“I was 19 when I met my husband, Stuart. About 15 minutes into our first date he asked me what I wanted to do with my life- What was my dream career? Did I want kids? Where did I want to travel? I told him that I didn’t really know what I wanted to do- although I knew for sure that if I was going to have children in my life, it would be because I was fostering them.
We got married a few years later and went on our honeymoon. Two weeks after we came home, we decided that we were going to start our foster parent training. We were in agreement that we would just do short term emergency care/respite to start. We were planning on fostering babies and toddlers. I was only 23 at the time, and the idea of fostering older kids and teens seemed unfathomable. Once we got licensed, we were immediately called asking if we could take in a baby for a week. It went great and we loved it. Then right after that we were called asking if we could take in a sweet 3-year-old for a weekend. We said yes. That weekend turned into a week. And that week into months. And those months into years. That little boy is our son, Michael.
A few months after Michael came to us, we agreed to supervise a sibling visit. That’s where we met Dayshawn for the first time. The second Michael caught a glimpse of his brother from across the playground, he ran with all his might and jumped into his arms. It was that second that Stuart and I looked at each other and we truly understood the importance of Dayshawn and Michael needing to be together. We were still a little hesitant about taking in an older child. There’s only a 13-year age difference between me and Dayshawn. But the second I started talking to him, all my fears went out the window.
Dayshawn breaks every single stereotype about teens in foster care. He is the most empathetic and compassionate person I’ve ever met. He is a social butterfly and makes it his personal mission to welcome every new child who comes to us. He works so hard in school and is SO funny. He wants to be either a basketball player, a doctor, or a social worker when he grows up. Being his mom feels so natural. He doesn’t even seem to notice that I’m so young (or he just doesn’t care.) To him I’m just his mom. He was so excited on our adoption day. My favorite part is when he felt compelled to interrupt the judge to explain exactly why he wanted to be adopted (so many tears!)
We became foster parents because we wanted to help families in our community. Adoption wasn’t our primary goal, although we were open to it if it became available. We advocate for reunification whenever it’s possible. The best part about fostering is seeing parents work tremendously hard to get their children back. It is a privilege walking along side these parents throughout that journey and being able to support them in any way possible. We’ve fostered 14 children, some long term and some emergency placements. People always say, ‘Oh, I could never be a foster parent. I would get too attached and it would hurt when they go home.’ And that’s true. It is hard. And I cry every single time a child leaves. But reunification can be a beautiful thing. We’re so lucky to have close relationships with many of the parents of our foster children. Our relationship with these children doesn’t have to end just because they return home.
I think the hardest part about adopting our boys was the flip-flop of emotions we went through throughout their very long case. We would want to support the goal of reunification, and we would mentally prepare ourselves for that and then all of a sudden, the case plan would be switched to adoption. And then 6 months later, back to reunification. This process went on for years. I’ve always been a pretty Type-A person, and this process really made me realize that I needed to just sit back and enjoy every single moment with our boys, because I truly had no control over what the future held. Becoming a foster parent has given me the gift of patience and being able to be a lot easier going with whatever challenges come our way.
At our adoption party, I was asked several times if we would continue to foster now that our boys are adopted. Stuart and I have decided that if we continue to foster, we’re going to become a specialized home for either teen moms, sex-trafficked teens and/or LGBTQ+ youth. Not because we can necessarily parent these kids better than anyone else, but because it’s heartbreaking that these demographics of teens sit in social workers offices or shelters for WEEKS (or even months) on end since so few homes are open to them. We just welcomed a new 14 year old two weeks ago, and it’s been so fun getting to know him.
Fostering is in no way easy, but I can guarantee it will be the most worthwhile thing you will ever do.
There’s that quote ‘It’s better to have loved and to lost than never to have loved at all’ (Alfred Tennyson) which resonates deep in my heart. I have had the privilege of falling in love over, and over, and over again (14 times, to be exact!) With foster care, the highs are so incredibly high, and the lows can be so, so low. It’s never boring. But I love this life. I love being a mom. I love caring for the children in our community- whether it’s for a night or for a lifetime. I love being able to support families and cry happy (& sad!) tears when a mother gets her child back. I can’t imagine ever not living this life.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sara Cozad, 26, of Washington. You can follow her family journey on Instagram here. Do you have a beautiful adoption story to share? We’d love to hear from you. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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