The First Placement for our First Foster Child
By Amanda Firth
This is part of a short series about Foster Parenting and Adoption in Santa Cruz County. Proper names in the story have been changed for the privacy and protection of the children involved.
We were ready for a new baby. There was a half size crib in our bedroom with green and yellow sheets and baby blankets, a few baby outfits, and a toy. That was it. Oh, and a new credit card that was only usable at Babies-R-Us.
Honestly, we did not believe this was really going to happen. We had trained, interviewed, and been thoroughly prepared and inspected, but after years of trying, the idea that a baby would appear seemed unreal. Then I got a call at work from my wife.
“There’s a baby! They have a baby for us!”
My heart leapt. I rushed through all the questions because I think I honestly didn’t care about them, except the last one.
“Is this baby going to be permanent?”
“They said probably. The Mom is addicted and the Dad ran away when they asked him to do a drug test.”
Although I’m sure they told us this many times in training, at the time, I didn’t understand that you never know the full story the day you take in a foster child. You’re catching a fastball! An emergency is happening and the details will reveal themselves later. Kids rarely enter foster care if a crisis is not unfolding for their family.
“The mom is having trouble letting go and wants to meet the foster family. They want us to get to the hospital right away.”
That did it. I’m always there when the world calls me into service for a good cause. I finished my work day and went straight to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). That day, I didn’t know that over the next three years I would become a frequent flyer at NICUs, happily spending over 70 days of my life caring for small humans in them after work.
This baby was in Watsonville. I was ushered in the scrub room by a nurse who thanked me for being there and said, “The baby looks just like you anyways. We need to get her out.” It was a bit jarring to hear, but I could imagine what the nurses go through.
The pair was behind a curtain. I will never forget the fear that ripped through the vignette. The woman had a sharply beautiful face and a body reshaping from pregnancy. She held her baby with white knuckles and had eyes I’ve only seen on a cornered cat about to fight. Her hair was done and she had a perfect outfit. I remembered my days after childbirth when I had no capacity to match my clothes or to even look in the mirror, and to the effort this woman had made truly broke my heart. This woman was trying. Trying so hard.
“Hello. I’m Amanda. I’m the foster Mom.”
She didn’t say anything. Her hand shifted to her chin and her eyes darted around as she calculated what to do.
“My job is to take care of your baby while you have the time you need to get strong. She’s a beautiful baby.”
“Wait til you see her eyes.”
This was the start of a powerful relationship. The woman interviewed me carefully, and after a little while she was able to let me hold the baby.
Two days later, it was time for the baby to come home. We had seen the mother once or twice again. We stood in an unused exam room off the nursery signing paperwork with a social worker. My wife was diligently asking all the right questions. I looked out the window and they were ushering the mother out. She was weeping and immediately found my eyes. I walked right out and swept her up into a great bear hug. “We will take great care of her. You just do everything they tell you to do and she’ll be back to you in no time.”
I meant it with all of my heart. Three years later, after many twists and turns in our story, I met the baby, now a little girl, and the mother for a cup of tea. They were healthy, sober, and making it, and they brought me so much joy. Although I only thought of wanting my own baby when I started out, this mother and daughter showed me the happiness that can be found when you’re brave enough to be guided by love.
No-Bake Holiday Love Wreaths
Melt the marshmallows and butter together in a double boiler (put a metal bowl in a pan on the stove and boil water in the pan underneath if you don’t have a double boiler). Stir when liquid and add vanilla and food coloring. Remove the bowl and stir in the cereal. Drop mixture by spoonfuls onto parchment paper or tin foil, place red hots on each dollop. If desired, form them into wreaths.