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Mendo Lake Family Life

Just Add Love

By Deirdre Littlefield

I had wanted to adopt a child from foster care since I was a little girl. Ever since I saw the movie Annie, I was hooked on the idea. I wondered how it was possible that there were children nobody wants, children without a family.

It took many years for me to follow my instincts and start the process. It was such a scary idea to bring a child I’d never met into our home. I wouldn’t know their genetics, their background, or family history. I did know that there are hundreds of thousands of kids in the United States who live in foster care. I also knew that I had the skills to parent, and the capacity to love, any child. Believing this, I finally jumped in.

There are a few different ways one can parent a child in foster care. We knew our long-term goal was to adopt but decided to do emergency care while we waited to go through the adoption process. Our first placement arrived the night before Thanksgiving in 2011. He was 4 years old and, wearing just a hospital johnny, appeared almost as scared as I was. He slept well that first night.

The next day, proudly wearing his dreads, this poor little guy sat bravely amongst our typical Irish Catholic family. He slowly came out of his shell as he told us his likes and dislikes. My kids and their cousins included this young boy in their games, treating him as if they had known him forever. It began to really sink in: foster children are exactly like my children, except a scary adjective—foster—follows them wherever they go.

After that first boy, we had many other kids—from the mischievous toddler twins to the 3-year-old boy who clearly suffered from neglect—and they were all hard to forget. We parented lovely tween girls who, when they first arrived, immediately tried to take care of my little one because that was all they knew how to do—to offer, instead of receive, nurturing. We had one 10-year-old boy who put on rollerblades for the first time while staying with us. He was such a natural and skated well immediately. It doesn’t seem right to think that he never had the opportunity to be part of a team and reap all of the lifelong benefits that such an experience can bring. My all-time favorite was an athletic, sassy, and capable 10-year-old girl. She could rule the world if somebody would just give her a chance, if she just had a permanent family.

One special child we adopted. He was four pounds when he came to us, directly from the hospital, in late 2012. All he needed was our love, stability, and a home to thrive in. This little guy has grown into the funniest, most lovable human being you can imagine.

Every child needs and deserves a family, and having one means that when they grow up they will be more likely to positively contribute to society. It is in all of our best interests to offer what we can. There are so many ways to enrich the life of a child in foster care and, in so doing, leave a lifelong imprint on this world. If we can do it, anybody can.

Deirdre Littlefield is a mother to three children, two biological sons, ages 26 and 13, and one adopted son, age 7. She works for a nonprofit that advocates for children and “loves all things domestic.”