After our son was born, my husband, Dick, and I were advised not to have any more children. We had always planned on having two, not wanting our son to be an only child. So we talked with several agencies about adoption, but were given very little encouragement. Someone recommended we become foster parents. Being young and energetic, the idea appealed to us.
We contacted our county agency and completed the necessary background checks, application, and training. We opened our home to any child, any age. Over the course of the next twelve years, we fostered nineteen children, ranging in age from nine months to seventeen years. Some stayed only a few hours. Most stayed a few months.
One day, the agency called to ask if we could accept a thirteen-month-old for a few days. At the time, our son was six, and we were already fostering a five-year-old and an eight-year-old. When asked if we could help out for seventy-two hours, we said, “Sure, we can do anything for seventy-two hours.” We hurriedly borrowed a crib, some clothing, a high chair, and a playpen from various families within our church.
The caseworker brought her to the door about 9:00 PM with nothing but the clothes on her back. I stretched my arms out to her, and she came right to me. She reeked of cigarette smoke and sported a very soggy diaper, so I carried her upstairs for a bath. She happily played in the tub, even allowing me to shampoo her hair.
Something happened during those initial moments with her. She captured my heart. Though never connected by an umbilical cord, in the space of a heartbeat, mutual cords of love joined this child and me. Wrapping her in a big, warm towel, I carried her downstairs and excitedly said to my husband, “This is the one.”
“What do you mean?”
“This is the one we are going to adopt.”
Always practical, he looked at me with incredulity and slowly spoke, “No, Pam, we only have her for seventy-two hours.”
I simply responded, “I know that’s what the agency said, but she’s the one.”
Ever protective of me, Dick shook his head and sighed. He gave me a look that said, “Oh, Pam, you’re setting yourself up for a big disappointment,” and then tried to lighten the moment by playing with Erin.
I dressed her in some borrowed pajamas and fed her a bowl of Cheerios. Then I took her into the living room and rocked her for a while. Contentment and peace flooded my soul. Although she had been with us less than an hour, I felt as though she had always been our daughter and had finally come home.
We did nothing to initiate adopting Erin. We simply treated her as our own from the moment she entered our home. We complied with everything the agency asked of us, and more. We willingly and gladly rearranged and adjusted every area of our lives, including our schedules, our finances, our jobs, and our furniture in order to truly parent this child. We couldn’t help ourselves. The love we felt for her was instantaneous, just like parents seeing their newborn baby. The difference was our baby weighed twenty-five pounds and could walk.
What began as a seventy-two-hour emergency placement turned into long-term foster care. Though the rights of Erin’s biological parents were terminated after three or four years, appeal followed appeal, dragging the proceedings out for seven long, uncertain years.
The wonderful phone call came one afternoon while my husband was at a class 150 miles away and both kids were in school. Knowing Dick would be stopping to visit his father on his way home, I phoned there and asked that he call me as soon as he arrived. When he answered the phone, he couldn’t understand my blubbering and thought something dreadful had happened.
“What’s wrong, Pam? Is one of the kids sick? Did the cat get run over?”
At last I was able to draw a deep breath and whisper, “We can adopt Erin!”
“Really?” was all he could squeak out before tears constricted his throat, too.
We sat in awed, thankful silence for several seconds before either of us could speak again.
Thirty days later, Dick and I met in a small county courtroom with our caseworker and a judge to finalize the adoption.
The judge asked, “Why do you want to adopt Erin? Why not just continue to foster her and receive a stipend to provide for her?”
We both answered, We love her as our own and want her to legally be our daughter forever. We can never lose her. We knew from day one she belonged to us!”
Satisfied, the judge rattled off a proclamation. At last, the little girl we knew from day one belonged to us became our daughter.