Candice Gilliland – I started fostering in 2015, as a single parent to a five-year-old little boy of my own. I had a passion for fostering and adoption since I was about 13 years old and I kept waiting to have the perfect white picket fence scenario. I finally realized that my kind of crazy surely had to be better than the crazy these kids were coming from. In my home the house might be messy, I have a drawing on the walls, we might have tacos two nights in a row for dinner, and their socks might not match, but they would go to bed safe and know that they are loved.
Ultimately, I felt a call in the pit of my heart that the Lord would not release me from – I knew fostering was a way that I could serve and love kids.
During the time I was fostering and had an opening in my home for a child, DSS called and asked if I wanted a newborn baby. Because I was a single mom, working a full-time job, in clinicals to become a nurse practitioner, and with a young child of my own – I really needed to pray about it. My biggest roadblock was childcare. Daycares won’t typically take a newborn until they’re at least six weeks old, so I needed to find someone in the community who could watch her. I told DSS I would pray about it and call them back the next morning.
In true God fashion, He provided all the baby supplies I needed and a wonderful woman stepped up to watch her until she was able to go to daycare.
So I accepted this newborn placement, and DSS got permission for me to go to the nursery to see precious little Claire. Oh my goodness! I took one look at her and my heart was smitten!
I was immediately in love and felt guilty. Surely her family was going to do everything in their power to work their treatment plan and get her back home with them as soon as possible. Due to exposure in utero, Claire was born addicted to several drugs and began medical withdrawal right away.
Claire spent her first four months in various hospitals, suffering serious setback after setback, almost losing her life several times. The complications of the drug withdrawals were severe. In those first few months, she suffered constant vomiting, seizures, failure to thrive, milk protein intolerance, and a hole in her heart.
Not long after Claire got to come home and begin daycare, she contracted RSV and had to be hospitalized for almost seven weeks, intubated for over two of those. Shortly after Claire came home from the hospital in December 2020, her parents made the gut wrenching decision to relinquish their rights, knowing they could not provide for her extensive and ongoing medical needs.
I was blessed to be able to adopt Claire. She still faces many challenges. Every week, she continues to see ten specialists and get five different therapies at home and preschool – speech, occupational, feeding, early intervention, and physical therapy.
Many things that we take for granted are things Claire has to work to overcome, but she does so with a smile on her face. Through it all, she has remained full of joy. She does not meet a stranger and greets you with kisses and hugs – or she’ll check to see if you have a belly button. She is fearless and determined. It has been an honor to be her mother.
My son, her big brother, is the best big brother ever! He takes his role as protector and chief tickle monster very seriously. She is his biggest cheerleader at his baseball games.
Through my fostering and adoption journey, having a Care Community has been amazing! The volunteers are the literal hands and feet of Jesus. They lend an ear when I need to vent. They offer up prayers and wise words of advice. They bring meals when the whole house is sick. They extend grace when you feel like you can’t get anything right in the world. They come hold babies in the hospital so you can go grab a shower and feel human again. They bring healing, peaceful hugs, and celebratory cheers when the adoption comes through.
They are a lifeline when family and other friends don’t get your heart for fostering and adoption. They urge you to keep pushing when the rest of the world tells you to give up and walk away. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not all rainbows and butterflies over here. We look more like a clown car rolling up at a circus most of the time. But we are incredibly blessed, and we have a village of support in Fostering the Family to thank for it!