I travel often for work. Enough that the whole experience is a fairly routine one for me. Airports, car rentals, hotel rooms, even long security lines and flight delays — I’m fairly numb to it all now. It’s just a means to the end of getting where I need to go. However, a recent trip to Chicago was anything but routine. My oldest daughter came along with me and it changed the entire dynamic.
Imagine being scared everyday of your life as you wonder which one of the kids would get a beating. Would it be me this time? Would I have to hide in my room while dad beats up mom, as I worry whether she would live through this one? Did I clean the house well enough? Was dinner good? Are the kids behaving or would I have to take a beating for one of them? Will mom and/or dad even make it home from the bar tonight?
“It’s not safe”. I think that is what I would tell you if you were looking to foster or adopt. I’m not sure that this would be a good slogan for an adoption agency, but after walking this path, I’d think a warning is in order.
I would want to tell you that if you choose this path, you will never be the same. You will no longer look at the orphan crisis as a statistic, you will suddenly look at it as a thumb sucking, 1 year old in a diaper and onesie plopped into your lap at 11 pm at night. Eyes wide and filled with fear, you and this tiny ‘orphan crisis’ will face this storm together. Suddenly, it all takes on a name and a dirt-smudged face.
Last year, a couple of weeks before Christmas while my husband and I were out shopping, he turned to me and said, “Why don’t we just adopt a child from Syria?” His statement was due—in large part—to the current and ongoing refugee crisis and a result of reading and viewing horrific news almost daily about families forced to flee their homelands for safety. My husband obviously knows that there’s no such thing as “just” adopting, but he was expressing his solution to a need.
When we adopted our three daughters, sixteen years ago, I was confident in my parenting ability. People often complimented me on my three boys and on my parenting. In fact, I used to say that when I die, they could put “She was a good mom” on my headstone.
Not long after my girls came home, that all changed. I no longer felt like a good mom. In fact, there were times I questioned if I was even the right mom for the job. I could hear the message on my headstone being ground off because it was no longer true. What I was doing, how I was parenting, was not working with my girls. They had come to me with grief. Loss. Impacts of trauma. The tools in my toolbox were clearly not the right tools. But back then, there was little research to know what the right tools were. There was very little support, no one to ask. I was on my own.
I’ve been thinking a lot about our story, and all the other stories that need to be told. As foster and adoptive families, we often walk a lonely, isolated path. It’s been almost a year since the adoption of our son was finalized. He was our first placement and had been with us for three and a half years.
We had only been licensed for a couple of months when the call came. With the help of our three bio children—a son and two daughters—we prepared the extra bedroom in a gender neutral fashion. Our kids had picked the paint color, a shade of orange that I definitely was not in love with, but it had a hidden meaning that would show itself later.
November is National Adoption Awareness Month. In honor of this month, Jasmine Sanders, co-host of The DL Hughley Show, is on a mission to raise awareness for the 415,000 children in foster care throughout the country. Earlier this month, Sanders launched her #AdoptedandWinning campaign to give hope and encouragement to the children in foster care. The goal of her campaign is to help foster children know that, regardless of their circumstances, they can rise up and succeed in their lives.
Before I was ten years old, a stream of children—whose stories ranged from simple to down right horrifying—came through our home. I was taught to be open, accepting, and to not ask questions as bruises and broken bones are a natural curiosity for youngsters.
There were simple cases such as the overnighter, like the young boy who got lost from his father at the local fair. Since he wasn’t from Canada, the father didn’t know he could go to the police for help. It took a neighbor to convince him that getting separated from a child was not punishable and that we had a system to keep the kids safe until they could be reunited with their families. There were also more complex cases, like the little girl who came to us with a broken nose which was delivered by a hammer from her mother’s boyfriend.
“If kids don’t know possibilities, they can’t dream.”
~Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Something in the documentary, The Beginning of Life, pierced my heart: an interview of a young girl who was an orphan living in extreme poverty, the sole caretaker of her two younger siblings. The interviewer asked the little girl, “What’s the biggest dream you have?” The girl replied, “I don’t have any dreams.” When I heard this, I started to cry. Every single child deserves a life in which they can dream, for it is our dreams that lead us to a brighter future. And without dreams, hope, is hard to hold onto.
Willie and Alvin
first grade imps
jet black hair
smiles missing teeth