I’ve told people that fostering kids is like a very wild roller-coaster ride. There are exciting highs that build anticipation, and then sudden drops that keep your stomach in your throat as you hang on for dear life for the upcoming turns in the track. For our family, this past week confirmed that analogy.
A week ago, Steph and I sat in our rocking chairs on the front porch of our home here in East Texas. I remember there was a bright moon out that night. We held hands and prayed, declaring our trust in God for what He had for our foster kids. It was the next morning we would find out if our foster daughter’s case was going to be extended for 6 months.
The following day the judge denied a 6-month extension, against the recommendations of 4 therapists, psychologists and psychotherapists. Court ended that day with the defense attorney requesting a jury trial and the judge promptly granting one for the following week.
If you aren’t familiar with the family court system, let me give you a little insight about how the system works. It is a systematic 12-month process of status hearings, bonding assessments, conference calls, permanency conferences, mediations and the like. Nothing about the system is fast. Nothing. But for our case, what started out slow turned into a mad sprint for the finish line.
And so the beginning of the end began. My how much change can happen in one week.
Keep in mind, we have been praying God’s will would clearly be seen in this case and that our hearts would line up with His. We didn’t want to selfishly claim this child as our own, but honestly felt like our house would be the best for her in the long term.
So listen to what happened this past week:
- Wednesday – Judge denied the 6-month extension stating it was her job to uphold the law and to look out for the welfare of the little kids in these cases.
- Wednesday – Jury trial is set for the following Tuesday, promptly at 9am.
- Thursday – We get word that due to a procedural error, the judge as denied the jury trial and instead opted for a bench trial. This means that a jury wouldn’t decide the long-term placement of the child, but that the judge would.
- Thursday – We are informed that the biological mom has decided to relinquish her rights as the mother of this little girl to us.
- Friday – Mediation is set for Monday. This is where biological parents and foster parents meet to agree upon terms necessary for termination of rights. At this point we are told we ought to get a lawyer to represent us.
- Friday – In looking to hire a lawyer, Steph and I laughed that we knew this would happen. You see, we left Pine Cove staff just months ago. Pine Cove had a really nice adoption benefit for the staff where a large portion of adoption costs would be covered by the ministry. We knew God was leading us to leave, but this was one of those areas that made us think twice, knowing we were probably turning down thousands of dollars in assistance.
- Friday – I made contact with the lawyer we were going to hire. Steph had researched him in the past. We knew that it would cost us $3,400 per child. We have two foster kids. Because I am a math whiz, I figured it up that we would have to pay $6,800.
- Friday – God decided to wow us even more when our lawyer nonchalantly let me know he would be doing this work for us for FREE.
- Monday – Both parents – including the biological father who is in prison – agreed to relinquish their rights as parents.
- Monday – We are informed of a change in procedure. We knew that once parental rights are terminated there is a 90-day waiting period before the foster parents are free to adopt. We thought we might go ahead and move with all of our kids – including foster kids – but have to come back monthly to “check-in” with the right state agents for the next 3 months. This would require thousands of dollars in plane tickets, but for us it was part of the reality of moving. Well…the judge decided to waive this waiting period for us. We were free to adopt – THE NEXT DAY.
- Tuesday – We decided we would wait to adopt her until our foster son’s case is done in a couple of weeks. This way, we could adopt them together. Plus, it would give us time to invite friends and family to the adoption ceremony.
- Tuesday – We meet one last time with the biological mother of this little girl. The best way to describe the mom: Relieved. She was truly at peace and was confident her little girl was going to a loving, God-honoring home. We laughed, cried, talked about her childhood and the things she loved doing (like running track) to see if her little girl would someday have the same interests. We took tons of pictures and countless “mental snapshots” of that meeting.
My favorite part of our meeting with the biological mom came at the very end. We presented her with a gift we bought for her and for her daughter. They would be the only two in our family to have it, and by it they can always be reminded of each other.
She cried, we cried and then I asked if we could pray with her. We prayed – together – for this little girl that God would heal her little heart and bless her throughout her life. We also prayed for this mom, that she would continue to experience the peace and comfort of God – which she said she was already experiencing. We prayed that she would stay healthy and that someday the two of them could meet and bless each other.
After a few last hugs and kisses we walked out of that office, with our little girl in hand.
And so this chapter of fostering this little girl comes to a close, and a new chapter will soon begin.
I will be formally introducing her on this blog soon. Believe me, you’ll be amazed at her beauty and joy in her eyes.
Thank you to everyone who has been praying throughout this process. I hope this long post is an encouragement to you as you prayed God’s wisdom over everyone involved.