Adopting a Family vs. a Child

When we got into foster care we decided that we wanted to begin our journey towards adoption with a desire to adopt/foster an entire family, rather than just the child(ren).

We knew through years of working in the field of public service that love, loss, trauma, and healing were deeply embedded into the webs of family life and that to separate one from the other would be nearly impossible.

Rather than walking into a tough situation and making assumptions about the biological families who were struggling to raise their children, we wanted to embrace the family as a whole and keep in as much contact as was healthy and possible.

We wanted any child in our home to see lots of adults who cared about them, some related by blood and others put in place by the county.

Most of all we wanted to be a safe space for children and biological families to process, heal and begin to pick up the broken pieces to work towards creating something new.

The Ultimate Act of Love

I can still remember the first time we met. It was shortly after his son moved in with us and there was much anticipation to meet the “strangers” who lived in the place his son now called home. He was so nervous he barely made eye contact.

As the weeks turned into months and the conversations became more personal we grew to know and love a father who loved his child more than anything.

I remember all of the phone calls, celebrations of his pursuit of a healthier life, and questions about how to raise a child. It can be easy to assume that, because one’s child ends up in the custody of the state, that a lack of love brought about such a devastating situation.

Words don’t seem adequate to describe the pain of watching someone who deeply loves their child, yet struggles to maintain a healthy and stable home life for them because of mental illness.

As the weeks turned into months and the conversations became more personal we grew to know and love a father who loved his child more than anything.

There is nothing more humbling than watching someone display the ultimate act of love by willingly allowing their child be adopted by another family. A family who could provide the stability that they desperately wished they could provide themselves.

Watching it all, you can’t help but wonder if you would be able to be as strong if you had been born into their shoes.

When a case closes we are always happy to see a child find a forever home, stability, and love. We often miss what happens to the broken pieces afterwards as a biological family tries to move on without their child.

The reality is that many of us drive by these shattered stories daily, but can easily miss them when we are caught in the grind and afraid to look too closely at the stories hidden behind the cardboard signs.

adoption, loving biological parents too

Invisible Pain

There he was, in his spot on the overpass with his sign. It had been about a year since we last ran into each other but this time when I saw him there, talking to himself, and called out his name he turned and I barely recognized the face staring back at me.

I asked if he remembered me to which he replied, “Of course.”

He said the last year had been rough, that knowing his son would never come back again broke him.

These words were only an echo, his face told the story before they were even spoken out loud.

I wondered…how many people had driven past him already today? And for the few who did stop, did anyone really see him?

We talked for a bit and while I would move heaven and earth if I could to take away the pain of mental illness, the pain of such astounding loss, and the pain of a father who chose (out of his most selfless demonstration of love) to live without his son.

I knew that, for this moment, all I wanted was for him to know that he mattered.

I told him that I would be right back and a few minutes later swung by and handed him his favorite soda. He just looked down and said, “You remembered.”

He told me that anything I had ever given to him he only used for good and not for “bad”. I told him that it didn’t matter to me, and that I only hoped he knew how much we cared about him and how much he matters.

As I drove away, the image of him waving as he held his little bag and favorite soda pierced through my flooded eyes.


I wonder how many people feel invisible? With their worn out signs and tired eyes. I wonder how many kids in foster care (whether they end up adopted or reunified) have parents who may look like adults on the outside but due to their own loss, trauma, and brain development are just hurting children stuck inside the body of an adult?

I hope I never forget to see the human who lives behind behaviors that I may not understand.

I hope I never give up on hope even when things seem hopeless. And I hope I always remember that we are all just doing our best with the broken paths we wander, longing to be noticed and loved, and easily delighted by the novelty of our favorite soda.

foster care, hoping for parents