Nearly one year ago, my husband and I jumped into the world of fostering unexpectedly. We met a young girl (age 9 at the time) at church who was in an emergency foster care placement. She was in need of parents to adopt her. This had been placed on our hearts. So, with our hearts on our sleeves and a lot of fear/faith, we opened our home to her.
This little girl, like so many kids in foster care, had been through hell and back. She’d been in care for 4 years at that point. We were placement 16. So many people had given up on her. She carried a lot of baggage and quite the record when she entered into our home.
The third night she was at our house, we woke up to a phone call from the sheriff’s department at 4:30am. This little girl had stolen my husband’s truck and gotten into a wreck on the highway about 10 minutes from our house. She was fine, the truck was fine, the lady who hit her was an angel and didn’t even file an insurance claim. It crossed our minds to give up and throw in the towel. Some of our family members encouraged us to “send her back.” But, we didn’t. She wasn’t a cute puppy that we could take back to the pound. It was apparent that she needed love and normalcy.
We stuck by her side through foster care.
After that first incident, she’s gotten into trouble numerous times with issues spurring from sexual abuse received at a previous foster-to-adopt home. Sometimes she just makes terrible choices. These incidents have made me cry myself to sleep on multiple nights and doubt my ability to climb this mountain. Throughout the past year she’s been assigned court mandated community service, been kicked off the bus, almost been expelled, etc. Yet, it remained in our hearts to love her each and every day. We were too stubborn to give up. As the weeks and months passed, I saw a different little girl than before.
I held this little girl’s hand and listened to her cry when we walked into the courthouse when she had to share with complete strangers about the horrendous sexual abuse she had received. I had to explain to her that the man was lying and that we will have to see him face to face in a jury trial in the coming months if he doesn’t take a plea deal.
It has truly been amazing and humbling to see how much love we have received. Family, friends, and our entire small community “cheer” for us and pray for us!
I grew up on a family farm and am blessed to live on this farm today. This little girl clearly needed to work on being responsible and having self control. She joined 4H where she has gotten to do many things. I’m excited for her to give her 4H speech at the state wide public speaking contest later this fall. She wrote her speech on growing up in foster care.
She had to take care of livestock projects all spring and summer. She had two sheep and a female, young cow (called a heifer). She worked with them constantly and was so dedicated to these projects. She blossomed. She woke up early to feed/water her animals, walked them daily, brushed them, washed them, and spent many hours getting them ready for the fair.
It’s not the livestock that matter at all. What matters though is what she gained through these experiences. She’s responsible, isn’t nearly as impulsive, and she is so PROUD. She has so much purpose. Over the weekend was our county fair. She was awarded the Beef Showmanship award in her age division (which meant she was the person who did the best getting her animal in the ring, paid attention the best, stood up the most confidently, etc.) AND the Sheep Shepherd Award for taking the best care of her sheep while at the fair. I cried because less than a year ago, I stood along the side of the road contemplating whether or not to throw in the towel. Those thoughts have definitely crossed my mind since as well. However, many times what is easy isn’t what is right.
So, why do I share this? For those of you at the beginning of your journey who have tears in your eyes, are pulling out your hair, and are contemplating giving up, sit back and remember. If you didn’t have someone who loved you no matter what choices you made, you wouldn’t be who you are today. Love can move AND WILL MOVE mountains!! One of my dear friends who happened to be adopted as a baby said to me, “Denise, just remember no matter what just love her.” I strive to love her daily.
People often tell us how lucky she is to have us. I often correct them explaining that no, we are the lucky ones.
I certainly understand the course of her life has changed because of our blood, sweat, and tears (many tears). However, she is just as much of, or more of, a blessing to us than we are to her.
Foster mommas and dads, hang in there. It’s hard, it’s stressful. The general public has absolutely no understanding of how hard this is, but with love as the center of your work, you can do this!
I’ll be cheering for you!
Share Denise’s story and let others know that love truly is the authentic transformation of foster care.
This article originally appeared at Parents of Foster Care, published with permission.