I once heard someone say, “Every day above ground is a good day.”
Today was a bad day.
Today we had to say goodbye to Baby D.
Baby D, as my family and I affectionately called him, was our foster baby of six months. His name is really Dominique, but who wants to call him that when you can call him Baby D, or as many called him lightheartedly - D Money!
Since moving to the Bay Area a decade ago, my wife Michelle and I often talked about reengaging something we loved doing for years back in Florida, becoming foster parents. Though we are people of meager means, as followers of Jesus, we see everything we have as belonging to Him, ultimately from Him and for Him, to share. We also believe, and have found personally to be true, what He said about finding real and abundant life by losing ours -giving our lives away to others sacrificially. So, after many years of talking about it, we tagged back in and became certified foster care providers here in California through a wonderful local agency. Little did we know at the time that the first child that would come into our home and family back in April would grab our hearts so firmly – a beautiful little innocent boy with a big hair, and an even bigger smile, with dimples on top of dimples – a child with no control over his circumstances, his life, or his future, in a bloated and fractured system.
For over half a year Baby D was as a 100%, fully-vested, card-carrying member of the Kiefer family! It is our personal family policy that every foster child in our home know that they are one of us, not different, but loved, valued and accepted – that family is so much more than genetics. Likewise in those six months, our amazing church family and wonderful neighbors rallied in heartwarming ways lavishing the baby with love and providing him clothes and toys. One sweet sister in the faith hand-made with love and great skill his own personal quilted blanket with his name embroidered on it. Baby D was our family and family to many.
As I reflect upon it, trying to focus on silver linings, I realize how kind the Lord was to entrust one of His little ones to us for a season. We got to witness many ‘firsts’ that we will always treasure in our hearts. For instance, God kissed us as a family by allowing us to see Baby D rip into and disassemble his first Easter basket! We were the ones privileged to see him eat his first bite of semi-solid food, to see him grow in stature, to turn an odd little bear crawl into actual steps then into a funny unbalanced jog. The Father’s grace allowed us to witness him enjoy his first camping trip, his first birthday party, and the crown jewel of all firsts – his first Giants game! Baby D brought immeasurable joy into our lives and the lives of countless others in such an abbreviated span of time.
Personally and transparently, I had many talks with the Lord privately about Baby D. I would have been honored to adopt him, raise him and be his father if that was God’s will and circumstances allowed. It wasn’t. They didn’t. Instead it was decided that Baby D move on – a reality that didn’t shock us – but still stung us deeply.
As foster parents we knew what we were getting into. Nobody held a pistol to our heads and made us do it. Over the years, we participated in several uber-rewarding reunifications with parents – always the ideal objective. Many times we received children, lavished them with love, protection and care and let them go with a combination of real heartache and joy. In one beautiful instance a blonde-haired tiny foster baby, born the day after September 11, came into our care and we adopted her eighteen months later!
Today, in our pain, and yes, confusion, all we really know is that each foster child and placement is a gift – an endowment – a blessing - a miracle. Baby D was no different.
Though I’m employed as a teacher and communicator in a church, I could never communicate as well as my wife did as she beautifully articulated what we’re experiencing as a foster family today as the baby moves on - and we try to also. My prayer is that the truth of her words will encourage a reader – maybe even you – to say ‘yes’ to foster care. Here’s the guarantee, with it will come heartache and frustration. Bank on it! However, with it also will come an eclipsing, immeasurable and indescribable sense of fulfillment and satisfaction through the sacrificial sharing of your life with a child – something we as a family hope to continue experience over and over together in the future. Michelle wrote:
There will never be another Baby D. But there are countless children who need to be safe and loved. Every child is priceless and deserves to be held too much and rocked to sleep. They deserve to be treasured and valued so much that you can’t imagine facing tomorrow without them…and you grieve them when they leave. So…we hang on to Jesus and get through this. Then we move forward…In His perfect will for our lives... Knowing that He led us here for our good…and for the Kingdom. We’re grateful. Jesus is more than enough…for Baby D..and for us.