So I’m sitting here on my couch, watching my daughter giggle, curled up in her father’s arms, and I’m stunned that as of tomorrow, she’s been a Yarros for a year.
It’s not often that I’m speechless, but moments like this blow me away.
When I think of everything our family went through—everything she went through—to be here in this moment, my throat closes up and my eyes always start to water.
It’s been a year. We’ve adopted her, gone through the legalities of changing her name, moved from New York and settled in Colorado. She’s started pre-school, new therapists, new houses, new routines, but the same love. There are simple moments when I look at my children, my husband and realize that we made it, that this is our happily ever after, and it’s amazing.
It’s been a year, but to be completely honest, I still have nightmares that there was a paperwork mishap—that somehow we’re ordered back to New York, that she’s not really a Yarros. I wake up and know it’s been a dream, that we’re family, but nothing can take away the sheer terror or my racing heart in the middle of that nightmare. Some of the scariest moments of my life occurred during the two years we fostered her, and at times it’s hard to believe those days are behind us, that we made it. We’re not just okay, we’re thriving.
This year has given me a perspective that I couldn’t have without having fought that battle.
It doesn’t matter what goes wrong in the little scheme of things. My book releases can fail if they have to. Jason can get called away on a training mission (no 5th deployment yet, knock on wood), a hail storm can destroy our cars, and a bear can trash our upright freezer (TRUE STORY). None of that matters in the scheme of things because we kept our daughter. Our family is whole, blessed in ways we could only dream of, so everything else just feels like small potatoes.
But there’s also an insane amount of guilt that plagues me.
Why? Because we’re done fostering. With six kids, and hockey,and therapists given Little Miss’ special needs, and my career, and Jason’s career…well, you get the idea. We’re a circus of calendar dates and organized chaos—a gorgeous cacophony of homework, hockey games, and slight hell-raising that’s interrupted by sublime, perfect moments when we sit down at the dinner table or settle in for family movie night. But on the whole, we’re at our max, and we know we can’t foster again. Our mini-van seats 8, our dining room table seats 8, and well… we’re at 8. Our family is complete.
But once you see the inside of the system, once you know how much there is to be done, how many kids there are to help, it’s hard to walk away. I felt like we were saying, “we got ours—peace out.” Well, we weren’t okay with that.
Enter One October.
It started with something super simple. Jason saw a post on Facebook asking for help—it was a foster mom who’d taken in two kids the day before Easter, and they’d come to her with nothing.
Our eyes locked, and we knew we had to step up.
You see, when our Little Miss, our Audrey-Grace came to us, it was the first of October in Upstate NY. Her removal had been so fast that she came with only a few onesies and stretch pants. No coat. No blanket. No socks. Within the week, we knew she’d be staying with us for at least another month, so I did what all mom’s who have desperately wanted a baby girl do…I shopped. Onesies, pants, shirts, coats, blankets, dresses, shoes, she needed it all. Add to it that we didn’t have any baby equipment in the house because we’d always thought we’d get a placement who was around two years-old, and well… I spent a lot. Add to that how much Jason was buying from Afghanistan (where he was deployed), and having shipped to us for her, and well… there was more.
Here’s one thing you might not know: while foster parents are paid a stipend to help cover the cost of their kiddos in care, it’s paid in arrears.
By the time it was said and done, it took six weeks for Audrey-Grace’s first stipend to come in. Now, we’re lucky that we’re financially secure—that wait didn’t harm our finances.
All foster parents are not quite as lucky as we are. Not every foster parent can afford to immediately outfit a kid, or three.
When kids enter the system, often times they’re brought with nothing. They’ve been removed from daycare, from school, sometimes the home, and it happens so fast that if they can bring anything, a common way their belongings are transported are via a garbage bag.
You read that right: a garbage bag. As if their stuff is worth nothing. As if they are worth nothing. Don’t blame the social workers—they’re underpaid, overworked, and doing the best they can with the budget they barely have.
Audrey-Grace’s things were given to us in a grocery bag, and I swear I can still feel the tiny weight of the plastic digging into my hand as I carried it in one hand, with her in her car seat in the other, across the parking lot to take her home.
Because of this, as we were loading clothing up for that new foster mom from the facebook post, we grabbed extra duffel bags to put everything in.
After Jason came back from dropping off the clothing, we sat and talked.
One October was born.
We could buy black duffel bags in bulk, that way if an older kid in care needed to use it, it wouldn’t scream that he was a kid in care.
We could take clothing donations.
Our boys chimed in—they could sort the clothes, and make sure that only the ones that weren’t too worn were sorted into bags, that way if a child was taken and put into care, and had to go to school the next day, they wouldn’t stand out. They wouldn’t be embarrassed.
We could make sure that social workers in the area knew that we could be called upon to step up.
We could buy gently-used baby equipment and loan it out to foster parents who had an unexpected placement, and in that way lessen their financial burden.
We could do our best to develop resources, equipment, and enough clothing to get a foster parent through that first week with a new placement so the child feels welcome, and the parent can focus on something more important than “how am I going to take all these kids shopping.” They could simply focus on being whatever that child needed—on being a parent.
We could make a difference in the lives of the kids in the system, even if we weren’t foster parents anymore.
Our boys volunteered to help. My niece did, too. Other authors and readers raised their hands and asked what they could do, and suddenly the monumental task didn’t seem so big after all.
So here we are. It’s a year to the day that we adopted our precious daughter, and we’re getting ready to launch One October.
After all, October was the month she came to us, the month the courts said we could adopt her two years later, and the month she became a Yarros. October to us is breathtaking, full of wonder, possibility and hope, just like she is. It seemed only fitting to name our little organization after the day that brought her to us.
We’re still getting started, working on getting a Non-profit designation, securing bags, going through our first hoard of clothing purchases. We’re not even a baby, we’re still in development stage, but we thought today was the perfect day to invite you all to watch us grow and become part of our story—her story.
So if you’d like to follow along as we get One October off the ground here in Colorado Springs, check us out on Facebook. It’s going to be bumpy, crazy, and full of love, just like our family, and we’d love to have you along for the ride.
Save the tiny humans, peeps.
And as for us? Today I’m going to snuggle my little girl and take a moment to think of everyone who worked their butts off so she could be with us forever—her social worker, her lawyer, and all of Jefferson County DSS. Words can never truly express how grateful we are to you.
Today leaves me speechless, capable of only three words just like a year ago when the judge banged his gavel.
Thank. You. God.