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My Foster Story: They’re Saving Me
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
When Trump was elected in November 2017, my family decided that we needed to be part of the change we wanted to see in the world. We chose LOVE and started the arduous foster parent certification process in January 2018. During this process, I imagined that I could provide foster kids with everything they needed. I thought that we could “save” kids from their unsafe or unloving home environments. After all, we were two loving attorneys with a stable home life.
Once we were certified, I was nervous, excited, terrified, and overjoyed – all the feelings. And, then we waited . . .
On January 12, 2018 at 7:00pm, we got the call we’d been waiting for – there were 2 ½ year old twins who needed a loving home. We immediately said YES.
My village showed up at 9pm that first night – with cribs, clothes, toys, and car seats – and kept showing up. And, boy, did I need it. After only a few weeks, I was depleted – by a broken system and by traumatized little people who needed far more from us than we knew how to give. I have never felt so inadequate in all my life. I quickly learned how to ask for and receive help. ME, someone who had never needed help before, needed help all. the. time.
Friends, neighbors, and colleagues carried me through days when I wasn’t sure I could do it anymore.
I quickly realized that I didn’t have the skills to mother the twins and called in the experts – hiring both a parenting coach who specialized in childhood trauma and an ABA therapist who specialized in severe behaviors. I let these professionals watch me struggle mightily and provide real-time feedback on my failings. It was really hard for me, a perfectionist, to admit that I couldn’t handle this situation. My imperfections were on display for everyone to see and I felt naked. It was humbling. But, letting myself be seen made all the difference. Clarissa and Maribeth and my village made all the difference.
When I felt like I didn’t even know myself anymore, my girls took me out dancing and reminded me who I am. I was never sure if I was enough, if I could do enough, if I could love enough.
But every time life brought me to my knees, my village reflected back my highest self and gently put me back on my feet.
They accepted my brokenness, came into my messy life, and helped me see beauty in the chaos. My friends cooked us meals, did the grocery shopping, did the laundry, watched the kids, sent diapers, and checked in on us – for MONTHS. The kindnesses shown to me were legion.
The love of our neighbors let me give more of myself than I knew was possible. The foundation message of all great religions is to love your neighbor as yourself. My neighbors put that teaching into practice. And, I saw God made manifest in the world through their actions. The radical love I was shown has been transformational – in my life, the life of my family, the twins and their adoptive family. You should see the twins today – they are radiant little people.
Children who were once broken and alone are now whole and beloved.
Through our time with the twins, I realized that I wasn’t the “savior” of the story – I was the one being saved. Over and over again. Being a foster parent forced me outside my comfort zone. I had to gain empathy for the birth mother, born into a life of unimaginable poverty. I had to develop patience for the dedicated, underpaid social workers. I had to accept that I was powerless over these children’s destinies. And, when goodbye came too quickly, I had to smile and wave and blow kisses so the twins wouldn’t be scared, even though I was breaking inside.
I have been transformed by this experience and by the radical love that my family was shown. Through this journey, my heart doubled in size and will never go back to the way it was. And, I can’t wait to pay it forward – both in my daily life and with our future foster children.
As Glennon Doyle Melton said, “Belief in abundance is the source of all generosity and peace. Know that there is enough. Know that you are enough. Know that you have enough. Enough time, enough talent, enough love.”
Through foster care, we were able to bring light to the darkness. And, my friends enabled this by lighting up my darkest days.
Remember, anything or anyone who does not LIGHT YOU UP is too small for you.
Coach, Mentor, & Strategist