When I was removed from my birth family at age 15 and placed into foster care, I felt conflicted, isolated, and that my feelings didn’t matter. I had no idea what was happening to me. I just knew that I would be living with strangers, away from my sister, my family, and my pets. It was terrifying.
These feelings heightened when my first foster family required me to attend all of my court hearings. The insensitivity in the courtroom alienated me. I heard docket numbers, court lingo, and attorneys speaking, but I didn’t know what they were negotiating. I often wondered when I would get to go home. I missed my sister. I didn’t even know that I could ask the judge for visits with my sister. These adults were making all the decisions for me, without me.
Cynthia Williams has a pretty good handle on the Top 40. When asked whether she always wanted to work in social services, she references the popular Lady Gaga song. “I think I was born for this…Who’s the one who says I was born this way?” Cynthia’s been serving children, teens, and families for 36 years, 28 of those with Amara. As our longest tenured employee, she’s earned the title of the “Amarasaurus,” made official with a plaque she keeps in her Tacoma office.
Jordan nervously messaged Freddie. “Did you get the email too?” Most people don’t find out they’re going to have a child over email, but one magical email changed Freddie and Jordan’s life. They remember the EXACT moment they got “the email” informing them of a potential match with a baby for adoption – before Thanksgiving in 2012. Little did Freddie and Jordan know that they would find out whether they were going to be fathers in just a matter of days.
I grew up in rural Louisiana, so far out in the country that we had only two industries; farming and families. I knew from an early age that the former was not the life for me. When I came out at age 25, I assumed that I had given up the latter. I have always loved children but I never thought that it would be in the realm of possibility for me to have a family of my own. For much of my life, there wasn’t even the concept of gay marriage, let alone gay parenting. Now, same-sex couples can get married more than a third of this country, including my home state of Washington, and even if same-sex parents aren’t routine, we are no longer an exception. For me, having a spouse and family has gone from being an abstract concept to an achievable reality.
Erin, Dan, Kyle and Lucas enjoy family time on vacation, April 2014
Even now, with a wonderful husband and two amazing children of my own, I still marvel at this blessing. For Dan and me, parenting was not a biological imperative or an intellectual choice; it was a choice about love and sharing our lives with children. There are a lot of options available to those who want to become parents, but for us adopting through the foster system felt right. We are both caretakers by nature and had been very involved in the lives of our many nieces and nephews. There are so many children in foster care who have never been nurtured or cherished in the way that we were as children, who never had the safety and stability that we had received from our parents. We talked over every aspect of the process before making our decision and decided that this was the way to go.
My son doesn’t call me “mom”. He and I met when he was seven. I don’t mind it. I don’t need to be called mom to be a mom. Maybe there was a better way to handle all of this, I’m not sure. But from the moment I met Kelvin, the role and the term “mom” just weren’t that big of a deal. Our family is just the two of us, so there are no other kids around to call me mom. And everyone we know calls me Karen. It took over two years for us to get from a foster family to an adoptive family with his birth family very present during that time, so there was a lot of figuring out who we were to each other and who we were going to be to each other.
We never actually thought we’d become parents, but slowly, the “Mommy Bug” hit. We talked it through for a good period of time, and when we decided to move forward, settled on foster to adopt because it fit both who we are and what we believe about the world.
We wanted to be parents and we believe that every child deserves to be deeply loved.
Unfortunately, there are children who don’t have permanent, loving homes; though the process is sometimes challenging, we were in a position to go through the process of providing a forever family for a child. If we could help make this a little bit easier for one child, then we wanted to do that.
As happens for many families, we felt a bit lost when we started. At the outset, we had clear ideas about what kind of child we could parent successfully, but after looking at countless referrals for children we realized that we were limiting ourselves too much.
Given that we live far from both our immediate families, it became clear to us that adult independence was an important marker. Beyond that, we could be really flexible. Family networks – however you define them – are essential to raising any child; this is even more important for a child who needs extra support. The “it takes a village” isn’t just a catchphrase!
Jacob and Trina have always been the adventurous types. Within a few years, they earned their Doctorates in Psychology (Jacob in pediatrics and health psychology and Trina focused her work on victims of childhood trauma and abuse), traveled around the world, and spent two years in Costa Rica with the Peace Corps.
When it came time to start a family, no two people seemed better equipped. But as any parent can tell you, nothing can totally prepare you for the emotional investment of raising children. And the emotions become even more complicated when diving headlong into the foster-to-adopt process. Add to that equation not one child, but three, and you can imagine the true adventure they are now on. Read full post »
Molly von Mitschke Collande, on behalf of Karen and Ted Madison — Amara Adoptive and Foster Parents
“Oh, we talked about it before we decided to be foster parents,” says Karen Madison very matter-of-factly.
“We did?” questions her husband Ted with a crooked smile on his face and twinkle in his eye.
Ted, Karen, and their daughter Kristin on the day they adopted David
As a child, Karen always wanted to have an orphanage. As a newly married couple in 1967, their home wasn’t quite equipped to care for scores of children simultaneously. But they could care for one or two additional children at a time. Multiply that over two decades, and the number of children they cared for, diapered, rocked, fed, clothed, and loved totals 78. Yes, you read correctly: 78.