My name is Jess Stamm, I’m 32, and my husband and I have been foster parents for about a year and a half. We have a 3-year old biological son, Shiloh, and a one year old, Cedar, who we adopted from foster care.
A couple years after we got married, we were ready and excited to start growing our family. That excitement quickly changed to disappointment and fear as month after month went by and we weren’t getting pregnant.
That season of waiting and desiring a baby—seeing a fertility specialist, undergoing surgery and various procedures, and even suffering a miscarriage—it was the hardest thing either of us had ever walked through. We had to let go of this idea that building our family was something we had control over.
As we began to experience peace and rest in our faith that our God had a plan, we were also coming to the end of what we felt like we could do (financially, physically and emotionally) with fertility treatments. Adoption had been something we’d always talked about and seen as a possibility for down the road and we felt propelled by our faith that it was time to say yes. And so, we started learning about adoption and talking to our friend who worked in the field. We made the decision, that if our last fertility treatment didn’t work, we’d stop treatments and start pursuing an open domestic adoption.
As it would turn out in February of 2014, we started the process to become licensed to adopt and, by June, we were officially licensed and ready to be matched with a birthmother. And then, three days later I found out I was pregnant! Which was a surprise to say the least. Getting pregnant was unexpected and the timing was confusing for us in the beginning, but we had faith that our God was in control.
So, our adoption plans got put on hold and we welcomed Shiloh James to our world in February of 2015. However, our desire to adopt didn’t change and, so, for about a year, we did a lot of praying and talking and considering what was next for our family, and through our faith we felt led to foster care.
We had considered foster care before we got pregnant and it honestly just seemed so scary. The possibility of not knowing how long we’d have a child, the idea of saying goodbye, it just seemed too hard, too much uncertainty, and too much possibility for heartbreak on top of the deep grief we’d been walking through with our infertility. When we talked about it the second time, it honestly wasn’t any less scary. It didn’t seem any easier or more certain. We had the space, and we saw the need. We had grown in our faith and we were open. Whether it’s more biological children, children that need a home just for a short while, or children that need a forever home, we trusted in our faith.
Before we became foster parents, I honestly had the perspective that it was about rescuing children from their broken families, removing them from the bad and putting them in the good. It was hard to understand when I’d hear about children being put back with their parents. I thought adoption was the goal and that was the outcome to be celebrated.
And now, I see that a family experiencing healing and restoration is always the best thing we could ever hope to see. We don’t just want a better future for the child, but for the family as a whole. That child’s whole past and identity doesn’t disappear when they walk through the doors of our home. Many parents who have children in foster care were once in foster care themselves. Many have no one cheering them on, believing in them, speaking truth and love to them. Being a foster parent, we’re obviously making a profound difference by loving and caring for a child. But one of the most loving things we can do for a child is to love their family.
On February 9th of last year, as I was leaving work around 5 PM, I received a call. A two month old in the hospital recovering from abuse would be discharged the next day and needed a family to come home to. By noon the next day, I was loading him into a car seat in a caseworker’s car and welcoming him into our home and our family.
As sure as we were, those first few weeks were really hard. I had a lot of fear and anxiety over the unknowns of it all, what it would mean for our family and for our son Shiloh, who was just turning two years old.
But foster care is worth it. This little boy that had absolutely no control over his life was worth it. That us, loving this little boy today, no matter what heartache it could mean for us in the future, was worth it because it meant healing and hope for him. That holding him and comforting him and singing him to sleep were actually physically healing his brain from the trauma he’d experienced and setting a better foundation for his future. So no matter how many days we got to be the ones to do that, it mattered every single moment immensely.
As weeks and months went on, loving Cedar became second nature. He was effortlessly part of our family. But it was in this next season that we had another choice to make, that loving this little boy didn’t mean just loving him, but loving his family. As it was looking like his mom was taking the steps she needed to take, to be able to get him back, I felt compelled to enter in and to love her.
Loving Cedar’s mom felt incredibly risky to me. Hoping the best for her ultimately meant the possibility of heartache and loss for us. And here is where our hearts changed. If there was even a chance for restoration for this family, then we were all in.
And so, I met Cedar’s biological mom. I started driving two hours once a week for Cedar to visit her. And honestly, most of the time it felt really inconvenient and there were weeks when she wouldn’t come or other setbacks would happen and I’d just get so frustrated and discouraged over it all. But, what also happened, is that as I sat with her week after week, and listened to her story, shared the joys of her son, this separateness that had existed between us just vanished.
And as much as I’d truly hoped that the end of the story would have looked like Cedar being able to go home with her again, what happened instead was that through the time we spent together, as I entered into her story and allowed her into mine, she made the incredibly brave and selfless decision to choose us to be Cedar’s permanent family.
We officially adopted Cedar in February of this year and we’re navigating this future together with Cedar and with his biological mom. A future where she will always have the opportunity to know her son, and he will grow up knowing her and this incredibly important and valuable part of his story.
And now, we’re just waiting for that next call and that next “yes.”
One of the most common things I have had said to me as a foster parent is, “I just don’t think I could do it, I’d get too attached. It would be too hard to give them back.” The thing is, all I can say to that is you’re right. You do get attached. And that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.
You see, for any child, especially those who have experienced the trauma of abuse and neglect, attachment is the greatest and most important thing you can give them. Having a safe, trusted adult they can depend on is actually healing for their brain and it sets a foundation for the rest of their life.
So yes, you get attached. You fall in love. You cry rocking them to sleep some nights because you’re never sure how many more nights you might have.
But that pain is a pain you’re willing to bear, because you can bear it. The possibility of heartache for you is just such a small price to pay if it means safety and healing and hope for a child and their family.
Consider what you can do. Not everyone is in the position where they can take children into their home, but everyone can do something to help. If you’re not quite ready to become a foster parent, look into ways you can serve foster parents in your area. Bringing a meal, offering to babysit, donating clothing and toys, or even sending an encouraging note can make a huge difference for foster parents and children whose lives have just been flipped upside down.