The Girl Who Came to Stay
A pair of empty-nesters are inspired by a heartbreaking news story to take in a foster child.
High school graduation was just around the corner. In a few weeks my son, Andy, would be getting his diploma. “The senior class is featured in my paper today,” my mom called to tell me. “Come on over and we’ll admire Andy!”
My husband, Cliff, came with me for the drive. On the way over, we talked about how soon Andy would graduate. It would be strange not having a child at home. Empty nest, they called it.
Cliff had taken to calling it “our time.” Just the two of us, with our only child away. We’d always planned to have more children, but after two miscarriages, countless doctor visits and lots of prayers, it was clear we just weren’t meant to have another baby.
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At one point, I’d suggested foster parenting, but Cliff wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea. I’d long ago given up hope of raising any more children.
Andy is enough, I told myself when we got to Mom’s. He looked so handsome in his senior picture. “This is going right in the scrapbook,” I said, pulling out the page with Andy and his classmates.
Mom folded the rest of the paper and frowned at the headlines. “Have you been following this story?” she said, pointing. “About the little girl here in town?”
I hadn’t. “She’s six weeks old,” Mom said. “Her father was arrested for child abuse. She’s in the hospital.”
I read the article about the unnamed little girl, each horrible word ringing in my head: head trauma, lacerated larynx, rib fractures...
“She was transported by air to the children’s hospital in a coma,” I said. My eyes filled with tears, blurring the page. “They don’t know if she’ll make it.”
I couldn’t read another word. Who could do such a thing to a precious little girl?
“If only we could have her,” I whispered. “We’d keep her safe.” I dropped the paper and ran to the bathroom.
I dried my eyes and splashed water on my face. It was unrealistic to think I could do anything for that child. The world could be harsh and cruel. Help was out of my reach.
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All I could do was pray. Pray for angels to surround that little girl, heal her and keep her safe from harm. God knew her name; I didn’t have to. If I can do anything more, Lord—anything—please show me how.
When I came out of the bathroom, Cliff was holding the newspaper. His face was pale and more serious than I’d ever seen. “You’re right,” he said, “about being foster parents. We have to help. At least one child.”
Mom was glad she’d pointed out the sad story. And to think how easily we might have missed this opportunity to do some good in the world! Cliff and I couldn’t get home fast enough to call the county and find out how to get licensed.
While Andy looked for his first job as a high school graduate, his dad and I took classes on what to expect as foster parents. Our license hadn’t even officially arrived before the county called us about a child.
“She’s not yet seven months old,” the coordinator said. “Developmentally delayed. What do you think?”
I thought of the child we’d read about in the paper. I wondered if she’d survived. If she had, and I feared it was unlikely, who knew what kind of consequences she’d have to live with for the rest of her life?
Of course we wanted this child. We wanted any child who needed our help. This was my way of doing all I could for children like that little girl in the paper.