My wife and I moved to New Orleans nearly four years ago. Only six months into marriage, we already knew adoption would be a part of our family’s story. But we had no clue that our desire to adopt would lead us to foster care.
Foster care hit me like a slap in the face. I knew the term. I understood the concept. But somehow, the nearly 400,000 children in foster care remained hidden from my view until the spring of 2011. After hearing from local foster care workers and seeing foster parents in action, we took the leap.
Our first two placements came in the summer of 2013 and lasted about ten days combined. After a few potential placements that did not quite work out, we welcomed a nine month-old little boy into our ill-prepared home. We called him “Baby J“ – not even sure how to pronounce his name. Within days, we completely rearranged our living room – using every available household item to create barriers between this active little boy and anything that was not soft and stable. Just a few weeks and quite a few sleepless nights later, we were completely in love.
Foster parents understand that most of the time their job is temporary. That is by the far the most difficult part. The long nights are tough. The endless appointments are inconvenient. But the uncertainty is painful.
After about a month, a court order abruptly sent Baby J back to live with his biological mother. At the time we knew nothing of the situation to which he was returning. Our hearts were broken as we thought about the trust he had unintentionally placed in us to care for him. We felt a responsibility for his well-being – a responsibility that now seemed impossible to fulfill.
Though we received words of encouragement from DCFS and Jefferson CASA who promised to make sure Baby J would be well cared for, we still felt powerless. So we decided to reach out to his mother. With no phone number and no address, the only way we knew to contact her was to send a letter home with Baby J offering our support for this little boy we had come to love.
Less than a week later, Baby J’s mom contacted us. She needed a babysitter when she worked at night. For nearly two months we helped care for Baby J on an unofficial basis while his mother worked towards stability. Then, a week before his first birthday, we received a call that Baby J was being placed into state custody. He would again be in our home full time.
As his foster parents, we were there for his first birthday, his first haircut, his first steps, and his first words. Those were special moments – but none were as special as September 22, 2014 when Baby J became Micah Sandifer and officially joined our family.
Occasionally people will tell us how blessed or fortunate Micah is to have found a permanent place in our home. And I think we all have probably had similar thoughts about children that have been fostered or adopted by safe, loving families. But what I hope people will come to see is that foster and adoptive parents – we are the lucky ones.
– Tyler Sandifer
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
– Micah 6:8