When I was called to foster, I thought for sure God had messed up. Me? No. Surely not. He must have mistaken me for someone else. There was no way He was asking me to sign up with a grateful heart to be a single mom. Nope. I am not your girl. That’s insanity. I’ve had the privilege to walk a lot of life with single moms. I’ve seen first hand the kind of courageousness and bravery it takes to be a single mom. I didn’t possess that kind of strength. I’m not capable or qualified. No way. Not me. Well, I don’t know how telling God ‘no’ has worked out for you, but for me, it’s never really worked out in my favor. So, with my heart scared to death and my voice shaking, I said yes. Sign me up. I’ll do it.
Before becoming licensed to be a foster parent, I was making monthly visits to a local orphanage and had been for several years. Fostering and adoption have always been very close to my heart. I just always assumed it would be something I did after I was settled into life a little more, or after I was married. The beautiful thing though about children in foster care is they really don’t care if you are capable and fitted to be a mom or dad. They just want you to be open and willing to say yes to them. It was just like every other visit to the orphanage that freezing cold day in January. Except this time, there was a new precious little 8-year-old boy. He immediately caught my attention. His actions were screaming to me that his trauma ran deep. I left there that day full of heartache hoping I would see him again. For the next 7 months, I saw him once or twice a month. It became increasingly difficult to leave him as he would just cling to my leg and beg me to take him home. And I would have if I was licensed to do so. I would leave, go home, cry, and beg God to provide that precious boy with a family. Turns out, I was the answer to those prayers. I was his family. I was the one to be his mom. I just didn’t know it yet.
I knew the process to become a foster parent was often a grueling one. But as God would have it, about the time I felt a calling to foster, the pastor of the church I grew up in began an incentive called Rescue 100. The initial goal of Rescue 100 was to have 100 families sign up throughout our church and community to become foster parents through an expedited process of becoming licensed in one weekend. Rescue 100 has now become a state-wide collaborative effort in Mississippi to recruit, train, and support foster families by expediting the licensing process to one day of in-person training and some online training as well. I attended the very first Rescue 100 training weekend in May, 2016. Pending my home visits, background checks, and paperwork, lots of paperwork, I was well on my way to becoming a foster parent.
After I completed the process and was officially licensed, I told my resource worker I knew a little boy in foster care at a local orphanage and I was willing to bring him home until they found him a forever home. I was so thrilled to tell him at my next visit that I was going to be able to bring him home. Except when I arrived, he was no longer there. I was devastated, confused, and frustrated. I knew that little boy had been brought in my life for a reason. I knew I was supposed to fight for his life. I knew it. But I found myself standing there unsure if I would ever see him again. I did some digging and found out he was moved to another orphanage in a town about three hours from me. I started beating down doors, exhausting the phones lines, and email threads. I was doing whatever I had to do to make sure I was able to bring him home. Nothing worked. I was so confused. There was a boy in foster care that needed a home, and I was willing to give him a safe place, but the agency kept refusing without reason.
After months of fighting but still believing I was supposed to help this little boy, I told God if this was what He truly had for me and for him, that He was going to have to show up and perform a miracle. I was getting out of His way and I was going to let Him do what He does best. Be God. I stopped all the calls, I stopped all the emails, I stopped all the visits to the agency, I stopped with all the questions, and I stopped all the fight. I just stopped. I received daily requests to take in other children but refused, because it would leave me no room for Jeremy in case they called for me to take him. Every phone call ended in tears because I felt like the worst human for saying no to hurting children. But I had hope that my boy was going to come home.
I often go to the gym on my lunch break and this day was just like any other day. I headed out to the gym, jumped on the treadmill, turned on my music, pressed start, and prayed. I prayed for my boy. I prayed for a miracle. And after three months of silence, my phone rang. I stopped the treadmill. ‘Hello?,’ I said. On the other end were the words I had been holding onto hope for. She said, ‘I’m Jeremey’s social worker and someone mentioned to me today that you might be interested in taking him in. Is this true?’ She went on to tell me his situation was definitely going to be one of permanency. ‘Are you willing to adopt if needed?,’ she asked. Let me remind you, adoption of him wasn’t my goal. It was just to give him a home until, ya know, the ‘other’ family God had for him became available. But I forgot about that plan and responded with a resounding ‘YES!’ Oh, and ‘where is he?? I’ll go get him now.’ She informed me I was required to make one visit with him to his orphanage before I could have him permanently. So, I loaded up my best friend and her son and we hit the road that weekend. We played hard, hugged him tight, and promised him we would be back for him soon. Within a week my boy was home.
I would be lying if I told you things from here out were a fairy tale. In fact, it was the opposite. Jeremy’s trauma runs deep. You see, there were many days Jeremy was locked in closets, left hoping he might get a snack or a sip of water for the day. There were many days he wasn’t sure if he would make it out alive from being so brutally beaten. I didn’t know what to do with all of his trauma. All I knew to do was to love him. To be available. To listen. To hold him. To be a mom. The days were long and hard, and sometimes just flat out brutal. So much time off work was spent at his school begging his teachers to be patient with him. I often cried myself to sleep feeling like I wasn’t what he needed. It also wasn’t ever far from me that well-intended people, often ones that loved me, told me countless times, ‘maybe he would just be better with a family with a dad.’
After about six months of having Jeremy home and things starting to settle down a bit, we started making visits with his other siblings. We headed out one Saturday morning to attend our sibling visit like we had every other time, except once again, this visit forever changed my life. The kids were tearing through the park, jumping off the slide, and hanging from the monkey bars while I stood there talking to another foster mom. That’s when I felt a little tug on my shirt. I turned around and there stood Jeremy’s brother Kendrick. I turned around and asked if he was okay or if he needed anything. He said, ‘Are you Jeremy’s mom?’ I said, ‘Yeah buddy, I am.’ And then his crushing response was, ‘Will you be my mom too?’ I cried. I hugged him. I was speechless. I couldn’t promise this sweet boy I would be his mom because no way was I going to take him and leave his little brother behind, and NO WAY was I going to take two more kids. Nope. I wasn’t doing it. FOR SURE not your girl, God. That’s real, real cute.
Remember when I told you about that whole telling God ‘no’ thing? Yeah, that’s cute too, but it still doesn’t work. My other two sons were home in less than a week and I was officially a single mom of three boys. Well-intended loved ones once again reminded me how insane I was and that I was making a mistake. Some even walked away. And it’s okay. I know it’s crazy. Trust me. I’m living right in the middle of all the crazy, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Once again, things weren’t easy. Kendrick and Jayonne were full of trauma too. For months I laid in bed with Jayonne and held him as he asked me questions; questions I just didn’t have the answers to while he cried himself to sleep. Kendrick put up a fight like I’ve never seen. He didn’t trust me because he had no reason to. Breaking through the barriers he put up around his heart almost seemed impossible to tear down. But little by little, we removed tiny pebbles at a time.
I started to see glimmers of hope that they were starting to feel safe and trust me. My first Mother’s Day card from my oldest sweet boy, Jeremy, read ‘from sick and poor to nobody care, you chose me out of all.’ Can you even?! I think I cried for three days.
My youngest boy, my clown, my life of the party, my kind-hearted boy, started to recall days when he got punched in the face for getting a piece of cheese out of the fridge. Their stories never fall on a primed heart. They crush me every time like it’s the first one I’m hearing. This time was no different. So when he busted through the door from playing outside with his friends because everyone is his friend… his family… he loves everyone… I once again wasn’t ready for his words. ‘MOMMA! MOMMA! My friends are hungry! Do you think you can make them some food?! I’ll invite them in. We can sit at our table and we can eat with them.’ Wait, my boy that used to live in fear to get a piece of cheese, that boy… he feels safe to ask his momma with full confidence to feed his hungry friends? I’m unworthy. But you better believe after I pulled it together, I served up chicken nuggets to about 10 kids like it was my only job.
As adoption was drawing near, my fears were mounting. Will I be enough? Am I sure I’m doing the right thing? Am I really what they need? Can I really do this? All the questions were consuming my thoughts and all the insecurities were setting in. But as usual, God always shows up. We were headed to school one morning, everyone was quiet eating their candy that their Lulu (my cousin) brought over for them the night before. No, I don’t always let my kids eat candy for breakfast, but whatever man. They were excited and some days that matters more. Then my middle son, Kendrick, broke the silence with ‘Momma, can you please call the judge? He’s just moving too slow. Does he know? Does he know I need you to be my momma? Does he know? I’ll tell him. I need to be adopted. I can’t wait anymore.’ My boys waited three long years. Three years of holding onto to any little bit of hope that promised them a forever family.
And on April 1, 2019, I had the greatest privilege of adopting my precious boys. Forever sealing in their hearts that they are home. Forever.
I don’t know what you’re waiting on or holding onto hope for, but I know you haven’t been forgotten. You’re seen and your time is coming. That thing is coming. Or maybe today you’re like me and just needed to be reminded you’re enough, and that you’re exactly where you’re meant to be. Either way, I promise there is no better place than stepping into the thing that scares you the most.