There are many people that will greatly influence the lives of your kids – teachers, neighbors, grandparents, etc. While all of those are important in my son’s life, the person that rises to the top isn’t among that list. No, the person who has meant the most to him was another one of his moms; yes, my son has more than one.
Prior to moving in with my husband and I in 2012, Heather was his foster mom of seventeen months. He came to live with her after the second time he was removed from his biological home.
Isaac was just one of twenty-eight children that passed through Heather’s home during their foster journey. Most of them didn’t stay as long as he did, but each life was touched for the better under her roof.
As parents who chose to adopt from the state, you do not under-appreciate the value of a good foster family. There are hundreds of families in both Kansas and Missouri that have chosen to open their homes to children that are separated from their biological families for one tragic reason or another – neglect, abuse, drug use, imprisonment, etc.
Many of those foster families are compassionate and loving, but unfortunately that isn’t the case for all. Sometimes, the dysfunction of the system is just too much for those with healthy relationships, leaving those that thrive in dysfunction themselves to cope with the system’s brokenness. Needless to say, when you find a great family that is able to put up with the chaos of foster care, you throw yourself to the ground thanking the Lord for them.
My son recently asked if we could see Heather again, and I enthusiastically said yes; so in an IHOP one Saturday morning, I sat across the table from the woman to whom I owe so much. We all caught up on the past year and its adventures – a new school, vacations, new friends, new family, and a new forever home.
Isaac loved seeing her again, and I know she was excited to see how far he’d come since leaving her family. The boy in front of her who was laughing, conversing, and smiling was unrecognizable from the one who first darkened her doorstep with the agency worker two and a half years earlier; and while I do believe that some of this change has come from the stability of an adoptive family and the great fit that we all are for one another, I doubt that any of it would have been possible were it not for the seeds of care she planted in him during the time they shared together.
Throughout the entire conversation over pancakes, my heart was trying to find ways to tell her how much I appreciate her and everything she did for Isaac. But how do you appropriately thank the person that for months, kissed your child’s forehead goodnight? Or the one who bandaged up scraped knees? The one that packed the lunches and washed the dirty jeans?
That in itself is difficult, but Heather was so much more than just a mom to Isaac. So what words would be suitable to show gratitude to the woman who, when he was eight, taught my son how to clean himself in the shower and wipe himself correctly? The one who insisted he get the resources he needs to succeed in school? The one who helped him lose thirty-five pounds of extra weight? What can you do to repay the one that held your child the night his world, his family, everything he had known vanished right in front of him? How do you thank the woman that first showed your child what it truly means to love?
To be honest, I’m not sure – and I don’t know that I’ll ever find a way. I just know that thousands of kids would be lost if not for the families that have chosen to give days, months, or years of their lives to these children in need of temporary care. They are more than a home or a safe place to stay. They are truly foster families – fostering love, kindness, and confidence in the hearts of children who’ve never been given this chance.
So to Heather and every other foster family out there, from a mom who loves her son with every fiber of her being – thank you. I only wish you could know how much our family – and families just like ours – will be eternally grateful for you.