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Our Foster Journey

Our Foster Journey
By Twila Joiner | November 5, 2019

It never ceases to amaze me how God works everything for His glory! On September 14, 2019, as I stood in Stanton Commons sharing my children’s story nothing was more evident to me as I fought to hold back tears. I’ve told our foster story so many times. Most times I can keep my composure, but there was something about looking at the faces of these people about to take their Saturday to help children connected with Embrace, children just like mine, that overwhelmed me.

I was reminded of that late night in January almost six years ago when I got a call from CPS asking if I would take Anastasia (3-years-old) and Eddie (1-year-old), on the grounds of neglect and drug use in the home. Initially, it was a kinship placement because they were the children of my goddaughter. Back then, I was a divorced single mom, with only my sixteen-year-old daughter and mother in my household.

That night they arrived with nothing, both in diapers and dirty T-shirts. I had no idea when they had last eaten or bathed. I’m not sure who was more scared… me or them. The caseworker quickly explained my responsibilities and gave me temporary paperwork so I could seek medical care and enroll them in childcare if necessary, and left. I gave them a snack, a drink, and tried to put them to bed. I had to go to teach the next morning. It was a long night but we made it through it.

Those first few weeks were the hardest. They both ate out of the trash can, had head lice, and that was just their physical state. Their emotional state was far worse. Anastasia was angry, and she had every right to that anger. It was a righteous fury, an emotional volcano that couldn’t be contained. In her multiple daily tantrums, she ripped apart rooms, screamed, cursed, hit, bit, and punched. And for all her outward signs of aggression, Eddie was the opposite. He was a shell of what you expected a baby to be. He shadowed his sister or me and was completely nonverbal. He would smile, but the smile never quite reached his eyes and he did not laugh. Most days he kept a wide-eyed expression of fear, and when he cried it was just silent tears resting on his chubby cheeks. I faltered between being heartbroken and being frustrated with our new situation.

Over the next few months, it became evident they weren’t going back. I had to figure out childcare and juggle bills to pay for my family. The caseworker urged me to become a foster parent and I was reluctant but was sold on the idea when I found out they got free tuition to college.

When you become a foster parent there is a new level of interrogation of your life. Everyone who interacts with the kids had to be FBI background checked, my house was inspected multiple times a month, and I had to take multiple classes. I had a binder where I kept medical logs and certifications, that had to be kept current at all times. Then there were doctor, dental, and therapy appointments.

But none of that was as hard as interacting in public with the kids. Anastasia regularly cursed or misbehaved in public, looks and comments were so embarrassing. You can’t just explain to people they’re foster kids and I didn’t make this mess, I’m just trying to clean it up! It was a lesson in humility, for sure!

Our foster journey lasted about a year before I was given full custody by their biological mother. And though the visits from program officials stopped a couple of years ago, as well as visits from their biological mother, we still continue to heal the trauma as a family. Both children amaze me with how far they have progressed, and each day they grow emotionally.

I spent a lot of time in their biological mother’s childhood trying to rescue her from her mother’s addiction and I never could understand why God allowed her to remain. Now a piece of God’s puzzle is so clear to me – had I been able to rescue their biological mother, they may never have existed or ever come to be mine. I had a hole in my heart I didn’t know existed until God brought them into my life and filled it with Anastasia and Eddie. They are a blessing and every step of their foster journey has touched my life, how I parent and how I now teach children of trauma. God has molded and shaped me into a better mother and person, from something tragic came something so beautiful.

“Lord, you are my God;
I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness
you have done wonderful things,
things planned long ago.”

Isaiah 25:1