Foster Friday: My son enters a writing competition: What makes you different?

The foster mom and clinical psychologist who writes Foster Parenting Adventures shares this wonderful post:

Z, my 11-year-old son, was encouraged by his teacher to enter an essay writing competition called, “Don’t Hide it, Flaunt it!”  The instructions were, “Write an essay describing that which makes you different and how your difference has affected your life.”  This was his submission:

Don’t Hide It, Flaunt It
By Z

Everyone has something that makes them different, and the differences affect their lives in different ways. I am in 5th grade, and until 2010, we had a typical family. I had a big brother named J, my mom, and my dad.  I was the youngest child. In 2010 I became a foster brother. Now we no longer were a regular family.  We were unique and different.

Foster care is when parents of a child can’t take care of them, so the child gets either temporarily placed with a family or adopted into a new family.  My parents have to have a special license to take care of the children in foster care.

In the hot summer of 2010 my mom complained on the phone to (the System). My mom complained that we hadn’t had any children placed with us in more then a year. Five minutes after my mom’s call they called back with unexpected news.

There was a 17-month-old baby who needed a home. That baby’s name was CD. Even though we weren’t looking for a baby to take care of, we said yes anyway, because we had just complained. How could we say no?

It was 8:00 at night when the foster care workers brought her to our house. That night I waited outside of my front door for a long time and gave her a stuffed animal sheep when she finally arrived. She was a little scared of my big brother and my dad at first, though after a while she got used to us.  My dad, my mom, my big brother and I had to do last minute things like run out to get a crib at 9:00 pm, and picked up packages of diapers. When she came, she had nothing.  She only had what she was wearing, not even a single extra diaper.

Months and months went by and she continued to live with us and it didn’t look like she was going to go home to her biological mother. I eventually started to call her my sister, not foster-sister.

I am the only kid at my school that is part of a foster family so I get asked many questions about my sister. One of them is, “Do you love your brother any more then you love CD?” I find this question quite ridiculous because family is family, and you love all family. Another frequently asked question is, “How does her mom feel?”  I explain that her mom knows that she can’t take care of CD anymore and she wants my family to adopt her.

I am excited because we are supposed to adopt CD some time during the late spring or summer of this year.  Being a foster brother has been a great experience.  I am proud of the way it makes me different.

Believing and Seeing

Photo by Marisha Castle

Photo by Marisha Castle

Faith is to believe what you do not see;

the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.

Saint Augustine

Adoption Poem “The Call” by Emmy’s Mom

The Call

by Susan Farese
March, 2013


Just a typical day at the mall it was,

In June, Nineteen ninety-eight…

My cell phone ringing: “Hello” I said

Thus this call indeed transformed our fate…


A three-person conference call (I’ll never forget)

My hubby, me, and one other…

Our adoption coordinator extraordinaire

(Will I finally become a mother)???


Would we welcome and love this “infant girl”

To cherish, raise, teach & protect?

Many months of waiting (was our quest truly over)?

Our hearts filled with hope to connect…


Just one month old, this sweet precious baby

We’d receive the mailed video soon.

We’d visit the orphanage next month via jet

And hope to read her “Goodnight, Moon”!


My husband and I pledged yes on the spot

To bring this all to fruition

True joy but along with it many unknowns

Adoptive parenting would be our new lifetime mission!


We finished the conference call, I was in shock

My heart swelled with pure loving care

Would I be able to mother her well?

I contemplated with much prayer…


There were tears in my eyes and joy in my soul

From my purse I found a store receipt

And with eyeliner jotted down all of the notes

From that ultimate phone call, so sweet!


Then I ran right into a store in the mall,

Bath and Body Works it turned out to be

Adrenaline pumping, my arms filled with Goosebumps

Shouted “I’m going to be a Mom!” with glee!


The sales team was so very nice to me

A memento box I bought on a whirl!

I filled it with congratulations cards we received

Months later for our precious little girl.


Our bundle of heartfelt joy joined our lives

Kindred spirits bonded emotionally

We celebrated with family and friends

Sang her lullabies, rocked her, hubby and me…


Time certainly flies, each minute, week, month

Then all of a sudden a year

We’ve been blessed with our daughter

Connected forever,

When I think of her, I grin, ear to ear…


Now it’s been nearly 15 years from that day

…My significant visit to the mall

It took this long to convey in a poem

The significance of that magical call!

The memory boxwith congratulations

The memory box
with congratulations

Photo on top of the memory box:
Susan with daughter Emmy

Susan feeding daughter Emmy

Susan feeding
daughter Emmy

Did You Know That You Can Help Children in Foster Care?

Have you heard of CASA for Children?  Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (in the United States).  These are the people who can really make a difference for children in foster care.  And guess what?  It’s probable that even you have the credentials to become an advocate and completely change someone else’s life.

According to the CASA website:

Exactly what does a CASA volunteer do?

CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court and other settings. The primary responsibilities of a CASA volunteer are to:

  • Gather information: Review documents and records, interview the children, family members and professionals in their lives.
  • Document findings: Provide written reports at court hearings.
  • Appear in court: Advocate for the child’s best interests and provide testimony when necessary.
  • Explain what is going on: Help the child understand the court proceedings.
  • “Be the glue”: Seek cooperative solutions among individuals and organizations involved in the children’s lives. As one volunteer said:Be the glue that connects the pieces in a complicated child welfare system.
  • Recommend services: Ensure that the children and their family are receiving appropriate services and advocate for those that are not immediately available. Bring concerns about the child’s health, education, mental health, etc. to the appropriate professionals.
  • Monitor case plans and court orders: Check to see that plans are being followed and mandated review hearings are being held.
  • Keep the court informed:  Update the court on developments with agencies and family members. Ensure that appropriate motions are filed on behalf of the child so the court knows about any changes in the child’s situation.

These are the requirements to be a volunteer

(see, we said that you could do it)

Requirements include:

  • Be 21 years old
  • Be willing to complete necessary background checks, provide references and participate in an interview
  • Complete a minimum of 30 hours of pre-service training
  • Be available for court appearances, with advance notice
  • Be willing to commit to the CASA program until your first case is closed

And after that case is closed, imagine that feeling of happiness for helping a child in need.

A List of Beautiful Mamas

The beautiful mom who writes the special blog A Gracious Life passed on a new award, created by Valerie of Atlanta Mom of Three, to DWLA.

Look what it says!  Beautiful Mama Blog Award.  We can’t imagine a more lovely compliment!!!

We are passing this Beautiful Mama Blog Award to some of the most beautiful mother bloggers we know, including back at A Gracious Life:

Sarah at The Puffin Diaries

Tara Bradford at Smore Stories

Kristie Hoyt Gonzales at Our Journey 2 Forever

Marijane at Beyond Two Worlds

Robyn at The Chittister Family

Christina at The Diarrhea Diaries


Gretchen at Fostadoptfoibles

Instant Mama

All the mamas! over at Open Adoption Bloggers

There are more, too.  We love you all, so don’t think you were forgotten!

My kids today

Luanne’s kids today

Adopting a Faith

by Lennie Magida


My husband, our daughter, her fiancé and I just attended a wedding. My husband’s super-nice-guy nephew married a wonderfully lovely woman, so it was a very happy occasion. It took place in DC in the Russian Orthodox church where, several decades ago, my husband was an altar boy. And as we stood there during the service (because that’s what you do during a Russian Orthodox service—stand), I looked around at my immediate family, at all my relatives through marriage, and at the bride’s family, and I thought—as I’ve done more times than I could possibly count—“Isn’t it amazing how families happen?”

I also thought, as I have many times, “Isn’t it amazing how people figure out what they believe and where their faith lies?” My husband, John, and I grew up in different faiths. We adopted Nina as an infant and raised her with only a smattering of religious teachings and traditions. But, evolving to her 26-year-old self, she’s thought her own thoughts and found her own way, different from both John’s religious background and mine. I’ve often wondered: What are the seeds of her faith? How did they take root and grow? And do they have anything to do with biology? When you’ve become a parent through adoption, you ask that question about all sorts of things. For me, religion is one of them.

John, as I mentioned, was raised in the Russian Orthodox tradition. Religion was a deeply important element of his upbringing. My own heritage is Jewish. My parents cast off their Orthodox Jewish upbringings, made their way through Conservative Judaism, and finally settled into Reform Judaism. But all along, their connection to Jewish traditions and culture was central to their lives—and to mine as I was growing up.

But for some reason—something genetic? something about coming of age in the late ’60s and early ’70s?—John and I both backed away from our religions, John even more than I. If we hadn’t—if we’d stayed as involved with our respective religions as some of our elders expected us to—we never would have wound up together.

But now we’ve been together for more than 30 years. And 26 years ago, Nina came into our family. Her Filipina birth mom (both her birth parents were from Manila) had hoped a Catholic couple would adopt her baby. We couldn’t offer that. But she chose us anyway, maybe because she knew we’d lived in Asia and were about to move there again for John’s job.

So there we were in 1987: a lapsed Russian Orthodox, a mostly non-practicing Jew, and a Filipina preemie who had Catholicism in her biological background. We moved to Beijing, where religion was virtually nonexistent. Almost three years later, we moved to Honolulu. We had Christmas trees because John wanted them and lit Hanukah candles because I wanted to. At Passover, we had little pseudo-Seders, and sometimes I went to services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Jewish High Holidays. Those traditions and connections could still tug at me.

When Nina was seven, we moved to Hong Kong. We had larger Christmas trees and attended friends’ larger Seders. I still went to High Holiday services, and I started taking Nina. But the American school that she attended was affiliated with the Lutheran church, and religious education was mandatory. One day Nina said, “I don’t believe in God, but I believe that Jesus is the son of God.” I fretted a bit that we’d confused her by offering so little religious structure in our family, and that her school’s theology was having an unwanted impact on our shaky foundation. I also wondered for the first time, Is this just part of who she is? Part of something that has nothing to do with us? But mostly I figured that she was expressing the thoughts of a seven-and-a-half-year-old mind.

In the middle of Nina’s fifth-grade year, we moved to Maryland. We continued our resolutely unaffiliated quasi-traditions of trees, candles, Seders and occasional services. For the first time, many of Nina’s classmates were Jewish, and in middle school they all started preparing for their bar and bat mitzvahs. The promise of a party and many gifts notwithstanding, Nina wasn’t interested.

And so it continued through high school and the two years that Nina was away at college. Then she transferred and moved back home. A few months later, we learned that she’d been attending church with the guy she was dating. I reacted horribly. I was upset beyond all reason, and I let her know it. Fortunately, though, I calmed down pretty quickly. Nina joined the church choir, and we went several times to hear her sing.

She stopped dating that guy and became involved with someone new. Before long, she started going to church with him and his family. That was more than four years ago, and now she and that guy–his name is Luke–are engaged. Their wedding is in June. It won’t be in a church, but it will be a Christian ceremony, and I admit: I can’t help but wonder how my parents would feel if they were still alive. But I honestly think they’d love our new family foursome: The handsome young blond man who is Nina’s soul mate. The still-lapsed Russian Orthodox dad. The less-practicing-than-ever Jewish mom. And the beautiful young Filipina woman who, in reaching her own religious conclusions, might also be connecting with spiritual roots that are hers alone.

McCall Doyle/McCall Doyle Photography

McCall Doyle/McCall Doyle Photography

Introducing Foster Fridays

by Luanne and Marisha

We want to expand this blog from strictly adoption (with random forays into the arts) to include the concerns of foster children.  To highlight this expansion, we’re going to focus on foster children and fostering and foster adoptions on Fridays.  These topics aren’t limited to Fridays and we might talk about adoption on Fridays, too, but for now we’re going to post information about fostering every Friday.

If you were a foster child or are a foster parent or have adopted a foster child, we’d love to publish your story on the blog.  Send to our email at marishaandluanne[at]gmail[dot]com.

Photo and text from Wikipedia: The Children’s Aid Society started the Orphan Train Movement in 1853 to help the homeless, abused and orphaned children living on the streets of New York City; the beginning of the modern-day foster care system in the United States. Jacob Riis‘ “Street Arabs in Sleeping Quarters 1890.” Mulberry Street inManhattan.

A Magical Experience

by Marisha

Hello Friends!

I haven’t updated our readers in a while, but I wanted to say a quick hello!

I just finished doing a production of one of my favorite shows, Chicago, at North Birch Park Theatre in San Diego. I was fortunate enough to work with my friend Ron Kellum for the third time, with whom I did this same show my sophomore year of college. Also, with one of my inspirations and friends, Randy Slovacek, who did the amazing revival choreography again!

The experience was truly magical. It was a rare thing to have so many talented people with so much hunger and love for the stage in the same show. It became like a family, even though it was a short six-week process.

Most importantly, I was able to relive my role as Liz, the “Pop” girl in the number “Cell block Tango.” It was amazing to see how different my take on the role was now that I am five years older. I like to think all my discoveries as an adoptee have matured and settled within me, and I can finally explore all aspects of myself knowingly and fearlessly.

This role is so amazing, because it gave me the chance, as an Asian American female performer, to give a ballsy, intimidating, and strong performance–just the type of performance that you don’t normally see written for us. I hope more come around for me and others. Enough rambling, hope everyone is well!!!

Take care! X

Marisha Castle and Aurore Joly"Chicago" SDMT

Marisha Castle and Aurore Joly
“Chicago” SDMT

A Story of Open Adoption

by Kristie Hoyt Gonzales

Adoption was always something I knew I wanted to do. In college I had the opportunity to study abroad and work in an orphanage. I fell in love with the kids. Leaving them was hard and I knew I wanted/ needed to do more.

Four years later I traveled to Guatemala for work. I fell in love with the city and the children. I was able to visit the special needs orphanage and my heart was broken for these children. In both Mexico and Guatemala, when I would arrive at the orphanages the children would smother me. They craved attention, contact, interaction, and mostly love.

And they had so much to give. Their hearts were big and open even in the face of adversity. They just wanted what everyone else wanted: a family, someone to hug them and tuck them in at night, comfort them when they fall, someone to read them a story while sitting in their lap, and someone to tell them they ARE loved. My heart broke every day I left them, and then when I returned. I wondered if they ever found someone to love them; a family of their own.

When my husband and I started talking about having a family we knew we wanted to have a child of our own and then adopt internationally—and from a Latin American country since we both spoke Spanish. After a few years of trying I was told it was pretty unlikely I would ever have kids and we knew that adoption was always the way our family was meant to grow.

We decided to adopt an infant since you only bring home your first baby once. That means we went domestic. We were open to transracial adoption and searched for an agency that would meet our needs, even though it meant going out of our home state. After a long process to enter the waiting pool, we were matched one week later. With TWINS!

But it didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel it would happen, so much so we never even asked the gender of the babies. Three weeks later, late at night, the phone rang. It was an out-of-state number and I had all the numbers for the agencies and our social worker saved so I wasn’t thinking it was the call. But I answered and I am so glad I did. She told me we were matched for a little boy, and that the birthmom wanted to talk to me tonight! What? Tonight?! But Tony was working and it was past 10PM where she lives. “Call her anyways” is what I heard. I responded with a shaky “ok” and a “what do I say to her?”

Over the next few weeks we talked often with our birthmom (she has asked to remain anonymous). We developed a close relationship and she asked us to fly out for the birth. YES! YES! YES! But Hudson came early and fast and we weren’t able to get there for the birth. We had to be in state for at least two weeks waiting for our Interstate Compact Papers to fly home and had plans to visit some of the sights with our birthmom. However, since Hudson was born prematurely, those two weeks were spent in the hospital, which had a weird loop hole: even though all papers were signed and he was legally ours, birthmom still had all medical rights. This meant we couldn’t visit our son in the hospital without birthmom and she had to be in the NICU, so as a couple, we couldn’t spend time together with our new baby.

It was a very hard and difficult situation on everyone. Our birthmom, who had planned to say good-bye at 48 hours and then take time to grieve before we all went out for the first time, couldn’t leave. She had to be there, had to see us interact with our baby, the baby she just gave birth to, had to give the doctors permission to speak to us, watch the photographer take his newborn hospital photos with us, and put her grieving on hold. We had to put our bonding on hold and it became an awkward situation for all involved. To make things worse, we were the ones driving her to and from the hospital to the hotel we were BOTH staying at. Her counselor was with two other birthmoms during that time that were giving birth. We all wanted to be a family, but we also needed our space, which we didn’t get.

Fast forward a few months.  The grief that our birthmom had been compartmentalizing erupted. And she took it out on the only person she could and that knew about the adoption: me. I fought through it, was her punching bag, tried to set boundaries, but also keep with our openness plan. Our agency told us to cut off all contact and change my phone number, but I just couldn’t do it–to her or my son. After a few months, I was finally strong enough to set and keep boundaries. This was the best thing I did!

After a few months of no contact, our birthmom had the time she needed to grieve and I had the time to focus on Hudson and form an attachment. We now text often, talk on important days, and are planning for her to visit. Even though our relationship wasn’t always easy, I am so grateful for our birthmom, for sticking through the rough times and not listening to others to end contact because we wouldn’t have the relationship we have now. We have trust, we check in with each other (and not just about Hudson). We have a relationship with each other.

But our adoption story doesn’t end there. We knew our family wasn’t complete and we had love in our hearts from another child. It was still weighing on our hearts to adopt internationally. Knowing we wanted our children to have the same ethnicity we changed from adopting from Latin America to Africa. After researching different countries we felt led to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We chose DRC for the process and the fact you could adopt independently with lawyers in country versus using an agency. This adoption is a completely different experience. We are currently waiting for a referral and are excited to see our family completed.


Kristie Gonzales is an Early Childhood Education Specialist. She says, “Adoption was always something that was on my heart and when I couldn’t get pregnant, we knew adoption was always meant to be how our family would grow. My husband, Tony, and I pursued an infant adoption and we were open to a transracial adoption. Our blessing, Hudson, came into our family through an open adoption, and we are currently pursuing an international adoption from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

Kristie Hoyt Gonzales can be found at

A Moment In My Arms, Forever In My Heart: Why Now?

A Moment In My Arms, Forever In My Heart: Why Now?.


A new blog post by birthmother Laura who earlier wrote a post for DWLA.

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