The Journey of Adoption, from a Mother’s Heart
Guest Blogger Jill Crumbacher is Senior Vice President of Marketing and Development at the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. She and her husband have grown their family through adoption and opened their home to children in foster care. Their family enjoys spending time with friends and family and going on long walks with their miniature poodle, Pepper. Please welcome her to The Square Deal and also join us in wishing Jill a Happy Mother’s Day!
Layers of Motherhood
In the life that I have created, and the circles in which I travel, the word “Mother” is almost never used alone. It is simply not complex enough to explain the relationship I have to the children that fill my car, my house and my life. With one glimpse of our family, most people can sense that I am a different kind of mother. One with more layers than what might be typical.
I am a biological mother, an adoptive mother, and a foster mother.
Most within the adoption and foster care communities would argue, and I would agree, that mom is mom. Of course, it’s true. My heart certainly ceased to discern any difference between the three many years ago. But as Mother’s Day approaches, I cannot help but reflect on the unique ways that each experience continues to shape my view of motherhood.
Becoming a Mother
I gave birth to the beautiful baby girl who first made me a mother 14 years ago. She has her dad’s eyes. She has my laugh. She is the reason why we decided to adopt and foster.
Does that sound strange?
The truth is my husband and I talked about adoption before we even got married. We had a pastor who had been adopted and his story planted the idea of adoption in our minds early in our relationship.
After I became a mother, I felt uniquely burdened for children who didn’t have parents to care for them. My infant daughter’s innocence and helplessness startled me. She was safe, but I knew that so many others were not. After much thought and prayer, my husband and I agreed that the next addition to our family would come through adoption.
The Journey of a Lifetime
In the fall of 2006, we landed in Beijing, China, on our way to pick up our 15 month old daughter. She had been living in an orphanage with medical needs that required surgery and she weighed a mere 13 pounds.
Many fears rush through the mind of an adoptive mother who has just met her child. Is she healthy? What happened to her in those first 15 months of life? Will she bond with us?
But the most menacing fear I experienced was a question that kept haunting me, no matter how much I tried to escape it in those first few days. Could I truly love a child that wasn’t biologically mine?
Today, nearly 10 years later, I am so thankful that I know the answer to that question. YES. I can love a child that isn’t biologically related to me. And I do. It’s a fierce kind of love that is so strong it almost hurts. I would die for her without a second thought, just as I would for my biological child. If you’re a mother, any kind of mother, you know that feeling.
There isn’t a Mother’s day that goes by that I don’t remember that my little girl has a first mother. The one that gave birth to her 10 years ago but couldn’t keep her. The one that has no idea that her little girl got on a plane and is thriving and happy.
How I wish that I could meet her. How I wish that my daughter could meet her. The reality is that all adoption starts with profound loss. It’s gritty and painful, and yet we journey on. And we find the redemption and joy and love that comes from pushing through the hard places with family by our side.
For the most part, the days of the orphanage in the United States are long gone. In its place, a temporary system called foster care was established to care for youth who have experienced harrowing things like abuse or neglect.
Two years ago, our family decided to start the process of becoming a foster family for a few of those 400,000 children currently in the system in the United States.
So far, we have had teens and sibling groups call our family home for various amounts of time. Being a mother-figure to a child in foster care is complex.
These children often have experienced significant trauma, and they arrive at your door full of questions and anxiety. I am a stranger to them. My home, my food, my habits are not what they are used to. And so, I buy their favorite foods. I don’t wash their favorite blanket, even if it’s dirty, because it smells like home. And I try my best to walk them through this difficult disruption in their lives.
This type of motherhood feels different than the others, because it’s temporary. At least, we hope it’s temporary. Because the goal of foster care is reunification with a child’s biological family whenever possible.
My job as a foster mother is to love them, and then give them back.
It’s always my hope that the souls of these children might hang on to pieces of what they learned during our time with them. If they didn’t know it before, I want them to know that they are loved. If they didn’t know it before, I want them to know that they are smart, special and good. And I want them to learn that when life gets impossible to bear, there are people who will step in to help carry the load.
The Personal meets The Professional
A few years ago, my personal and professional lives connected in the most meaningful way. I was offered an opportunity to join the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, as the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Development.
The Foundation is America’s only nonprofit public charity dedicated exclusively to finding permanent homes for children waiting to be adopted from foster care. These are the children who cannot be reunified with their original families. And there are more than 100,000 of them in the United States right now, living in foster care while they wait for a family to adopt them. Many of them wait for years and years in the system that was designed to be temporary. Many of them age out without a family at all. It should break our hearts.
Thankfully, The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption funds more than 200 specially-trained adoption recruiters in the United States and Canada to find forever families for these children and youth. My job is to make people aware of the need for foster care adoption, and to raise the funds needed to keep the work going.
We at the Foundation are blessed to have the generous and unwavering support of The Wendy’s Company behind our work. They make our mission possible day after day and year after year. Without their support more than 5,000 children might not be in their forever families right now. There is still so much work to be done and we are grateful that The Wendy’s Company, together with their franchisees and vendors, remain committed to the cause of foster care adoption.
The Next Chapter
People often ask me if we will adopt from foster care. My answer is typically, I’m sure we will.
We know too much. We’ve seen too much. And there are too many children waiting for a family. I can’t say exactly when it will happen, but I’m certain we will know when it’s time. Then I will add a fourth layer to my motherhood journey.
Foster-adoptive mother. It sounds pretty good to me.