I remember him so well. He was beautiful and sweet and perfect for our introduction into a world that was so foreign to us. He was our first foster baby. Just a few months younger than our youngest. It was great- they played together, ate together and took naps together. His mother was young and just needed some help in learning how to be a mom. Everything worked like it should. She did whatever she needed to do and took whatever classes she needed to take to get her son back. After they were reunited, we thought, “Wow, that was easy. Foster care really works like it is supposed to.” Famous last words.
Next came the sweetest little girl. I instantly fell in love with her. She needed to be held all the time, due to circumstances in her life, and I was happy to do it. Two days later she went to live with a relative. I was so sad to see her go, but leaving was the point in all of this. Once again, isn’t foster care great?
Then he came. The little boy who would leap into our hearts and grab on. I can still see him at the door with his little hat on. The biggest blue eyes you have ever seen. He took a seat on the couch and immediately began asking, “What that?” for e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. Over and over again. He had a lot of brothers and sisters that were scattered across the county. There were several different fathers in the mix, but they weren’t in their lives. I don’t even know if these men knew or cared that they had children.
Even though this child had major speech delay, he could light up a room. He also had a small temper. You have never seen anything until you see a toddler give a silent temper tantrum. He would also get mad when I wouldn’t give him thirds at meal time. One morning I wanted to see how much more he really wanted to eat. After nine, yes I said nine, bowls of cereal I cut him off. He was mad at that! That was when I realized that his brain wasn’t giving signals of being full. He didn’tknow what being full meant. Whatever the mother’s current boyfriend caught for dinner after fishing is what they had to eat. His environment taught him that when there is food, you better eat all you can because you never know when there will be another meal. Breaks my heart.
It was during this time that we decided to have one more child be a part of our family, no matter for how long. Enter a little girl who would be our most challenging one. It was through caring for her that we were introduced to “the system”; the realities of foster care and the court system; why so many children languish in the system and don’t get to move on with their lives.
Who knew that a two year old could have so many deep-down psychological issues. As cute and as lively as she was, she was the one who would make me question my sanity. On top of that she had eating issues, weight issues, and walking issues. She also knew how to push my buttons. I definitely did not feel love for her. She was on the road to being reunited with her mom, so she was supposed to have unsupervised weekend visits. It was set that we would meet at a neutral location for the “hand-off”. Time and time again the mother wouldn’t show up. My heart was breaking for this little girl. One time her mother did show up for a medical appointment. I was surprised at my emotion when this little girl saw her mom and exclaimed “Mama!” In my heart and mind I thought, “Who are you to get to be called Mama? While I am caring for your daughter and desperately trying to turn around the things in her life that are there because of you, you are out doing drugs and whatever else. You are not her mama. I am!” This little girl was finally in my heart and I knew that I would fight for her to be made well again. One of the things that was the sweetest was when she got her first pair of sandals. She had been wearing corrective shoes and leg braces for most of her life. Through many hours of patience and physical therapy, she was finally able to wear “real” shoes and no more leg braces. We immediately got her the most girly pair of sandals we could find. You should have seen her bright, beaming face when she got to put those on.
It was an unsupervised visit with her mother that had us grow our family again. Something happened where her mother lived, we don’t know all the details, that caused the police to interfere and we got our little girl back right away- no more unsupervised visits. What we also received was her little brother. I will never forget my first look at him, which was in the middle of the night. He could not sit up, even though he was one year old, because his whole life he was left either in a car seat or some type of crib. The back of his head was totally flat and looked enormous compared to the rest of his body, and he smelled heavily of smoke. Why was she allowed to have custody of another child when her first child was in foster care? System failure. We said that we weren’t interested in having another child, but we would let him live with us a few days until another home could be found for him. It was the week before Christmas. We should have known better.
So now we were a family with six children, ages 8, 6, 3, 3, 2, 1. In a 1200 square foot home. This is when “Team Morris” was born. People thought we were crazy, but we loved it. Our whole family was thriving. Another year passed and these same children were still in our home. They weren’t going anywhere permanent. Another system fail. But circumstances of “the system” should not hold back from children having homes and being part of a family. We knew that being foster parents was God’s calling on our life, and were preparing to open our home to more.
That’s when it all came crashing down. When you go through classes and trainings to become a foster parent, nothing is hidden from you. One of the things they try to prepare you for is someone calling in a false accusation of child abuse on you. You can say all you want about what you would do in that situation, but you never really know until it happens. I know this because it happened to us. Actually, it happened to Chris.
We knew the accusation was false, our social workers knew it was false, every authority figure involved knew it was false, but it couldn’t be proven that it was false. That was the worst night of our lives. Initially, Chris was going to have to leave the home until this was all cleared up. It was either Chris leave, or our children leave. Do you know what it is like to call your parents and ask if your husband can stay with them because he was falsely accused of child abuse? Thankfully everyone involved knew us so well that they decided he could stay. Meanwhile, the children’s real abusers, their parents, were living it up and doing whatever they wanted. That, my friends, is crazier than crazy.
I was mentally taking notes on what to do so that when this would happen again, we would be better prepared for it. Did you get that? I said “When this would happen again”, because it probably would. Chris was told not to come home from work until this was cleared up. So here we are, my children, the social workers and I, waiting for the police to come and file their official report after my children were questioned about their father. The man who loves them more than life itself and would do nothing to ever harm them. The man who only had their well-being in mind. My son came up to me and asked “Why would dad do something like that (to the foster child that was in the middle of all this)?” It was at that moment that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that our life as foster parents was over. I would never again have any of our children have any doubt in their mind about whether or not we were abusers, and we would not be living on pins and needles all the time.
Now here is how God takes a horrible situation and uses it for His glory. After we closed our home to foster care, those last three children, who had lived with us for two years, went on to permanent homes. If that horrible false claim hadn’t been made, causing us to close our home, they would not have gone to permanent homes and moved on with their life. At least not for a long time. This is where we learned that if God calls you to do something, it is not necessarily for the rest of your life. It may be just for a season. This is where Genesis 50:20 “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” became real in our lives.