31 May A Love Worth the Risk
By Dawn Vaculik
Almost 14 years ago, our family began our journey into the foster care system, where we fostered and then fostered to adopt. My husband and I already had three biological children – our oldest daughter, Amanda, was headed off to Bible college in Australia; our oldest son, Eric, was a junior in high school; and, our youngest son, Kristian, was in junior high.
We were living in a three-bedroom home at the time and with our oldest going off to school, it left one bedroom empty. A friend of ours had previously worked for Children’s Services and had started talking to us about the possibility of our family fostering. My husband and I had pretty lengthy conversations about it, which also included our kids weighing in. We sorted out all the pros and the cons of bringing in another child into our home to care for, to love, and about all of the unknown challenges we may face. Unanimously, we decided to do it!
We felt like, “Why not…?” We had a lot of love in our hearts to still give a child and we had this extra room that would otherwise just sit empty. My prayer from the beginning was, “God, there is a little girl out there who needs us as much as we need her… send her to us.”
We completed all of our training, background checks, and home study and had become licensed foster care parents. Exactly nine months after receiving our licenses, we received a call that there was a 5-year-old little girl who was removed from her home because of domestic abuse. The caseworker went on to say that her name was Amanda, that she had big blue eyes, freckles, strawberry blonde hair, and that she was artistic. She needed a foster home and we were asked if we would be interested. Well, it didn’t take us long for us to decide and just a few hours later, there was a knock on our door and on the other side was the caseworker and the tiniest little girl with strawberry blonde hair all twisted up into two messy braids. I remember the moment like it was yesterday. She did indeed have big blue eyes, but those eyes stared at me as if she was looking into space with such paralyzing fear. She literally came with just the clothes on her back and a book bag.
I think about it now, and wonder what it must of felt like to be this small little child who started her day just like any other day before. She got up and went to school, but because of circumstances beyond of her control, she would never go back to the home she once knew. Good, bad, rich, poor, plenty or lacking, it didn’t matter, it was her home –and she would never return to what she once knew.
We welcomed Amanda into our home, reassuring her that she had nothing to be afraid of that we would take good care of her. We got her settled in and bought new clothes and all of the necessities. We had such wonderful support from our family, friends, and church family. She was finding her way with us.
One of the most common statements we heard from others, though, especially in those early years was, “I’m not sure I could do that, it would be so hard to have a child in our homes and possibly fall in love and then have to give her/him back.” And then most people would follow that up with, “But, we commend you!” In other words, that’s very noble of you but we could never put ourselves in that position. My response would always be the same: “I think anything worth loving is worth the risk.” Even though they were right and we may actually get our hearts broken, I had decided it was worth the risk.
Our goal for Amanda was always for reunification! We wanted a success story where we had a child for a period of time and then eventually the child would go back home with the birth mom. Unfortunately, it was very clear midway through our foster care experience that the checklist that was necessary for her birth mom to complete in order to begin the steps of reunification was going to be tough for her to fulfill. More complications began to creep in and soon caseworkers started having conversations with us about the possibility that she was not returned, and they asked if we would we ever consider fostering to adopt.
Saying yes to adoption was an easy choice for us! Eighteen months later, she was our daughter. We were thrilled and really couldn’t imagine our family without her. However, I noticed that she was bonding with just about everyone but me. I wanted Amanda to know that I would never stop fighting for her, for her love, for her trust, but her bond to her birth mom was a strong one (as it should be) and I believe she felt a great deal of disloyalty to her if she bonded with me. Like me, she is very strong-willed and we consistently had conflict throughout her childhood and early teen years. There were many challenges and habits that needed to be undone and trust that needed to be established. Our struggle to bond seemed seasonal. We might have a good couple of months and then we’d be at it again. I remember that during one of the lowest moments in parenting her through these difficult years, I questioned my ability to parent! As much as I wanted to throw in the towel and quit, though, I could not get my own words out of my head and heart. “Anything worth loving, is worth the risk.”
Amanda will turn 19 years old in just a few days and I couldn’t be any more proud of who she is and who she is becoming. She is beautiful in every way. In the fall, she will head to Bethel Bible College in Redding, CA. I’m really blown away and amazed that we had the privilege of raising this little girl. I believe that God chose us because He knew we needed her as much as she needed us!
The Kingdom is built on love and God created adoption. After all, God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ! Our journey of adoption did not come without struggle, but what family is free from struggle in raising children, anyhow? Whether biological or adoptive, there will be challenging seasons and stages. We took a risk on love and our family is better because of it. Her adoption story is our adoption story and now we get to share in the fruit of her life.
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”