When we took our certification classes for fostering, we were not planning to adopt. We even told our agency that we didn’t need to take the adoption class portion or fill out the adoption part of the paperwork, because we were planning just to foster. Greg and I both agreed that if we fell in love with a child we were fostering and they didn’t reunify, then we’d consider adopting and go through all the steps to get there.
Then we got our first foster placement. And by, oh, about day two, we were in love. “If” we fall in love with a kid became a ridiculous statement. When a child in need comes into our lives and our home for even the shortest amount of time, we fall in love. So after the little boys left us in November, we told our agency to make our next placement a baby whom we could perhaps adopt. “What’s the worst that could happen?” we asked each other. “We could fall in love with a baby, keep her for a year, and then have to give her back to a situation we don’t feel comfortable with,” we said. That would be horrible. But probably wouldn’t happen.
One month later, Midge arrived. Within days we realized that our “worst case scenario” was probably going to become a reality. Seven months later, Midge is part of our family. If we lose her, it will be like the death of a daughter. Yes, we knew what we were getting into. Yes, she needed a safe home for this year and we’re thankful we were able to provide it. No, it will not be easy if we have to give her back. It will be devastating.
In our state for a baby under twelve months, parents have one year to prove that they can provide a safe and stable home for a child once they are removed. If they haven’t proven that by month twelve, the court is supposed to terminate reunification services and start working towards permanency for the child. This has all changed from the system of the past, to avoid having children bumped from home to home in the foster system while their parents try again and again to get their acts together. The court now recognizes the importance of attachment in a young child, so after a year of reunification services, the parent’s right to a second chance takes second place to the child’s right to a stable life.
Which brings us to that strange position of hoping to adopt. This week marks seven months with Midge in our home. She has now lived with us for the same amount of time as she lived with her mom. I know that doesn’t mean anything to the court, but it means something to us. We haven’t held out much hope about being able to adopt her, but this week I had a conversation with the major players that gave me a little bit of hope. Hope, in the case of fost-adopt, is is an uncomfortable emotion.
I hope Midge can stay with us, the only home she’s ever really had and the only family she could ever really remember. I hope she can have a chance at a stable family life with christian values. And yet, by hoping that she stays, it feels like I’m hoping that her parents fail in their case plans. I don’t like that. I don’t like feeling happy when a parent misses a visitation and feeling bummed when they show up. But the other side of the coin is that we really haven’t seen her parents showing any stability or rehabilitation or major change in their lives. Would it be best for Midge to be returned to the situation they’re in right now? I feel like there’s a tension between hoping for the best for Midge’s parents and hoping for the best for Midge. I also remember that God’s best for us isn’t always the same as what we think is best for us. I guess the big picture is that we’re hoping for “real life” to play out during these twelve months so that the courts make their decisions wisely.
I think this tension is one of the reasons why many families choose to adopt internationally or from orphanages. International orphan care is an important ministry, too, although there is no guarantee that the international adoption community is any fairer to birth or adoptive parents than the domestic courts; in fact, they can be much worse. And yes, it is wonderful to provide a home for an orphan from another country if God calls your heart there, but many of us feel called by Him to the thousands of kids here in the U.S. who truly do need new homes because the ones they have aren’t safe. While people debate the advantages and disadvantages of all different kinds of adoption, I’m pretty sure nobody believes that child abuse or neglect is okay, so the reality is that we need people adopting in many different ways from many different places. If only caring for children in need were more black and white.
All we can do right now is to pray for God’s best for everyone involved. We pray that if Midge’s parents are going to be able to get their lives together, that they can do it within this twelve month period, for their sake. For Midge’s sake, we pray that if they are going to fall apart, they do it during this twelve month period, to spare her the trauma of it all. And for my sake, I remember what I wrote in my journal in April after reading Psalm 72:1-3. For some reason these verses struck me in just the way I needed them to. In regards to the judge, attorneys, and social workers on Midge’s case, I pray that they will make the decisions that God wants them to make. “Give your love of justice to the king, O God, and righteousness to the king’s son. Help him judge your people in the right way; let the poor always be treated fairly. May the mountains yield prosperity for all and may the hills be fruitful.”
Only the LORD knows what is best, and only He knows if there is any way for Midge and each of her parents to be “treated fairly” in this situation. It seems impossible that things could work out in the best interests of every party involved, but with God all things are possible. He will teach us whatever lesson He wants to teach us if we are to lose her. He will teach her parents whatever lesson He wants to teach each of them if they lose her. He will protect and care for Midge through whatever future He has planned for her. The only confidence I have during this strange time is a confidence in the LORD.
For I know that “The LORD is good and does what is right.” -Proverbs 25:8