We began as foster parents through the Baltimore Department of Social Services almost four years ago and our home has seen two short-term placements and two long-term placements. Almost three years to the day Baby T. (now Toddler T.) came into our lives, we were privileged to stand before judges, friends, family, strangers and media to welcome her as an official and permanent addition to our family.
Whatever fantasies we harbored about the logistics of the proceeding were quickly dashed. We were ordered to arrive at 9:15 a.m. but paranoia made us leave the house at 8:15 a.m., which got us into the courtroom at a very healthy 8:35 a.m. Normally, when I get to court early, I work on my laptop, review files, or return phone calls. With two children under age 3 in tow, the name of the game was entertainment and crowd control while we waited in the hallways with approximately fifty other lucky families until the courtroom opened up.
When the hearing started (a little late, but impressively close to on time), we had already used up our arsenal of coloring books, fruit snacks, sippy cup drinks, apple slices and stickers. Toddler T. had completely exhausted the disposable camera given to us (she was impressed by the mechanical nature of the device, compared to the digital cameras she was used to). And of course, within sixty seconds of the judges’ arrival on the bench, that familiar smell began emanating from the diaper of our other child.
I was sorry to miss the opening speeches but, having mercy on the other courtroom occupants, I whisked the baby out, cringed as I walked between the gallery and the judges and ducked the news cameras. By the time I got back, the speeches were winding up and within moments the first lucky adoptee became formally inducted into a new family. It was impossible not to feel that swelling of emotion as the first family became whole but the logistics of family life soon required full attention.
We did our best to keep the kids quiet and entertained as the judges wound their way through the alphabet, calling up families and changing last names with the speed of the falling gavel. What seemed somewhat interminable as the families went by one-by-one was a frenzied blur as our names were called up: hoist up the kids; line up in front of the judges; say the right things; hope the kids were cooperating for pictures (our failed two-month effort to get good holiday card pictures prevented undue optimism on that count). And with that, it was over — Toddler T. became a Cord by name.
We didn’t start the foster care process with the intent of adopting, but it is impossible not to completely fall in love with a new baby. All of the early morning feedings, sleeping angst, work disruptions, week-long hospitalizations and worth the first laugh, first word, first step and successive steps into becoming a little lady. Not to mention the pure joy of the unsolicited, “Daddy, you’re my best friend.”
This was, therefore, a particularly meaningful Thanksgiving, after what was quite probably the happiest day of my life. I’m thankful for every event that led us to that day and for the friends who helped along the way. Though the logistics of day-to-day life quickly take over, this is one event that I can take a brief pause for thanksgiving.