Part One of Things I Wish I Knew Before We Started Fostering
This to me is the biggest missing piece of information in the adoptive community, and in our country in general. For years, (even as a teenager), if I ever heard anything about foster care or adoption, I had only heard people complain how expensive it is to adopt, how the legal fees are so great that only “rich” people can afford it… so I believed it, and stayed away.
In 2016, I really felt a stirring in my heart to adopt two children. I did not know who they were, or how to go about it, but I saw them in my mind and knew I had to find them. (I will share that whole story in another blog some day.) I felt it so strongly that I ran on adrenaline to answer my questions as quickly as possible, and make it happen because I felt this sense of urgency, this sense of now.
I started by literally cold-calling social services, explaining that I wanted to adopt two kids and asking how to go about that. They gave me a list of classes to take, agencies that could help, and recommended that we become foster parents first.
Foster parents?! No way. We were petrified.
One Week Prior:
I will always remember the day I shared with Tim about the dream I had seen in my heart. I sat him down, shared with him what I saw, explained how I felt, and told him that this was what I felt we needed to do.
I had never gone out in left field like this before, knowing so surely that we needed to do something, without Tim first either knowing or having some type of confirmation in his gut that verified my feelings. And it had certainly never been about adoption. We had never even discussed it, except in maybe fleeting emotional moments of wishful thinking in our 15-plus years together. It had never been the right time, our babies too little, our businesses too demanding, our schedules too full.
But now I knew. And I needed him on board.
He was quiet, thoughtful and he heard me out. He did not doubt anything I shared, but again, this really was left field. He was usually the visionary. He was usually the dreamer. Here I was, completely turning the tables on something we had never really considered before. He finally answered, “I know you hear from the Lord, Tar… How would it ever NOT be God to adopt?”
(I do seriously love that man.)
We were still petrified.
So we set up some parameters we both agreed on so we would feel safe in our newfound adoption journey: we would never foster, and it would be never be local. After all, what would we do if we ran into these kids’ parents at Walmart, or on the soccer field? What if they showed up at our house or their school? And the thought of giving them back after we loved them so hard? We couldn’t bear it. We knew our limits, and we knew we were wise to stick to them.
And God laughed and laughed and laughed at us.
After that phone call where DSS suggested fostering, we knew they weren’t hearing from the Lord (all sarcasm here), so we talked to a friend in church who was involved in social work her whole life and had recently retired. She spent hours on the phone with me listening to the vision I had for our family, and offering her advice. She suggested the best way to adopt these kids was through foster care. She listed off agencies to call and resources to use in our journey. I listened as my blood ran cold, thinking of the worst case scenarios Tim and I had feared.
The worst case scenario I had in mind first off was hanging up and relaying the information to him.
I scattered notes all over a scrap piece of paper as she talked, my heart beating so fast I could hardly process. Why in the world was fostering a good idea to these people?!
She calmly explained it all. When these children come in to care, they need a safe place to land. They need a place to heal when they are ready, and that healing process is not pretty. It is beautiful in an upside down sort of way, but it is not pretty. It is a process. And the purpose of foster care is supposed to be (always, always, always) to try to reunify these children with their biological parents. The process is messy, painful, and very often long and drawn out. If we were to swoop in as adoptive parents and just pick a child out of the available pool and move them in, how did we know if they were the right fit? How would we know if they would be happy with us? How could we tell if we all “clicked” if we just jumped in cold turkey?
I understood her logic but this was rocking all that was safe in my world, all that I had explained away in my head and justified under the banner of righteousness.
And there was still the big, looming question I did not have the guts to ask: How much would it cost?
I remember driving through town the Sunday afternoon I had first “seen” my kids and known what I needed to do. The sun was shining, my heart was on fire, I was so full of hope and excitement and life, nothing could stop me. But the cost?
“Okay Lord,” I remember praying as I drove. “I know what you want me to do, but how much am I believing You for? $10,000? $20,000? More?”
We really had no savings to speak of at that time, and I had several friends who were in the process of international adoptions and others who were going through a private agency for a baby. They were raising and saving upwards of $30,000 to make their adoptions happen, and the international ones required extended stays out of the country that we just knew were not the path for us to take. I had already brought four babies into this world and married my husband with a bonus baby out of the gate… there was nothing in me that wanted another baby, especially when ours was still in preschool.
So the unspoken question hung over my head like an unsolved mystery, weighing me down and hiding in the dark like a missing puzzle piece because I did not have the guts to ask it out loud.
I didn’t want it to come across the wrong way: “How much is it going to cost?” How could I ask that when we are talking about children, living breathing hurting souls that need homes, and I am asking how much it is going to cost me?
Of course I didn’t mean it like that, but I was so afraid of how it would come across. The only people who asked questions like that were the ones who were in foster care for the wrong reasons… right?
How far would you go to save a life, Tara?
I needed an answer because I needed to know how much I was believing God for.
In my phone call with my church friend that night, as we went through all the earth-shattering reasons why my safety logic with Tim was all wrong for all the right reasons, she just so happened to mention the fact that if we went the path of foster care, our adoption would be free.
I was sure that I had misheard her. Free up until what part, then?
It was free. All attorney fees and legal fees were handled by the state. What’s more, the state would give us a set amount of money to help us care for each child, and some of that money would stay with the child after the adoption. And oh by the way, they could keep their state health insurance and get two free years of local community college paid for by the state.
I will elaborate more on some of these points as we go on in the series, but I felt like this was the most important one to get out there, maybe because it was the biggest stumbling block for me.
I was afraid to ask, maybe for the right reasons, but I have wanted to explain that to every person I have ever met who seemed interested in adoption since that day.
If more people knew, maybe more people would consider it possible.
Please let me close all this with the understood catch-all that I am speaking from my story only, what I have been through in our beautiful state of Virginia. I am pretty certain that legal fees are covered across the nation regardless of state, but some states do differ in their support post-adoption.
Please also hear my heart that I support EVERY adoption of EVERY child that needs a loving forever home. If you choose international adoption, or agencies that work with birth mothers, or even private adoption… hallelujah and praise the Lord! God knows that I am forever grateful for the sweetest Ukranians I have met through their adoptions in to the United States, and I will snuggle and freely babysit any little one that comes in to this life any which way they come, foster, biological, adoptive or otherwise.
I just know that I didn’t have to worry any more about money after that day and that conversation. And my hope is that you won’t either. May you find the courage to take one more step toward the dream in your heart today, and may fear start to fade like dominoes as you face your next giant today.