Though our American foster care system is undeniably broken, the vast majority of professionals that I met during my journey through this system to motherhood are kind, gracious people who genuinely care about children and want to do what is best for them.
The social worker who did my homestudy is one of those people. Having one’s entire life scrutinized and verified and notarized in an attempt to prove that one will make a good parent is stressful. She did her best to set me at ease and calm my nerves. We sat on the couch in my living room and chatted about life. I told her how I imagined my foster adoption journey going and she said, “That’s great, hon. But you know it never happens like that, right?”
It never happens like that. It’s a phrase that I heard again and again along the way from kind, gracious professionals who had been around long enough to know.
Kids are unpredictable. Courts are unpredictable. Things happen. Plans change. Families attach. Promises get broken. Hearts get broken. It never happens like that.
Lots of people say the waiting is the hardest part of the road to adoption. In my mind’s eye, at least, I was uncharacteristically zen in the waiting (as zen is not exactly my default). I had an unwavering conviction that when the time and the circumstances were right, I would just know.
After my homestudy, I carried on with life. I spent a week meeting Jesus in Haiti. I welcomed my niece—another beautiful little one loved from the start. I said good-bye to my Pop Pop. I did respite for two babies and fell in love over the course of one weekend (you can read more about them here).
And then, I got the call.
My social worker wanted me to stop by her office to talk about a possible placement. And when I saw the picture of her there, on my social worker’s computer, I knew. I begged and pleaded for this photo (and lots of other things) later on, and now it is framed in my living room. “That’s when I knew,” I tell my daughter. “That’s when I knew we were meant for each other.”
We met. She moved in. We started school together—her in preK, me next door in kindergarten. Court proceedings and appeal windows and waiting periods slipped by quietly as we got to know each other. I learned that she eats anything except melted cheese. She mastered the Shannon face. We fought and cried and rocked and sang and danced and laughed and became family. And six months later, surrounded by the ones I love most in the world, it became official.
They say it never happens like that. But, friends, I need you to know that they are wrong.
They are wrong.
The truth is, sometimes it happens exactly like that.