I knew I had been called to be a foster mom from the age of 18 when I met a foster child at youth camp. She will never know how her story changed my life, and as a result, impacted the lives of many innocent children.
I knew if I could make a difference in the life of just one child, it would mean the world to that one child. I wanted to let them know they were loved for who they were and not what they could do for me. I wanted to show the unconditional love my father in Heaven had shown me.
Twenty years later, my husband, two children and I took the leap. We became a foster family.
After the seven-month process of classes, inspections and endless questions, we began our wait for the child who would forever change who we were.
We got the call one afternoon for a 7-week-old baby boy who needed a home immediately. There was no hesitation; we knew we were ready.
We rushed to get a few things ready for an infant. Our children were 6 and 11, and it had been a while since we had baby items in our house. He arrived and we instantly fell in love.
That night, I couldn’t sleep. I looked at that tiny little boy and knew a 20-year dream had just come to pass. I prayed for him, his future and his parents. I didn’t know much of their story, but I knew I had compassion for them, too. I wrote a letter to this sweet child who became known as “Baby Boy.”
Our lives carried on as normal with a new baby in tow. The love we felt for him was as strong as the love we had for our own children. I never believed I could love someone else’s child with the intensity I loved the children I carried for nine months.
I was wrong and now had a very clear picture of how strong that love could be.
Baby Boy’s parents were not completing their service plan with Child Protective Services and we were getting more attached as each month went on. We had been prepared to be a foster-only home but we quickly changed our license to include foster-to-adopt. As family members turned out to be unsuitable for Baby Boy to live with, we began to get our hopes up. We let everyone know we wanted to adopt him.
Six months into the case, his parents started working their service plan. The parents I had prayed for became my greatest fear. I began to resent how they could come in and be more important than me just because he had their DNA. After all, I was the one who woke up night after night and rocked him to sleep. I was the one who made sure his every need was taken care of. I was Momma.
We slowly began to realize it was not looking good for us to adopt him. His parents were doing what they needed to do. I began to break, little by little. A week after his first birthday, he went back to live with his birth parents. I hoped they would love him like I did. I wanted to tell her how to do everything just like I did.
To explain the hurt would be to explain the hurt of when a loved one dies. There are no words to explain the loss. The grief was all consuming. I held my children in my lap as they cried. My husband held me during my crying, all the while, dealing with his own grief.
Baby Boy’s mom said we could see him again but would she really let us? She was due to have another baby within the month. One of my greatest fears was that she would bond with the new baby and not with Baby Boy.
Three weeks after Baby Boy went home, I got the call that she was going into labor and could I come get Baby Boy for a few days. After “Baby Brother” was born, they both spent the weekend with us. We were now bonding with Baby Brother. We continued to have the boys on the weekends and enjoyed getting to play a role in their lives.
Baby Boy was celebrating his second birthday the day I picked up our ninth foster baby. We got a call that a preemie baby girl, exposed to drugs, had been born and needed a home. I drove to the hospital with such excitement.
I picked up a sweet, innocent 4 pound 6 ounce little doll. I drove home scared to hit any bumps. She was so tiny the hospital had trouble buckling the car seat. When I arrived at home, my husband was excitedly waiting for us. He took one look at her and said, “This is going to hurt, isn’t it?” I knew exactly what he meant.
We had never held such a tiny baby. She became known as “Itty Bitty Sweet Pea.” My children fell instantly in love. Our hearts were getting lost from what our brains were telling us. By now, we knew better than to get attached.
Sure enough, a few months in, we got the call we had been dreading. She was going to live with a relative. We slowly packed all her tiny things. The packing never gets easy. There is such finality to it.
We had all of her belongings packed by the door and were saying our goodbyes when we got the call she would be staying. Something had come up with her relative. We were elated and had a whole new experience of unpacking a child’s belongings.
When Itty Bitty Sweet Pea was 8 months old, we got the call she had a baby sister who had been born at 25 weeks, weighing 1 pound and 4 ounces. She was not expected to live, but should she live, we would be considered to parent her, too.
I began diligently praying for this tiny baby. I cried for her and longed to hold her while she lay in the NICU with only nurses to care for her. I was not allowed to see her or get information about her since we had not been officially named her foster parents yet. So for three and a half months, the wait and worry continued. The week of Christmas we learned she was coming home with us.
These two tiny girls would become our precious gifts from the Lord. On Dec. 11 the following year, we adopted them into our family. We knew that had Baby Boy not gone home, we would have missed the gift of these two baby girls.
Placement calls 16 and 17 came in the form we never expected. The day before Christmas Eve, Baby Boy’s mother called me. She had another baby in the passing time and he was nine months old. The words she told me will forever grip my heart.
She told me the baby had passed away and CPS was involved in her children’s lives again. She had rolled on the baby during her sleep. She was begging me to please take her boys again. She knew we loved them.
It was the situation we never expected. We now have Baby Boy and his brother back in our home. God brought his story and ours’ full circle. It is looking as if we may get to adopt them and become the family we longed for with our very first foster child. God has a plan we don’t always understand, but his mighty ways are always best.
As I tell our story, my greatest wish is for other families to experience the joy we have had, in being the hands and feet of God to a precious child. There is a shortage of foster homes and children coming in to care every day. If you feel the slightest call, please answer to what God calls you to do yourself.
Angela Gotte is a Buckner foster care caseworker and foster parent in Beaumont, Texas.