From Foster to Fostering #FostersAdopt (Part 1)

Image representing Foster Care Alumni of America for National Adoption Month - #FostersAdopt

From Foster to Fostering #FostersAdopt (Part 1)

From Foster to Fostering

A Personal Journey from Foster Kid to Adoptive Mother by Foster Care Alumnus Kay Beckman

Part I of II


Photo of Kay with her son.

Photo of Kay with her son, Kilian. Photo by Sandi K Robb

I was just shy of two years old when my parents picked me up at their church from another family that had taken me in. I remember hearing that it was the week before Thanksgiving where they picked me up and the only word I could say was leche (Spanish for milk). I was so shy that I wouldn’t talk to anyone or make any eye contact. I had fallen by luck, or fate, into a home with two older brothers. The oldest was already in college when my parents picked me up. I was a surprise or miracle daughter that my mom had always wanted. I was passed back and forth between my parents and my biological mother for several years before I was adopted in an open adoption. I was, however, adopted separately from my three siblings. All of us were adopted apart and didn’t reconnect until adulthood. This began the journey of going from foster to fostering.

Growing up, adoption was a normal part of a conversation. I never shied away from saying I was adopted and being so thankful for my adoptive family. I think having an open adoption made me more aware of the process and what was really happening. When I was in kindergarten at my private Christian school, I would give my prayer request of the day and it was always, “that I would be adopted!” I wanted visits to end and I wanted to be my parents’ forever. My story is like and not like so many others in foster care. Foster children are passed back and forth, some long for adoption and visits to end, and yet others are broken about being adopted. We all have a place in this adoption conversation. I have to remind myself regularly as I raise my own adopted children: their story isn’t mine, and mine isn’t theirs. I can’t project my healing process, or how I chose to move on, onto them.

As an adoptive mother, I can sympathize with my own mother. I wonder how she felt when I had to go back to my biological mom. I wonder why she made the choice to keep my given name. I wonder if she cried like I did waiting for adoption day, or if she cried hearing of abuse that happened to me. I also wonder how my biological mom felt. Now that we have fostered so many and adopted, I know these women are struggling. I wonder if she wished she could keep us. I wonder how it felt to sign her name on the dotted line saying we weren’t hers anymore. I’m glad she realized she couldn’t do it, but I also wonder what pressure she felt. Were her rights being terminated anyway? What would have happened to us if she hadn’t signed? There are so many pieces to the puzzle that I don’t know, and likely won’t ever know, for my story and my kids.

I grew up wanting to foster. I wanted to be a foster mom and to adopt–I wanted to have a dozen children and be a miracle worker! My husband grew up with neighbors who had foster children, and he was completely on board when we signed up. I wanted to foster because I had been adopted and was so thankful for it.

Family Photo of Beckman Family

Beckman’s family photo by Sandi K Robb.

Recently, I was reflecting on my experiences being a foster kid and having foster kids, and my first thoughts went back to the winter of 2015. We had been foster parents for about three months and our (now adopted) daughter was having some trauma issues. We were new parents, and I assumed my increased stress was just kids. I ended up having nightmares for a few weeks and had to face some previously repressed memories. I had no idea that I had repressed anything, or that this beautiful little girl would trigger my worst nightmares. I remember crying while holding her, and I was so sad for the both of us. I was sorry she was facing this now and sorry for myself that I had faced pain as a little girl, too. As children, we had dealt with things that no child should face. Neither of our lives in or before, foster care was fair. But now I had the chance to help her and myself. It wasn’t a fast healing, but there was slow progress. For myself, I felt like I finally had answers to missing pieces that I could just barely remember as a child. For her, I’m thankful she has a mom who understands what she is going through.
Brother Kilian and Sister Marceline, smiling side by side.

Brother Kilian and Sister Marceline, smiling side by side. Family photo by Kay.

Foster care isn’t an easy road. I would say, as an adoptee, that it’s often harder for us. Some of us wonder why our workers failed, or why our biological parents didn’t try harder. Why were you offered services you didn’t take? It’s a path that can leave you with more questions than answers. The system has also changed a lot over the years. What was ok when I was adopted isn’t necessarily ok now. The times have changed, and hopefully for the better. There are a lot more programs available for biological parents and therapy support for the kids. I think it helps to go into foster care with an open mind and to remember that things are different and the mysteries of our past may not be answered. Unfortunately, we can’t answer everything for our children, either. Sometimes biological parents just stop trying. Sometimes, drug addiction wins. There are things that are out of our hands as foster parents, and we have to be ok with that. We fight for the children and we do our best to love them and keep them safe. Our jobs are the children, and we have to remember that our pasts are separate from theirs…
 This article continues in the next blog to address steps that others can take to prepare themselves for becoming health adoptive parents.

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Foster Care Alumni of America’s vision is to ensure a high quality of life for those in and from foster care through the collective voice of alumni. We intend to erase the differences in opportunities and outcomes that exist for people in and from foster care compared to those who have not experienced foster care.

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