To my son,
Tonight I watched you and your classmates take the balloon-adorned stage at your pre-K graduation as 100 iPhone-wielding parents documented every move.
You were hard to miss in the center of the group, wearing a button-up shirt your sisters dressed you in and waving broadly to your dad and me.
It’s difficult to believe that just a year and a half ago, you were a stranger to us.
Before you ever lived with us, I met your biological mom. I was in court that day in late 2016 as she told the judge she was going to give up her parental rights to you. She had tried and tried, she said, but she just couldn’t do it.
Afterward, she and I met in a windowless, box-size courthouse conference room, and she cried as she told me all the things she felt I, the woman who would be taking her son, needed to know, like that you experienced eczema as a baby and that you have always had a deep and unwavering love of Batman. She also asked that, if we could afford it, we someday sign you up to play baseball. She always thought you would be great at it.
As I left, she hugged me and said, “Thank you for what you’re doing for my son.”
Then we both cried.
A few weeks later, right before Christmas, you came to live with us.
Because we are a foster-to-adopt home, we had to be your foster parents for at least six months before we could adopt you, and I thought that was perfect because the six-month mark landed in June on my birthday. What better present, I thought, than a new son?
But life isn’t perfect.
The truth is, we were having trouble bonding. Throughout the spring, you didn’t want to make eye contact or really even speak to us, much less call us Mom and Dad.
I remember sitting at a restaurant as your big sisters, our biological daughters, chatted about what they wanted to be when they grew up. When they asked you, your face crumpled and you started to sob. The past and present were daunting enough. The future? Incomprehensible.
I can only imagine how strange and overwhelming it all must have been for you, and I felt selfish for wondering if there’d ever come a time when you’d spontaneously hug me or laugh in the unadulterated way that all children should be allowed to do. It seemed the weight of the world was just too heavy, and sometimes your smile looked more like a grimace.
My birthday came with no adoption but instead a simple wish as the candle on my cake flickered that all of this would work out.
Then, sometime later last summer, the sunshine broke through the clouds and we started to see the real you, a little boy who loudly slurps milk from the bottom of his cereal bowl and who sweats like a grown man when he runs the bases at baseball practice and who gives the tightest, best hugs.
Even the simple moments we’ve experienced since your adoption in November, like you sitting in my lap asking nonstop questions about the magazine I’m reading or giving your dad the business for neglecting to pack a string cheese in your lunch, are a marvel because they would have been impossible a year ago.
As part of tonight’s pre-K graduation ceremony, they showed a video in which they asked you and your classmates what you wanted to be when you grow up, and as your face appeared on-screen I held my breath because I know that’s a tough question for you.
But you looked directly and confidently into the camera and proclaimed what you now plan to become: “A T. rex robot.”
The crowd laughed, and your dad and I shook our heads. Our goofball son.
Thank you for showing us who you really are. Thank you for trusting us. And thank you, most of all, for loving us.
NATIONAL FOSTER CARE MONTH
Read Kristin Finan’s four-part series about becoming a foster parent at mystatesman.com/fostercare.
Becoming a foster parent
In order to become a foster parent, you must be 21 years old, have a valid driver’s license and proof of automobile insurance, be a U.S. citizen or legal resident, have a high school diploma or GED and be able to pass criminal history, child abuse registry and FBI fingerprint checks. You do not have to be married to become a foster parent.
There are more than a dozen foster care agencies in the Austin area that offer training, including Helping Hand Home (helpinghandhome.org), DePelchin (depelchin.org/austin), A World for Children (awfc.org), the Bair Foundation (bair.org), SAFE (safeaustin.org), Angelheart (angelheartkids.org), Starry (starry.org), Arrow (arrow.org), Settlement Home for Children (settlementhome.org), Presbyterian Children’s Homes (texas.pchas.org) and Upbring (upbring.org). The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services also has resources available at dfps.state.tx.us.
Other ways to help
After watching foster children arrive to her door with nothing, reporter Kristin Finan co-founded a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Carrying Hope, that makes Hope Packs filled with comfort items and essentials for children who are entering the foster care system. Learn more at carryinghope.com.
Court Appointed Special Advocates of Travis County is in need of volunteers to advocate for abused or neglected children. In order to become a CASA, you must be 21 and pass extensive reference, Child Protective Services, sex offender registry and criminal background checks. You may not be a current foster parent or be in the process of adopting a child from Child Protective Services. If you are an attorney, you may not concurrently be appointed to any cases involving Child Protective Services in Travis County. Learn more at casatravis.org/volunteer. CASA of Williamson County, casawilco.org, and CASA of Central Texas, casacentex.org, are also in need of volunteers.