Foster Care Adoption: Dark Moments & Big Triumphs
Two things are certain — I always planned to be a doctor, and I always planned to be a mother. I never anticipated how those two plans would overlap and change my trajectory. Eighteen months after our first daughter was born, my husband and I decided to look into adoption. Adoption at the time was prohibitively expensive. We were living on my pediatric residency salary and my husband worked in the volatile field of oil and gas business. I was in the middle of my residency training, working difficult hours and struggling to balance my personal life with my passion for my work. A friend adopted through foster care and encouraged us to consider “foster to adopt.” After hours of trainings, background checks and home visits, we were approved for foster care.
No one told us how messy foster care or adoption would be. Truly I’m not certain I would have listened if they had. I wasn’t prepared for the realities of adopting through a broken system. We wanted to grow our family, and we were blind with excitement. Our hearts were bursting to share the love in our family with any child the state selected for us. After filling out a survey detailing the type of child(ren) we would be open to accepting into our home, the calls began. The placement hotline would call continuously, sometimes in the middle of the night, then go silent for days on end. We said “no” to numerous placements that weren’t the right fit for either the child or our family, or both, which often left me in a puddle of my own guilt-ridden tears.
Our first placement was two sisters, despite our request for a single-child placement and a completely different age range. Something just felt right after turning down so many calls. The girls had a messy past, and we were not their first foster home. Our fostering experience included over a year of trauma-focused therapy, parent-child interaction therapy, incredible teachers, support from our family and close friends, countless meltdowns, unidentified trauma triggers, and constant dysregulation due to our well-meaning but ill-prepared selves. It wasn’t glamorous. We constantly dealt with unknowns, which is the very nature of foster care. There is no guarantee you will get to adopt the kids you’re fostering, no matter how attached you, or they, may become.
When we finalized our adoption, my husband and I took vows similar to the ones we said at our wedding. I shamelessly ugly-cried through the whole adoption hearing. As a working mom navigating the nuances of the state foster care system, the constant phone calls to our attorney, the girls’ CASA workers, and their guardian ad litem, the communications with other foster families, and the numerous counseling appointments outside of our work hours, it would be disingenuous to say it was easy. However, I can say with confidence it was worth it.
My husband and I regularly debriefed with each other so our marriage would not suffer from the stress of the foster and adoption process. A major source of my stress was the lack of support from my workplace – the girls weren’t “our kids,” and I was met with feedback like “you chose this.” The girls being in foster care with me was somehow seen by my workplace as different than if I had birthed a baby the “traditional” way. One phrase that got me through the hardest moments was, “If not me, who? If not now, when?”
Because of my girls’ experience in foster care, after pediatrics residency I chose to specialize in the field of Child Abuse & Neglect and am currently in my final year of fellowship training. Our girls are now thriving and involved in many activities and excelling in school. We have since had a fourth baby, also a girl, and our house is filled to the brim with laughter, energy, creativity, sibling rivalry, and pure unbridled joy. Are my girls lucky that we adopted them? Absolutely not. No child is lucky to be removed from their biological family. We are lucky to have the opportunity to love them.
For those interested in foster care or adoption, I encourage you to find someone else who has done it and ask them their experience. Ask the hard questions and understand that you will be more optimistic and less realistic at the start of the process, and that you may become jaded with time. For those on the fence, I would say do it. These kids need you and you need them. Read everything you can about foster care and adoption, including all of the books on childhood trauma you can get your hands on. It will prepare you for the darkest moments and help you celebrate the biggest triumphs.
Dr. Christine Beeson, DO, is a Tulsa native and a local pediatrician specializing in child abuse and neglect. She is mom to four rambunctious daughters and enjoys running marathons, baking, and traveling with her husband.