Andre and his siblings watched in fear as their mother and her boyfriend argued. The kid’s were sent to their room, but the fighting escalated. Andre couldn’t take it any longer. He came out of the bedroom just in time to see his mother holding a knife to the eye of her boyfriend threatening to kill him.
The next day CPS showed up removing all four children placing them in a shelter until a foster family was found to take them.
Andre was about five years old.
A few weeks later Andre and his siblings had their first visit with their mother. The visit took place in a typical state office building used by CPS. The family met in a small room that had a two-way window for observation. The kids were all excited. But then the hour was over and confusion set in.
The kids didn’t understand why they couldn’t leave with their mom. Crying. Screaming. Tugging.
Confusion. Fear. Anger.
A foster family did take Andre and his siblings into their family about six months later. They lived with this family for 2-3 years while the state worked with their mother. Andre’s mother spent some time in jail. Most likely used drugs and who knows what else she did that was unfit for four young children to witness.
Eventually though, Andre’s mother relinquished her parental rights or had them terminated. This opened the door for the children to be adopted. And they were adopted. All four kids by the same family. The family was a friend of Andre’s mother.
It was the best anyone could imagine, all the siblings remained together. They had a family to take care of them. And, they could still be in relationship with their biological mother.
Or so they thought.
Andre doesn’t know why things changed with his adopted family. But change they did.
It is normal practice for a family that adopts through foster care to have a six month probationary time before the adoption is final. CPS continues to make visits to the home making sure everything is working out. After that six months and the adoption is final, the family has full custody and no more visits are scheduled.
Once Andre and his sibling’s adoption was finalized, his adoptive parents changed. They no longer seemed to care about the kids. They encouraged discord among the siblings, two boys and two girls.
Anger and confusion raged within Andre.
Over the next couple of years Andre ran away close to 20 times and was arrested for assaulting his siblings. Judges, lawyers and probation officers got to know Andre well.
His adoptive parents didn’t care how long he stayed out or where he was. So he used to sit outside until late at night angry at the world. Angry at God. Why was this happening to him?
Finally his adopted family had enough. A judge asked Andre if he could choose anyone from his past that he could live with, who would it be and who would he take with him?
Andre’s answer? The foster family he lived with for a few years. And he would take one of his sisters with him.
Soon he was back with his foster family. And in counseling.
Even though he was in a better place with his foster family, Andre needed help making sense of what was happening to him. What were the two dominant emotions that Andre experienced during those 7-8 years after CPS removed him from his biological mother’s home?
Anger and sadness. How could Andre feel anything else. If he did feel anything else, it was aloneness. Did anyone hear his cries at night? His angry questions? The rage within?
God seemed to hear him. Because things were about to change for the better for Andre.
He was in middle school now about 13 years old. A friend on his football team invited him to a birthday party. Andre responded that he needed to check with his foster-mother.
That friend went home and asked his parents what a foster family was. When he understood that it was a family giving a child a place to live until they found a family to adopt them his reply was, “why can’t we adopt him?”
Well…that eventually happened. Andre beat the odds. Not only was he adopted once which had a terrible ending. He was adopted twice. Many children who find themselves in a situation similar to Andre’s never get adopted. They eventually age out of the foster system without anyone they can rely on as a mother or father.
He has lived with his adopted family now for about four years. Andre turned 18 recently. He wishes that those who knew him 5-6 years ago could see him now. He truly is a changed young man.
Yes he still struggles some with anger. But he has learned how to regulate the anger in healthy ways.
He now wonders why he is so blessed to be a part of a family that loves and nurtures him.
Andre has this poem on the wall above his bed:
Andre also shared with me a verse from Proverbs that has become his life verse:
I asked Andre what he would want someone to know about a child from foster care. His response:
At the age of five, Andre had no way of understanding what was happening to him and his family. His story of living in a shelter, in a foster home, a disrupted adoption is all too common for at-risk children.
To expect Andre to have a different emotional response (one other than anger and sadness) in light of what he experienced is unrealistic.
More families willing to adopt a foster child, especially one in their teens are needed. Yes, it is challenging, but a challenge worth taking.