When Plans and Desires Change

I had two biological boys ages 4 and 6. I wanted to adopt baby girls ages 0-3 and I wanted to save these babies from their “horrible parents” who were obviously extremely selfish to choose behaviors that would land their children in state custody, forced to live with strangers.

But something unexpected happened the minute I met my first foster placement. Two adorable little girls ages 2 and 3. I took one look at them and my heart broke in two. Not just for them but for their mother who must have loved them. I wanted to know who she was. What was her story? Did she miss her girls? I first focused on making sure the girls were okay when they entered my home and gave them lots of love, affection, and attention. And then I did something I never saw myself doing…I asked the case manager for their mom’s phone number and asked permission to call her. I was shaking inside wondering what she would be like and if she would want to hear from me. She answered the phone and I said, “Hi My name is Bridget and your girls are living with me. I wanted to let you know they are so sweet and adorable and I am taking good care of them.” There was a pause and then I heard her burst into tears…she thanked me profusely for calling her and explained to me that her girls had been bouncing around from foster home to foster home and she didn’t know where they were or how they were. She had only had a few visits with them in 4 months.

She was only 21 when her girls were taken into state custody. The girls’ father was abusive toward her but never touched the children. She was then forced to go from being a young stay-at-home mom raising her girls to a single woman who needed to secure a job and be able to support herself and her daughters without the help of her daughters’ father. A wave of compassion swept over me and I knew that my job was not only to take care of her girls but to encourage and support her as she did some incredibly hard things. She thanked me profusely for reaching out and for taking care of her girls.

I gave her my phone number and told her to call whenever she wanted to talk with her girls. She called about once a day. I texted pictures and videos to her whenever I could. We went to the mall together to celebrate her first paycheck. We took our children to see Santa and got pictures taken together. She let me pray for her and with her and in 5 short months she was able to do everything she needed to do to regain custody of her girls. I happily handed those two girls back to their loving mother who had overcome so much. She told me she thought about giving up because the system seemed to be working against her but when she finally received support she felt like she found the strength she needed to complete the long list of tasks DCS required of her.

While I thoroughly enjoyed taking care of girls, my sons asked if we could take care of boys their age so that they had someone to play with. After a short break to emotionally recuperate after the girls’ departure we got the call in the middle of the night for 2 brothers my boys’ exact ages at the time (5 & 7). They were removed directly from their parents that same night and were visibly traumatized. We surrounded them with love and attended to their immediate needs of security and information. In the following days I felt that same feeling of curiosity about the boys’ mother. Was she like the last bio mother that I dealt with? Would she want my support and encouragement as well? I liked how things turned out last time so I got this mama’s phone number and gave her a call. It was not the reaction I was expecting…instead I was met with an angry voice that demanded to know who I was and where my boys were. She wanted to punch someone she was so mad she said! When she finally took a breath I said, “Hi…my name is Bridget. I have your boys. They are sweet and adorable and I can tell they are well loved and that you miss them. Let me give you a piece of advice since you are new to the system…do everything they tell you to do. Be nice to everyone that is trying to help you get your boys back and don’t cuss at or threaten to punch anyone official. It will not be good for your case.” There was a long pause and I held my breath…she asked if she could speak to her boys. I said yes. She cried…the boys cried…she got back on the phone with me with a bit of a softer tone. She asked if she could call her boys before bed every night and I agreed. We hung up and I thought…”Oh boy…this was going to be a different experience than the last mama.”

It took time but she opened up to me and told me her story. It was another case where, in my opinion, in-home services may have served this family well without the removal of children but DCS was not going to budge and was going to make her jump through all the hoops. I helped her navigate the system. I encouraged her to keep going. I got to pray with her. She and her husband attended all the boys’ school events. They came to watch their boys play baseball. I got to see her smile for the first time when her son hit the ball and made it to 1st base!  I attended court with her every time to show my support. She was never really warm with me like the first mama. She didn’t trust many people and I still wasn’t one of them…even after 8 months when the judge congratulated this mama and told her it was time to bring her boys home. I still wasn’t sure she liked me much…but that was okay with me. It was an indescribable feeling to watch a fellow mother jump up and scream with joy in the courtroom when the judge gave her her rights back…I just cried…I was so excited to get to be the one to drive her to her boys’ school and pick them up mid-day and share with them the happy news. They ran into her arms and we all 4 just cried in the front office of the elementary school and I withdrew the boys from school. We drove back to my house…packed the boys up and then I drove them all home. After helping them get all of their stuff out of the car it was time for me to leave, I hugged the boys and then I turned to say good-bye to their mom and she caught me off guard with a big and first-time hug! She pushed me away and looked into my eyes and while crying said that she sat in a mandatory counseling group where most of the parents had children in the system and they went around complaining about the foster homes that their kids were in and she said that when they got to her she said, “I have nothing to complain about. My kids are in a good home. If I couldn’t care for my children this would be the next best place for them to be.” I stood there stunned for a second before quickly saying goodbye and jumping into my car where I lost it. I never received a thank you from this mama in 8 months and it still wasn’t a thank you. It was so much better!

During the time we had the brothers we also adopted a 9 year old boy out of a group home!! He had no parents fighting for him…a true orphan. Not exactly the 0-3 age range or the gender we originally planned for but God was funny like that…and he took some good plans we had in the beginning and shaped them into new exciting plans like only he can do!

After a few months and with 3 boys at home…we wondered what was next. Out of the blue…an adorable 5 year old girl bounced into our life and a month later she brought with her a surprise 11 year old sister! Both leaving other foster homes for various reasons…but what I was really curious about…you guessed it…was who was the mother that birthed these two gorgeous, witty, and smart girls? Well it turns out she was a felon serving her second sentence in jail…Okay God…this one was new…I know you have given me a compassion for bio parents but…a felon?……In jail? Was it even safe to reach out…how do I even contact a felon? With help from the case manager and my own research I received permission from the jail to receive calls from their mother and just like that another mama to mama bond started to form…she called her girls once a week…we sent her letters and pictures…she and I had some heart to hearts about life…she was warm but cautious…a mix between my two previous mamas. She had learned a lot in jail…she was committed to sobriety…and she was repentant and remorseful about the pain she had caused her girls and she wanted another chance. I was optimistic but cautious myself…the real test would be if she could survive on her own out of jail…could she stay sober…could she get a job as a felon? Could she get a place to live? We prayed together on all of her needs and God met every single one. She got a job. She secured a place to live. We collected furniture and household items to fill her apartment and we helped facilitate healing between her and her daughters. After 1.5 years from being released from prison and after 3 years of foster care for her daughters they were reunited. This was our longest foster placement to date and our most complicated bio mother situation ever. But God was preparing me each step of the way. Did a little piece of my heart leave with those two amazing girls? Yes…but just a small piece…and God can rebuild hearts…

So what’s next God?? Now what are you going to ask of me??…I trust you though…I’m ready…I don’t know everything and I still feel unprepared…but what I do know…is that my desire has changed from wanting to adopt children to wanting to see families healed, restored, and reunited…

Dr. Bridget Seeley, MFT, Ph.D
Foster and Adoptive Mother

Please address any questions or comments to: pinkpsych@hotmail.com

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