Two boys. Elementary school aged. Today.
That was the only information my husband and I received just days after we finished our foster care certification. We hastily built bunk beds (thank you, IKEA!) and got booster car seats, anticipating with excitement and dread (if I’m being honest!) the world-shift we were about to experience. But for five days, the boys didn’t come. Every day was going to be the day, but by the time we put our 10-month baby girl to sleep every night, the boys still hadn’t arrived. Finally, we got a call saying that the boys were not going to be placed with us. Instead, we were asked if we were willing to receive a 12-month old in three hours and pick up her baby sister from the hospital several days later? We looked at each other — and the now irrelevant bunk beds and booster seats — and said YES.
My husband, Graham, and I never felt a distinct call or passion to become foster parents. We are Christians who, for the last several years, have tried to read the Bible and do what it says in the best way we know how. Jesus often talks about loving those around you, especially those that have been overlooked or left out. We live in a county experiencing a foster care “placement crisis” — our city is hundreds of homes short of being able to care for the kids currently in the foster care system. This does not even include the kids that enter the system today, or will enter tomorrow. So before my husband and I were ready, or really even that excited about it, we pursued foster parent certification with the intention of being a short-term home for kids in transition. Our hope was to provide safety and stability, love in its most basic form (warm beds! hot chocolate!) for kids while their parents got back on their feet.
When getting certified, a question we were often asked was whether or not we wanted to adopt. It’s a difficult question to answer. No – we don’t want to adopt because we wholeheartedly believe in family reunification whenever possible. Yes – we would love to adopt because being part of a rescue plan is what we were made for. No – foster care is short-term. Yes – if the option to turn this short-term situation into forever became available, then we would do it in a heartbeat. The question got even trickier to answer when we brought home the two girls. Instead of having abstract kids with non-specific family histories and backgrounds, we now had two babies whom we loved.
Now back to reality. We were bracing ourselves to go from one to three kids overnight. What we did not, and could not, have prepared for was going from one to three kids under the age of one – over the course of a weekend! When we brought the two girls home, suddenly our 10-month old was our middle child, flanked by a 12-month old and a 10-day old. ALL GIRLS. Crazy doesn’t begin to touch how chaotic our house was and how our hearts felt. While the logistical juggle of three so young felt nearly impossible, it was actually the emotional weight of holding these girls (figuratively and literally!) and their stories that became our story, and their unknown now our unknown, that almost broke me. While we longed for their parents and extended family to heal and become a safe place for these girls to grow up, we were also bracing ourselves for the heartache of possibly saying goodbye. What a bizarre experience: to pray and hope for something you know will bring you and your husband and your daughter immense pain.
Months went by, and it became more and more clear that reunification with the two girls’ biological family would not be a safe and stable option for them long-term. On the day that the parents’ rights were terminated, we mourned deeply. The loss to both the girls and their biological family is immeasurable. As a daughter and a parent myself, I would not wish that unnatural separation on anyone. But there was also a seed of joy that we had been unwilling to nurture that began to bud. Our three little ladies, sisters forever! A family of five, grown in an unlikely and unexpected way! We thought we would get two older boys short-term, and we got two baby girls forever! God’s goodness and faithfulness and graciousness and loving-kindness, to us and to the girls, is limitless. We are assured of it in new ways after this year — the hardest and most painful and most joyful year yet.
As of November 10th, I’m thrilled to introduce you to my DAUGHTERS. Not foster daughters, not adoptive daughters, but full-on, as-if-we-were-present-at-their-births DAUGHTERS. Yes and AMEN and hallelujah!
Follow Hannah and Graham on Instagram at: @hannahethomp!