One of the most common questions I get about why I became a foster adoptive parent is “oh, did you have a bad childhood?” Nope. Actually just the opposite. I grew up in a two parent loving home where I was supported and encouraged. As a child I thought that every kid had a similar home experience to me. That bubble was popped in junior high.
When I was thirteen years old I met a foster child who changed my life. She and I quickly became fast friends. (this picture was taken shortly after we met) During this time my curiosity about her situation grew. We had many deep conversations where she would share with me about her abusive past. Her stories were shocking. How could a parent treat their child that way and allow such horrible things to happen to them? And the stories weren’t only about her birth family, but also about some of the foster parents she had lived with. I was just a kid and I didn’t know how, but I wanted to help her.
I asked my parents to become licensed foster parents so that she could come live with us and we could be sisters. To my surprise they said “yes.” My foster sister Jamie was fifteen when she came to live with us. She had been in the system since she was twelve and was separated from her two siblings. The experience of living together was nothing like what I thought it would be. I expected that she would instantly want to become a part of the family. It wasn’t until years later when I myself became a foster parent that I understood some of what she must have been feeling during those years.
When we foster or adopt a child I think we can often confuse our own feelings with theirs. We think they’re happy to have been “rescued” when actually being a part of your family is a reminder that they will no longer be a part of their own. I could now understand why she was always waiting for the bottom to fall out and why she didn’t want to be part of another family that could potentially let her down.
Despite our relationship woes during our tumultuous teen years I knew that this was something I wanted to do. To make a difference. Throughout my whole foster/adoptive experience Jamie has been by my side. We still have many deep conversations about her time as a foster child and my own experiences as a foster/adoptive parent. Years ago we added another layer to our relationship when she gave up a baby for adoption.
Now, we have countless conversations on what it means to be on both sides of the fence in adoption. Knowing her has given me compassion for my children’s birth parents that I may not have had otherwise. And she always calls me for my advice on her open adoption to be sensitive to her birth daughter’s parents.
A lot of people ask me why I became a foster/adoptive parent. My answer is because a foster child named Jamie changed my worldview and opened my heart forever.
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