Becoming A Foster Parent
“When I was called to foster, I thought God had made a mistake.” Me? No. No way. He must have misidentified me. There was no way I was going to join up to be a single mother. Nope. I am not your girl. That’s insane.
I’d had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with single mothers. I’d witnessed personally the courage and bravery required to be a single mum. I didn’t believe I had that kind of fortitude. I was neither competent nor qualified.
I’m unsure how telling God “no” has worked out for you, but it’s never worked well for me. So, with my heart racing and my voice shaking, I said sure. Please sign me up. I’ll take care of it.
I had been making monthly visits to a nearby orphanage for several years before becoming licensed to be a foster parent. Fostering and adoption have always been very important to me. I just thought it would be something I did after I was a little more settled in life or after I got married.
The wonderful thing about children in foster care is that they don’t care if you are competent and fit to be a parent. They only ask that you be open and ready to say yes to them.
It was like any other visit to the orphanage that freezing chilly January day, except there was a new precious 8-year-old boy this time. He drew my notice right away. His behaviors told me that his trauma was severe.
I departed there that day, heartbroken, hoping to see him again. I saw him once or twice a month for the next seven months. Leaving him was becoming increasingly difficult because he would cling to my thigh and beg me to take him home. And I would have if I were allowed to.
I’d depart, go home, cry, and beg God to provide a family for that precious boy. It turned out that I was the solution to their prayers. I was his extended family. I was supposed to be his mother. I didn’t realize it yet.
I knew the procedure of becoming a foster parent could be difficult. But, as fate would have it, right around the time I felt compelled to foster, the minister of the church where I grew up launched a program called Rescue 100. The initial goal of Rescue 100 was to have 100 families from our church and community sign up to become foster parents in one weekend through an expedited procedure.
Rescue 100 has evolved into a state-wide collaborative effort in Mississippi to recruit, train, and assist foster families by shortening the licensing procedure to one day of in-person training and some online training. In May 2016, I went to the first Rescue 100 training weekend. I was well on my way to becoming a foster parent, pending my house visits, background checks, and paperwork (lots of paperwork!).
I told my resource worker that I knew a little boy in foster care at a local orphanage and that I was willing to bring him home until they found him a forever home after I finished the process and was formally licensed. I was overjoyed to inform him during my next visit that I would be able to bring him home.
Except he wasn’t there when I arrived. I was heartbroken, perplexed, and irritated. I knew that little boy had come into my life for a purpose. I knew I needed to fight for his survival. I was aware of it. But I discovered myself standing there, not knowing if I’d ever see him again.
I conducted some research and discovered that he had been transferred to another orphanage in a town about three hours away. I began pounding on doors and draining phone lines and email channels. I was doing everything I could to ensure that I could bring him home.
Nothing was working. I was completely perplexed. A boy in foster care needed a home, and I was ready to provide him with one, but the agency refused without explanation.
After months of fighting but still believing I was supposed to assist this little boy, I told God that if this was truly what He had in store for me and him, He would have to show up and perform a miracle.
I stopped all the calls, all the emails, and all the visits to the agency, I stopped all the questions and all the fights. I just stopped. I received daily requests to take in other children but refused because it would leave me no room for Jeremy in case they called for me to take him.
Every phone call ended in tears because I felt like the worst human for saying no to hurting children. But I had hope that my boy was going to come home.
During this time, I’d often go to the gym on my lunch break. This day was just like any other day. I headed out to the gym, jumped on the treadmill, turned on my music, pressed start, and prayed. I prayed for my boy. I prayed for a miracle.
After three months of silence, my phone rang. I stopped the treadmill. ‘Hello?,’ I said. On the other end were the words I had been holding onto hope for. She said, ‘I’m Jeremey’s social worker, and someone mentioned to me today that you might be interested in taking him in. Is this true?’
She went on to tell me his situation was definitely going to be one of permanency. ‘Are you willing to adopt if needed?,’ she asked. Let me remind you, adoption of him wasn’t my goal. It was to give him a home until, ya know, the ‘other’ family God had for him became available.
I forgot about that plan and responded with a resounding ‘YES!’ Oh, and, ‘Where is he?? I’ll go get him now.’ She informed me I was required to make one visit with him to his orphanage before I could have him permanently. So, I loaded up my best friend and her son, and we hit the road that weekend.
We played hard, hugged him tight, and promised to return for him soon. Within a week, my boy was home.
I would be lying if I told you things from here out were a fairy tale. In fact, it was the opposite. Jeremy’s trauma runs deep.
You see, there were many days Jeremy was locked in closets, left hoping he might get a snack or a sip of water for the day. There were many days he wasn’t sure if he would make it out alive from being so brutally beaten.
I didn’t know what to do with all of his trauma. All I knew to do was to love him. To be available. To listen. To hold him. To be a mom.
The days were long and hard, and sometimes just flat out brutal. So much time off work was spent at his school begging his teachers to be patient with him. I often cried myself to sleep feeling like I wasn’t what he needed.
It also wasn’t ever far from me that well-intended people, often ones that loved me, told me countless times, ‘Maybe he would just be better with a family with a dad.’
Taking In His Siblings
After about six months of having Jeremy home and things starting to settle down a bit, we started making visits with his other siblings. We headed out one Saturday morning to attend our sibling visit like we had every other time, except once again, this visit forever changed my life.
The kids were tearing through the park, jumping off the slide, and hanging from the monkey bars while I stood there talking to another foster mom. That’s when I felt a little tug on my shirt. I turned around and there stood Jeremy’s brother Kendrick. I turned around and asked if he was okay or if he needed anything.
He said, ‘Are you Jeremy’s mom?’ I said, ‘Yeah buddy, I am.’ Then his crushing response come: ‘Will you be my mom too?’ I cried. I hugged him. I was speechless.
I couldn’t promise this sweet boy I would be his mom because no way was I going to take him and leave his little brother behind, and NO WAY was I going to take two more kids. Nope. I wasn’t doing it. FOR SURE not your girl, God. That’s real, real cute.
Remember when I told you about that whole telling God ‘no’ thing? Yeah, that’s cute too, but it still doesn’t work. My other two sons were home in less than a week and I was officially a single mom of three boys.
Well-intended loved ones once again reminded me how insane I was and that I was making a mistake. Some even walked away. And it’s okay. I know it’s crazy. Trust me. I’m living right in the middle of all the crazy, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Once again, things weren’t easy. Kendrick and Jayonne were full of trauma too. For months I laid in bed with Jayonne and held him as he asked me questions; questions I just didn’t have the answers to while he cried himself to sleep.
Kendrick put up a fight like I’ve never seen. He didn’t trust me because he had no reason to. Breaking through the barriers he put up around his heart almost seemed impossible to tear down. But little by little, we removed tiny pebbles at a time.
Eventually, I started to see glimmers of hope that they were starting to feel safe and trust me. My first Mother’s Day card from my oldest sweet boy, Jeremy, read ‘from sick and poor to nobody care, you chose me out of all.’ Can you even?! I think I cried for three days.
My youngest boy, my clown, my life of the party, my kind-hearted boy, started to recall days when he got punched in the face for getting a piece of cheese out of the fridge. Their stories never fall on a primed heart. They crush me every time like it’s the first one I’m hearing. This time was no different.
So, when he busted through the door from playing outside with his friends I once again wasn’t ready for his words. ‘MOMMA! MOMMA! My friends are hungry! Do you think you can make them some food?! I’ll invite them in. We can sit at our table and we can eat with them.’
Wait, my boy that used to live in fear to get a piece of cheese, that boy… He feels safe to ask his momma with full confidence to feed his hungry friends? I’m unworthy. But you better believe after I pulled it together, I served up chicken nuggets to about 10 kids like it was my only job.
As adoption was drawing near, my fears were mounting. Will I be enough? Am I sure I’m doing the right thing? Am I really what they need? Can I really do this? All the questions were consuming my thoughts and all the insecurities were setting in.
But as usual, God always shows up. We were headed to school one morning, everyone was quiet eating their candy that their Lulu (my cousin) had brought over for them the night before.
(No, I don’t always let my kids eat candy for breakfast, but whatever man. They were excited and some days that matter more.)
Out of the blue my middle son, Kendrick, broke the silence with, ‘Momma, can you please call the judge? He’s just moving too slow. Does he know? Does he know I need you to be my momma? Does he know? I’ll tell him. I need to be adopted. I can’t wait anymore.’
My boys waited three long years. Three years of holding onto to any little bit of hope that promised them a forever family.
And on April 1, 2019, I had the greatest privilege of adopting my precious boys, forever sealing in their hearts that they are home. Forever.
I’m not sure what you’re waiting for or hoping for, but I know you haven’t been ignored. You’ve been noticed, and your time has come. That device is on its way. Maybe you’re like me and just needed to be reminded that you’re enough and that you’re precisely where you’re supposed to be today.
In any case, I promise there is no better location to be than stepping into what scares you the most.”
Amy Pollard of Gulfport, Mississippi, contributed this story to us. Their trip can be followed on Instagram.