Dawn Unity Viewpoint
By The Rev. Sarah Hubinsky Phelps
Special to the News
Sometime this summer, my husband and I will finally become the legal, adoptive parents of Sam, a beautiful, 2 1/2-year-old boy we have parented since he was 10 days old. He came to us through the foster care system in Los Angeles County, having been removed from his birth parents because of charges of child endangerment.
Dealing with the foster care system has been one of the most difficult experiences of our lives. Before Sam, another child had been placed in our care. We fell in love with him, too, but eight months later a biological relative came forward who was willing to adopt him, and we had to let him go. Then came Sam who also was placed with extended relatives after four months with us, only to be returned 12 days later because the family members had been deemed unfit.
Although he’d already been bounced around twice, for nearly two years the county continued to give Sam’s biological parents the chance to show they could be responsible parents, while simultaneously searching for other relatives who might adopt him. All the while we waited, ready to commit to him from day one, yet always considered the option of “last resort.”
This is a big part of what it means to be a foster parent or to adopt through the foster care system. You put your heart out on the line day after day, for years, loving the kids who come your way, waiting to see what the court decides is best for them; and you have very little control over the outcome.
Many people have said, “I could never do that.” But this can’t be true. If we could do it, surely anyone could. We both work full time. We are not financially well off. We do not have any family in the area to help us. We are not especially strong or heroic people. Honestly, if we’d known ahead of time just how hard this would be at times, we probably would have chosen another route to adoption. But, thank God we didn’t, because we would have missed one of the richest, most meaningful experiences of our lives.
The writer and popular theologian, Frederick Buechner, once famously said, “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world's greatest need.” As it turns out, we’ve discovered that the greatest joy of our lives revolves around loving a child. We’re not unique. That’s true for a lot of people. But we’ve also discovered that when you can offer what gives you joy and it also happens to help fulfill a grossly under-met social need, it produces a sense of joy and satisfaction that is hard to describe. There have been many painful moments along the way, but the journey has been worth it. So much so that we might even sign up to do it again someday, once Sam gets a little older!
Through our foster/adopt agency, we have met an amazingly diverse range of people who have responded to the call to become foster parents, sometimes with the hope of adopting, and sometimes simply offering themselves as a safety net for a child (or children) as long as they are needed. I’ve met single men and single women who’ve done it solo. I’ve met gay and lesbian couples, couples who have faced infertility, middle-aged couples whose biological children are all raised and out of the house, and younger couples who still have biological children at home, but have space enough in their lives and homes to welcome in one (or even a few) more.
In just about every case, the process has been harder than they imagined, and for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s the system itself that frustrates; and sometimes foster kids come with a level of grief, anger, and anxiety that can be hard to handle. But I haven’t met a foster or fost/adopt parent yet who regrets the choice they made to take the leap.
Homes are needed for infants, sibling sets of brothers and sisters, older children and children of all ethnicities, especially African-American children. If you want to know more about it, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to talk and help you explore the possibilities.
The Rev. Sarah Hubinsky Phelps is the rector at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Palos Verdes Estates.