Seven years ago, I never expected the life altering announcement my parents presented to me and my siblings: they were adding another foster child to our family of seven. Although there is an element of excitement with a new addition, this was not the case when thinking about the extra responsibilities that would be asked of me once this six-week-old arrived in our home.
Upon picking her up from the Department of Human Services, she did not reflect a child coming out of a middle-class environment; rather, she looked more like a baby from a third world country. She was swollen, had open sores, was unkempt, and most of all, displayed absolutely no emotion. Although my family tried to welcome her with unconditional love, she cried all day and night, many times to the point that her eyes could no longer produce tears. My older brother, Jordan, and I didn’t want to be home because the screaming was too much for us to handle. My mom juggled a sixth month old, a two-year-old and a kindergartener all while trying to calm this new baby. Honestly, I am not sure how my parents managed to have my brother and I in traveling sports teams, three young children, and a baby who couldn’t seem to find contentment.
One day, something finally clicked. My mom remembers that it was a Tuesday to a Wednesday. She just stopped crying and her eyes began to light up. The curling screams were replaced with fits of laughter; and where the seemingly burden of life once dominated her eyes, joy now fills her every move. This defining moment forever changed the climate of our home as her newly discovered joy pushed back the dark cloud of uncertainty that once shrouded her heart and ours. When it came time to legally adopt my little sister, my parents reflected on that transformational day and appropriately gave her the name Kiana “JOY” Reed, for now joy fills her heart where it was once being filled with sorrow.
Our story reminds me of another often told of a little girl seen throwing starfish back into the sea after they had washed onto the shore due to a large storm. There were thousands of starfish, and each time she walked up to one, she would pick it up and throw it back into the sea. After doing this for some time, an older man came and asked her, “Why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!” Upon hearing this, the little girl stooped down, picked up another starfish and threw it back into the sea saying, “I made a difference to that one.”
Often we are faced with extremely large problems, such as the more than 400,000 children in America’s foster care system, and focus on the seemingly insurmountable odds that stack against us when it comes to finding a solution. Because we feel inadequate to being part of the solution, it is easy to abdicate responsibility to others who we feel have the capacity to find an answer to the problem. We may even question why someone doesn’t do something about it without stopping for a moment to realize that we are “someone” who can absolutely make a difference. Adopting my little sister may not seem like we made much of a difference when it comes to solving the overwhelming issues within the foster care system, but I am confident that it made a profound difference in the future of a child who may not have been born into our family, but was born for our family and discovered eternal joy as a result.
Miss Orange County