621 days ago, we got a call from our foster agency worker about a newborn girl placement. Today, that baby girl was adopted by extended family. While this was not the outcome we anticipated, we are at peace knowing that she has a safe and loving forever home. ***SPOILER ALERT*** It is true that the final outcome did not involve keeping siblings together. And yet we don’t regret it for a second. In fact, we would do it all over again. Don’t get me wrong … it has been a process for us to arrive at this point. But here is how we got there.
The case in a nutshell.
Tiny Princess spent her first ten days in the NICU before she was released to us. To be perfectly honest, we were not pining for a newborn placement at this stage. First off, Mr. Bean and I are not getting any younger here. (Truth.) But also, we had bunk beds available, … not a bassinet. However, this placement was different, and we did say yes. Because she is Little Bean’s full biological sister, and keeping siblings together is so important for these kiddos whenever possible.
Prior to saying yes to a placement, we try to get as much information as possible about the kids. But you know what I always say: foster care is a fluid situation. The kids come into care and need a home right now. Not after you’ve gotten satisfactory answers to your questions. There is simply not time!! Also, caseworkers do their best to find out as much as they can for you. But even their information is limited. Not to mention, additionally, that these situations can change rapidly. So, … at some point you need to take a leap of faith. (NOTE: I don’t say that blindly. It is not wise to disregard your family’s well-being to take a placement! But you need to have a willingness to put yourself out there, not knowing what the future holds.)
However, we really thought this placement would be different. Actually, pretty much everyone did! Given the family history, and how Little Bean’s case had unfolded, all of the caseworkers (agency, county dependency, and county adoptions department) figured Tiny Princess would be with us for quite a long time, … and probably forever. Honestly, … we kinda did, too. Because, among other things, they are all for keeping siblings together. Right?
Expect the Unexpected
In our foster care experiences, almost everything we thought would go one way has in fact gone the exact opposite. Including Tiny Princess’ case. So I guess one day we will get that through our thick skulls! 🙂 Our first inkling of her case taking a 180 was when extended family came forward asking for visitations with her. That happened within the first 2 weeks or so of placement. Which is always a very good sign for that child! That is a reflection of family stepping up, and possibly being willing to provide permanency! But since we had not experienced that before, it came as a surprise.
Later, when the court investigator came out to discuss the case, our gut feeling was validated. The court investigator’s visit confirmed our hunch that CPS was actively pursuing moving Princess to family. So because of this, we had a good idea from early on that our time with her would be short. (In fact, for a short time, we panicked that we would also lose Little Bean, in spite of the fact that his adoption process was well underway by that point. It was a very emotional time for us!)
Our time with her was short but soooo sweet.
In total, we raised Tiny Princess for the first two months of her life. Mr. Bean and I brought her home from the hospital, all stressed out but anxiously excited. (Sidenote: I was actually wheeled down, IN A WHEELCHAIR, from the NICU to the circle drive, where Mr. Bean picked Princess and I up! And, if you ever find yourself in this situation, don’t even try to argue: its the law! LOL #FosterParentProbs #DumbLaws) We noticed right away that she was the spitting image of Little Bean. (Literally, you can interchange their baby pictures and not know which is which!) Later, my voice became the first voice that she “followed” around the room. She attached easily to us, and we to her.
In those early weeks, the doctors had concerns about her weight. So she was assigned LOTS of doctor appointments for regular weight checks. It was a little stressful and involved alarms going off to feed her through the night, but I’m proud to say that we were able to get her up to fighting weight (and the doctors’ satisfaction). Although, truthfully, I white-knuckled every trip to that pediatrician, as if the scale’s verdict would be either an affirmation or indictment of my ability to parent her.
Tiny Princess loved it when I swaddled her. In fact, she loved to be held. And sung to. And she also liked books! ALL. THE. TIME. So I indulged her! And as a result, she would usually only sleep for me. And toward the end of her time with us, she started talking and laughing for me. Those moments together in the early morning before Little Bean awoke was the best! I loved being her mama for as long as it lasted.
But, didn’t you try to adopt her?
If only I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked this question. 🙂 (INCLUDING, by a stranger, just this week at Tiny Princess’ adoption day, as I sat with her extended family waiting to go into the courtroom to finalize the adoption. Truly the definition of AWKWARD in that moment!) So, if you are wondering about this issue, please go back and read my post here about concurrent planning in foster care. Because that question often comes up, and can be hard to wrap your brain around an answer to.
Finding Peace with the Unexpected
We certainly struggled with saying goodbye to Tiny Princess for a while, figuring that keeping siblings together always took precedence. The sibling issue deeply violated my sense of justice. And so the grief we experienced was exactly the same and also completely different than when we said goodbye to Mancub one year prior. Its crazy hard to put into words.
Not instantly, but over time, we began to see, trust, and accept God’s providence in this decision. I have seen Little Bean benefit from once again being an only child. (Prior to being placed with us, he was an only child.) As a family of three, we have had focused time to continue working on attachment challenges with him that we would not have had if Tiny Princess had stayed.
And the extended family?? They have been so gracious to us. They are not required to have a relationship with us, and yet they do. They have generously given me baby pictures of Little Bean! (It is sadly uncommon for children adopted from foster care to have any baby pictures of themselves. Thankfully, that will not be Little Bean’s story!) We text on the regular, share pictures and child-rearing stories, and exchange gifts for the kids for birthdays and Christmases. Is it perfect? Heck no. But we are staying connected with healthy boundaries, and for that I am so thankful!
Most rewarding for me, as her primary caregiver for those first two months, though, is the deep joy and satisfaction of watching her grow up! Like, … all the way up! Not every foster mom gets to do this! For example, in the 18 months since she was moved, I have kept tabs on her sitting up, then crawling and getting teeth, and now walking, running and talking. And her family still considers (and calls) me one of her mommies. People: I’ll take it.
Please, do me one favor.
I say this in all love and appreciation: do not say that we are awesome, or amazing, or any other adjectives like that. While we certainly appreciate the good place that those sentiments come from, it isn’t entirely accurate. More accurately: we are just a couple of flawed humans (like everyone else) who God is using for a purpose. There is nothing particularly special about Mr. Bean or I. This is merely a choice we have made, and how we want to invest our days on this planet.
One of my fervent hopes and prayers is that in some way, as a result of reading my blog, you are either educated or inspired, or BOTH, about helping foster kids. They are truly the forgotten children. 🙁 So if you have enjoyed hearing about our story as a foster family, please allow that feeling to inspire you to action. Action does not require you to become a foster parent. (Although it would be great if you did!) You can support foster kids in your community by donating, or becoming a CASA, or HECK … supporting the foster PARENTS of those kids!
With love and appreciation for your support of our journey,
The Bean Family