Two and a half years ago my husband and I started on a journey. We got a phone call from a social worker about a child we had connections to. This child was being taken into protective care and was now a foster child needing a home. Without thought or regard, my husband and I said yes. From early on we fell in love with her. She wound her way into our hearts. As a foster parent, we took classes to prepare us for loving a child that was not our own. We took classes how to help a child adjust to our lives. What we could not be taught was how to get rid of the fear. Fear that after a year plus we would have to say goodbye to her. We took it day by day. Day one. She was in our home. We didn’t have a clue what the future would hold. We just knew that the little girl needed love. We went to court hearings. We went to team meetings. We had meetings with social workers and CASA workers. We took her to doctors appointments. We took her to the dentist. We loved all over her. We worked with our Parent Aid to organize court-ordered parental visits. Day one turned into month one. Month one turned into month 3. Court check-in. Parents are not doing anything they should be doing but are full of promises. Month three turned into month six. Another court hearing. Still, nothing is done that the parents need to do to complete their parenting plan. Visits are hit or miss. Month six become seven, eight and nine. Month nine was a turning point. Bio parents had a home. Bio dad found a job. Even though the visits by parents were sporadic and inconsistent the judge ordered unsupervised visits. I remember the moment the judge handed that down from the bench. I thought the floor fell out from under me. Here this whole time the visits have been supervised. To suddenly go from one extreme to the other was unusual. The only thing my husband and I could do was pray and trust. Trust that God had control. When everything seemed to be falling apart we had to blindly let her go. Alone. Unsafe. Scared. It was too much to bear. I remember two nights before her first unsupervised visit. I was shaking with fear. I was a mess. The only thing I could do was crawl out of bed in the middle of the night and pray over this child. Pray for safety. Pray for peace. Pray for God to move in amazing ways. The only thing that kept running through my head was Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Over and over I was saying this. God had to have a plan. It could be his plan was for her to go back. His plan for me at that time is to TRUST. TRUST…trust? Send this little girl into the lion’s den? To parents whom she had not seen consistently in months. Helpless is what we felt. Awaken the next day. A sense of urgency and butterfly’s in my stomach. Sad. Scared. I noticed an email from our social worker. With dread, I open it. I knew it would have the details on the visit. Now hear me when I say this. It is not that I wanted to keep her from her bio parents. I did not have it out for them. I was trying to protect this child. A child I had grown to love very much. A child who said from the beginning she did not want to go back. She did not feel safe with them. She did not want to go on visits. She wanted to be done with them. I knew as a foster parent the end goal is to reunify. However, I saw how unhealthy the parents were. I saw that they only checked off boxes to please the court. There was no rehab. There was no real change. This child was going to be returned to a place that was unhealthy and scary against her will. Up to this point, little girl had a parent aid whose primary job was to keep the little girl safe during visits. The Little girl knew if she felt uneasy or scared this parent aid would remove her. Now we are going to send her with no help? It just did not make sense. I sat down at the computer and opened the email. The only thing it said was “Visits on hold. I have new information I need to check out.” Wait? WHAT? What information? What is going on? Frantic call. The message left for the social worker. We have just entered a whole new world of crazy! After what seemed like hours I hear from our CASA worker. Apparently, the day before her visit, the bio parents parole officer made an unexpected visit and caught bio mom with all sorts of drug kits. Both bio parents were ordered to take a drug test. Both came up dirty and both went underground! Month ten and eleven parents cannot be found. Month twelve…court hearing….neither parent can be found to be served with termination papers. This means the social worker needs to go through all sorts of hoops to try and locate them. Ads in papers. Registered mail to last known addresses. Just as we were nearing the end of this process mom shows up from drug rehab. Makes all sorts of promises about getting her act together. She looks GREAT! She sounds great. Wants to start up visits again. It is all to much. After all this time. Why? Well I know why. She loves her kid and wants to see her. But at this point it should not be about her. It should be about what is best for little girl. Dare I say thankfully this was just a flash in the pan and she could not sustain drug-free life. A few more months and we are all in court again. This time it was the trial for termination. This would determine if the parent’s rights will be terminated or if the child will go back. I am thankful to say neither parent showed up. The judge ordered termination. This little girl was now a ward of the state. She belongs to the State! After what seemed like an endless battle was it too good to be true? Is she now free for adoption? Can we keep her? Can we finally become the family that she wanted? Yes…and no. Yes…in time we will. No it has not happened yet. Our state has such a backlash due to the opioid crisis the courts and social workers are maxed out. We are in a holding pattern. Waiting for paperwork to be filed. Waiting for visits from the adoption social worker. Waiting. Praying. Hoping. I know in time little girl will be ours legally. As I sit here on the eve of her birth I can’t help but feel sorry for her biological mother. As we celebrate this little life tomorrow she will be reminded of a death. A death to her. A death to a family that could have been so much more. I am not sure where either bio parent is at this point. All I know is I pray they will find peace. I pray they will find a way to fill the gap that made them turn to drugs. As we celebrate this spunky child I can’t help but think I have been through labor. Am still in labor. I will be in labor until we walk out of the courthouse with the adoption certificate signed. That is when my labor will stop. Because then and only then will her future be secure with us. As I think back to that first night where we held a sobbing child begging us to let her stay I did not know how this would all pan out. I did not know the end chapter. As I reflect back I can see God moving. I can piece together they why’s and the how’s. The little 4 year old we took in tomorrow will turn 7. Happy Birthday little girl. Mommy loves you. Mommy is proud of you. Mommy and Daddy will always fight for you! I am so glad you were born.