I’ve had a life rich with friends, a successful career and the support of family. But four years ago, when I hit 40, I decided that I wanted my own family.
I researched numerous options—international adoptions, private adoptions, open and closed adoptions. Then I looked at the foster care system and realized how many kids there were who were just floundering. And I thought about my father, who had grown up in the foster care system, aging out when he turned 18. I’ve always thought that if he had found a stable, permanent, loving home his life might have taken a different path. Maybe he would not have struggled with substance abuse, maybe our family would still be intact.
As I weighed my options, I realized that by fostering a child with the intention to adopt, I could have the family that I’ve wanted all my life and help another child avoid my father’s fate.
I decided to foster-to-adopt a 14-month old little girl, Tricia. Soon I learned that she had two older brothers, Lamont and Warren, who were living in a shelter. That did not sit right with me and my mother, who I share a house with. We made the decision to foster all three of the children. One by one, about a month apart, each came to live with us.
But that was only the beginning of the journey.
Our CASA volunteer was a lifeline.
Soon after bringing Tricia into my home I had a call from the children’s CASA volunteer, Karen. She wanted to come over and meet my mom and me, and to see how Tricia was doing in her new home. I’ll never forget that first meeting. I had no idea the extent to which a CASA volunteer would advocate for the children and help guide me through what I came to know as a highly dysfunctional foster-to-adopt process. Our CASA volunteer was a lifeline.
Karen’s strength was her faith. I thought I had the faith, but it was truly tested…
The process of adopting my children took two and a half long years. There were several times I thought I was going to lose them. First to the birthfather who, despite the fact that he was unable to remain drug free and had refused court-ordered anger management and parenting classes, periodically visited with the children. (That was good enough for social services, who favored reunification with him.) Then a distant relative surfaced. She told the court she wanted to adopt, and told us that she planned to return the children to the father in the future. I thought I was on the verge of becoming unhinged.
Throughout it all, Karen supported us and did what seems so simple yet was so critically vital, she communicated with us, in ways that the social service agency staff could not—despite their best intentions. Her faith in the process, that these children would have what was best for them, was unwavering. I thought I had faith but it was truly tested. Karen’s certainty kept me going when I thought all was lost.
On December 12, 2011, Tricia, Warren and Lamont officially became my children! We are very grateful for Karen and for CASA. Karen’s wisdom and strength and CASA’s support throughout this journey contributed greatly to our positive outcome, and to my first Mother’s Day.
National CASA thanks guest blogger Connie Grandmason, an adoptive mother from South Carolina, for sharing her story with us.