Long ago when I was in my early twenties, I saw a show (possibly 20/20) about children living in an orphanage overseas. What I saw was horrific. I felt in my heart that I needed to make a difference for children in need.

Several years later, with two kids of our own, Eric and I decided to become a shelter home for foster children in our county. The images of what I had seen years before stayed with me and I still felt a great need to help children. Since I was a stay-at-home mom with a five-year-old and eighteen-month-old, I could care for babies just entering the foster system.

We were told children would stay with us instead of the county shelter for two weeks to one month until they would return to their biological parent or go to an adoptive foster home. It sounded like the perfect way to help. Little did we know how complicated things would get.

Our First Child

I remember when I received the call that a social worker had a newborn baby. C. was a tiny six pounds! He arrived with a blanket and some formula just days old. My heart! From the moment he was in my arms he was mine. Even though in my mind I knew it was only temporary, in my heart, he was my son. I cared for him like I did Arielle and Kai.

Then a few days later, came the call that C. was leaving. He was returning to his mother. My heart felt a pain it had never felt before. I  wanted to scream, “No! You can’t take him.” I reminded myself that I became a foster parent not to adopt, but to make a difference by helping as many children as we could. I held C. constantly, woke with him at night, loved him as if he were my own and although I’d probably never see him again, he’d never know I cared for him, I told myself I helped in some small way.

For the next several months, this was the pattern. When the call came that a child needed a place to stay I was elated. Just as every hello brought joy, every goodbye brought pain. Each time I clung to the thought that I was helping. However, the longer I fostered, took children for visits with their biological parents, met with counselors and other foster parents, the more my eyes opened to a broken system.

Counselors were overloaded with cases, foster parents were saying they would adopt children and then change their minds, courts seemed more intent on placing children with biological parents that were hardly able to care for themselves instead of giving children a chance and allowing them to be adopted by good adoptive foster parents. Adoptive foster parents were scared because of the court’s rulings and didn’t want to risk having a child in their home knowing the courts could take them away. Thus, children were getting hurt.

With a little experience, I reached an understanding that if I was going to make a difference I had to be an advocate for the children in our home. Simply caring for them and loving them wasn’t enough. Our shelter home morphed into a foster home because I hated hearing about children being moved from home to home to home as if they were pieces on a board game.

Not only did we go from being a shelter home to a foster home for one child, but for a summer we had a sibling group of three. Eric and I had five children six years of age and under in our small two-bedroom house. The youngest of the children had been brought to our home at three weeks of age. She stayed with us until she was three months and then we were told she was going to a family that would adopt her and her two siblings. Then when the adoptive family fell through she was returned to me at six months of age. She cried and cried and cried! Eric and I held her all the time. I was angry at the system that could allow this to happen. When we found out they moved her siblings through two more homes, Eric and I asked if they could stay with us until a permanent adoptive family was found. What a summer that was! Outings required two cars because all the car seats wouldn’t fit in one. My husband, who never wanted children, was now caring for five and loving every minute of it. Okay, he may not have loved the time our son, Kai, threw a huge tantrum in the middle of the mall when we wouldn’t let him go into the candy store. Eric had to carry Kai to the car because he refused to get up off the ground. Then Kai screamed, “this man is hurting me!” all the way out the door and through the parking lot. At least we had two cars. Eric could escape with Kai while the rest of us continued shopping. We laugh about it now.

The system found a beautiful couple that wanted a big family. As happy as I was that a family was found my heart slowly cracked with each visit. It was the first time I had cared for a baby for almost a year and the first time I had cared for a three-year-old. A three-year-old who had been through so many homes. How could I let her know how much I loved her and her siblings and still say goodbye? I wanted to adopt all three of them, but we were a shelter/foster home, new parents were found, and Eric and I reminded ourselves that we began our journey with the belief that we would help as many children and families that we could. We just didn’t realize how much it was going to hurt.

Goodbye

We met at a park. The baby was just starting to call me, “mama.” I handed her to her new mama. My heart smashed in a million pieces. But I couldn’t cry. I had little ones watching me. I had to stay strong. The baby’s older sister loved music. We bonded over Blues Clues. The little girl’s vibrant personality mixed with maturity like no other three old because she had been through so much had me feeling like I was conversing with a pre-teen trying to explain what was happening. The smiley little boy, like Kai, just wanted to run and play. Always agreeable, always happy, full of energy as long as he was with his sisters, he was content.

I don’t remember every detail of the day just the overwhelming pain of goodbye. I watched as they drove off in their minivan. I knew a piece of me went with them. It wasn’t long after that I stopped fostering. The experience had opened my eyes to the effect fostering may have had on Arielle and Kai. The void we felt when the three were gone was great.

Looking Back 

I wanted to adopt every child that came through our door. Even if a child was with us for only a few days whenever they left it hurt. I listened to people tell me how they could never do such a thing. They could never take in a child and say goodbye. This always brought about mixed emotions within me because it felt as if they were telling me I was cruel and they could never be so cruel. But the alternative would have been to do nothing and close our eyes to the fact that children in our community needed a safe, loving home while their biological parents were given time to straighten out their lives. When children are removed from a home it’s a complicated situation. No one knows how long it will be until the parents get them back or a relative is found. Where do these kids go in the meantime? Who will care for the infants of moms living in shelters or the teenage moms who have no support? Then there are the drug addicted moms, the violent fathers, and the parents who are emotionally unstable. Where will the innocent souls (their children) live while the system decides where their permanent home should be?

Childhood is 18 short years. Eventually, parents have to let go. It hurts. Loving a child is a great gift. I’ve been blessed to have had twenty-six children in my life to love.  Each one  has a place in my heart. It’s my hope that more people will reach out to foster children, see the need in our community, and risk opening their hearts to kids in the system because they deserve and need the support of stable, loving adults.

“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together.. there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart.. i’ll always be with you.“

― Winnie the Pooh


Comments to "Love Means Letting Go"

  1. Jamie Ayres

    October 7, 2015

    I love your blogs . . . always so beautifully poignant. And with each one, I’m more convinced you’re really an angel on earth!

    • kdrausin

      October 12, 2015

      Thank you, Jamie. You’re very kind. I’ve never been called an angel before. I fear my husband may disagree with you. 🙂
      I just want to make a difference while I can. Live my best life…

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