Name: Ashley Dickson
Pronouns: She/Her
Instagram: ashleydoodles

We view adoption through the smiling faces of newly created families. Standing proudly with their child, next to the judge who just signed the adoption order. We share photos with their ‘stats’, how many days they were in foster care, their ‘gotcha’ day and their new name. So many times we share the good, because truly there is SO much good that comes from adoption. Creating permanency for a child and creating a family out of love is such a gift. But while we share the good moments, the proud moments and the unforgettable moments we also hide the heartbreaking, uncomfortable and unforgettably sad moments. I wish that talking about trauma was just as accepted as talking about joy, because these children inherently have both. You don’t become a foster youth without trauma, and you don’t experience adoption without joy.

Fostering a child can also look like hours of paperwork, filling out JV-290’s every court hearing, ensuring that it comes across as factual, even though everything you want to say comes straight from the love in your heart. It’s feeling like screaming into the computer screen that this child needs you, and they shouldn’t go home, while typing out that their parents are trying their best and just need more time to heal.

It’s reading through the lines of your rights as a foster parent, determining when you should ask for De-Facto status, or when you should push to obtain Education Rights. It’s fighting to advocate for them. Pushing to get them services that they desperately need. Begging biological parents to sign off on things like Far Northern Regional Center, but having your hands tied if they say no. It’s documenting every bump, bruise, scrape and scratch to protect yourself from false claims of abuse. Sending in countless incident reports as your bundle of joy learns to crawl and walk. It’s taking in a child going through withdrawal who isn’t eating, and documenting every medication dose and ounce of formula they eat, so you can go over it with their doctor every two days. It’s purchasing a baby scale to make sure your premature foster baby is gaining weight, and working with a feeding specialist to try and avoid a G-Tube if possible. It’s sitting for hours and hours and HOURS during every parent visit, court hearing, home visit and training class to not only make sure you are up to date on any training you might need for your certification, but to become a detective while you are in contact with biological family. Making mental logs of every offhand comment made and reporting it to the child’s social worker. It’s asking obscure questions while waiting four plus hours in the courthouse waiting room. Where did you grow up? Do you have siblings? Other kids? How did you come up with the baby’s name? What was your pregnancy like? Filling in the blanks to a history you were never a part of, so you can hopefully answer questions for this child as they grow up. It’s listening to the child that calls you momma cry out for you, while they are in the arms of their biological parent, and not being able to do a damn thing about it. It’s ‘Facebook Stalking’ to see if biological mothers are pregnant again, or to see if they are in jail or using again.

It’s grieving the loss of the life this child could have had, if their parents got clean. It’s grieving the loss of the life you thought you would have, or the type of parent you thought you would be. It’s IEP meetings, ASQs, Therapy, OT, PT, Speech, assessments, and re-assessments. It’s feeling with every fiber of your being that a child is not ready to go home, but being told it’s happening anyway. It’s holding fear in your heart, wondering if that child will re-enter care or end up as an article in the news paper.

It’s looking at a stack of file folders and adoption books and knowing that this is the closest you will get to a ‘pregnancy journal’. You will never have ultrasound pictures, or memories of first kicks. There will never be stories of pregnancy cravings or crazy dreams. But at least you have medical records. You know birth weights and times, complications in delivery and NICU stays.

It’s feeling guilty every Mother’s Day. Feeling somehow undeserving of the event. Knowing that somewhere in the world is a mother who lost her title, so you could gain yours. It’s knowing that the wound of losing a child will never heal, even if it was a loss created with the choices those parents made.

If you know me at all, you know how deeply I love my children and how hard I have fought for them. I regret nothing about fostering and adopting my children. If given the choice I would endure the struggle a thousand times to make them mine. I only post this to say, if you are currently fostering or you have adopted children, I see you. I feel your struggle and the heartache that you have. It’s okay to feel sad, it’s okay to grieve and it’s okay to be frustrated with the process. It doesn’t mean you love these children any less and you shouldn’t feel guilty for processing. You are taking in a child with unknown trauma. You are absorbing their hurt, and replacing it with love. You are making the choice to be the voice for the voiceless. To be the armor and the shield.

You are allowed to acknowledge how hard this is.

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