Foster Care: I Told DFS That We Would Keep The Children

In honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month, Portrait of an Adoption will be hosting our fourth annual acclaimed series, 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days.  This guest post is a preview to whet your appetite for a month of adoption stories.  This is just one story. The series will present many different viewpoints and and widely varying experiences with adoption. 

By Suzette Grosz

We adopted our first son as a newborn. It was a perfect, easy adoption, thank God! We had met his bio-Mom through friends of ours that were her relatives. We became instant friends with her, even though we didn’t know she was pregnant. She confided in us that she was pregnant and she wanted to place her baby up for adoption.

Quickly, selfishly, without hesitation, I secretly wished she would place her baby with us.  But because we were friends, I couldn’t ask her to do that.  When she did actually ask us if we were interested in adopting her baby, I instantly, without thinking how it would sound, replied, “Hell YES!”  I had dreamed about him a year before his birth.

She laughed and said, “No, I am serious.” Then I had to get serious and tell her that, “Yes, we would be honored to adopt your baby.”

I was in the room when he was born. I  felt a flood of unexpected emotions.  I was excited, but I also felt grief for his bio-Mom, for her loss. I wished our miracle were not her pain.

Eleven years after we adopted our son, we became foster parents to help other children.  We held the hopes of fostering and eventually adopting a little girl to complete our family. More than a few kids came and went over the next couple of years, and then we agreed to a placement of two full bio sisters, ages four and five years old.  The placement was supposed to be for a two-week stay.

Due to the misfortune of their bio-family being dysfunctional, we ended up adopting both the girls.  While we don’t have contact with their bio-family, I still have empathy for them. Their bio-parents really missed out on my/our daughters’ lives, but at the same time, I know my daughters would not be who they are today if they were raised by an unsafe family. Their bio-Mom had gone in and out of foster care as a child; she never had a real chance at stabilization. How could I not feel empathy for her?

Even though we had only wanted to adopt one little girl to be a sister to our teenage son, and even after we ended up with two amazing daughters, my heart still wanted more children. We had two separate placements of little boys, and they each took a huge part of my heart when they left.

One Friday, at the end of the day, I agreed to do weekend respite care for two brothers who were full bio-siblings.  I didn’t even have a chance to consult my husband before accepting the placement, but I didn’t expect it to be an issue.  It was just for a weekend, and this was not an unusual situation for our family. We often did respite care for other foster parents.

When the foster parent arrived, she started unloading a ton of stuff and I said, “That’s a lot of stuff for a weekend.” She said, “Oh no, didn’t DFS tell you? I am not coming back.”

The older boy was three-and-a-half years old, and my concern immediately went to him. Did he hear her say this? How would he react? When I looked at him, he had tears in his huge green eyes and was standing there looking from me to her.

He was holding his hands out, moving them back and forth (palm up, palm down), as if to say, “What is going to happen to me?” I then looked at his little brother, who was eleven months old and obviously delayed and not bonded with anyone, still sitting in his car seat. He had no idea how this day would alter his young life, a life that had already been altered so many times.

My emotions turned to anger towards this foster parent, even though I didn’t know her or her story. She put these boys out like some people put out unwanted animals. As she drove off, I turned all of my attention to these little lost souls.

I hugged that visibly shaking little three-and-a-half-year-old boy. I attempted to console him by telling him that it would be okay, that he could stay with us for as long as he needed to. I stood back and looked at him and his baby brother.

At this moment, I silently vowed to love and care for them until they could return to their bio-family. At the same time, I was trying to figure out how I would break that news to my husband, the husband that I hadn’t bothered to contact, because it was just a weekend placement!

After the weekend, I let my husband go to work on Monday without telling him that this was no longer a weekend respite placement.  I was afraid.  I finally called him at work after I told DFS that, yes, we would keep the boys. Not knowing what I was going to say, but knowing that it would be easier said over the phone, I told my husband that DFS asked if we would keep the boys.

He told me that it was up to me. Well, that solved everything. They were staying! Dysfunction wasn’t a strong enough word for their bio-family’s situation. Wow! I now felt really sad for everyone involved. I could still see the good in this bio-family. I could see the love, no matter how unhealthy and dysfunctional it was. Their future wasn’t up to me, it was up to God, their family, and DFS. I had to disconnect my feelings for what had happened in their lives in order to be neutral. As a foster parent, it was not up to me to judge. I prayed that “God’s will” would be done.

*          *          *          *

It is now 2014.

Our oldest son – the one that came to us through a private adoption — is twenty-eight years old, married, in the Air Force, and he has a son that could be his clone. Our daughters are now seventeen and eighteen; one is in college, and the other will a senior in high school.

Our younger sons, those vulnerable brothers who were supposed to be a weekend placement, are now thirteen and fifteen.  One in eighth grade, and the other is a sophomore in high school. We are grateful for how God’s will worked out, for our beautiful children, for our full hearts.

-By Suzette Grosz, adoptive mother of five.

Portrait of an Adoption is hosted by Carrie Goldman.  Check out Carrie Goldman’s award-winning book Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear

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