldn’t stop getting attached to the children I cared for. Every time one of them left, it hurt. Figured it was best if I just stopped putting my heart out there like that. I always ended up sad and depressed.”
Her words echoed off the concrete pillars of the bus station we were sitting in. As passengers hustled past, her face fell solemn. I could tell she didn’t really mean the words she was saying to me. I could see the heartbreak in her eyes. But out of defense for her tender heart, she held her emotional wall in place. Her graying hairline, and wrinkles under her eyes, told a story void of words. Life had been hard on her. With every ounce of sadness she swallowed, with every emotion she forbid to show itself, regret silently burned a permanent spot on her face.
We were foster parents for 9 years. They were extremely long and difficult at times. To be honest, we almost quit, especially when it seemed that we couldn’t take one more day. But looking back we are eternally grateful that we didn’t give up. We would have missed out on several big blessings!
I get it! Let me just say that clearly before we go too much farther. I completely understand why people want to walk away from foster care altogether. If you’re not dealing with difficult case managers, a court system that says one thing but does another, birth parents who continually bail on visitations, you’re dealing with children who are pushing you to your absolute limit!
Adoption and foster care can be lonely. Special needs parenting can be even lonelier. Our families have unique circumstances, needs and stories. Often we are so desperate to share our experience with others that we miss the warning signs that a person is not trustworthy.
A few years ago, I met a lady at the park. A quick look at the slew of children between us showed that we had something unique in common. We both had multi-racial families. I watched her kids curiously across the playground. I sized her up as I counted the children she was minding. One, two, three, four, five. It could be a daycare, or maybe a play-date. I noticed that all five were calling her “Mommy.” My five were swarming around hers thankful for new friends. She struck up a conversation with me as I sat on the park bench bottle-feeding my foster daughter. My initial assessment was correct, she was a foster and adoptive mom.
In the 9 years that we served as foster parents, we met very few case workers who were active foster parents. We always found this odd, especially since we were relying on them to give us guidance and support on the difficult road of foster care.
I get it. I really do. The foster care system is a mess, and case work is hard, regardless of the state you’re from. It’s hard to find a case worker who is not both grossly overworked and grossly underpaid. The turnover rate is beyond measure.
In our time as foster parents we met some fantastic case workers with energy, passion to love children, and a dream change the system. With nearly everyone like this, however, we became sad because we knew they wouldn’t last. We were certain that in a year, or less, they would move on to greener pastures, better paying jobs, and fresh opportunities, because it was too much. Or too little.
It has been said that hindsight is always 20/20. As I look back, 12 years into the past, to our first year as foster parents, there are some things I would change if I had the chance.
I was driving my oldest son to school a few mornings ago when he began to ask me questions about the first few months he lived with us. I began to reminisce with him. It was the summer of 2004, it was hot, I was busy working full-time, traveling a lot, and we had little to no clue what we were getting ourselves into. But we were excited.
One of the most frequent questions we hear from people who are considering foster care is, “I’m just afraid that….” We understand because we’ve been in that trench. But for different reasons than you might expect.
We had already grown accustomed to judgment, stare downs, and the typical passive-aggressive comments. Heck, in our first 2 years of foster parenting alone, we received our fair-share. Par for the course as far as we were concerned. We had long since moved past the fear of that. In a weird sort-of-way we embraced it as normal.