Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember. It's a time when family and friends come together to reflect on our many blessings, blessings that we often take for granted in our day-to-day lives. This year, my family has so much for which to be grateful.
Earlier this year, my husband Szymon and I became the proud fathers of our curious, beautiful, and sassy daughter, Ava. Being able to celebrate our Gotcha Day with family and friends was the result of a three-year journey to grow our family by adopting through foster care.
Over the last three years, we have welcomed nine foster care placements into our home. Each child brought a heartbreaking story of abuse or neglect. Three children placed in our home came in the middle of the night with no warning and no belongings. One child came without pants. Another child came in urine-soaked clothes. While foster parents try to be prepared, there is no predicting what a child will need or how long a child might stay when they come into care.
Scott meeting Ava for the first time at the hospital three days after she was born
As foster parents, our job is to work with caseworkers, birth parents, and the children placed in our care to create a path that will hopefully lead to reunification. At the same time, we knew we were open to adoption if any of those plans were not successful.
Call it father's intuition, we could feel Ava's case would be different than all the others. From the day we received the first phone call about her case to the day we were asked if we would be willing to make our family permanent, everything happened as it should to ensure the best possible future for Ava. If you have any experience with the foster care system, you know just how rare that is.
(Left to right) Szymon, Ava, and Scott on Ava's first birthday
But the process wasn't without its uncertainty or emotions. That's why it is incredibly important to build a solid support network to count on in moments of stress or uncertainty. Our first official Thanksgiving as "The Elmore Family" isn't through our own hard work. We owe this year's blessings to the countless people who made our family possible. We can't think of a better day to express our gratitude.
Thank you to the dozens of case workers, managers, supervisors, and lawyers who advocate for vulnerable children. Your job isn't easy. It can be difficult for us to express gratitude when decisions don't make sense. As foster parents, we only see a small glimpse into complex, heartbreaking cases. We see your compassion. And we see when your hands are tied by a regulation. We thank you for listening, then working to find common ground.
(Left to right) Scott, Ava, and Szymon before her adoption in April 2017
Thank you to our fellow foster and adoptive families who fight passionately for vulnerable children. You have been a tremendous source of strength for us as we navigate a complicated – sometimes broken – system. We think of you as our second family. The family we choose. Our lives are so much richer because of your guidance and leadership. Your example inspires us to continue this calling.
Thank you to our coworkers for your understanding, flexibility, and support for our modern family. You stepped in to cover things at work without hesitation when we had to be at short-notice meetings, court hearings, and doctor appointments.Our family is possible because of your professionalism.
Family, friends, caseworkers, foster/adoptive friends after her adoption in May 2017. Photo credit: Photography for a Greater Good
Thank you to our friends and neighbors for encouraging us along the way. Our child will grow up with every opportunity this world has to offer because of your willingness to babysit, listen to us vent over coffee (or wine), and celebrate even the smallest case milestones.
Thank you to our immediate and extended family for loving all the children who have come into our home and for embracing each of them as your own. You grieved with us when children left our home. You continue to ask about them and wish them well.That means the world to us. We know this process is unpredictable, and we are forever grateful for your willingness to throw yourselves into the role of grandmother, grandfather, uncle, aunt, or cousin without hesitation.
Szymon and Ava in Poland in August 2017
Finally, thank you to Ava's birth mother. Your selfless and voluntary act of love will always be respected in our family.As Ava gets older and begins asking questions about her mother, we will always speak of you with grace and tell her about your love for her. We are thankful for you today – and every day – for wanting the best for your child. Ava is cherished and loved by so many.
We are incredibly thankful for the many acts of love and support our family has received throughout this process. Please continue to support foster and adoptive parents who are making a profound difference in the lives of children.Parents like us need all the help they can get. Happy Thanksgiving from the Elmore family.