Thursday, November 4, 2010

Reunions, Part II: Joy's foster family

The background for this reunion: Joy is our fourth child. She went into foster care after spending two months in the NICU and one month in the preemie room at Eastern’s Baby Hospital. She was not quite three months old –the equivalent of 37 weeks gestation –weighing just six pounds when her foster mother took her home. Joy spent almost a year as the only foster baby in their family and celebrated her first birthday with them with a traditional Korean first birthday party.

Fast-forward to Monday October 18, 2010. It had been 2.5 years since Joy last saw her foster family. Joy’s foster mother walked into Eastern, where we were waiting in the lobby, said “Oh! Hee Kyeong-ah!” and held out her arms. Joy hardly paused to consider, just reached out, happily going from my arms into her foster mother’s. She snuggled on her foster mother’s shoulder for a moment then looked up at her face. When Joy really looked at her, the spell seemed to be broken and Joy reached for me again, beginning to cry. She was quickly calmed, but wanted to simply watch her foster mother and her foster father from my arms.
A few minutes later, Joy’s foster mother and I took seats next to each other in the conference room upstairs.

They gave Joy lovely gifts. The puppy now has a special place on her bed and the dress fits her perfectly.

Then Joy's foster mother again called her by her Korean name and held out her arms. Joy willingly went to her and sat in her lap while we visited and looked at the pictures they had taken while Joy was in their care.

It meant so much to us that Joy's foster father took time off work to come and visit with us, just as he had for every visit on my trip to bring Joy home. He told us it was because he had grown unusually attached to her. Joy was one of their few foster children to call him "Appa" and to enjoy his company just as much as his wife's. Testament to this, Joy's album is filled with photos the two of them together, like this one taken a few months before she came home.

While we reminisced over Joy's album, she fell asleep on her foster mother's lap and napped there for the next hour while we visited.

Joy continued to sleep in her arms right through our family photo.

It amazed us because Joy clearly did not view her foster parents as "strangers." It makes sense, considering that she had spent nearly one third of her life (so far) in their family. As I have tried to encourage my friends whose children are now spending up to year in foster care before coming home, the silver lining may be that children have the opportunity to form enduring emotional bonds with their foster family --a secure foundation upon which a lifetime of attachment to others may be built.
The first hours of separation from her beloved "Omma" and "Appa" were wrenching, as Dorothy (and anyone else on our concourse that day at Incheon) can testify. But after Joy fell into an exhausted sleep in my arms just before we boarded our flight to Narita, the transition to our family was smooth. She attached to us more readily and easily than either Mercy or Hope, who came home as young infants after only months in foster care. Children, of course, are different, and attach differently. But I pray that my waiting friends will have similar stories to share someday after their children come home from the now-protracted wait in foster care. May God be using this time to instill a profound sense of love and security into their hearts via their foster families.

Thanks to photographer Grandma, to Joy's foster parents for their love and permission to post their pictures, and to my friend Dorothy who preserved Joy's trip home on her blog (linked above).

1 comment:

Three Northern Stars said...

So beautifully said Carrie. Lovely photos and story.