02.15.2017

Adoption Story | From Foster to Family

Adoption is such a different process compared to when I was adopted 35 years ago. There are just so many different ways to grow your family and to go from foster to family is a another way of finding your family. But what if you had the decision os taking on not one, but four kids (siblings) would you do it? Read about the family that had that exact thing happen to them. 

Hi! Our names are Joel and Katie and we were asked to write about our adoption story.  What an honor to share the fun, difficult, wonderful, painful, and ultimately rewarding experience with you!

We adopted our four youngest on April 14, 2016.

Our adoption journey started in April 2015. Actually, it started about eight years prior to then…

In 2003, we had our first child. We were so excited to become parents and loved watching our baby learn to do life. We tried for a second baby for two years, and then in March of 2007, Katie had two brain aneurysms (unruptured, luckily). The thought of growing and delivering a baby was quite scary.

For eight years we deliberated on the subject. We finally made the decision on April 2, 2015 that we would not give birth to another baby, but would adopt a child instead. (We didn’t realize it at this point, but the next year was going to be a CRAZY rollercoaster ride!) A week later we started the adoption classes and within eight weeks we were certified and ready to adopt one child- a boy between the ages of five and seven.  We were working with a private adoption agency but were adopting through the public foster system.

Finding Our Kids

Over the months of working with caseworkers to find our child, we became more and more open to the idea of adopting more than one child. There is a “matching” process that one goes through when adopting, and from June 1 until September 21st we weren’t sure who was meant for our family. Finally, on the 21st of September, Katie received an email from our amazing adoption worker. She had found the right kids for us – OUR kids – a sibling group of four beautiful young children. The minute we saw their picture, we KNEW these kids were part of our family.

The kids hadn’t been “placed for adoption” at this point. It would be a foster-to-adopt situation. (We weren’t planning to foster. Luckily, our adoption worker made us certify to be foster parents along with our adoption homestudy.) We were given about 12 hours to decide whether we wanted to submit ourselves for the matching process with these children, and through much deliberation, discussion between ourselves and our birth-daughter, and inspired prayer, we knew that God wanted us to have these children. We submitted the appropriate paperwork and waited. One thing that is worth mentioning is how proud we are of our birth daughter. She was very thoughtful about the adoption and has been very welcoming to her siblings as they have come into the home. We have been proud of all our kids and how loving and accepting they have been towards one another.

We knew that if we were selected to foster-to-adopt these children, they would be coming on the 1st of October, only 10 days away. The days passed, and we were becoming more and more anxious and wondered if we would indeed be picked. Finally, just three days before they were to arrive, we received word that our four beautiful children would be coming  home.

This didn’t give us much time to make the overwhelming preparations to our home. We had to rearrange the rooms in the house, purchase furniture, car seats and buy a new car that would seat seven people. Over those three days, there were many Costco and Target purchases. Thank Heavens for credit cards 🙂 Joel and Katie stayed up until the wee hours of the morning with their incredibly supportive friends who came and helped to make the needed changes.   We were running on just a few hours of sleep each night leading up to the day of their arrival.

The Arrival

There was so much excitement the morning the kids were to arrive.  Our birth daughter was wrapping up presents she had picked out for her new siblings before heading off to school. Joel was hanging up last minute room decorations and Katie was making some chocolate chip cookies (apparently the smell of baking cookies does something to the brain and helps people to relax and feel at home- our kids still talk about eating those cookies when they first arrived).

As a dark van pulled in the driveway Joel shouted, “They’re here!”  We went out to the driveway to meet our kids. We can’t even describe what it felt like to meet our kids. It is such an odd thing to walk out your front door and kneel down on the sidewalk and hug strangers knowing they are going to be in your life forever. Our hearts were immediately filled with love for these tiny humans and we knew immediately that this was “meant to be”.

The kids ran around the house, exploring where they would be living for this next part (and Hopefully for the rest) of their lives. The girls were so excited that we had a trampoline. They were all shown their new rooms. We had bought each of the kids a new outfit and they had fun trying them on. While the kids were exploring the house, Katie and Joel sat with the caseworkers and filled out paperwork for several hours. Sidenote: How silly that we were sitting at a table for HOURS instead of hugging and playing with our scared, excited kids. We would come to realize that there is a lot of silly “red tape” to go through in terms of foster care. But we can certainly say that it was worth all of the crazy bureaucracy to finally adopt our kids.

After all the paperwork was done, we took the kids to McDonalds for Happy Meals. (It is now a tradition that we get Happy Meals on October 1.) When we got back, the kids anxiously awaited our birth daughter’s arrival. Her bus pulled up in front of the driveway, all the kids ran out to greet their new big sister. When she walked down the steps, one of our new daughters said, “she is soooo pretty.” They all immediately hugged and ran inside to play. Kids are amazing that way. We all sat in the toy room together talking and goofing off. Our birth daughter ran upstairs to get her new siblings their presents.  Lots of squealing, hugging and playing took place until a friend brought over dinner.

Later that evening, the kids met grandma, grandpa and their Aunt Lizzie! My oh my how wonderfully supportive these three have been! Liz was kind enough to be our alternate care-giver. This meant that besides us, she was the only other person allowed to take care of our children. What a kind service she did for our family!

Let us just briefly mention how AMAZING our friends and family were during this time! Countless meals, clothing items, gift cards and words of encouragement were given to us. We have an incredible support system and I am certain that is partly how we made it through this time!

We also want to share one more really cool thing. A couple months before we met our children, Katie’s parents felt impressed to move across the country to the city we live in. They didn’t know why, but just felt that they were supposed to be here. Just two weeks after they moved, we got the call saying we were expanding our family from three to seven. How wonderful it has been to have grandma and grandpa so involved in our kids’ lives and to have their unending support, love and help! In fact, they just sold the home they bought last year and are moving NEXT DOOR!

The First Few Weeks

Exhaustion! Just thinking about the first six months as a family of seven makes us so tired. Just imagine the shock to your family’s system if you were to go from your current size to over double in size! Not only was the increase in family size a shock, but our kids also brought along some habits, issues, and struggles that were extremely difficult to shape and address. Of course, it was exciting and so fun to have the children in the home, but the transition was overwhelming every single day.

The first few weeks with the children were joyous and strenuous. One of our kids was continually in the “hyper-zone” as we were managing and figuring out medications. Another child was struggling with controlling emotions and had extreme breakdowns that would last hours. Another child was struggling to trust us and was exhibiting some ingrained sad and hard habits.

Our darling baby immediately bonded with us (which is SUCH A BLESSING), but was so scared anytime someone new came around. She would scream and cry and latch on to Katie with a death grip. It was understandable, though. We were her fourth home in her short two years of life. There were many other shocking and heartbreaking “issues” to deal with and resolve, though they not really appropriate for us to share. The point is, our kids came from a hard place, therefore, they had some hard issues. It only makes sense. And we have been so proud to see them work hard and overcome many of these difficulties.

Every night we would tell the kids stories, sing songs and say prayers. The kids would ask us if we were going to adopt them and they would pray daily that we would be a forever family.  Every. Single. Night.

Sitting at the dinner table for family dinner was such an important teaching time. For several days the children had a very difficult time sitting still and eating their dinner. Children were yelling, fighting, arguing, running around, and jumping from chair to chair. All while we tried to maintain some form of sanity. Finally, after several days of struggle, Katie finally asked “Hasn’t anyone taught you how about having manners at the dinner table?” The kids responded, “No, nobody has taught us that.” So, we undertook to teach the children about table manners and would even have “manners night” in which we would give the kids stars on a chart if they were exhibiting good manners at the table. The kids learned quickly and now have great table manners.

It was pretty clear that these children hadn’t been given the loving care that they needed, and we had to overcome some of the negative habits that our children had formed. Some of the children refused to eat any real food (other than chicken nuggets, pizza and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches), and it often took a full hour of firm, patient insistence to get the children to even try their dinner. This persistent patience paid off, because our children now LOVE eating vegetables and other healthy foods! But it took several months of disciplined firmness to help them change their palates and begin to adopt healthier eating.

Doing foster care, your kids need to be seen by a pediatrician, ophthalmologist and a dentist shortly after arriving in your home. We also started working with therapists immediately. On top of this, there are constant visits from caseworkers and additional mounds of paperwork that need to be completed. Our children also had a hard time sleeping for the first several months. We were awakened by two or three children every night with some kind of fear or need. The lack of sleep took a toll on our ability to manage the stressful change.

It was a lonely time. Which is weird because it was so busy. But, it was quite lonely. We had no time for socializing with old friends (who we never really saw anymore). There were so many changes. So many uncertainties, worries, mountains to climb. It was hard. We did see small windows of light during this time as the walls of mistrust and fear slowly broke down for our children. This gradual change was almost invisible to the eye, but over the weeks and months our home was becoming more and more peaceful and our children’s health and happiness improved.

Matching for Adoption

We had been matched to foster the children but hadn’t yet been matched for adoption. About six weeks later in mid-November, we finally received word that we were matched for adoption! At Thanksgiving dinner, we sat with Katie’s parents and sister at the dinner table. We gave the children a letter telling them that they were going to be adopted. We would officially be a family of SEVEN! Let’s just say that the next 60 seconds were filled with ear-splitting screams of joy and excitement, while the adults in the room cried with joy.

Although we had several months of fostering to go before we could adopt our children, we were excited that this milestone was completed and looked forward to the final adoption.

The next five months were filled with many highs and lows. There was so much growth for all seven of us. We learned about each other through tough and sometimes heartbreaking conversations, lots of laughing and so many memorable family firsts! A highlight was our family vacation/celebration to Florida where we spent time at the beach and Disney World!!

One interesting change was that our children wanted to change their names when they were officially adopted. They felt that they wanted to put their past behind them and move, and they thought that changing their names would help do that. They all chose family names that they liked (and that we were happy with). Our son wanted to be named “Home Alone Bob the Flash!” Hilarious!!

Slowly and surely the children were calmer and seemed to adjust. We became more and more accustomed to managing and parenting such a large family.

The Adoption

Finally the day of the adoption arrived. After some potentially catastrophic errors with the paperwork were resolved, we took our children, parents, and friends to the courthouse and sat in front of the county court judge. She worked through all of the paperwork and interviewed both of us and each of the children, including our birth daughter. The ruling that we were granted guardianship and the kids were officially adopted on April 14, 2017. She invited us to her stand for pictures and even let the kids bang her gavel, which they liked doing :).

We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. An important part of becoming a forever family included being sealed together in the LDS temple. We met as a family in the temple on April 16, 2016. We were pronounced a family unit recognized by God and sealed together for time and all eternity. It was a very special occasion for our family, one that we will cherish forever.

It’s been interesting to watch these kids start as strangers and grow into our family. It’s hard to even imagine our family before them! In the beginning it felt almost awkward at times to have the kids in our home, but now it feels so natural and we just know that they are our children.

It has been so much fun watching the kids meet and fall in love with all of their family members. It’s been fun watching our birth daughter tell all the stories and traditions and even more fun watching her share the traditions with her new siblings. Watching our family mesh together has been incredible. It’s something else to see how much our kids are like us and their new extended family members.

It’s been almost a year, now, since we adopted our children. As you might infer from what we have written above, this has been the most difficult yet most rewarding experiences we have ever had. Our children are flourishing, and we grow closer every day. This is not to say that our family is perfect, nor that the children’s’ past does not haunt them and affect their happiness from time to time. But, we are a happy family and we love each other. We are all growing and moving forward toward better things with hope and excitement for the future.

 

About Joel and Katie

Joel and Katie live in the Midwest. Joel is a professor at a local university, and Katie is a full-time (really, overtime) mother. We had so much fun writing a little bit of our adoption story together.

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