Rebecca’s Foster Care to Adoption Story
Every foster care to adoption story is different. Today we share Rebecca’s family journey through the system. On May 28th, 2019 Rebecca and her family formally adopted their son Aaron right before his 18th birthday.
Why Foster Care to Adoption?
As individuals and as a couple, Rebecca and her husband agreed they’d one day adopt a child. Even with two biological daughters of their own, this was their long-time goal.
Rebecca says, “I remember one day before we were ever married, walking through the mall and having a conversation about how we wanted to adopt despite our ability to have our own children.”
Starting The Process
To start the foster care to adoption process Rebecca and her family received their license through the State of Texas. The early stage of this process was slow. They submitted applications on almost every child but never heard back. They then switched to a local non-profit agency after building a friendship with a social worker at an adoption festival. The agency, unfortunately, lost their file and closed down, forcing Rebecca and her family to redo the 40-hour training.
Again, they submitted applications on every child and never received a call. At this point, things were looking bleak. “My husband and I discussed not continuing with our license when the time came to renew. It was all becoming exhausting. After 3 years, we were losing faith in the process, that maybe this wasn’t the right time for us and maybe our kids should be older. We received a flyer from our agency for an upcoming festival. After attending 8 of them, falling in love each time and being disappointed, I wasn’t very excited to go. In fact, the morning of October 13, I thought about telling my husband we should bail. But I sucked it up and we followed through,” said Rebecca.
Rebecca and her husband arrived at the foster care to adoption festival early and started browsing through the books of children in attendance. On paper, none of the children fit their parameters. Which, for the record, were very open. Rebecca caught a glimpse of a few teenage boys playing basketball together.
“I noticed a tall lanky kid with glasses and a bandaged wrist. He was laughing and throwing basketballs one-handed at the hoop. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something was special about him. I asked my husband, ‘what about that kid.’ To which my husband lovingly replied, ‘that guy is like, twenty.’ We went back to the books and found him. The picture showed a pre-teen in a maroon button-up with two broken front teeth and a shaved head. Right there on the pages, seventeen. I was convinced that there was no way those were the same kid. So we hunted down his worker. Turns out she was on vacation and her stand-in confirmed the information was his.”
“You Want To Talk To Me???”
As they chatted with the social worker about Aaron, he walked up. He asked the social worker to hold his jacket. She responded by telling him, “Hey wait, these people want to talk to you.”
Rebecca recalls, “I don’t think he’d even realized we were sitting there. He looked at us, looked back at her and then again to us. His exact heartbreaking words were, ‘you want to talk to me???’ I shot my husband a look that said I was already invested.”
Aaron sat with them for two hours! They spoke about school and college, whether he had his drivers license. “He was incredibly honest about his experiences and his prior behaviors. For a teen, his self-awareness was impressive,” said Rebecca.
Both Rebecca and her husband expressed their excitement over the possibility of gaining a son. “On the way home, we mildly freaked out about the potential of car shopping and all the other things an older teenage boy would bring to our mostly peaceful home of girls. I considered every scenario and how we would handle them, I mentally set parameters for what I anticipated might come with his presence. Then. We waited.”
The Wait Game
One week, two weeks, three weeks, and still nothing. The call finally came and what followed shattered Rebecca’s heart into a million pieces. The social worker felt that this would not be a good fit and that they consider being Aaron’s mentors.
“With Christmas Eve only a few days away, we begged for his worker’s information so we could buy him presents and deliver them to her. We went on a frantic shopping spree and dropped presents off at her office just in the nick of time. That was the first time we met her and got to show her who we were. She was excited and hopeful for him, but there was one huge problem. He’d ran away from the shelter the day before we met him and it upped his level to severe. We were only licensed to moderate.”
Not Giving Up
Rebecca and her family did not give up on the foster care to adoption process. Everyone agreed that if Aaron’s level went down to moderate he would be granted an emergency placement/foster only. Three months passed and Aaron’s levels came back as severe.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Rebecca said. “We asked if he knew that we were trying, but after a prior failed adoption placement and 17 other placements, they thought it was best not to tell him we were in the picture, even though, it turns out that he had been asking about us the whole time. His worker submitted another request for review, now expedited because we had to have him x amount of times before the adoption was even a possibility and his 18 birthday was only 6 months away. It came back another few days later as moderate.”
A Sigh of Relief
Rebecca’s family took a sigh of relief. They met with Aaron the following weekend at his favorite fast food joint, Chick-Fil-A. Aaron and both of the social workers met with Rebecca and her husband. Rebecca shares, “After he ate 24 nuggets, the panic rose again that our grocery bill was about to take a serious hit. We laughed and did the whole ‘get to know you’ thing all over again. It had been months and I was terrified that my first intuition may have been wrong, but thankfully it wasn’t and the conversation was completely natural.”
Two days later Rebecca and her family took Aaron to the Main Event: Meeting the Girls. (Rebecca and her husband’s biological children.) “The girls were instantly in love. They played and chased each other, I was amazed by how well he fit in. It was like he’d always been with us, he’d always been my son, and it was meant to be.”
After observing Aaron’s interactions with Rebecca’s family the agency admitted having misread the situation. “They learned something special from us about the adopters intuition and after our overnight the next week, we were all smitten and couldn’t wait for placement.”
Aaron moved in five days later and officially became part of the family. “We were suddenly hurled into high school and cars and girls. It was quite frankly overwhelming. But having thought through so many things early on, we were ready to tackle the big issues.”
Rebecca shared, “He was very forward about things I wasn’t necessarily ready to hear or deal with. But I listened quietly giving my two cents only when needed. That’s what he needed, an ear. He didn’t need someone to tell him what to do, he needed someone to listen. Months passed, we embraced this new life with him.”
Life is fuller with Aaron. Rebecca noted how his anxieties about the future melted away. Aaron is excelling in school, got his drivers permit, a job, and asked to change his last name. After the foster care to adoption process, Aaron became a different kid.
“When we first met him, we figured he may never call us mom and dad, that was ok. What we wanted most for him was a chance for (having a) life and we were well aware that our mentor status might stick, but something amazing happened. He accepted us as his mom and dad. At seventeen, this boy (who was) almost a man, choose to let us in after years and years of being let down and disappointed. THAT is the beauty of adopting. On August 28 he legally became our son, though in our hearts that was true much sooner.”
To those of you who plan on taking the foster care to adoption journey, Rebecca advises patience. “The right kid is out there for you. Don’t be afraid to change agencies or go through different avenues. Follow your gut.” She says, “Our age limit was 13. Don’t be afraid to look beyond your original thoughts. Older kids and teens have many times come to terms with what has happened with them and are excited and hopeful about adoption.”