Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Thirteen years ago today I became a foster parent to a newborn baby girl, Maya. I was 22 years old and an idealistic dreamer. I thought I was going to change the world one life at a time. I felt called to become a foster parent and luckily my parents were supportive of my pursuit. I was living at home at the time so it was important that they were open to the idea, since it was their house,LOL!! I have been fortunate that they have always supported me and given me the space and love needed to take chances however crazy it may seem.

It took several months to go through the interview and licensing process. There was lots of paperwork, fingerprinting, background checking, talking, and a home study. Finally, I was licensed and ready to go. It took nearly a year from that point before a baby was actually placed in my care. The agency was a non-profit organization that worked with birth mothers to help them find adoptive placement for their babies. Foster parents were usually only needed on a short term basis. The social worker told me to expect to foster a baby for anywhere from a few days up to 2 weeks. This was to give the birth mom a chance to adjust and change her mind if needed and for final paperwork to be completed before the child was placed with an adoptive family. I received quite a few calls throughout that first year. I would get all ready and then they would call back to say the baby didn't need a foster placement. Either the birthmomchanged her mind or paperwork processed quickly enough that the baby went straight to it's new home.

At 22 life can change rapidly in a year. So, I put foster parenting hopes on the back burner. I graduated college. And I joined a volunteer service corp. I moved into an apartment building with the 7 other members of the corp and I was placed as a volunteer teacher at a school for economically and emotionally disadvantaged children. I adjusted to life in a community with 7 strangers, kind of like the Real World without the cameras or the money! The program was in its early stages and our group was a bit of an experiment. We were given $100 a week to buy groceries and we each had job placements. We also had to fulfill community duties like planning social and spiritual events to build up our relationships. There were 3 women and 4 men, if you could call us that. We were goofballs really and so freakin' young, but anyway that is its own story! So I was immersed in life with my new friends and trying to figure out how to be productive as a teacher working with very challenging students. My friend, Ms. Meeghan and I were placed at the school together. It was a blessing! The apartment we lived in was 40 minsaway from the school. But, the school was just 10 mins. from my parents house. So we spent lots of time visiting my parents and letting them cook for us and relaxed there when we could.

So in the middle of volunteer community madness and challenges, I got a call at the end of that October. There was a newborn who needed immediate foster placement. And so began the "Maya Period" of my life!

I couldn't take time off from my community or my teaching job. But, I couldn't let myself turn down this baby! The religious leader of the school I taught in heard of the call and adamantlyexpressed her dislike of the idea. But, reinforcements came in the form of my parents and Ms.Meeghan. Together we worked out the logistics it would take to fully support the needs of this baby. And the social worker assured me it would be for just a few days.

And so I went to the hospital to pick up the baby. My parents came with me. The social worker thought it would be a good idea because the birth mom wasn't much younger than I was so she felt it would make a better impression to have older people with me. Whatever!

The first time I set on eyes on Maya was shocking. She was the tiniest baby I had ever seen( up to that point in my life) she weighed exactly 4 pounds. Her skin was dark, almost red and she had a mass of jet black hair. And she was screaming at the top of her lungs. This loud, ear piercing screeech!!!! I held her and she felt so fragile!!! Her head fit in my palm. She was 2 days old. And the doctor was going to release her to me. What had I gotten myself into??

We took Maya home. And she stayed, not for a few days, or weeks, but for 3 months!! The longest foster placement the agency had to date. So for the first week I thought "well, she will be going back soon, so I won't get attached." I am just babysitting. Well, my the second week I was in love, unconditionally and forever in love with that tiny little baby. It didn't matter that she had the worst colic i had ever seen, that she screamed nearly all night and most of the day. When she looked up at me with her jet black eyes, I melted. I had never loved anyone so fully and unconditionally as Maya, not until my sons were born 9 years later.

My parents, especially my father took care of Maya while I worked. Not many people beside my Dad could get her to settle down once she started screaming. He would walk her for hours, he would wrap her in blankets and sleep in a chair with her. He even filled soda bottles with warm water and packed them near her when she was sleeping in her moses basket so she wouldn't be cold or cranky.

She stayed with me at my apartment too and my roomies loved her and helped care for her. Especially Ms. Meeghan, she was so wonderful with Maya. I mostly took them up on their offers to help in the middle of the night when I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer and she refused to sleep.

But, during the day I was possessive and stingy with her. I held her constantly. Over winter break from teaching, I became even more attached because I was with her full-time. It got to the point where I couldn't leave her, I just didn't want to put her down. By that point she had started recognizing me and smiling and I would have gone to the ends of the earth for her.

Throughout the 3 months we got many calls and made many trips with Maya back and forth to the agency. First, birth mom wanted her to be adopted, then changed her mind, then back to adoption. She was a teen with 2 other children. She wanted so badly to keep her baby but it didn't seem feasible. The adoptive family had their hopes up and them dashed over and over. And then it seemed on Christmas Eve it was set she would go to her adoptive home. I had mixed feelings at that point. I had gotten to know her mom and knew she was struggling with the decision. I had gotten to know Maya and I was struggling with the idea of letting her go. And then in rode The Knight to the rescue. Maya's father was contacted to sign the paperwork. He hadn't known she existed and this knowledge changed everything. He wanted to meet her. So we went to meet him. He was torn. He knew she had an adoptive family ready to take her. But, in the end he couldn't let her go. After much thought and another month it was decided Maya's father nixed the adoption and took her home with him.

And that is when the hard part began for me. I had to pack up that tiny little girl. Well, she had doubled her birth weight, but was still only 8 lbs and so tiny!!!! She was no longer colicky and become a smiling happy infant. I packed up her clothes, the endless piles of clothes that my family and friends and I had bought for her. She was just the cutest baby anyone had ever seen. Her skin had lost that red and blossomed into a deep, dark chocolate. Her hair began to curl into the softest waves, it felt like feathers!!! And she was always dressed in gorgeous ensembles with matching headbands. She was a little doll. She affected lots of people. Strangers at the mall would even fuss over her and come up to talk to me about her and want to hold her!! My family members fell for her head over heels!! Everyone from my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins loved her. She got so many gifts that Christmas it was crazy!!!

The day before she had to leave I spent time finishing the photo journal I had made for her. And I held her for hours. I said goodbye and thought I would be okay with that.

The next evening my parents and I drove her to the agency meet with her father. I held her while she visited with her mother. Her mom was happy Dad was taking her, but unsure if she would see her. So it was a sad goodbye. She kept the journal I had made for Maya and was so grateful to have that memento.

I broke all the rules with the goodbye, I had written a note to her dad and tucked it in with her belongings. The social worker hadn't wanted me to give her clothes and things to the father, so I kept them in the car and asked him come outside to get them. I put my phone number in the letter so he would have a way to contact us if he had any questions. Handing Maya over to a complete stranger was heart-wrenching, even if he was her father. He didn't know her schedule, her quirks, the way she liked to be held, he didn't know she only liked to sleep while you held her or tucked into her moses basket. I wrote it all in the letter. I had to. I couldn't leave her with nothing.

I handed her to the social worker and she she would bring Maya to her dad in the other room. I had thought I would be able to hand her to him. The social worker thought since I had said goodbye to her I would be fine with it. Well, I wasn't. I freaked out. Not being able to see her with him sent me over the edge. I cried the entire way home and the whole night and the next day and the day after that. I cried until my eyes hurt and my head felt like it was going to explode. I cried until I was so sick to my stomach that I threw up.

And then he called. Thank God!! He had read my letter, he said he knew how much my family loved her and how we had grown attached to her. He thanked us for taking such good care of her. He said she was doing really well and that her grandmother was helping him take care of her and loving her so much. He said he found out quickly that she liked to sleep while being held and that she could be demanding in getting her needs met. But, he loved it!! And he loved her!!

And so that was that. I went back to work the next day. And back to my community and roomies. And days passed. And most days were ok, but then I would hear a song or see a baby or remember her smell and I would lose it all over again. And that went on for a few weeks. And then it got easier and winter turned to spring and I got more and more into my teaching. And life went on.

I would still pray to hear from her father again. But, I knew I wouldn't. The social worker had heard about our call and wasn't happy. She said further contact should go through the agency. She called me with another baby needing foster care a few weeks later. But, I couldn't do it. It was too soon. And too hard to lose Maya. So, I had to decline.

About a year later I was at the mall and I heard a man's voice. My neck snapped around and my ears perked up. I KNEW that voice. I saw the man and I KNEW that face. A face that will forever be etched in my memory. It was Maya's father. He was standing right in front of me. I don't know if he recognized me at first but the words were pouring out of me before I could think clearly and I told him who I was and asked him about Maya. He said she was at his mother's house close by. He took my number and said he would call me and if I wanted to visit her I could. I was ecstatic!!!!! He kept his word and called me the next day. He said his mom wouldn't mind if I visited Maya at her house the next day. Ironically, I happened to be leaving the next day to go to England with a group of friends. I told him I would be back the following week and could I see her then. He said yes and that he would call me. I didn't have his number and I never heard from him again.

And over the last 13 years I think of Maya every so often. Sometimes not for months and then something will remind me it will all come back to me again. Especially today, her birthday!

I watched Rosie O"Donnell's movie, America. It is about kids in the foster care system, it is heartbreaking.

My Maya was different than the kids Rosie was talking about, but still it reminded me of her. She was lucky. She didn't have to feel abandoned or unwanted. Everyone wanted Maya, her mother, her father, her adoptive family, my family, and me. She was loved. And now that she is 13 years old, I have to believe that she is still loved and living a good life. I HAVE to believe that!

I went into the foster parent endeavor hoping to change lives, but in the end it was Maya who changed my life and she will forever hold a piece of my heart.


  1. Oh, Ms. Carrie! I have tears in my eyes--our Maya! That was such a crazy beautiful time in our lives--I loved when you would show up at my door in the night with her, I truly loved it! I remember how she liked the sound of the shower, how it soothed her. What a wonderful glimpse into our future mama-ness that was! I will say a prayer for that little teenager today!

  2. I cried the whole time reading that. Working in the child protection Court, i have to be careful otherwise we would have a house full of kids.

  3. That story truly is amazing and beautiful. How lucky little Maya was to have you and your friends and family to give her such a wonderful start to her life. If only there were more angels like you guys... well we can always hope! =)

  4. I still think of Maya wish we could see her again.