Jana Alexis shares her experience as a foster mom and ultimately adoptive mom of three, with two biological children as well. As her family grew, she learned what it meant to love and to lose, to care for the defenseless and to love them regardless of what was to come. It is a privilege to get to share her family’s adoption journey here on the blog.
What is the dominant feeling of being a foster parent? For me, it was feeling helpless. At so many points in our foster-to-adopt journey, I felt completely powerless to reach out to the birth mother or to convince the judge of the “right” decision or to keep our foster children safe. It was in those moments I learned to cry out: Oh God, please be our defender!
You saw it, LORD; do not be silent.
LORD, do not be far from me.
Wake up and rise to my defense,
To my cause, my God and my Lord (Psalm 35:22-23 CSB).
Our foster journey began ten years ago when my husband and I started working toward our foster license. We aimed to adopt, even though I was pregnant with our first biological child. Over the next five years over 25 children came through our home as we fostered and also hosted through Safe Families for Children. We longingly waited for a long-term placement. In the meantime, we had another biological son.
In May of 2015, we fostered a sweet girl “Z” for one month. We really bonded with her, even though she was sick for most of her time with us. It was a difficult placement because the mother kept blaming us and making things difficult. Looking back I have more compassion for her, realizing the fear and discouragement she must have felt, but at the moment it was so very hard. I remember one day crying at the kitchen sink, praying through Romans 12, asking God to be our defender and to turn my heart toward the mom in love. Miss Z was removed from our home suddenly to go live with a grandma; and even after she left, we were called by the caseworker with accusations about bruises on Z’s knees. Again I had to trust God to come to our defense.
Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy (Proverbs 31:9 CSB).
Just two months later in July of 2015 we got a call about a sweet two-month-old boy. They were observing him at a local hospital and he would need to be picked up the next day. We brought home the curly-haired cutie, not knowing that was the beginning of a three-and-a-half year court journey to adoption. Eight months later, the little guy’s two sisters joined our family (read more about their sudden addition to our family). At first their birth mother kept up with visits and made attempts at reunification. But her efforts began to dwindle into the second year. We were bonding with the children and they were settling in, but still the court case dragged on.
At the beginning of 2017, when we expected to move toward termination since all three biological parents were making no attempts at reunifying, the case unexpectedly exploded. First, the judge received a call from the embassy of the home country of one of the biological fathers. Then, a biological grandma, who lives in Europe and does not speak English very well, hired her own excellent local attorney and joined the case. My heart struggled under the weight of the hearings and horrible what-ifs. Would the judge really order three children to move to Europe with family they didn’t know and who didn’t speak their language? As Hezekiah prayed, I breathed out often: “O LORD Almighty, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth . . . Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see…” (Isaiah 37:16-17 NIV). Those were dark days, trusting God to be our defense in a court system that often failed the children it was supposed to serve.
In a sudden turn of events and to our great relief, the grandma backed out of the case a few months later. The birth mom disappeared, and we were back to scheduling termination hearings. In December 2017 the judge terminated parental rights. My heart rose in hope for 30 days and then plummeted again when two of the biological parents filed an appeal. We couldn’t believe it: more waiting! More delay. More fears. Would the state court of appeals be able to see the truth in the years of files and hearing notes? We were completely helpless and could only rely on God as our defender. Waiting was so hard on our hearts, but we experienced the never-changing character of God during those days. His faithfulness and sovereignty were our foundation and we were overwhelmed by the peace He gives generously to those who wait with Him as their hope.
This is what your Lord says—the Lord, even your God, who defends His people (Isaiah 51:22 CSB).
In late summer 2018 we finally heard the news that the appeals court upheld the initial judge’s termination decision—the children were ours forever. Oh the tears, the joy! In November 2018 Adoption Day finally arrived. After waiting over three years, we finally heard the judge say those precious words: Your petition to adopt has been granted.
God did it. He was our defender. Perhaps not in our time frame and certainly not without heartache, but He did it nonetheless. And He was not just our defender in the sense that we “won.” No, it’s more than that.
He defended the long term safety of the children.
He defended the dignity of their birth mom—I was privileged to get to know her a little.
He defended His sovereignty to me—oh, how much I learned!
He defended His goodness and faithfulness right to the end.
The road to adoption is long and difficult but so very worth it. Even though the journey may be difficult and heartbreaking, we can be sure God will see. He will be near. He will hear. He will come to our defense—in His own sovereign way and always for His own glory.