For many years I toyed with the idea of writing a book. I had no idea of the events that would actually draw me into the author’s life — the personal pain and anguish which would lead me to escape into writing.
My husband and I became foster parents back in 2007 in the hopes of expanding our family and helping foster children. But with fostering come the demons of Uncertainty and the Unknown especially as we cared for and loved one particular fosterdaughter (I’ll call her Sunshine).
One of my worst demons in fostercare is the Courtroom. The first time we sat in the courtroom, waiting for the judge to decide on Sunshine’s fate, our fate, the day stretched out forever. And when the judge ruled for the birthfather I somehow knew it had been inevitable, and yet I was stunned — and heartbroken. Walking out of the courtroom with the sun shining down on me I wondered how it could be so bright, so warm when my heart was in pieces — when I would have to go home and pack up my daughter’s things, tell her goodbye and drive her to her birthfather.
Even with four rowdy boys the house was quieter without her. And I couldn’t sleep, didn’t want to think, didn’t want to read, didn’t want to shop at the stores with all the mothers and their daughters that looked like my Sunshine, making my heart ache all the more. So I began writing. I escaped into another world — a world of fantasy and make-believe. A world of good and evil. For seven months I wrote until Sunshine came back. And my heart was whole again.
But seven months later the demon courtroom returned with a vengeance. This time with my worst demon — a new Judge who ruled Sunshine would return to her birthmother. I was ordered to pack up Sunshine’s things again, say goodbye to her again. The hole in my heart returned again — only bigger. And I dove back into my fantasy world to help me deal with the pain and maybe answer the questions of what had happened that day in court.
For years I searched for answers about what had gone wrong, how things could have gone differently — with no answers. The universe is a funny thing, though. Just a couple of weeks ago at a fostercare conference in Provo I was given the chance to face my demons. As I sat listening to the keynote speaker, I looked at the different classes being offered for the day. One of the very first classes was titled, Understanding Court. On the panel was the judge who had chosen to send Sunshine back to her biomom. I couldn’t believe it! I had not seen this judge since that day in court. So many times I had talked with people about our experience in court only to feel the anger rise up. But as I looked at her name I didn’t feel any anger, only curiosity.
I took a picture of the program and messaged it to my husband. He texted back: I feel sorry for her if you are attending. He knows I can be a little feisty at times. I decided I would try and just listen to what the panel had to say, but their first words had me raising my hand as it dealt with my question about foster parents being removed from the court and lack of communication between important individuals on cases involving fosterchildren.
After several years of struggling with what happened to us at court, the panel final answered my questions. It doesn’t change our outcome. My Sunshine is still not with us. But I’m hoping that the answers I received and the steps I’ve requested of DCFS to create online information about different court procedures for foster parents will help foster families in the future.
As for myself, writing The Azetha Series has been a journey of hope, healing and I know, eventually forgiveness. I was able to sit in that conference room with that judge and be calm. My husband texted me later and asked if the judge had a black eye. I didn’t feel the need to even go up to her later and talk to her. It wasn’t necessary because while I’m still grieving, I’m not angry anymore. I can never regret fostering, for it brought me three of my sons and brought me Sunshine. We were able to love her and nurture her for as long as we could. And she brought light and love into our lives.
I faced my own demons and have learned I am stronger than I give myself credit for. Sometimes we surprise ourselves. There’s a quote I saw recently: “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” Or if you prefer Galaxy Quest: “Never give up, never surrender.”