BLOG site of Amy R. Maxwell

I am the wife of B.J. Maxwell (married August of 1997) and mother of our four adopted children.
I am blessed with the awesome privilege to care for & love my husband, invest in & love our children, and keep our home.
May I steward these gifts well, for the glory and praise of Christ Jesus our precious Lord & Savior!

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus . . . sweetest name I know!

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Fostercare to Adoption

In 2007 we received a request from CPS (Child Protective Services) for help. They had a family on their case load that they wanted to help get on their feet, and make a fresh, new start. Without any hesitation, our family and church jumped on the opportunity to serve.

This family needed everything – furniture, beds, clothes, bedding, food, cleaning and bath supplies. God quickly began using many families in the church to provide for each need. We were also told they had a newborn son.

Back story: My husband and I were never able to have biological children. We adopted a baby girl a few years earlier and had kept all of her baby things in hopes of having more children. We have always held onto things loosely and had already given away most of our stuff, but letting go of our baby things was a different story. I couldn’t do it. My guilt was relieved to find out that this family needed baby “BOY” items. 

A day or two before we headed out to deliver God’s blessings to this family, I contacted the mother to see if there were any other items that we could get for them. Sheets, pillows, specific sizes in clothes, toys and other items were mentioned, as well as their need for baby “GIRL” items. Their newborn was a baby girl?!

As I was sorting through all the donations in our garage, getting it ready for the BIG delivery, God impressed upon my heart that our daughter’s baby items were no longer “mine”. I had to let go. I grabbed the rope hanging from our attic door, and pulled out the wooden ladder. One by one, each box, carefully labeled and packaged, was brought down. And you know what? That day I JOYOUSLY put together this newborn’s crib, decorating it with all of our daughter’s baby bedding and animals that I had treasured for so long. I could not wait for this family to have what God had always intended for them to have!!

That weekend we headed out to shine the light of God’s glory. Trucks, trailers and cars filled the parking lot of their apartment complex. Folks were coming outside of their homes to see what was going on. We met the family and began filling their apartment. God had provided so much STUFF! Their apartment was packed full! Some of the church sat in the living room visiting with the family, while others busied themselves, putting together beds and tables. Joy filled my heart as we moved their very special baby crib, full of THEIR baby items, in the parents’ room. I remember looking at the crib and rejoicing in what God had done. I had no feelings of remorse or sadness as I saw our daughter’s stuff. “That precious baby girl was going to have the prettiest crib,” I thought. “And just look at those beautiful clothes. How lovely! How wonderful!” We left their apartment that night rejoicing!

During this time, my husband and I were also getting certified as foster parents.


Fast forward 6 months . . .

My daughter and I were sitting on our big, green couch reading a devotional together.

I will never forget the lesson on that day . . .

Ask, seek and knock . . . Jesus taught His disciples that they should never stop praying. He said, “Keep asking in prayer, and it will be given to you. Keep seeking, and you will find what you are looking for. Keep knocking and the door will open!” God always hears our prayers and He will answer! So never quit praying!

We talked about the joy and privilege of prayer. We also talked about how important it is to keep praying, always asking and seeking Jesus! As we finished up our lesson, my daughter prayed and asked Jesus for “a brother AND a sister.” She had already been praying and talking about getting a brother OR a sister for the past several months, but today it was different. With her childlike faith, she prayed to Jesus believing that He WOULD answer her prayers. And what she wanted above anything else (that day, at least) was “a brother AND a a sister!” (A pretty tall order, I thought!)

Three hours later we received a call from CPS. They had “a brother AND a sister” who needed a foster home THAT day.

God heard our prayers!

That afternoon two case workers pulled up in front of our home. Could this really be happening?? The 3 of us walked outside, wondering what the children would look like. How old were they? Was it a big sister, or a big brother? As they unbuckled the kids from their car seats and started making their way into the yard, we noticed that the children looked very familiar. We KNEW these children!

Months of God’s secret interventions were about to unfold. His hand had been in so many details. God’s mighty wave that once crested upon the horizon was now powerfully roaring to shore.

As the social workers approached, we instantly recognized the little boy. We could not believe it! You see, the family we had helped 6 months earlier (the family that had the newborn girl) also had a two year old boy. God had given our church the opportunity to meet this family’s financial and physical needs just a few months ago, and now He was allowing us to care for their children. What an awesome, yet fearful responsibility!

This part of our story is the hardest to write. How do I begin to express the joy that was in our hearts (as we received these children in our home), yet at the same time, knowing that these children were abused, neglected and stripped away from their only family?? What caused us so much joy resulted in great pain and sorrow for another family.

When we received the baby girl, she was underweight and underfed. She was 7 months old, yet wearing 0-3 months in clothes. For over a month she ate every 2 – 2 ½ hours (all day and all night). The boy (a toddler) was overweight and sick. He had ringworm, an ear infection, all his top front teeth were rotten, and staph, to say the least. He was throwing up and very lethargic. The clothes the children were picked up in were horrific. I tried to wash and keep them, but the stench, stains, and filth were overwhelming. (Not to mention the fact that they were several sizes too small.) Needless to say, I had to throw them away. Even the toddler’s sippee cup was FULL of mold and mildew. These poor, poor children. Their condition and neglect had gotten a lot worse since the last time we saw them.

The day after they came into our home, we took the children to see a doctor. I had to literally carry the toddler everywhere, while holding towels and buckets for him to throw up in. He was so sick. Again, how do I explain the complex emotions my husband and I had? After returning from the doctor, we headed to the store. Both children needed medicine, plus we had no clothes, shoes, diapers, food, bottles, etc. We had to literally start from scratch and buy everything a baby and a two year old would need. As we walked through the store, my husband pushing the cart with the baby (who was exhausted and asleep) and I pushing the stroller (with the toddler who had finally stopped throwing up and was now fast asleep) there were moments of joy and pride as we pushed our “new children” around . . . Yet, our hearts were broken as we tried to reconcile what had just happened to these children. Should we be joyful? Is it right to call family and friends and rejoice that we now had children in our home? Our joy was mingled with great sadness and guilt.

What was God doing?

In all the months leading up to their arrival, as we anxiously prepared to become foster/adoptive parents, I never would have dreamed just how difficult it would be. The next 9 months God called our hearts and home to much faith and perseverance. You see, the next 9 months were both wonderful and terribly difficult.

The kids’ first week with us was nothing short of chaotic. The toddler’s new environment and diet took a quick toll on him. His bouts of lethargy were interrupted only by vomiting. His first bath at our house terrified him. Cries for “Mommy” made his new bed all the more restless. The baby was unhappy and always hungry. Fussy most of the day, she cried for a bottle every two hours at night. Our presence did not soothe her. And rightly so; I was not her “Mommy.” Our daughter certainly faced a significant adjustment. Her quiet, structured world had been capsized. And although she enjoyed two new playmates, she didn’t foresee the demand they would make on her toys and parents!

Emotional and physical exhaustion quickly caught up with me. I scrambled for furniture during the day and rearranged rooms during sleepless nights. We had to cram the normal nine months of preparation into a few days. Needless to say, my husband and I dealt with a myriad of emotions that week. We rode a roller coaster of joy, frustration, desperation and glory.

The second week we had the children my husband left for a long-planned pastors’ conference. If ever I felt inadequate before I felt doubly so then. I cried every time he called. He even had to fly home a day early. It was such a blow to my pride. What kind of mother was I? I was tempted to think God closed my womb for this very reason: I was obviously incapable of training up multiple children.

Initially, the State scheduled weekly visits with the birth family. This was very difficult on the toddler. A social worker took him and his sister to “play” with their birth family for an hour at the CPS office. He returned confused and we sympathized with his pain. He was constantly being taken away from someone. After each visit, he whimpered himself to sleep. Although he called out for “Mommy” I knew it wasn’t me he wanted. Oh, how my heart would ache for him!

On top of the emotional turmoil, we suffered many health issues in the months to follow. From May to November our family dealt with lice (on three different occasions), numerous staph infections, two blood clots, a punctured eardrum, two root canals, five teeth extractions, adverse reactions to estrogen (which resulted in abdominal pain and bleeding) and several ear infections, not to mention the common ailments of colds, bronchitis, allergies, rashes, and stomach bugs. And did I mention that the baby was teething during all of this?

Lice was our first major battle. We did not realize it at the time, but the baby came into our home with lice. (We had thought it was cradle cap or dandruff.) I remember eating lunch after church one day and looking over at her. I could see her hair moving. I looked closer and there were a lot of black specks moving around on her scalp. LICE!!! There must have been hundreds! We spent that week treating and combing her hair every day, along with washing EVERY thing in our home. And I mean everything! A week or two later she had it again. As before, we took apart the whole house – washing, spraying, and bombing.

After the baby was free and clear, we noticed our daughter scratching her head. She now had lice! I could not believe it!! Our poor child (who has a keen and particular sense of smell) had to deal with tea tree oil and vinegar washes for a week! I was extremely stressed by this point. My once clean, orderly home was OUT OF CONTROL!!! Again, I struggled with doubt. I felt incredibly inadequate as a mother.

Since day one, we dealt with staph. The toddler was constantly getting infections. Staph, on top of the lice, caused a lot of extra stress. Every day I was washing several loads of clothes, sanitizing, scrubbing, combing hair, changing out beds, and administering bleach baths. It really was exhausting, not to mention very isolating. 

I have typed and erased many things. Do I share what God taught us during those 9 months? What DID we learn? Perhaps I talk about all the precious moments? Or should I allow myself to be vulnerable and talk about how difficult it really was? It’s easy to put on a happy face when social workers visit each week. It’s easy to pull it all together when you are at church for a couple of hours on Sunday. You know, it’s a pride booster to have folks pat you on the back for being foster parents. Perhaps to everyone else it looks like we managed and adjusted quite well. But I would feel guilty and ashamed if I did not allow others to see the struggles we encountered as foster parents. For one, there is nothing in us to boast in. We are weak, sinful people. Left to ourselves, we fail. On more than one occasion, we talked about sending the children to another foster home. There were some extremely difficult times. Was it worth the strain that is was putting on our marriage and home? However, we always went back to the fact that this was God’s will for our family and ONLY by His strength would we endure. He was calling us to faithfully persevere.

Fast forward almost 10 years . . .

Guess what?! We adopted those two precious children! Our youngest daughter (“the baby”) can say she enjoyed and used her big sister’s baby things. Wow!! Only God could write that kind of story! We have adopted other children along the way, and each comes with their own story of God’s faithfulness.

Just because something seems impossible, 
don’t stop praying or believing in what God can do.
He makes the impossible possible!

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