We had been studying Genesis that year at BSF, and I had heard several times that the more specifically we pray, the more opportunity we have to see God answer those prayers. And so I did just that: two specific prayers. I asked God to provide a Christian family for our Leyla, and I asked God to provide for her a family that we could know as she grew up. Even if only via facebook, I asked God to please give me the chance to watch her grow up.
We told our agency our decision not to adopt. We told our social worker our decision. And we told them we would gladly keep Leyla as long as needed, likely until she was legally free. That way they could take some time to find the right family and finding an adoptive family for a legally free child was a much more likely prospect. I worried aloud to another friend (who is also a social worker) that I didn’t want Leyla to languish in the system, a victim of circumstances beyond her control. “Don’t worry,” she told me. “Leyla is a catch. It won’t be hard to find her a good family.”
I knew God was at work answering my prayers for her family when we learned that Leyla’s social worker had asked for adoption home studies from our agency. And it was their impression that she wasn’t asking other agencies for the same information. Being licensed with Youth for Christ, we knew that every other family in our agency would also be a Christ-following family. I was so grateful to God for this bit of information that once again confirmed in my heart that we were heading down the right path, and that He was going to be the one to write the redemption story for Leyla.
I was breathing easier, I was feeling at peace, I wasn’t worried. But there was one hurdle I just couldn’t get over. One difficulty that I encountered almost daily. One that I still encounter on occasion.
Sometimes it was strangers. Sometimes it was people who have known this sweet girl from the beginning. Sometimes it was acquaintances. Every so often a dear friend. The way their eyes would light up as they asked us about her case and heard it was headed towards adoption. The confusion in their faces as we gently tried our best to explain that it was likely we weren’t her forever family, that we were pretty sure that we wanted to continue to do foster care. The questions that my heart interpreted as judgment. Who would love a baby for a year and then give her away? I wanted this to be a story of our great God and his amazing guidance, but I hated talking about it to anyone who didn’t know me and my heart. Who didn’t know more about our journey then a few sentences could express.
The judgment I most felt (and still did recently at a foster/adopt conference a few months ago) came from within the Christian foster and adopt community. I have strong memories of a conversation with a fellow foster mom at a training who was seeking a waiver so they could continue to do foster care after they adopted their 6th child. I could see in her eyes that she just didn’t understand how we could give Leyla up. That maybe we weren’t loving her like we should.
And I get it. Trust me. Years before I had biological children I thought that foster care was a ministry I would like to be a part of. But I always said, “only if there is an understanding that if there is a chance that my home is the final home the child will be in, then it will be the final home.” Basically saying that if I had a chance to adopt, to give a child in my care a forever family, then I would. We would be the last stop.
My story as a Christian is one of being adopted into God’s family. Scripture is full of commands to care for the lost and forgotten. The orphan movement is a powerful example of Christians taking the call to love the least seriously. It just doesn’t make sense that I would pass along a child I had loved dearly for nearly a year, when I had the chance to keep her.
But here we were. Darin and I were on the same page. We had complete peace. We weren’t Leyla’s forever family.
So in writing this, maybe I’m helping to spread a little bit of knowledge.
Good foster parents are catch and release.
Good foster parents stand in the gap.
Good foster parents don’t always adopt.
But not all.