Do not “Play” with adoption

The First Guy has been abandoned by four “mothers” and he has yet to reach his 11th birthday. And the last woman is the one who promised to “love and hold” him forever. You know that term – a “Forever Family” – that’s what adoptive families are supposed to be.

When The First Guy was nine months old, he was placed with his paternal aunt as his mother was running from the drug gangs. She decided after three months that she couldn’t care for an active toddler given her medical conditions and her own children. He came to our house where he fell in love with my sister – the woman he bonded with – the woman he came to believe was his mother. And yet, that’s not how the “system” works. He was returned to his biological mother for a few months until he came back into care with us at age 3 and with his 18-month old sister. Once again, his mother seemed to stabilize so he was sent home until at age 5 he was “too much to handle” and was admitted to the mental health ward. After a crazy couple weeks, the judge ruled he needed to be in a “therapeutic foster” home rather than with the woman he considered to be his mother. He lived in this new foster home, was adopted by the family, and last week was abandoned to a group home.

He’s ten. His aunt gave up on him. His biological mother couldn’t handle him. From his perspective, my sister left him (against every bone in her body but by court order) and then his forever family visited him in the group home and told him, “I’m not taking you out of here.”

You do not play with adoption. Adoption is a choice. Adoption is a commitment to a child. Adoption is a responsibility. Adoption is a heart-ache and a joy. A loss and renewal. It is messy and difficult sometimes.

But adoption matters

To the child.

Did you know that about 5 percent of adoptive parents change their mind and “rehome” the child? It’s referred to as a “disruption” (I get them all day long… “Mommy, can I have…?” “Mom, where is my…?”) It is more common with children adopted from foreign countries or at older ages. It is a combination of families not being prepared enough before adoption and not having enough support services when trouble arises after adoption. And there’s a disturbing underground aspect to it as well as investigated by Reuters.

Let me tell you – there have been some hard days since my first adoption. That moment in the court room when I pledged to love and hold this child as my own – “as if he was my biological offspring” – was an incredibly solemn moment. It sunk into my heart. I held it in my hands. Tears streamed from my eyes as I looked into the face of Super Tall Guy and said, “Yes, I promise.”

I promise to hold you when the world gets too big and the emotions rage against the confines of your body. I promise to kiss away the bloody knees and put you back on the bike. I promise to clean up after you, make you dinner, nag you until the homework is done. I promise to forgive you when you hurt, to grant justice and mercy, to mete out consequences as needed and follow all with the reminder of my love.

When I whisper “always and forever and no matter what” every night with a kiss, I mean it. My promise is sealed within my soul.

Plaque I nailed to Super Tall Guy's wooden rocking horse.

Plaque I nailed to Super Tall Guy’s wooden rocking horse.

You do not play with adoption. Treat it with respect. Children actually are not as resilient as we’d like to pretend. We only say that to make ourselves feel better. To erase our own guilt. To comfort ourselves that they will be okay – they’ll “get over” being abandoned.

Adopt because the child needs you and you need him. Take the solemn vow. Hold it in your heart. Seek help and resources when you need it. I will not judge. I know there are situations more complicated than my own and that children with Reactive Attachment Disorder are so difficult to parent and to love. But I also know that we have witnessed the damage of breaking a child’s attachment and of moving them around. We have cried and we have held on to hope. We know the focus needs to be “what is best for the child?”

The First Guy started to visit my sister this weekend. He may once again become part of our family – this time forever. We are definitely open for prayers and wisdom. This would be a whole new journey.

Always, forever and no matter what.

 

You just keep doing it

A little bit of brutal honesty here – this parenting stuff is not easy. Sometimes I don’t know how I got here or why I’m doing it.

Here’s what happens. You spend your life putting one foot in front of the other, taking it one day at a time, when suddenly you’re driving down the road with a carful of chatter and realize you’re mindlessly agreeing with the 6-year-old that yep, it is a “green light day” (for the traffic lights), praising the 3-year-old for his song (which was lousy but you just said “good job singing” anyway without thinking), and wishing the 8-year-old would stop screeching randomly.

You realize you’re in a whole new universe that you never imagined. Somehow you’re parenting three little kids who have no biological tie to you and who arrived suddenly in your house with no more than 2 hours to prepare. And somehow you’ve missed a lot of those stages of planning – like the wedding bells, the “what do you think, honey, should we start a family?,” the baby shower, the maternity leave….oh, how I missed out on the maternity leave!

There’s no planning here. There’s a “hello….yes….I’ll come pick him up” and you walk through the hospital doors, up the stairs, turn left to find the nursery, wash your hands and sit down beside the bassinet of your new son. Hello. Click. You’re parenting.

And now you’re spending two hours a night trying to cajole obstinate little ones to close their eyes and sleep, wiping poop off walls, scheduling repair men to replace glass windows, and orchestrating more social events for the kids than for yourself.

It’s not like this was all a big decision or a well-thought-out plan.

It was a moment. The moment when you signed up as “foster parent.” The first step. One foot in front of the other. But there was no understanding of the delirium that comes from sleepless nights. No knowing the pain of watching your boy wheeled off to the operating room. No way to comprehend the depths to which you become depleted and exhausted and stand in the shower and say, “Lord, I just can’t keep doing this” and yet you do.

You keep doing it.

Because you are their mother. Their only mother. The one they call mother. The one they know as mother. And they torture you and tell you how they hate you. And spit in your face. And defy you almost every single chance they can.

And yet, you keep doing it.

For they did not choose this life either. They arrived one day into a whole new universe and bounced around from arm to arm until they landed in yours.

So you keep doing it. Each and every day, you choose to love and you choose to be there and you choose to sacrifice what might have been, what could have been, for what is.

Three beautiful boys, sleeping soundly, because they have a mother.

One foot in front of the other.

NewYorkCity

The Final Little Guy (at least currently)

(My sister informed me this morning, “Hey, I didn’t receive a Middle of the Madness email yesterday!” I replied, “And do you remember that I had something stuck in my eye last night and couldn’t hold the right one open?” So….I’m a day late…but here.)

Almost exactly at this time, three years ago, on an ordinary Thursday morning, I was presenting to a group of doctors about the concept of a crisis nursery like Jeremiah’s Place. My cell phone vibrated in my pocket and I ignored it through the talk, through the questioning time and as I walked out of the building with my colleague. Reaching my car, I returned the call to my sister. “How busy are you?” she asked. “Well, things are pretty busy,” I thought of all the work to be done on the nonprofit, raising two boys, working 3 part-time jobs.

“Super Tall Guy and Mr. Ornery have a little brother.”

Huh.

I called the caseworker back and she asked, “Are you ready to adopt another boy?” I couldn’t answer. Wow. There was no way I could commit to that in fifteen minutes. Adoption is a big decision. I finally replied, “I can commit to fostering the brother, but I can’t say I’m ready to adopt today.” (Of course, you all know, that the moment I said the first “yes” – I was also saying the “adoption

And so there was The Little Guy! He was ready to be discharged that afternoon, after spending 5 weeks in the hospital for methadone withdrawal. We were leaving for the beach in two days – Saturday morning. So I drove home, picked up a car seat, chose a “cute” take-me-home outfit and headed off to the hospital.

The Little Guy was tucked in the corner of the nursery. He had a little MamaRoo swing that he apparently had loved spending time in. He had a whole lot of nurses who had loved him for the past month. He had a few outfits and apparently a grandmother who had visited a couple times. I met with the resident who was “discharging” him and walked out with a little bundle. We went straight home so I could have a little time with him before the brothers arrived.

Then we went into hyper-drive – packing even more than usual for a beach vacation – diapers, baby clothes, bottles, formula, binkies, pack-n-play, blankets. It was a hectic start but in a way it was nice to go away. We all had time to bond some with this little guy, rather than returning right to work as is typically the case for us in getting newborns.

The Little Guy came to us at the “oldest” age for an adopted boy. Sometimes I’m sad about missing out on those first few sweet weeks (though I guess for him they were difficult fussy weeks of crying and sleeping through medicated stupors). Sometimes, though, I wish the “System” would have called me right after he was born so that I might have visited him during those weeks. After all, with the birth mother in jail, they knew the baby would go to a foster home and they always try to place with siblings first. And yet, the “system” is that the Child Protective Services aren’t even notified until right before hospital discharge. And maybe it would have been hard for me to see The Little Guy struggling to clear drugs from his body. And yes, it would have been hard to squeeze in time to sit by his bedside at the hospital (likely it would have been late into the night). And yet, I would gladly have been there – for everyone needs to feel love and comfort – and a new little guy certainly needs that.

It was a “rockier” time with the adoption process for the Little Guy. I had started blogging by then so have shared several of the stories along the way. Long story, shorter….therenot-the-dad-2 was an identified “father of the baby” who was incarcerated, but who wrote letters to the baby at least 1-2 times a week. I finally became weary of this “relationship” and asked for paternity testing…which revealed that he was “not the dad.” That awkwardness ended but I still had to face the birth mother during a “contact visit” at the county jail before the adoption (yes, I made the commitment) finalized just before he turned two.  (Three years later, I’m hoping that my advice to seek contraception was in fact followed. My hands are a bit full.)

Part of this “rockiness” led me to talk to Super Tall Guy a bit about the situation with The Little Guy and the birth parents. Apparently Super Tall Guy then had some hope that The Little Guy wasn’t going to be staying around and taking up attention and space and toys. Even just last month, as an 8-yr-old, Super Tall Guy lay in bed one night and said, “I wish we didn’t adopt The Little Guy.” It seems life is still rough to be sharing time and attention. I’m sure that all families struggle with how many kids to have, and for us foster-to-adopt families, it’s hard to predict how all of this will play out. Will the foster kids stay and become adopted….or will they tear your heart in two as they leave? As hard as it is on the adult, it also has implications for the kids in the household as well.

Three years later, The Little Guy is still “the little guy” (though he’s finally solidly on the growth chart!!)I used to tell people that The Little Guy got the “memo” that he was Boy # 5 and life would be easier as a calm, mellow little dude. And he sure did get a “memo” – the one that said, You’re Boy # 5 – you better be extraordinarily loud, stubborn, and strong-willed. I know these characteristics are going to be fantastic strengths one day, but in a 26-pound three-year-old, they are an expressive, argumentative, whiny, outspoken little guy!

 

The Arrival of Mr. Trouble….and the house was never the same…

Pudgy, chubby little cheeks. Pink fingers and toes. Soft downy blond hair. We stared at him….he was so fair, so pink, so….white!  We had to keep checking him to make sure he was breathing and alive and he was okay….because he was so white! One day, handswhen he was a couple months old he was crying and crying and his cheeks and skin got all blotchy red. Kathy panicked and called me over to evaluate this problem. I turned to her and said, “He’s white. White kids do that when they cry. You know….if you had birthed a baby, he’d do the same thing” (our family is so freckled and fair).

And, this baby was so quiet when he arrived a week after he was born. He slept, he ate, he slept some more. Nothing – no sound…..for about ten days….and then never again (except once when he had a fever….he actually sat on the couch for more than 10 seconds….and we knew he was sick. It was almost a shame to give him Tylenol and perk him up!).

Almost four years ago, we welcomed Mr. Trouble. I confess that I only vaguely remember the day of his coming – must have been some craziness happening in my life at the time. But I do remember instantly loving his blue eyes and soft hair and falling in love with his endearing smile.

Yet, he comes by his nickname with great vigor. He is a cross somewhere between Dennis the Menace meets Curious George….meets the Tanzmanian Devil. There’s the saying that if a toddler has been quiet for 10 minutes, you better figure out what they are doing. We had to keep Mr. Trouble on a “2-minute leash” – doesn’t matter how exhausted you’re feeling, if you haven’t seem Mr. Trouble in the last 100 seconds, you better stand up and go looking….or you’re just going to be wiped out by the mess you’ll be cleaning!!

It’s pretty clear that he’s going to become a future Nobel Prize winner. His inquisitiveness has no bounds:

  • If I knock over this gallon of milk, how long will it take to travel across the dining room table and splash onto the floor (forming what diameter puddle under the table?)?
  • If I open this box of crackers and toss them delightfully into the air, how far will they scatter?
  • Is there anything in this refrigerator to eat?!?

    kris2

    How about this? Hurt?

  • If I pee on the Legos, how long will it take for the yellow puddle to be discovered?
  • If I bite you on the inner thigh….does that hurt?
  • If I mix and swirl liquid hand soap and Jif peanut butter on the hardwood floor, does it actually clean the floor or just leave a greasy residue?
  • Is there anything in this refrigerator to eat?!?
  • If I knock down the cardboard fort painstakingly created by Super Tall Guy, will he let me join him in play or chase me out of the room in anger?
  • If I be Jake and the Neverland Pirates with my sword and backpack, Little Guy – will you be Cubby?
  • Is there anything in this refrigerator to eat?!?

I am sorry to say it – but this kid is so BUSY all the time, that I am constantly using the “tag, you’re it” policy….ie, “Not my kid!”  My sister….she’s a saint…..and she deserves a HUGE award for keeping him out of the hospital and out of the ER so far. She’s also amazingly patient with him. I’m amazingly hands-off. I know my limits. “Yep, he’s yours.”

But he’s growing up. He’s almost four. We actually let him play for 3 minutes at a time now before getting up to check on him….unless we hear a squeal, then it’s NOW!

Love you, blue-eyed Trouble!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally writing Part 2: The Arrival of Mr. Ornery

There are three things that I remember about the arrival of Mr. Ornery (well, four if you include the fact that he wasn’t “ornery” from the beginning….it’s just that he’s earned the name from learning over time that he’s so stinkin’ cute that he tries to get away with things!).

1. You should never ask someone, “Are you sitting down?” unless you’re a bus driver about to take off and you genuinely want to make sure your passengers are safe. But if you’re my nate newsister and you’re calling my cell phone fifteen minutes before the start of my second-ever board meeting at my new job, I start panicking that something has happened to one of the two-year-olds at daycare! (At least our day care center has the courtesy to call and say, “Hi, this is KinderCare and the boys are fine. Now, could you please turn in that health physical form before our inspection next week!!)

My sister, however, asks, “Are you sitting down?” “Um, should I?” “Well, Super Tall Guy has a brother.” Then she paused. And it took a while….but then I got it! Oh, my goodness, a new baby was coming into the house!

2. Which leads me to “thing” number two about his arrival – I was about to go in to a 4-hour-long board meeting (oh, I’m sorry, a “strategic planning session”), and, I was just four months into the job and really worried about my role and what I was supposed to be doing. So when my sister said that they wanted us to pick up the baby in 15 minutes, I said that she should go (she was working from home at the time) and I’d get home as soon as I could. I have regretted that decision for 5 years now. I’m not entirely sure why….but it sort of feels like I missed his “birth.” I know that’s not the case, but I missed being “there” the very moment he joined our family and I mourn that in a way. And particularly because I have since figured out that my boss would have been fine with me taking off to go pick up my newest son….had we known all this looking back. I know it’s not that big of a deal in the scheme of things, but isn’t it funny what events really stand out to each of us in terms of wishing we had been present at that moment.

2.5 (I have trouble counting, so I like to sneak in numbers in my listings). Let me go back to that, “when do they want us to pick him up?” “In fifteen minutes, but I asked for an additional fifteen minutes to find the infant car seat.” Let’s think about this. The baby has been in the hospital for 2 full days. The mother is in the county jail (where children do NOT go), so we all know that the baby is not going home with her. And we know that the baby is going to foster care. And we know that the CYF agency is going to call the foster parents who have the sibling first in an attempt to keep siblings together. So, knowing all these facts….they still want to call FIFTEEN minutes before they would like this little tiny baby out of the hospital!?!? This is why I sometimes say that most people have around eight months to think about the fact that their family is about to expand….we have fifteen minutes!

3. The third thing that I remember about Mr. Ornery is walking into the house later that Friday afternoon and seeing Kathy holding him while sitting on the couch. I sat down beside her and she handed him over – my second son. A beautiful tiny little bundle with soft fine hair and a sweet sweet smell, and do you know the first thing I said to Kathy? “You put THAT outfit on him to bring him home??!?” Isn’t it funny – 5 years later, you could put all our newborn baby clothes of five boys in a pile and I could pick out that outfit. I see it in my mind still. Guess I didn’t like it much!.

Okay, one more thing that I remember about Mr. Ornery’s arrival. Kathy told me all the “facts” about the newborn….I vaguely remember that he was a little over 8 pounds (much heavier than the 6 pounds 4 oz of Super Tall Guy who rapidly grew into his enormous hands and feet). What stuck in my head, though, was that he was “white.” That made sense. He was fair and we knew the birth mother is white. A few days later, however, I took him in to the pediatrician’s for his first check-up. I told her the story of his arrival while she examined him. I was telling her how brown Super Tall is and that his brother is white….when she said, “Actually, I don’t think he is.” And that’s the moment I learned how to identify races in newborns (ahem, shading of the “privates”….if you’d like to know. So when they said the same thing when we picked up The Little Guy a couple years later, I just thought in my head, “I’ll see….wait till I get him home and undress him a little”). Of course, the skin coloring of the boys doesn’t matter to me at all. Their ethnicity doesn’t matter to me at all. The fact that they are beautiful and healthy boys… the fact that the brothers are growing up together….the fact that they are my sons…..that’s what matters to me. That’s what matters.

 

 

The continuation

Super Tall Guy was about to turn one and was already pushing past the 75%ile on his growth measures. The gap between him and The Flipper in size was beginning to widen, but The Flipper wasn’t going to give up anything in the abilities field. He was already wiry and muscular. The two of them were just beginning to toddle around the house, exploring, examining the rule of gravity, noting projectile velocities, rejecting a wide variety of foods, and communicating through basic signs.

The phone rang. Well, Kathy’s phone rang. I pretty much just got the gist of it. The First One (now age 34 months) and his younger sister, really “The Only Girl,” at age 18 months were going into foster care and would arrive soon at our house. Despite her physical age, The Only Girl had definite developmental delays that put her close to a one-year-old level….giving us 3 1-year-olds and 1 3-year-old in the house. The next day Kathy traded in her Honda station wagon for a minivan! (My CRV didn’t succumb until there were 5 kids to cart around).

I will confess the hard truth here. I was not ready for this sudden change and my grumpiness was likely evident at times. You see, I was delighted to have “a” baby and had finally adjusted to having two. But I’m an introverted, “slow-to-warm-up” type of person, and the doubling of children ages 3 and under was overwhelming. Looking back, I know I was not very helpful and supportive at the time. I would kind of “punish” Kathy by having her pretty much handle three kids on her own with an attitude of “well, you said yes to two more!!” I really don’t know how she did it all – but I’m mighty proud of her.

I think we survived the chaos only with the assistance of my mother. She would come over daily for the dinner-bath-bedtime routine. We had three high chairs and should have had a dog to clean up the spaghetti. The bathtub could hold three and the floor sure could hold a lot of splashed water. We had three cribs in the house and a toddler bed. And none of us slept.

The year was a blur and a huge juggling paradigm. As probably an attempt to cope with the chaos and laziness in truly baby-proofing a house, we spent most of the weekends outside of the house. We would take those kids anyway – mall play-yard, the zoo (almost every single weekend! Arrive when it first opened, hit the playgrounds and leave as others with “nice” sleeping kids would start to arrive.), the Children’s Museum, the Science Center. Anywhere. And then we’d end up at my mother’s for dinner on Saturday evenings….every single one…

The First Guy and The Only Girl were enrolled in a “therapeutic preschool” in a part of town that was not convenient for either Kathy or I. So Children, Youth & Families (CYF) would send a “driver” to our place every morning to pick them up and someone would bring them back every evening. They also had visits with their biological mother for a couple hours 2-3 times a week. This was an odd time. For the younger two kids, Kathy and I pretty much made all the decisions since the mothers were not really involved (though The Flipper was still having weekly visits with his mother). But for the older two, we had no say in their schedules and had to adjust. The First Guy was clearly happy to be back with Kathy as he had bonded to her the first time he was with us. And we were happy to be providing what the kids needed.

Again, the birth mother “met” her goals and the kids were reunited with her. Yet life remained difficult for her and The First Guy was a challenging creature as he worked through issues of independence and obedience. Eventually, even though the kids were living back at home, they were still with us for “weekend respite” as The First Guy grew even more difficult and eventually his explosive tirades were medicated. Kathy and I struggled with how to help him for clearly he was living under two (probably three) different sets of standards – ours, his mom’s and his childcare center’s. It broke our heart to see him struggle and you’d think it might have prepared me for Super Tall’s outbursts when he turned three, but it really didn’t. I probably blamed The First Guy’s behavior on “poor parenting” by his bio mother ….and Super Tall Guy’s on him.

Eventually, The First Guy’s behavioral problems escalated enough that by the time he was back into the foster care setting again, it was decided that he needed “therapeutic foster parents” and off he went to his “fourth” mother in his five years of life. It was a confusing time which included an inpatient psych stay for him, caseworkers essentially blackballing Kathy, and us all wishing there was something we could do.

We knew that The First Guy just needed love and stability and yet we were not allowed to have a voice into his life, despite the fact that we had cared for him more in his life than any other “parent.” It was years before we had any contact again. Yet he remains a part of the boys’ lives as does The Only Girl. To this day, Super Tall Guy will randomly sigh and say, “I wish I had my sister back.” Foster parenting affects everyone in very unpredictable ways.

In the Beginning: Part 0.5

I know you are all waiting for Part 2….and yes, I will write more of THE story. But it just seemed important to back up to Part 0.5 (and maybe even fill in 1.5 at some point), because there’s quite a bit that shaped us before Super Tall Guy arrived.

So….I take you back to the beginning. Back to early 2005 when I stumbled off an airplane after spending a month on rotation during residency in Kenya. Emotionally exhausted from a month of international medicine and more childhood death than I had ever witnessed, physically exhausted from staying up night after night for a month prior to journeying home, yet so delighted to be back to friends and family. I was greeted at the airport by my wonderful sister. “Hello,” she said excitedly…. “so, while you were away, (I think she forgot to say “hey, how are you? how was the trip?)…. I was contemplating the Biblical principle of ‘taking care of the widows and children’….and since we don’t really care about old ladies (ironic, as we had just had a widow in our house for 4-5 months before she left for the mission field), I signed us up for Foster Parenting classes….which begin next week.” Next week….right. Okay.

And that’s how it began.yarn bridge-wp

We sat in classes week after week, confirming again and again that we were in the “foster parent” track and not the “foster-to-adopt” track (you know how that ended) and learning all we could from the Children, Youth and Families (CYF) caseworkers who stood in front of us. There were probably 7 or 8 other couples in the class and I think we were among the few professionals. We were certainly the only sister pair. And some of the trainees were family members of children that were already living in their homes. When classes ended in June, we had our “Home inspection” and passed. Naturally, Kathy then left on a business trip, and our caseworker called. Little Girl S (age 3) and Baby Sister V (age 2) came to spend two nights with us for what is called “shelter placement” (did I mention Kathy was out of town?), that is, temporary care of children while suitable family members are sought. The two were incredibly delayed in development, cowering and shy little blond-haired girls who sparkled after some food, clean clothes and a bath. They went to live with a doting aunt who kept in touch for about a year.

The day after they left, we were called for our “first true” foster child. Sometimes CYF caseworkers bring the children to you. Sometimes you go to pick them up. I drove to the other side of town to pick up The First from his aunt’s house. I knew he was a couple days away from his first birthday and I pictured a crawling cute little helpless baby. I couldn’t wait to meet him.

Knocking on the door, I entered into a world of clutter and confusion, and a little toddler literally running through the house with a bottle of grape kool-aid dangling from his mouth (I knew that instant that we were in trouble 🙂 ….. but I got the cute part right). He was being chased delightedly by the aunts’ older children as she tried to collect some toys and clothes to send along with him. She explained that much as she loved the little guy and appreciated watching him for the past three months, her multiple sclerosis illness and the needs of her 3 biological children were getting to be too much. She handed me the belongings and gathered The First into her arms to walk to my car.

As we approached, a pick-up truck skidded to a halt and the little boy’s biological father jumped out. He shouted expletives and grabbed The First into his arms. The aunt whispered that we were going to tell him I was the CYF case worker (if he asked) for it was apparent that he was intoxicated. The man squeezed The First tightly in his arms, mumbled a bit, and then flung his sun-glasses to the ground in frustration. (At this point, it dawned on me the potential danger in these situations, but I was strangely not fearful.) The aunt took back the child and buckled him into my car seat. She kissed him good-bye and promised to call us and visit him often. A week later, The First returned to spend the weekend with his aunt, but the visit ended early due to his multiple episodes of diarrhea. That was the last time we heard from the aunt and the father’s side of the family.

This little guy was adorable. We loved him. But I was a fourth-year resident and had some rotations where I spent every 3rd night in the hospital and I barely saw his chubby face. My sister, though, bonded immediately. She took The First with her everywhere. They shopped. They went to the park. They hung out at the mall playground. They visited friends and lounged at my parent’s house. They went on trips together and he came on our annual beach vacation. The two were inseparable….. until CYF called. The mother had completed her “checklist” of “things you must do to get your child back”…. and he returned home. I could hear my sister’s tears late into the night some nights. We knew it was going to happen. We knew that The First had weekly and sometimes 3-times-a-week visits with his mother. We knew that she was “making progress on her goals.” We knew that foster children are supposed to reunite with their parents.  Yet we didn’t know the pain of releasing a beautiful, giggling, joyful boy back to his mother.

And we didn’t know if we’d ever see him again.

But we did.