Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Guest Post on Foster Care ~ A New Beginning

Over the past year and a half I have asked my friend Jenna to write a progression of blog posts detailing what her and her husband’s experience of being newly licensed foster care parents has looked like. Today I get to share an exciting ending/new beginning within their journey. If you need to get caught up to speed, you can read Jenna’s first two posts HERE and HERE.

And now the latest, in Jenna’s words….

Janel asked me to write a finale, so to speak, on our foster care experience so far and in particular the first 2 kids we had. Shortly after I had written the last blog post, the State of Iowa filed to have their parents’ rights terminated (5 kids/siblings total). In the fall of 2012 we went to court and it was very obvious to everyone involved that the best choice for the kids was to have rights terminated and to be adopted by new families. So after some appeals, in January 2013 the termination was fully granted on all 5 kids, including “A” who we still had with us. So at this point we had to make the decision whether or not to make her a part of our forever family. It really wasn’t much of a choice for us as God had clearly woven her into our family already and she was already starting to call us Mom and Dad. We did spend time praying about this, making sure this was the right choice for her and for us and ultimately it was. So we proceeded with the adoption of “A”!

I had written previously that “J” had moved on to another foster home to be with the oldest brother of the siblings. He and the oldest brother will be adopted by that family on May 8th of this year. He continues to have the hardest time of all the kids, but he is finally working through a lot of the struggles and his new foster mom has been amazing for him and to him. We still get to see him whenever we want and have a great relationship with his new mom to be.

When you decide you want to adopt there is a lot of paperwork involved. One of the papers we had to fill out was whether or not we would change her name. It was the last piece of paper we filled out. We wrestled with this idea of changing her name for as long as we could until they had to have the paperwork back. In my heart I desired very badly to change her name and give her a fresh start in every area. On the outside, it seemed kind of weird to both of us. She was 6 years old, already had an identity in her old name, friends at school, biological family she would still get to see. What in the world would people think? I had a friend over one day and told her how I was feeling and the different thoughts we’d had. I mentioned that we had pretty much decided to keep her name the same because it was the right thing to do. She flat out said, “You need to change her name. Just do it.” She told me she thought God was trying to give me the desire of my heart and I was getting in the way. Immediately my mind was led to Psalm 37:3-5 which says, “Trust in the Lord and do what is good; dwell in the land and live securely. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.” After that I told Nate that I thought this was what we were supposed to do and we needed to talk to 'A' about it. When we did, ‘A’ immediately said yes, I want to change my name and I love the name Avery (which was the new name we had suggested and wanted to give her). She never once waivered from that first reaction and has done incredible with the adjustment to her new name. It was as if a weight had been lifted from her and she could now have a new name with a new family and it was an amazing thing for her. For her and for us, changing her name was absolutely the right thing to do and it was an amazing gift God gave us during this transition. And yes, some people do think we’re crazy but we are just learning that it comes with being foster parents. :)

March 13, 2013, we officially welcomed into our family Avery Grace Wykle!
She has been with us since September of 2011, so I honestly wasn’t sure if I would ‘feel’ different or if she would feel different just because we went in front of a judge and signed a piece of paper (well several papers actually). But it ended up being a very big deal and we all feel different. She went from calling us Mom and Dad 50% of the time to 100% of the time like a switch went off in her heart. For her, it was a huge deal. She could identify herself as Avery Wykle now and identify us as her Mom and Dad, and that has really made a huge difference in her overall demeanor and her behavior. Max now calls her his sister, which before she was given the title of ‘foster sister’. She refers to Max and Mya as her brother and sister. She was even so excited because now she gets to go to the same dentist that they do. :) Weird, I know, but she has a complete sense of belonging now and no more wondering about where she’ll be in a month or year from now. We had our extended family there at the court hearing as well as 3 of her biological siblings. We just had an awesome day celebrating. When we got home her exact words were, “I LOVE adoption day!” It didn’t hurt that she got lots of gifts, too. :)

I would love to say that everything has been perfect the last 18 months, but it definitely has not. I spent the first 12 months building an emotional wall in my heart, telling myself this little girl is not my child, she has a mom, she will more than likely go home - but I will fully love her and take care of her in a sacrificial way because I know without a doubt this child was handpicked by God to be in our home. So once termination of her biological parents’ rights happened and all the appeals had gone through, we were left with the decision to adopt her or not adopt her. I had obviously thought about this for a while but it was now reality. There was really no doubt in either my heart or my husband’s that she was going to be our daughter forever. She is an amazing little girl and our bio kids don’t know life without her. Our extended family has accepted her as their own more than I could have dreamed.

I do want to share in complete humility the struggles I have had in my own heart with attaching to Avery. On the outside I see her as my daughter. She IS my daughter. I meet all her needs physically and try to emotionally. But on the inside I am still struggling to attach fully to her. I don’t know how to describe it exactly but I have this built-in love and grace for my bio kids that I just plain don’t have for her….yet. I know that God is big enough and powerful enough to give me the desire of my heart and place that unconditional love for her in me, but it just hasn’t happened yet. My prayer is over time this will naturally happen. I write this because sometimes people can look at a picture of a family who has adopted or see them out and about and think things are perfect. I don’t want people thinking of adopting or fostering to have unrealistic expectations of fuzzy, warm feelings towards a child you’re adopting. Some people absolutely do have that and not all situations are the same. But the more I talk to adoptive moms, the more I am finding that the feelings I struggle with are the same ones they struggle with. And for whatever reasons, dads don’t struggle with this as much. Nate and her have an amazing relationship already. I also know if I only obeyed God when I felt like it, I would probably not be doing much obeying. Just because I don’t always ‘feel’ love towards her does not mean I am wrong or that we made the wrong choice. I simply have to surrender every single day to God and His design of me and of her and trust that He alone is going to do a transforming work in our bond. She is my forever daughter and she was handpicked for our family just the same way our biological kids were knitted together in my womb. We have an unbelievable opportunity to raise this little girl as our own and give her hope of a new life that she would not have had before. Not a life of wordly things but a new life of being able to teach her about the One True God.

I could never have imagined in a million years that when that little brown eyed girl walked in our door in September of 2011 that I would someday become her forever mom. I have so many hopes and dreams for her, but the verse that I pray over all my kids is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind,” Matthew 22:37. My prayer is she will love God with every fiber in her and be a voice of hope someday for other kids in her situation. The night of her adoption Nate was putting her to bed and she asked him why we became foster parents. He explained to her the best he could and then she asked, “Well, why aren’t other people foster parents?” He said he wasn’t sure, and she said “Well, that was really nice of you to want to do that.” :)  He then told her that maybe someday God would use her to be a foster parent and help kids. We are beyond blessed that God has allowed us to be a part of his humongous God story and we pray our lives will be marked with obedience. We would both love to be foster parents until we’re 80 years old, but more than that, we simply want to obey what God shows us as the next step.


1 comment:

heididh33 said...

Love this post and the honesty. Thanks for sharing!