I remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday. We were driving home, bringing our soon to be foster daughter with us. This was just a weekend visit. A chance for us to all get to know each other a little more before she made the big move: to our home, away from her school and friends and everything she had known. The plan was for permanency. We were hoping to adopt her after the preliminary six months required by the state. This wasn’t the first meeting we’d had with her, but it was the first time she had ever really been alone with us. Without the social worker or anyone else that she knew. It was the first time she was coming to our home. To the people that would be her forever family. Not a replacement, but family none the less.
Her cheeks were still round from her baby years, and she had tucked soft golden strands of hair behind her ear. She was peering out the window, watching the trees go by, but it was if she didn’t even see them. Her mind and her heart were elsewhere.
I wanted her to be comfortable. To know that she was loved and that we wanted to have her as part of our family.
“Are you nervous?” I asked. “Because it’s okay if you are. We’re nervous too.” I tried to give her a reassuring smile, but she kept her gaze out through the window.
“No.” she quietly said. “I’m not nervous. I’ve been ‘dopted before.”
I felt my heart crumble into a million pieces. I tried to explain that she hadn’t been adopted before. That all the other families had been temporary placements. Safe homes for her when others were not. That this was different. It would be different. That this would be forever. But how do you explain this to an eight year old? When every one who was supposed to be there had let her down, time and again. When you’re thrust into a broken system that has seemingly failed you, how to you believe that this time it wont?
It didn’t happen over night. Or over a week or a month or even a year. We became a family moment by moment. Learning to trust each other. Learning to love without limits. Learning what it means to be a mother, a father, a daughter and what those names mean. It was twelve months before she called me mom. But we had our own language and names to bridge the hurt of years gone by.
It wasn’t easy-for any of us. My heart still busts wide open for the loss that she’s lived with. That all of my kids have lived with. But it has been worth it. It has shaped us and stretched us in ways we never new possible. I’ve been refined. I’ve been broken in two and stitched back up again. I’ve seen redemption first hand.
This month, the one where we think about turkey and stuffing and watch the first snow fall, is more about being thankful. November is National Adoption Month. There are thousands of children out there who want a seat at the table. Who are watching the trees go by through the window of their world, wondering when they get to go home. To their forever family. As we pass through this month making plans for family and food, I’d ask that you take a look at your own heart and ask yourself if you have room for more. Maybe you can be the forever family to a child who is desperately waiting for a home.