For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a mom. I had career ambitions and goals, but being a mom was always part of the plan.
It never occurred to me, when I married at 22, that I wouldn't be able to get pregnant. My husband and I were young and healthy and ready to start our family.
But after several months of trying and seeing doctors and specialists, we got the news: I couldn't get pregnant.
I was devastated, to say the least. So was my then-husband. He wouldn't consider adoption and since I couldn't provide him "children of his own," we ended up divorcing.
Six years later I met the true love of my life, Mike. We were older — all of 34 — and both of us went into the relationship knowing I was not able to have kids.
Mike and I explored the world of traditional adoption and soon found it to be extremely expensive and typically a lengthy process. It can be a rewarding one though. We have friends and family who have traveled halfway across the world and others who have adopted a child from the next county over. They've all ended up with beautiful families.
We knew we could come up with the money one way or another, but we were nervous about waiting a long time for a child when we were getting older each day.
So we resolved to be happy as a family of two (plus a furkid!) and to get on living our lives.
Learning about foster care
Then we began to learn about foster care and all of the kids in foster care waiting for a forever family of their own. In the beginning, our plan was just to be foster parents, not to adopt. We were getting older by the day, after all.
One day a good friend of mine called and informed me that her 16-year-old niece had gotten pregnant and they weren't sure if she would be keeping the baby. We of course told her we would be interested in adopting, if it came to that. But that day never came to pass, and we again tried to move forward. I heard occasional stories about child services being involved and the birth of a second child ... but nothing ever came of it.
It was two years later that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services brought those two young girls to our doorstep.
We were told it was a temporary arrangement.
But weeks turned into months, and months turned into years, and finally — 5 and a half years after we opened our door and hearts to our precious girls — we found ourselves in a courtroom on a cold day in February surrounded by friends and family.
In just 20 minutes the girls shared a last name with us, and we were officially a family in the eyes of the government. We, of course, had been a family for a long time before that.
That's our story, and these are our beautiful girls:
Want to know more about adoption or fostering? Here are some common questions I get about fostering when people hear our story:
Was the long road worth it?
YES! We have made a difference in two little girls' lives and are living our dream of being parents.
Would we recommend fostering as a way of becoming a family?
It's definitely not for everyone, but if it is something you think you could do, or have been wanting to do? DO IT! There is never a "perfect" time to foster or adopt a child, so don't get held back by making sure everything is the perfect time, the perfect living conditions, the perfect... the list goes on. Think instead about the child who might call your house a home: They need a family to love and care for them now. The time is perfect for them now. There are so many kids out there needing forever homes that will provide them with a safe, happy, and permanent life. You may be the answer to their prayers.
Will we foster or adopt again?
We're not sure at this point — only time will tell.
I don't think we want to foster or adopt, but can we help?
There are so many ways to help foster and adoptive families. There are places that take donations and are in need of both financial donations and goods or services from diapers to haircuts to clothes. Here are a few ways you and your family can help:
- CASA: Your local county probably has a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) group. They are always in need of things for kids in foster care. Or you can consider becoming a CASA and help a child or family in a very profound way.
- Adoption and foster agencies: Research local private agencies that take on foster cases like our own — they are typically in need of basics for children they take in on an emergency basis. I know our agency always needs clothes and diapers for all ages.
- Hold a fundraiser: You can raise money or collect items like duffel bags, toys, blankets, toothbrushes, clothes, and diapers on your own, or through organizations like Together We Rise. Have you heard stories of kids showing up to foster homes with just a garbage bag? It's not a myth. Mine arrived with a garbage bag each filled with filthy blankets, stuffed animals, and no clothes.
- National Adoption Organizations: Organizations like the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption are great resources for information about adoption and ways to help others with adoption.
Helping children in such a profound way can feel overwhelming. But if you just decide to start, you will make a difference in the life of a child in need.
Brigette Schroeder is the publisher of Macaroni Kid Yorkville - Geneva - St. Charles, Ill.