It was about three days after we got him. I picked up the phone and very nervously dialed the number the DCS case worker had given me. Who would answer the phone? Would they be nice? Would they accuse me of being one of the “kidnappers” as Bio-families sometimes say about foster parents and DCS. He answered the phone and I remember hearing a tenderness in his hello. I reply, “Hi. My name is Stacy Bradley, and I am the foster mom of your grandson.” As Little J was the very first kid placed with us, I literally had no clue how to handle this situation, but I knew God was asking me to make this call, so, as unsure as I was, I did.
After I spoke I heard the man, who we now call Pop, begin to cry, his emotions and relief bubbling over. You see, their sweet grandson, who they knew was in a terrible situation, had been removed from that situation but they had no idea where he was or the type of people that had him. Can you imagine, really imagine the fear that must have been in their hearts? They were in another state and completely helpless.
That was May. By October I was boarding a plane with our excited 3-year-old. His first flight and my first adventure like this. Was I really on a plane heading to the grandparents’ house? The moment we got off the plane and saw them I was embraced with a love I didn’t expect. It was as if I had known them my entire life. Little J was a little clingy at first but quickly realized these people were safe people. Our weekend with Mimi and Pop was fast and full of meeting new family members, including our guy’s sister. Pure perfection. Except, I’d leave with him again.
It took another 16 months after that for Mimi and Pop to finally have their grandson moved to their house. But in that time God linked our families together forever. Mimi and Pop love big and beautifully. And soon, our guy will be officially adopted and have his new forever!
Letting him go was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. A year later the grief still sweeps over me at unexpected and often inconvenient times. There are songs I can’t listen to because I can hear his little voice singing “Radioactive” at the top of his lungs. Things my kids say that he use to say like “swamwich” instead of sandwich that makes my heart ache. I long to feel his little hand in mine and hold him while he rubs his cheek on me, one of the things he would do that let me know he was having a hard time and just needed me. His memories follow in almost everywhere we go regularly because for a short season he was a part of our normal daily lives. I loved him as if he were and had always been mine, except he was never and would never be mine. That’s not our role. We are a foster family, meant to be a temporary, safe place for a child. We willingly open ourselves up to all sorts of hard just so a child can have an opportunity for safety, consistency, love, healing and hope. We pray deeply, love big, and grieve greatly. We do it over and over again, because the beauty in the hard, the reward in the hard, the joy in the hard, it’s all worth every painstaking moment.