Foster Parenting and Adopting is Like Crossing the Sea
By Amanda Firth
This is the introduction to 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.
I’m drowning over and over again. First there was paperwork, miles of forms and visits to our apartment by person after person.
They arrived with briefcases, clipboards, forms, and delved into every cupboard and cabinet, every bit of history, and every personal value we had. They rifled through our emotional baggage. They challenged us at every turn. They asked doctors to examine our very bodies for soundness. They looked at report cards for our two teenage birth children, talked to friends, then made sure there were no sad secrets lurking in the recesses of our minds, hearts, lives and souls to prevent us from being good parents. The message was clear; in this county, the system, and the people in it, really care.
This was the beginning of our foster-to-adopt journey. We had two birth children. We had always wanted another child and had been trying to get pregnant for ten years. Finally, we had to admit that my body was just not up for another round of fertility treatments, and it was time to find other options. We ended-up fostering seven children and adopting three. We are now a family of seven.
Over 400 children come into foster care in Santa Cruz County each year. While going through this process, I had a hard time finding anything to read from others who were experiencing it. My hope is that foster parents reading this will find points of connection, and that other readers gain insight into what foster parents in our community experience every day.
Our apartment became a “certified foster home.” Then we waited. And waited. Then another ocean appeared. This one was full of warm, tranquil, turquoise water lapping at our toes. Happy, tropical fish in jeweled colors popped to the surface and made us quake with joy. This happy land was in the real form of a baby! The top of her head was downy soft and smelled beautiful, and she was there to be fed, shopped-for, dressed up, and engulfed in the sensory bath of love that we had been waiting to offer.
The next sea was a stormy one; the baby went back to her birth mother who had recovered from addiction. We loved the mother, and honestly we felt like we’d done more good in six weeks than in the rest of our lives combined, but handing over the baby hurt.
Then the darkness fell and the black tide rose. Although another baby arrived shortly, and stayed, a distant relative appeared and fought for him, and we went through a two-week shipwreck from which we barely recovered. There has been no darker time in my life than the two weeks we spent thinking a baby we had loved for nine months would be abruptly handed-over to a person we did not trust. This ocean was full of lawyers, tears, friends with casseroles who cried with us, and a fifty-five page plea I wrote in two days explaining to anyone who would listen why this was a travesty. It earned me the forever nickname “Fifty-five Page Amanda.”
But then the sun finally rose. A sharp and blinding glare burst over the horizon with a single, short phone call from our lawyer: “I can’t tell you why, but you never have to worry about this again.” The next ocean for drowning was simply one of adoption paperwork. As in, don’t bother me, I’m drowning in a four-inch stack of paperwork and I have a double-booked schedule of adoption appointments.
Later in the process, we discovered the fulfillment of fostering kids whose parents just needed a little time to recover and heal, called a “reunification.” I believe when I reflect on my life, this will be the single best thing I ever did for the world and my greatest source of pride.
So now I am drowning again. I’m drowning in school lunches, teacher meetings, school district meetings, doctor appointments, therapy appointments, college prep for my birth children, new and exciting paperwork for status changes, and let’s face it, figuring out what on earth to cook for dinner and how to pay for it all when suddenly I have a family of seven in one of the most expensive counties in the US.
But you know what? At least once a day, I am so overwhelmed by joy, gratitude, and love, that it just takes my breath away. It’s a deeper joy than I ever experienced before I jumped into this ocean, not knowing how many oceans there were to cross ahead of me. And I know what to cook for dinner.
Easy One-Pot Creamy Spaghetti
Brown the sausage in the bottom of a large covered pot on the stovetop (6-8 minutes on medium high while stirring). Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Cover. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 15-20 minutes until the pasta is tender.