How Many Children Do I Have? It’s Not So Simple

As he grew in our home, the snow of December turned into the mud of April and the sun-filled days on the beach in Martha’s Vineyard in June. We documented every milestone, hoping that he would someday be able to look back on his time with us and know that it was filled with love. He took his first steps and said his first words and figured out how toys and body parts and feelings worked.

The primary goal, we were told in our foster care training classes through the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, or D.C.F., was to make every attempt to reunify the family. Children in foster care, they told us, should have a path toward either reunification or adoption. Foster families are meant to be a temporary safe space while the biological family creates their own safe space for the child to return.

Foster parents have to balance being the child’s de facto parents and loving the child with that totality, and giving themselves some emotional distance, knowing that at any moment the child could leave.

As part of the reunification effort, I dutifully packed the baby’s diaper bag for visits and met his social worker in the parking lot of the D.C.F. offices to hand him off for an hour or two. He’d return to our home smelling different, wearing clothes that were too big, but that had been picked out by the woman who had carried him in her womb for nine months. She could not give him much in the way of shelter or care, but she could show up for an hour at a time and give him love.

Those visits began to become more sporadic and then nonexistent, and the baby’s temporary placement with us stretched into a year and a half.

Periodically, I’d receive notification, both electronically and in the mail, that a review was scheduled, and I’d either go and report on the baby’s progress or I would relay that information to our social worker to present. And then we received a letter in the mail from D.C.F. asking if we would consider adoption.

This letter was a formality; we had already decided months earlier, that despite that great love that we felt for him, and knowing that we were going to be asked, that we were not going to adopt. We had taken on this awesome responsibility to be a bridge between his previous life and his future one, not to be his final destination.

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