I’m the person who constantly shouts about not wanting children.
So yes, it’s semi-ridiculous that I’d like to talk about having kids – or, more specifically, the decisions that surround that one extremely important decision. Everyone starts out the process similarly, with one goal in mind:
It’s just not always that simple.
Let me tell you a true story. My brother and his wife wanted kids. They both had great jobs, a beautiful home, and all the room in the world in their hearts for little ones of their own. There was just one problem – years of trying to get pregnant passed and it. just. never. happened. After many doctors’ visits and going over their use-our-own-DNA options, they were overwhelmed and lost. It was all so expensive, monetarily, physically, and emotionally, and so they decided against those options. The next step they looked at was private adoption, and although it was tax deductible and therefore all of that money would be returned to them over time, it was a costly endeavor, and one that didn’t quite feel right. Then, they found their county’s foster-to-adopt program, and that was it. They knew it instantly, and five years later, they have two amazing kids, one fully adopted 5 year old girl, Ariana Grace Teschke, with challenges both physical and mental who happens to be the most magical human I’ve ever met, and one 18 month old, rosy cheeked, healthy, challenge-free little boy with an absolutely angelic smile and a devilish sense of humor to go with it that we can’t yet show off to the world as they are currently still fostering him with the intention to adopt. It’s amazing to see the family that my brother and my sister in law were clearly meant to have, and to think that had they not faced the challenges they were given in the process of starting their family, everything would have turned out totally different, when there is obviously no other way they could be. LOOK at them.
All of this is not to say that this path to parenthood doesn’t have its challenges. The letting go of the idea of using your DNA to create your family in the one way most people think of. The initial fears about the challenges foster kids might bring. The classes, the studying for those classes, the interviews and home studies. Seeing and hearing the saddest stories there are to tell. The waiting for the call, and then the scramble to be ready for a kid coming straight from an awful scenario at what is usually an ungodly hour to your home with needs you can’t ever fully anticipate. Taking on a little one’s specific challenges, sometimes emotional, sometimes mental, and sometimes physical. Falling in love with a child, all the while understanding that there is a possibility that the state’s ultimate goal is to have them placed back with their birth parents before you have a chance to adopt. Understanding that that IS the best option, no matter what your heart says, and wanting the best for that little one even if it’s the hardest thing you will ever have to do if it does happen. The extreme bittersweetness of court dates where you watch the birth parents sign over all rights to the most amazing child you’ve ever met.
The positives, of which there are SO many, are beyond compare, though. You go through about 6 months of education of classes three nights a week, much of which has been expedited in many states due to overwhelming need, you make known your intention to adopt through the foster program, and once you are interviewed, your home is checked, and you are officially approved to foster, children who are likely to not be placed back with their parents are fast tracked to you according to your predetermined wants and needs (age range, race, sex, illnesses, behavioral issues, drug exposure, yes or no to mental and physical handicaps and to what extent, etc). You can accept or decline any placement for any reason, and if a placement isn’t working for any reason, you can ask for re-placement, no questions asked. There are infants and toddlers all the way up to teens, from perfectly healthy to severely disabled, in every color and every creed, looking for a home in your county. You take a child in and CHANGE their LIFE with a safe place to live, and provide them with love and care they wouldn’t otherwise have. Foster kids have a certain magic about them – they are brave, resilient, friendly, beautiful kids with open hearts – and having them in your home and in your heart will only prove that to be true to you. As you’re fostering, you will receive a large monthly per diem to cover the care of the child, reimbursement for clothing, day care is provided, they will most likely receive Medicaid (some even after adoption), you’ll constantly communicate with Child & Family Services on what is happening with the child’s family, on how you’re doing, and how the child is progressing, and after 6 months of fostering that little one and the state ensuring that the birth parents have signed over all rights, you can adopt that child. And then they are yours. Your family. Forever. With Ari, it sounded something like this:
Does this process take a special kind of person? It sure as hell does. Being a foster parent, let alone one who wants to adopt a child, takes bravery. It takes patience, flexibility and hard work. It requires you to live in the moment, because until you adopt, there is always the possibility that they could be reunited with their birth family – so you give your best to that child, not knowing for sure how it all will end, loving them just to love them and to give them the best life possible in any given moment, because every kid deserves that. It’s not easy.
However, parenting in every iteration already demands all of those attributes! Nothing is guaranteed in life. There is no way to know what kind of a child one would get from a pregnancy, no rules laid down to ensure a family formed by any means won’t have their challenges and that the parents won’t need help. That is life. There are many ways to have the kids you may dream of, all of them fraught with possible peril and, as I understand it, infinitesimal joy. Foster-to-adopt is the path my brother and his wife took, one that is often overlooked or assumed to be too hard, and one that they wouldn’t have any other way, start to finish. You actually have more control in the foster-to-adopt scenario in many ways than any other path to making the family you dream of. You get to ‘try parenting on’, so to speak, after months of amazing parenting classes, and you have your pick of the little one you think will best fit into your family. You’re paid to help kids who are already here, are amazing, and so desperately need love like yours, as opposed to spending thousands upon thousands of dollars for a child that is your ‘blood’, so to speak, with no guarantees as to how that process will turn out.
As my brother told me, “Any person who wants to be a parent can raise these kids – you just have to put their needs above yours. You have to let go of that idea that “when I go, I want a ‘real’ piece of me to leave behind, or I want to see my own face reflected back to me”. The connection is automatic. ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ happens, instantaneously, and almost MORE so, because the whole process is so focused and full of intent. We feel that by facing the difficulties we had in our journey to parenthood and choosing foster-to-adopt, we helped the people that need help the most, right in our city. We helped the environment, because let’s be honest, having a baby is just about the least ‘green’ thing you can do. If you have room and you want a child, that child is already here. I promise you, it is no different. Fostering to adopt is a conscious choice, a choice that a lot of people see as this huge leap of faith. It’s not. It’s a different set of chances, but it’s the same thing. It’s making your family. It’s love.”
Look into fostering and foster-to-adopt programs, okay, parents-to-be? Or contact me, and I can get you in touch with my brother and others like him, to help you decide what is right for you. Kids from all around your city, your county, your state, desperately need homes, more and more. My brother and his wife are everyday super heroes.
If foster-to-adopt sounds like something you could open your heart to, I believe you could be a superhero, too.