I had always believed having children was a birth right, but this was not the case for my husband and me. After five years of marriage and everyone asking when we were going to start a family, we didn’t have an answer. We had discussed our alternatives, searched our hearts, sought medical counsel and completed courses of medication to enhance fertility. We dreamed of having a child, but we finally accepted infertility as God’s plan for us. The completed application process through the local public child welfare agency made our decision official. We would provide a loving home for a child in need.
At work one day, my telephone rang. It was our caseworker, who said there was a 2½-year-old child available for pre-adoptive placement. There was, however, a potential legal risk, as the decision to terminate the mother’s parental rights had been appealed by her attorney. But I was reassured that no one expected this to be a problem.
A new foster home was needed for the child, and if we accepted the placement first as foster parents, then this could possibly be the child’s last move, and the answer to our prayers.
I said we would do it, and we scheduled a visit to meet the child. I then called my husband and told him the news.
The day of our scheduled visit was warm and inviting as we drove over the winding, hilly country roads toward a monumental event. My husband and I were fully committed to the trip that we knew would hopefully become a life-altering journey.
I glanced down at the gift on the seat between us and realized it had become our tangible symbol of love for a child we hadn’t even met. We had scoured every store in town looking for the perfect toy. It had to be perfect.
After parking the car and heading inside for our meeting, my husband reminded me to give the child time to warm up to us before making any sudden or bold movements.
The caseworker greeted us warmly and escorted us into a room. I placed the gift on the table and moved to a chair on the opposite side, preparing to give the child as much physical space as possible, while my husband took a seat at the end of the table.
Suddenly, the door opened and my breath caught in my throat. A tall, aloof, elderly woman – the current foster mother – stepped into the room with a subdued, suspicious child. A hush of anticipation preceded our introduction to Candy. After pleasantries were exchanged, the foster mother slips away.
Now what, I wondered. I was trying to figure out how to relate to a child in such a strange environment, when it finally dawned on me to just follow Candy’s lead.
Timidly, Candy reached for a cookie on the table and eyed it skeptically.
“Bug! Bug!” she said, speaking for the first time as she picked the raisins out of the cookie.
Thankful for the opportunity, I said, “These ‘bugs’ are raisins.”
She still wasn’t convinced, so I ate one to prove my point, as she continued picking them from the cookies. Then she spotted the package on the table.
“That’s for you,” I said.
She hesitated, so my husband gently nudged the package toward her. She climbed into a chair opposite me and opened the package to discover three primary-colored animals that fit easily in her chubby little hands and snapped together in three body sections. Soon a faint smile formed on her face.
Soon, my husband and I were playing with Candy and her new toys. The caseworker was pleased with the way things were going and suggested additional visits so we could get better acquainted. Then Candy slipped from her chair and maneuvered around the tables, chairs and my husband until she was on my side of the table with only a chair separating us. She leaned across the chair, gazed up at me with her warm brown eyes and smiled. My eyes brimmed with tears as I resisted the impulse to scoop her into my arms. Instead, I grasped her tiny hands in mine, and in that moment, Candy became my daughter.