By Stacey Burton

As a child I dreamed of being a mother to a house full of children. That dream did not change throughout the years, but the plan of how the dream would be fulfilled and what that family would look like changed drastically. I remember watching documentaries on adoption and foster care as a teenager and knew that would somehow fit into my story. Now, many years later, not only did foster care and adoption fit into my story, God has used it to write my story. I have been a foster parent for almost twenty years. I have loved on over thirty children as they have passed through my home, and I am blessed to say that I have been allowed to adopt six of those children.

The world’s view of adoption tends to be skewed by television and movies, typically victimizing the child and creating a villain of the birth parent. In some cases, this may be true of a child’s experience, but many times, the birth parent loves the children and cares for them the very best they can, but outlying circumstances, trauma from their own past, or the decision to use drugs interferes and they are no longer able to keep the children safe or well.  In my experience, most (not all) of the birth parents of my children have fallen into one of these categories. In these cases, even though they cannot care for the children, they AND the children deserve the right to remain in one another’s lives even after an adoption has occurred.

This summer I celebrated the adoption of my three youngest children. The day before the adoption, we had a celebration with their mommy. She now attends church with us weekly, spends Sunday afternoons with us at my parents’ house, and is a regular part of the children’s lives.

Is it easy? Not really. Honestly, I don’t think it is easy for either one of us. She has to watch another woman raise her children and call them her own, while I have to watch her love on “my children” and share a history with them that I will never have, BUT God rarely calls us to the “easy”. We both love these children more than life itself and will work together to give them the healthiest balance of family possible.

Because of our shared love for the children, we have grown to love and value one another as well.  In my heart, she is actually more like another of my children than the “evil” mother who lost her kids to the system. The children know it is safe to love us both. The little girls call me “Mama” and her “Mommy” and they know they have “permission” to love me and to miss her when she is not here. They do not have to hide their feelings toward either one of us and have the freedom they need to express their emotions without the fear of hurting the feelings of either one of us.

As they grow, they will know who they are, and they will be able to maintain ties to their biological family through her. They will have most of their adoption related questions answered and not have to live the life of an adult searching, as have many adopted children.

Are we the perfect family? Far from it! Are there days that I wish these children were ALL MINE? Of course! But, do I choose to live the life with which God has blessed me and do the best I can to parent my children as I am allowing their mommy to be a part of our family? YES!  Is it worth the hard days? EACH ONE! Would I do it all over again?  In a heartbeat!

November is National Adoption Month. Learn more about fostering and adopting in Kentucky.