Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives. 

One Mom, Many Moms
By Kelley Porter

Eleven years ago, my husband and I became foster parents, and through this process, we were able to adopt our youngest child, our daughter. Through foster care we completed our immediate family of five—Dad, Mom, two sons and one sweet girl.

It was in this time of my life that Carrie Goldman first started her Portrait of an Adoption series in November, a different story for every day of the month. Her series was a gift to me as an adoptive mom, to see and hear the different voices of the adoption triad.

When our daughter turned three, Carrie’s series continued and when she asked for submissions, I decided to share our story. We were licensed foster parents at that time, but we did not have foster children with us then. Still, I was driven by the need to encourage others out there who might be considering becoming foster parents.

Today, my daughter is eleven years old, and it is no surprise that the eight years since my first essay for the series went by so very, very fast. I have followed Carrie’s series faithfully all this time, feeling kinship with those who have also shared their stories. Carrie encouraged those who wrote before to share where they are now, so here I am.

It is an interesting place, to share our adoption story not from the very beginning, but now from the mid-point of my daughter’s childhood. The first time around, it was so easy to write about our experience with two years of fostering and the foster to adopt process.

It was a story of hope and encouragement.  Fortunately, today, our story is still that—one of hope and encouragement, but it is different because writing the story of our child at two is so very different than writing the story of our child who is eleven.

At eleven years old, my daughter is an amazing, smart, brave, and compassionate person, she is a gift and a treasure to us, and she brings her own brand of joy and determination to our family.  She also is fiercely independent, which is something I must take great care in holding sacred as I share our story.

You see, her story of her adoption, it is unique to her and it is ever-changing as she grows up.  There are pieces that she is just learning about now, and there are pieces that try as I might, I will never completely understand, because her experience is her own. She is old enough to direct how much of her adoption story she wants shared with the world.

The part of our story that I can talk about and share, though, is who I am as a mother. My oldest son is twenty-one years old now. In his early years, I was a single mom. Single, but not alone in raising him, thanks to so many loved ones who stepped up and also helped raise him, too. In those early years, I can look back now and know that I was blissfully ignorant in so many ways.  I may have been my best parenting self then, because I wasn’t as worried about how I might be messing things up.

I met my husband when my oldest was four, and together we became a family, and added our second son to the family. We became foster parents when my second son was about three, partly because a hysterectomy in my early thirties meant that I would only bear two babies in my lifetime.

When asked why we decided to foster, and did we know that we wanted to adopt, I still don’t have a straightforward answer. The best I can say is that my heart called me to foster care, with a strong belief that foster care would turn into adoption for us.

It was a scary and unknown proposition, but it felt right, and I am so thankful that we followed the path. Our daughter was our first foster placement. When she was one, we moved into a fixer-upper that didn’t really allow space for more kids, but we still kept our license, just in case.

We did a small amount of respite care, but then my husband was injured in an accident, and at that time we let our license lapse. Our daughter was about four years old then, and we settled comfortably into being a family of five. These were busy years because we both worked, the house was always a work in progress, and our oldest was busy with high school activities.

When our daughter was eight, we experienced a traumatic family event when our fixer-upper home unexpectedly burned down. The fire started in the early evening, when we were all awake and able to get outside immediately. Our oldest was at baseball practice and came home to see the inferno, so each of my kids experienced the fire differently and will have their own memories of that time.

I am relieved we weren’t fostering when that happened, I can’t imagine adding that kind of trauma for kids in care.

The house fire was an immediately bad thing, but it was also a cloud with a silver lining. My family was surrounded in love and support by our families, our friends and our communities. I say communities because our local community supported us beyond measure—but we were also supported by the communities where we each grew up, by the communities of our workplaces, and by kind, caring people that we’ve never met before.

It was a humbling experience to be held up at a time of great need, and we will never be able to thank everyone enough for seeing us through those dark days.

Now we are settled back home, into our newly built house.  Of course, it is 2020, so just when our world was getting back to equilibrium, the pandemic is creating its own set of challenges. But so far, at the end of the day, we can say that we are doing well.

So, what does this all have to do with adoption, I am sure you are wondering? Contributing to Carrie’s final season of Portrait has been a gift of reflection for me.

It has allowed me to ponder my journey of motherhood, and ask myself if I am a different mom as an adoptive mom, a biological mom, and even a single mom? And the short answer is yes, and no.

I am one mom, and many moms, all in one. I’m not the same mom that I was as a single mom, because hopefully I have gotten a little wiser with age. But as an adoptive mom and a biological mom, are those the same roles or different roles?  And yes, they are—the same and also different.

I know that I love all three of my children fiercely and passionately, and it is my number one wish to see them all grow and become who they will be. I am overprotective of each of them in ways that are unique to each of their lives. I am a different boy mom than I am a girl mom, and a different mom to an adult child, than I am to my younger children.

I am at a point in my motherhood that I am coming to accept that each of my children’s life journeys is their own–a path for them to follow with its own highs and lows….and the ability to travel alongside them, where our paths intersect, is precious and fleeting. I realize that while I get to try my best to guide and bring them up, I don’t have control over where my kids are going. I think I share with a lot of moms that I worry about messing this up — am I parenting the right way?

When I think of my daughter’s adoption story, there are two of her traits that come to mind—my daughter is one of the bravest people I know, and she has always had a strong sense of fairness.  She is brave in ways she doesn’t even realize—she is willing to try new things that many kids wouldn’t; she is willing to keep going even when life feels unfair or complicated.

Fairness is very important to her. She wants to ensure she gets her piece of the pie, but she also wants to make sure the pie is shared fairly with the group. She is compassionate to others, to make sure they are treated fairly, too.

In my twenty-one years of motherhood, I know the best and most important piece of my life has been community. Yes, it takes a village, and I am so very thankful for ours. In adoption and foster care, there is community.

You see community in action in places like this blog series and other social media groups, in mentoring and supporting foster families, and in classes where prospective foster parents come together to learn how foster care works and how to take those first steps to become licensed. I was a foster mom for only a short time of my motherhood, but that experience has shaped me to be the mom I am today.

My daughter’s traits of bravery and fairness, coupled with community, get to the heart of what makes foster care. We are living in some strange and challenging times, and unfortunately, due to these circumstances, the need for foster homes will rise. The need is always there.

Historically, there may have been times where it waned a bit, but this need has never gone away. It is not something that government or politics can fix for us; it is our communities coming together to take care of our own. According to adoptuskids.org, there are over 400,000 kids in foster care in the United States. These kids deserve safe places to land if their families cannot take care of them.

Becoming a foster parent is an uncertain road, the part I remember most is that feeling that we were not in control of anything while we were fostering. Yet, it is one of the best experiences of my life because I grew in faith that life would be okay.  I was reminded we can do hard things and feel good about them at the end of the day.

If you have ever considered fostering, I encourage you to reach out to the foster community and learn more. There are many local organizations that support kids in care. If you cannot foster, but you can support foster families, it makes a difference. The is something we can all do locally, in our communities.

It is so important to understand that fostering doesn’t always lead to adoption. Family reunification is a critical part of foster care. One of the hardest pieces of foster care is knowing you might only be caring for a child for an unspecified amount of time. Be brave, because the journey is worth it.

You will never regret knowing you gave a child a safe place to be when they needed it most.

As a former foster mom and a forever mom of my three, I am grateful that life creates families in ways we don’t always predict. I am enjoying watching my three children become the people they will be. I am thankful for those who love and support us. It’s a good life.

Kelley Porter is an attorney, mom, wife, daughter and friend.  She is the parent of one great adult kid, and still raising two great kids at home with her husband Jay.

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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter