My husband and I are a blended family. I have two biological college-aged children, and my husband has three grown children and nine grandchildren. I had talked to my husband about possibly adopting when we got married almost 8 years ago, but he wasn’t interested in adoption at that time. Several years later, we spoke to a man at our church who has biological children and also adopted several children. Seeds were planted, and my husband became convicted that adoption is what God had for us.
We first looked into international adoption, but we were considered too old to adopt a baby or younger child. I was in my mid-forties and my husband was in his mid-fifties. Once I looked into it and what the age cutoff was, we turned to getting certified to foster babies up to the age of 5. We have had seven foster children through our home in the past two years.
Our placements have ranged from newborn to 5 years of age. Many of our children have had special needs. We’ve had newborns with drug exposure in utero as well as children with speech impediments and high emotional needs. There have been many needs, but we have never had children that were medically fragile. With our first placement, he was on the autism spectrum. When he made choices that were harmful to himself or didn’t listen to our rules in our home, I would ask him to think about the consequences of his choice. He always self-corrected his behaviors when asked in this way. Telling him no never worked. He did his best in a structured, one-on-one setting, so he required very persistent and routine care.
Our current foster daughter has sensory issues and can only say a few words. Right now, we’re excited that she is starting to learn to sign and has become more affectionate with us and others. She also interacts with other children now in an age appropriate manner. Small victories like this are the tip of the iceberg. There is so much work below the surface to get to that point.
We have been fostering for almost two years, and right now, I’m ready for a break to reassess this journey and the next step. Respite is much needed, especially in our area, so I would like to keep our home open to that even if we decide this season of fostering is over.
Some of the things I’ve struggled with have been the isolation of being with high needs children. That’s the biggest challenge for me personally. I get little to no support from my family. We are older ourselves, so our parents are too old to deal with young, special needs children. Fortunately, we’ve replaced their lack of support by reaching out to the foster care community and meeting people who know the struggles of fostering. We have formed strong relationships with these foster parents, and I’d advise new foster parents to reach out and build a large base of support.
Ultimately, I didn’t anticipate the sheer mental and physical exhaustion I would face, especially in my role as a stay-at- home mom and being with the kids constantly. I also wasn’t prepared for the strain it has taken on my marriage. We have never co-parented prior to fostering, so that has been a big adjustment for both of us.
To succeed as a foster parent, it really takes a heart for children, flexibility to learn new parenting skills depending on the foster child’s age and circumstance, teach-ability to want to learn and grow daily as a parent, humility to ask for help from others, and tenacity to fight for each child in a system that is terribly broken. When you can give it your all, you’ll be surprised how it’ll change you. For example, my husband didn’t think he could love a foster child as much as his biological children, but he has learned he loves our foster daughter the exact same and would lay down his life for them.
We had a goal to adopt. But this goal isn’t the only thing that matters. We wanted to help
kids born into hard circumstances, and we have done just that with seven children. We may not have reached our original goal, but we have been changed and grown by each of these children and their families. This would never have happened any other way.
[This interview has been edited for readability]
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