Letting Go while Leaning In: A Fost-Adopt Journey

Jessica Ray, FCNI Staff
March, 19, 2019 -

We did not start our marriage necessarily intending to adopt. We experienced infertility, but quickly realized that there were many ways to become parents. When we learned about the countless number of girls in orphanages in China that needed a family we decided to pursue adopting internationally. It took five years to adopt our now eleven year old daughter, and once we became parents we knew we wanted to adopt more kids. We did not start our parenting journey with adoption in mind, but honestly we cannot imagine loving our kids more than we do or feeling a stronger bond than we have developed with them.

When we moved to the Central Coast about four years ago, our daughter began to express that she wanted a sibling. When we started exploring adopting from foster care we connected with Family Care Network. We began the process thinking we would be doing a very clear-cut adoption. We knew that that we would have to foster a child for six months before being able to adopt them, but we didn’t realize how long the process would actually be.

After we started to attend the foster parent classes at Family Care Network, we felt like most of what we were being taught was not completely new to us, but we did realize that we had a lot to learn about the fost-adopt process. Our favorite training class was on Trauma-Informed Care, and one of my favorite experiences was visiting an FCNI foster home and having the foster mom show us the different ways that she facilitated a “trauma-informed and peaceful environment” in her home to promote a healing environment for the kids she cared for.

On the first day that our son was placed with us as foster parents, the county social worker told us that the team’s goal and expectation was to reunify him with his biological family. That first night was very strange for us. We jumped into the process intending to adopt a child, but then we quickly realized we were going to have to let go of our hopes and expectations. We knew before fostering that we would have to prepare our hearts for the chance that the children placed with us might reunify with their family, but to find out that this was the clear plan and intent for our son was very hard for us. We really searched our hearts and prayed, and very quickly decided that if we were only going to have him for a time, we were going to love him with everything we had and serve our purpose in his life.

One thing that we did not anticipate through the fost-adopt process, however, was how much love we would grow to have for our son’s biological family. I didn’t have a grasp of this side of foster-adopt until we found ourselves in it. We learned very quickly that we can do hard things. If someone had asked us prior to entering the fost-adopt process if we could handle the difficult and awkward situations we’d find ourselves in, we probably would have said no. I don’t think that the team intended for us to be put in such difficult positions with our son’s family, but we discovered that we did have the capacity for it. Even today, after the adoption, we still have some contact with his biological family to share updates on how he’s doing. We want to make sure that when our son is an adult he has the option for contacting them and developing a relationship on his own terms.

When our son first came to us, he had some aggressive behaviors. We have observed that the more he is able to communicate, the less aggressive he becomes. We noticed the biggest decrease in his aggressive behaviors when our adoption process was coming to an end and that we knew for sure that we would be adopting him. The Early Intervention program helped us know what he needed therapeutically, and it helped us a lot to have someone to talk with to tell us what behaviors were normal at every stage of his development and placement with us, and how to best handle them in ways that would help him heal. For a while, our son also had a play therapist that helped us work through some attachment issues and to develop more trust with him. There was one season when he seemed to regress into baby like behaviors, and having professionals to talk with to let us know how to handle the regression was very helpful. We also noticed that when we knew that our son would be a permanent part of our family, that our daughter also relaxed and really bonded with him whereas before she had been very guarded. Another part of our support team that we found invaluable was the adoption support groups we attended. We found family and connection in that group of people pursuing this process that only families in it can truly understand.

Looking back, it doesn’t seem like the entire process to adopt our son took very long, but at the time it seemed like it would never end. The team went back and forth a few times with their attempts to reunify him with his biological family, but finally the court decided after some appeals that it was in our son’s best interest to be a part of our family. When our son was placed with us, he was a year old, and when we adopted him he was three. Our official adoption day was at the courthouse in January. We had 45 friends and family members join us for his adoption day, and held a party that night with everyone to celebrate. Our son was overwhelmed, but very excited to be getting presents from everyone. He had been with us for so much of his little life that he probably felt that he had always been a part of our family.

For families considering adopting from foster care, we would say that the process is hard but it is worth it. Learning about “concurrent planning” and then living through one is completely different. It’s a great concept to be working on several avenues for finding the best family for a child at the same time, but it is NOT easy to be one of the options and avenues, and not knowing for sure if a child you feel so much love for will end up with you or not. The moment we first saw our son we knew that we wanted to keep him and our hearts were invested. We had to dig deep to find the strength to let go, and that was not an easy process to live through. But we knew that he would always be a part of our hearts. But we are thrilled that our son is forever a part of our family.