Real Stories

Alec Vanowen’s Foster Care Story

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I was very young when I was fostered. The only family I know is my foster/adoptive family; they’re my only family. I can’t tell you anything about the experience first-hand, but without fostering, I wouldn’t have gotten here so it’s very important to me. I can, however, tell you what I’ve been told.  

When I was 2 ½ months old, the Department of Social Services took me from an apartment with my biological mother and drove me to a foster home. I had a skull fracture and they handed me over with very little information and without supplies, clothes, or equipment. My birth mother from the apartment signed an agreement with the department to try to keep the family together. That is their purpose- to keep families together. From the beginning, my foster mom knew her purpose was to foster. She was to provide the best experience, a temporary experience, while the birth family worked things out. I had 5 visits with my birth mother. For each visit, my foster mom wrote my birth mother a letter, because as much as it broke her heart to think about losing me, she knew that if I were going back to another situation, she wanted the caregiver to know everything about me. She wrote about my bedtime routine, what she sang to me as I went to sleep, what formula I was on, what made me giggle for the first time, and so on. Those letters, although unusual at the time, impressed the social service staff. I think now they really try to encourage communication between biological and foster families to better bridge the gap for the kids. My foster parents and two older siblings were my world. When it seemed that nothing social services could do would help my biological mother, my foster family was able to relax more in realizing I would be in their family forever.  However, my foster mom continued to avoid updating an official baby book because it was too hard for her to think about having to hand that book over to someone else one day. She was torn between hoping for the best for my biological mother, and wanting me to stay with them forever. After the judge finally read that the permanent placement plan for me was with my foster parents, they were thrilled… my mom immediately framed all my pictures and hung them on the walls. She switched out the family pictures to family photos with with me in them. I was officially their child. My mom is my only Mom; she prayed for me before she knew me.  My family accepted me from the second they saw me, and I was blessed to be accepted into a foster-to-adopt home.  

Shortly after I was officially in the family, my little brother was born. He wasn’t expected to live though. My family made the decision to also accept him in a foster-to-adopt situation even though his future was very bleak. The doctors tried to discourage them from doing this as they were unsure if he would ever talk or walk; the social worker even had doubts as to whether or not they could handle it, but my mom insisted. He was also adopted into our family. Today, he is a sophomore in high school and runs track and our parents are at every meet cheering him on.

Soon after, when my parents’ foster license was going to expire, the social worker told them that the same biological mother was pregnant again, so they renewed their license.  My parents fostered my youngest brother for three days when he was only four months old.  However, he was soon taken from our home as my biological mother signed an agreement with another county had moved to. For the next month, my mother worried that my youngest brother may not make it and that he wasn’t receiving adequate care. He was brought back to our home at five months of age worse than ever, but was nevertheless adopted. My parents go to his basketball games, his soccer games, help him with his homework, and try to make sure he knows that he is loved.

We were kept together by this foster-to-adopt family; my family. They knew that we were wonderfully made, and that accepting us into their home mimicked God’s love towards us. My parents have also fostered five other children.  My mom’s sister, my Aunt Kathy, and her husband Dan have fostered around 60 children; five of whom were long-term. They made a huge difference in so many lives. Plus, my mom’s cousin just had a 9-month-old baby placed with them for a foster-to-adopt situation. This is not her first placement, but hopefully her last.

Foster care can make a wonderful bridge or a great family. It is needed. Our legacy as Americans should be to take care of the thousands of children in foster care no matter what race, number in a sibling group, or what special need the child has. All children deserve families. As permanent as they can be.