One year. 365 days. That’s how long we have legally been able to claim our daughter.
It seems such a long time and so little.
What is one year in the eternity of being a family?
One year is EVERYTHING!
One year doesn’t tell the whole story either.
It leaves out the years of love and devotion that existed purely out of choice, not out of any underlying obligation, long before we could claim her as one of our miracles.
Almost four years ago this young woman walked into our lives. We were looking for a nanny, someone to help as we adjusted to being parents to such a large tribe of children, a tribe that we anticipated would continue to grow. What we did not know was that the amazing girl who came to our door that early spring day was an answer to more than our prayers for a babysitter.
She was the answer to deep held, heartfelt prayers that we had cried out to God with for years and years. She was the piece we still felt missing in our family. She was the big sister the kids craved and needed in unspeakably profound ways.
She was our missing link and we were hers.
When we first began the journey to become foster parents we had to answer a lot of questions about the “type” of child we were willing to foster or looking to adopt. The agency case workers can rattle of a frightening number of categories they have grouped kids into, a heartbreaking menu of that strips the humanity out of the process in these discussions. We initially thought we were pretty open minded but we were clear we wanted young children. Our reasoning was we were newlyweds still, still in our twenties, so that’s what “made sense”. That’s what the picture of a family is “supposed” to look like.
Then we went to our first training as potential foster parents and we learned about the staggering statistics kids in the foster care system face. The way it was explained to us was that by the time a child reaches 5 they have only a 20% chance of ever finding a family, by the time they are 10 it is about a 5% chance, and after 13 the chances are basically nonexistent. Tyler and I looked at each other in shock and horror and knew we had to expand our age range. I clearly remember the conversation I had with the case worker telling her we wanted to expand the age range. We had always believed the children meant to be in our family would find their way to us. She asked if we were sure and mentioned more teenage related concerns and that just solidified in my mind that our family would be built by love and by who God placed in our family and none of those categories we had gone through mattered.
To the shock and surprise of us all, our first year and a half of fostering and adopting we became parents to five very young kids. It was pure pandemonium and even at my most overwhelmed when people asked me if we were done, I said no. I knew our family was not complete.
Never in my wildest most magical dreams could I have envisioned that in that first 18 months of parenting that all six of our children would find our way home. We would be complete before I knew it.
When the five Littles were home together and we began looking for a nanny we had a lot of false starts. People who may have had good intentions but just did not get the reality of our kids lives and their high level of needs. It was pretty discouraging, and I was about to give up hope.
Then I got an email from Kaitlyn. She gave me a brief history of herself to include that she had been in foster care as a child and that she was (at that time) putting herself through college. I remember not breathing the whole time I read the email and just thinking “Yes, that’s her!”
I did not know how right I was. I just thought I had finally found the goldilocks fit for a Nanny.
However, the connection we found instantly with Kaitlyn was unlike any we had ever had with someone we had hired before…..in fact the only time we had felt something similar was when we met all five younger kids. Still, we could not have imagined how it would blossom.
Kaitlyn would come over on her days off, call and ask us for advice or for Tyler to help with her car, join us for holidays and parties and in no time at all we couldn’t imagine life without her there. She was someone we could depend on with the younger kids and a source of love and light in our lives.
As time moved forward she got closer to her college graduation and we decided to move the younger kids back to Michigan to be closer to family and the many services we can only find here.
I was worried at first that this amazing young woman would move on with her life and we would lose this wonderful addition to our family. We didn’t. In fact we all continued to grow closer. She came to visit us in Michigan and we planned our trips home to be there for the important things like her college graduation.
That trip was when we all started using the language we had been holding back. We called her our daughter, and there were no prouder parents in the auditorium when she graduated. She began referring to us as her parents. It was just…right.
This was when we started the legal process to adopt her. Why bother going through the courts, some asked? That question is exactly why- because just as when someone gets married or sends out new baby pictures- we could not wait to make official for everyone else what had been true for us for so long. We were bursting with the same joy and love all parents feel and we could not wait to share the news that our baby girl was here. She may not be a baby anymore but she will always be ours. Her addition to our family needed to be honored and celebrated by us and everyone who loved our family.
Family is an eternal and sacred connection. I am honored that Kaitlyn chose us as her parents and that we get to walk this path of eternity together.
One year down. Eternity to go and nothing but love!