Everyone has a story, and Penelope Webster, known online as blogger Foster2Forever, shares her incredible journey from foster mother to adoptive parent. Here is her story, in her own words.
In December 2009, I received a call that changed our lives. Mostly, it changed the life of an infant child, only three months old at the time. “Would you accept a 3-month-old baby boy foster care placement?”
I was still missing the two-year-old foster daughter that had left our home a couple months before. Maybe the excitement of a baby in our home, even for a short while, would help me focus less on my grief. My reply was an immediate “YES!” When I met the darling baby boy, the caseworker spoke of how he had been in the state office all day. “He’s such a good baby. His birth mom has had numerous children adopted out, and she is unable to keep this child. Do you want him?”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. A call for a foster care placement that could possibly become another son! The hardest part of being a foster parent can be when a foster child that you’ve parented leaves your home. That’s what being a foster parent is all about–keeping kids safe while families work to reunify.
A couple of months later, in February 2010, I received a call from the State that made my heart sink. The State had unexpectedly found a home with a distant relative for our five-month-old precious baby boy that we had been fostering with the intent to adopt for the last few months.
When I had been asked at the beginning, “Do you want to keep him?” the State investigator did not foresee any family members that could pass a background check or home study for placement. No family had come forward before on the previous five children. This sudden turn of events was very tough on me emotionally.
I didn’t blame anyone. I totally understood why someone would want this beautiful creation. He had brought so much joy into our home for the past few months! But I must admit that I was painfully disappointed that this child with whom I was becoming more and more attached would not be joining our family.
As the impending court date drew closer, the thought of losing this little angel became more difficult. Before this happened, we had been searching for a name to fit the beautiful dark-haired, blue-eyed baby, and had even decided on a combination of family names.
But as I reviewed the legal paperwork discussing our foster baby, his birth family, and the home study of a distant relative, I had a change of heart. The home study recommended that the baby be placed with the distant relative. As I read the home study and learned how this relative already had a room ready for the baby, I began to cry. This baby has a family that loves him and wants him! He has young cousins that are excited about having a baby in their home. And so I spent that night saying my goodbyes to the precious baby and sleeping very little.
The court date arrived, and outside the courtroom, the baby’s mother asked to meet me. When we were introduced, I gave her pictures I had taken of her baby in the two months he had lived with us. Looking through the photos, she wiped away tears from her face.
She told us that she did not want her child to stay in her family; she actually wanted to support us instead of her relative in this placement hearing. A very strange situation. I believe it sadly demonstrates the depth of dysfunction in the family.
During the actual court hearing, the baby’s mother, his ad litem attorney and CASA all supported the baby staying with us. However, the State’s policy is, if possible, children are to be placed with family members. Due to this policy, the State’s attorney was the only party not supporting the baby staying in our foster home. The State’s attorney called state headquarters to see if the State could officially support the baby staying with us. If so, then there would be a consensus of all the parties that the baby could stay with us and the hearing would be canceled.
However, the State headquarters reiterated the official State policy: “Always family first,” which negated any say of the baby’s mother.
A court hearing was scheduled for the next month. In the meantime, our precious foster baby would stay in our home until the judge ruled that he be moved to his relative.
At the next court hearing in March, I was not optimistic. The State wanted him with family. But the baby’s ad litem attorney changed their position and now wanted him with family. Additionally, the baby’s CASA flipped-flopped her position and now wanted him with family. They had all adamantly changed their minds.
However, the baby’s mother stood firm and did NOT want him with her family. During testimony, the State, the baby’s ad litem attorney, and CASA all focused on how the baby should be placed with his relative; while the baby’s mother testified that she wanted her baby to stay with us.
Surprisingly, the judge then issued his ruling…THE BABY WOULD STAY WITH US UNTIL ANOTHER PERMANENCY HEARING!!!!
By that next court hearing in May, our foster baby was now nine months old and had been in our home for six months. Everyone except the baby’s mother wanted him to go live with the relative. In fact, when the CASA had visited the week before, her last remark to me was: “He’s young. He’ll assimilate easily.”
But what happened in court that day was NOTHING I expected. When the State case worker was testifying and was asked how the baby’s mother was doing, she stated that the mother was currently working services toward reunification. “Good for her!” I thought. The baby’s ad litem attorney asked if the State was still looking at placing the baby with his relative, and her reply was “yes.”
In a strange turn of events, I discovered in the CASA’s report to the court, Recommendation #3 on the last page stated: “The child should remain in his current placement.” I have no idea what had happened in just a few days that caused the CASA to radically change her mind about the baby staying with us.
The judge then ruled that the baby would remain with us until the next hearing in September. But an extreme change of events occurred before September.
The State held a meeting the next month with us, the baby’s mother and grandmother, and others involved in this case. The State wanted the baby to be placed for adoption and was still pursuing adoption by the relative.
Oddly enough, in the meeting, both the baby’s mother and grandmother adamantly opposed adoption by their relative, and even stated that they would rather us adopt the baby instead of their own family. The grandmother exclaimed to the caseworkers, pointing at me, “The baby is already calling her mama!”
I wiped away tears as I choked out: “No, he’s not talking yet.” They stated that the relative has a lot of alcohol consumption in the home. “They like to party.” The State did acknowledge that they did need to “check out some things” in regard to the relative’s home study.
After this meeting, the baby’s mother, broken-hearted, never visited her precious baby again.
In August, the State caseworker and CASA met with us in our home to inform us that the baby’s mother would be voluntarily relinquishing her parental rights. They still voiced how they wanted the baby with the relative and his Hispanic culture, even though it was against the wishes of the baby’s mother.
Nevertheless, we were going to be able to adopt this precious child and have an open adoption with the baby’s mother. By the baby’s first birthday, his mother signed our adoption agreement and the paperwork to voluntarily relinquish her parental rights; her parental rights were terminated in court shortly thereafter.
Because a number of legal issues had to be resolved first, we couldn’t finalize the foster adoption of our son for another year. This baby that had been placed in our home as an infant was part of a legal tug-of-war for so long, he was over two years old before he officially became our forever son on National Adoption Day in November 2011.
Penelope Webster, known online as Foster2Forever, writes on her blog about different parenting techniques she’s tried through her 8 years as a foster parent. In her fostering journey, she has said goodbye to nearly 20 foster children, and is a proud forever mom of two young, rambunctious boys. She enjoys connecting and sharing with other foster parents on Facebook and Instagram.