With big dreams come the possibility of worst nightmares.
Ever since Aaron and Meredith King became foster parents to two toddlers, the Oakwood couple have had the highest moments — hearing their girls’ first words, seeing their first steps — and the lowest thoughts — wondering what their lives would be like if the state took away the children that have become the Kings’ own every way but legally.
The Kings have chosen one of three paths available to foster parents. They could have provided respite care, a situation in which they would help parents who foster full time. Or, they could have become foster parents, where they took care of children until the state either reunified the child with the parent or another family member. Or, they could opt for foster-to-adopt, a scenario which means they accept children with the intention of adopting them.
Having chosen the latter, the couple knew they would face obstacles.
“Parenting is hard, regardless, but it’s also hard to know that it could all end,” Meredith said.
The odds against adoption are there.
From September 2013 to August 2014, only 19 percent of foster children in Hall County were adopted. However, 55 percent of foster children in Hall County were returned to their families.
“It’s a waiting game,” Meredith said of the process.
Here’s what else she had to say about the foster-to-adopt process:
Q: How would you describe the difference between parents who are fostering and parents who are fostering-to-adopt?
A: The majority of families that foster don’t necessarily do so with the intention to adopt. They have a desire to bring children into their home and care for them on a temporary basis until reunification with the child’s birth family is achieved. Unfortunately, reunification with the birth family is not always possible, and in that instance, other permanent placement, or adoption, is necessary.
My husband and I knew from the beginning that we ultimately wanted to be placed with a child/children who would likely become available for adoption, so our status as a foster family is foster-to-adopt.
Q: What drew you to foster-to-adopt?
A: It wasn’t long after my husband and I were married that we began having conversations about adoption, even before trying to have children of our own. It was not a foreign concept to us, as we’ve had several friends travel down the road of adoption to add to their families.
There’s no question that the need for foster and even adoptive parents is huge right in our own community. The main motivation behind why we foster and desire to adopt is the conviction the Lord has placed in our hearts from his word in James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress...”
God doesn’t ask us to care for these children. He commands us to. It is our job as the church, as believers in Christ, to care for these children. We feel that it shouldn’t be a burden for the government to fulfill, but for followers of Christ, according to Scripture. And what better picture of the Gospel than adoption? God has brought us, as believers, from a dark place, without hope, and has adopted us as sons and daughters to be his own. We love to see children, who were needy, scared, without a home, become a part of loving families through adoption.
Q: What sort of emotions come with bringing children into your home, with the hope that you’ll be able to eventually adopt them?
A: Not having any children of our own, I don’t think we really knew what to expect at first. Would we be good parents? Would we attach with them quickly? Would our families attach with them quickly? What kind of scary situations would they be coming from and what would the repercussions of those situations be? Would they be medically fragile? What if we attach so well with them and then have to give them back? Our emotions were and still remain on a constant roller coaster ride, both for ourselves and for the children in our care. We definitely didn’t expect to fall in love with the girls in our home almost instantly. Early on, I would pray for the Lord to not let me love these children so much because I just knew the more my love grew for them, the harder it would be to let them go if I ever had to. Once I realized how selfish my prayer was, I began to be able to love these girls with abandonment, knowing that it isn’t about me, but them. The day we got our second foster daughter, I’m pretty sure my husbands words were “I’m done”...meaning, his heart was filled to the full with love that he just didn’t think he could take anymore. We ask God every day that he would find favor on us to allow us to be these girl’s forever family, but that ultimately his will be done. The emotion of uncertainty for their future as well as ours is far overshadowed by peace as we trust in God’s Sovereignty.
Q: Do you think it is easier or more difficult to be in a foster-to-adopt situation compared to a foster situation?
A: I think both situations are difficult. Being a parent in general is really hard work. Being a foster parent has many added stressors. When the girl’s first came into our care, I felt completely overwhelmed with phone calls from people I didn’t know, doctor’s visits, feeling like my house always had to be presentable because of the numerous people that had to come out to see the girls. So from that perspective, foster care is difficult no matter your status. I know having to say goodbye to a child you’ve grown to love as your own would never be easy, but families who desire to strictly foster know in their minds and hearts from the beginning that their care is likely only temporary. Maybe this makes the goodbyes a little easier as opposed to a foster-to-adopt family who ends up having to say goodbye when all along their desire has been adoption. That’s a tough question.
Q: How does it make you feel to know that, if situations change, those girls could be taken away?
A: Those thoughts are so hard, especially when you have a child the majority of their life and you are all they know. You are their Mama and Daddy. I honestly try not to think about it too much because if I do, I just start to worry. I worry about the fact that everything these children know would be disrupted if they left us. I begin to wonder if someone else would know that olives are their favorite snack, what times they take their naps, that they love to sing “I’m bringing home a baby bumblebee...”. My husband and I would definitely be devastated if we had to say goodbye to our girls. It would be an incredible loss...a loss that we would grieve and mourn over as any parent who lost their child would. Most definitely the hardest thing we would have ever faced in our lives so far.
Q: How will you feel if the adoption is completed?
A: So relieved. So, so relieved. I don’t know that we could love them anymore than we already do, as our love for them is already so intense. I think more than anything, that feeling of permanency, knowing that they will finally be a permanent part of our family will be one of the most joyous experiences we could ever have.
Q: How do you deal now with the knowledge that the girls could be removed and returned to their family?
A: As I said earlier, we try not to dwell on those thoughts too often. They are just hard things to think about. That being said, we do know that it could still happen. My husband and I have to constantly remind ourselves why we foster. We don’t do it to fulfill any desires we might have to be parents. It can’t be about us. It has to be about these children and taking care of their needs, loving them and providing safety for them for however long that may be. Again, we trust that no matter the outcome, reunification with their birth family or adoption into our family, is all part of God’s plan for their lives and ours. We know that the Lord would be faithful to sustain us through goodbyes if that time were to come and that He would also give us the courage and healing to continue on in obedience to do what we know He has called us to do. As for the girls, we know that God created them, and that no matter where they go, that He is more than capable of caring for them so much more than we ever could. This bring us peace that just can’t be explained.