It all started with a phone call just past 6pm on May 12, 2020.
On the other end of the phone was a lady from the Children’s Aid Society wondering if we could take a little girl who had just turned 3 years old 2 months prior.
The catch is, she’s coming RIGHT NOW!
She explained that we don’t know how long she will need to stay; We learned a name and a few small details and that she could be living with us for quite a while.
We said yes and with just about 90 minutes notice, she arrived at our home and our entire world was turned upside down.
We had very little in our house to care for and entertain a child this young, but friends and family jumped into action and in no time, it looked like she had been here forever.
And, similarly, it ended at 3pm on April 9th, 332 days later, with a text message confirming that a judge had agreed that it was safe for her to return home.
We had known for a few weeks that this day was coming, so it wasn’t a surprise. Most of her things had already been transferred back home over the past few visits, so there was just one final drive left.
Her mom greeted us out in front of her apartment building, Joy helped her upstairs with a few things and we were off.
Commence ugly crying…😭
332 days can change everything.
Although I have been alive for over 15,000 days, it was the past 332 days that have had the most impact on my life for many reasons.
But, for those following our journey to having a family; before you start feeling sorry for us, give me a chance to explain how things have progressed over the past 332 days.
When she first came to our house, there were significant issues at home. There was a time when she didn’t see her mom at all for various reasons, but we’ve known from the first day she was here, that this little girl needed her mom.
We had video calls with her mom off and on, and then in-person visits started a few months in.
And as the past 11 months have progressed, we learned bits and pieces of the situation that lead to her being placed in the care of the Children’s Aid Society and it was tragic.
There were so many moving parts as to how and why this little girl was living with us.
Fast forward to the past few months or so and we started to see glimpses of a mother who was trying very hard to make changes. Overnight visits started and the little one was doing well after each visit. She had a great time with her mom and we were happy for them.
During this time we have gotten to know her mom pretty well and it became increasingly clear to us that the best place for her was at home with her mom.
But, there’s still one problem.
One reason that so many children end up in the care of the Children’s Aid Society is that birth parents are living in challenging circumstances and they just don’t have a strong or large enough support system to help if they encounter a difficult life issue.
Her mom didn’t have a great support system because her history also includes being in the care of Children’s Aid as a teen. She aged out of the system without getting adopted, and now she’s alone.
Alone with a 3-year-old. Not an easy situation.
The need for belonging, love and support doesn’t end at age 18, but that’s what happened.
I’ve often said that loneliness is one of the worst positions that a person can be in. As humans, we were created to be in relationship with people.
I look back on my own life and experiences and I know that if I were in trouble, I could call or text likely 25 people right now, and help would arrive – however that might look.
But, it’s not this way for everyone – and it wasn’t this way for her mom. She was doing the best she knew how to do.
For someone without a permanent family; where do they spend Christmas? With whom do they celebrate birthdays? Who do they call if they need a babysitter for a few hours? Who do they call when there’s a significant milestone to be celebrated or a life issue that requires help and support?
All of these things that I have taken for granted, were things she has been living without for quite some time.
For us, so much changed in the past 332 days.
- Obviously having a child in our home was vastly different than the previous 17 years of marriage. It took a lot of adjustment!
- Parenting a child who has experienced trauma is challenging and was a steep learning curve for us. It required patience that was developed through many hard days.
- And, I learned the shocking reality of the life challenges facing many in our society, that sadly, I had previously known little about.
In this case, now in her early 20’s, our little one’s mom needs people.
Maybe people like us?
Authentic friendships with people who have time and who care. People who have no agenda and people that will love unconditionally, even through the messy situations that come with a life that’s outside our “normal” experience.
While the system can provide a lot of support, it can’t take the place of friends, family and an organic support system.
We need each other.
Are we sad? Yes!
Are we happy? Yes!
We loved this little girl as if she were our own, and we still do. So in that sense, it’s difficult.
But, this little girl loves her mom with all her heart and her mom loves her – and now they’re together.
And Joy and I are eating ice cream because it makes us feel better. 🙂
The questions we’re going to get now are:
“Are you going to foster again?”
“Don’t you want to adopt your own child?”
“What about international adoption?”
All great questions and we just don’t know right now.
We’re definitely not opposed to fostering again, because the need is enormous, but we are just thinking through what our next steps are, and taking a little breather.
We know that we loved her and cared for her as much as we possibly could and now we have passed the baton to her mom who will take it from here.
We will watch from the sideline, cheering her on – and are ready to walk alongside her or step in to help in any way that we can.
If YOU can be one of those people in someone else’s life, do it. They need you.
For us, this is a detour away from what we thought our plans were a year ago; But it was a good one.
Sidenote: Here’s a plug for Safe Families. This is an organization that can help in situations like this, where help is needed and there’s nowhere to turn. If you can’t be a foster parent, there are other ways you can help.