Being a foster parent is an ultimate gift of selflessness. These parents have the difficult job of taking in a child, loving them, and often times, letting them go again.
For Grace Kriegel, it is providing a safe haven for children that need it most, according to her story on Love What Matters.
In two years, Kriegel and her husband have fostered eight children, with one of the most recent being a newborn Pakistani girl.
The day that Kriegel and husband got the call about taking her home, it was sudden, urgent and unexpected.
“We were standing in Target, trying to buy pants for the 12-year-old who was already in our care, when I took that phone call,” Kriegel wrote.
“My husband and I made eye contact. We didn’t even need to discuss it. ‘Yes.’ We grabbed a few outfits and a pack of diapers, swung by the house to grab a car seat, and 45 minutes later, the most perfect little Pakistani princess was placed in our arms.”
Within four months, it became clear that the girl, legally named Safe Surrender (a name they were not allowed to change), needed some additional medical care. Were the Kriegels up to the challenge? The short answer is yes, but the journey wouldn’t be easy.
Multiple doctor appointments later, Safe was diagnosed with a few birth defects that would require a colostomy bag and surgeries.
While Kriegel and her husband were given the opportunity to let Safe go if they couldn’t handle her medical treatment, the two knew in an instant that they could.
“We handled it,” she wrote.
“We sat by her bedside as she woke up from surgeries. We held her as she cried pitifully. We learned how to care for a colostomy bag. We ordered supplies and paid for them out of pocket. We bought new clothes to leave room for her colostomy bag. We watched her heal.
“We watched her begin to trust us. We loved her, and she flourished. She had surgery again at 10- months-old to reverse her colostomy and she never looked back.”
When the father of Safe was unable to be located, the Kriegels faced a new opportunity – adoption.
Fourteen months after taking Safe into their home, the family stood in court, ready to adopt the sweet girl that had stolen their hearts.
When the time came to finally name their new daughter, Kriegel turned to her smiling daughter.
“Her name is Arya. Arya Hope,” she said.
While this part of Kriegel’s story has a happy ending, many wonder why families like the Kriegels go through the foster process in the first place.
“I have genuine hope that their families have learned how to better cope with stress,” she wrote. “I have hope that we’ve forged deep, meaningful relationships with the biological family. I have hope we’ll see them again, but under much better circumstances.”
“Because, sometimes, grief looks a lot like rage,” she continued. “And if we can get through the rage, I have hope we can get to the grief. And I have hope that, if we can get to the grief, we can also get to the healing.”
Being a foster parent isn’t always easy, as Kriegel’s life is in upheaval with children constantly coming and going from her home. While it creates some chaos, she is up to the challenge.
“I am an adult who can rationally process sudden, unexpected change,” she said.
“The children who come into our home are not. I have hope that, even though the abrupt disruption is traumatic, we can be a safe haven in a storm for little souls who are lost and confused. I have hope that we will all settle into a new normal and find comfort in it together.”
It is this comfort that allows Kriegel to get through the hard times with her foster children that have stories that are heartbreaking and devastating at times.
“I wake up multiple times a night to children crying out for me,” she told Love What Matters. “I sit in a glider for hours, holding little bodies, racked with sobs, until they finally catch their breath. I document injuries, dispense medications, sit in on intensive in-home therapy, and fill out countless evaluations requesting PT, OT, and speech.
“I listen to a preschooler share stories of domestic violence and watch a preteen struggle with mental health. I open the fridge, over and over, to prove to children there is always food. I attend IEP meetings and I advocate for kids.
“But you know what else I do? I cry. I fall into my husband’s arms at the end of some days, and I beg to just put this work down, because it’s heavy. But he reminds me- hope lightens the load. And every day, we take a deep breath, lean into hope, and do it all again.”
Kriegel’s love is undeniable, and not everyone may be able to understand why she does what she does. But these children need a home and love, and those are both things the Kriegels are more than willng to give.
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