Book Review: Another Place at the Table

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Another Place at the Table
Kathy Harrison

Karen is a 7-month-old baby girl whose mother can’t kick her drug habit. Lucy is a sweet 8-year-old whose teen mom is too immature to care for her. Danny is a sullen 4-year-old boy whose special needs mom couldn’t care for herself, let alone him. Sara is a 6-year-old who has never known an adult who didn’t abuse her. Kathy and Bruce Harrison welcome all these children and many, many more come into their home, some for a night and some forever. But all are guaranteed a safe and loving home for the duration of their stay.

Kathy and Bruce didn’t set out to become foster parents. They took the training and became certified because it was required in order to adopt two sisters, one of whom Kathy fell in love with when she was a Head Start teacher. When the adoption was finalized, they felt that five children (three biological sons and the two adopted daughters) was enough. But social services kept calling. At first Kathy and Bruce said no. But the sad stories broke their hearts. Kathy knew she could offer what so many of these kids needed. So they started saying yes. And eventually, Kathy left her Head Start job and devoted herself full time to parenting children in foster care.

In this page-turner, Kathy describes in detail what foster parenting is like. She shares the stories of many of the children who have passed through her home, she reveals the inner workings of the foster care system, and she offers nuggets of wisdom learned through trial and error—and certainly not taught in foster care training. She also relates how her children have taught her many truths about the reality of foster care. For example, when Sara arrived on her doorstep, she learned children coming into foster care don’t always have a toothbrush. Or even underwear. And when 3-year-old Tyler is returned to a birth family that still needed so much help, she learned that often, to foster means “learning to be satisfied with giving Band-Aids to children and families who needed intensive care.”

“This book is not intended to shock, although it may do that,” Kathy writes. “It was not written to change public policy. I’m far too much of a realist to expect that. It is only the story of one family’s journey through the maze of a social service system and of the children who unwittingly led the way.”

Kathy pulls you so thoroughly into her world that you’ll find yourself clutching the cover of the book, anxious to learn the fate of her children. And when you turn the final page, you’ll  shake your head in gratitude that foster homes like hers exist to care for the children who so desperately need them. You may even be inspired to join their ranks.

If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent or supporting a foster family, email us: 


Book Review: Instant Mom

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Instant Mom
Nia Vardalos

I started this book wanting to love it. I don’t often begin a book with preconceptions, but this one was different: It’s about adopting from foster care (which I love to see promoted), and it’s written by Nia Vardalos, who is a comedian (I love to laugh) and wrote and starred in My Big Fat Greek Wedding (one of my favorite movies).

Nia did not let me down. This book made me laugh and cry, and I think I finished it in about two days. Being an adoptive mom myself (although my husband and I didn’t adopt from foster care), I could relate so much to Nia and her husband’s experiences. I also especially appreciate memoirs written by comedians because so many people’s stories include sadness and tragedy—and Nia’s story is no different—and comedians bring such levity to everything; it’s sometimes easier to read about hard things when you can’t help but laugh out loud. Or at least smile to yourself.

Nia starts her story by describing a scene when she reacted to her daughter choking on a piece of candy. It’s poignant. It’s beautiful. It made me want to know more about this little girl. But before sharing any more about her daughter, Nia dives into her own history, describing how she got into acting and how her connection with Tom and Rita Hanks allowed her to bring My Big Fat Greek Wedding to the big screen. Then she spends several chapters detailing her journey through fertility treatments, domestic and international adoption, and finally adoption through foster care, or “fos-adopt”, which ultimately leads Nia and Ian to their daughter. It’s amazing how many paths they traveled without giving up. They were so determined to be parents.

I love Nia’s transparency in this book about bringing home their little girl. It wasn’t easy. The toddler doesn’t fall into the rhythms of their family life as if she’s been their daughter since birth—because she hasn’t been. She doesn’t fully trust in her forever family. She acts out. She tests her boundaries. She has difficulty sleeping. And Nia is brutally honest about it all, pulling the curtain back on some of the things things they had to do as new parents to a preschooler. Adopting a child who has already had two or more families is not for the faint of heart. I love one detail Nia shares about the first few weeks: she held her new toddler daughter a lot (mostly to soothe her when she woke up at night terrified because she was in yet another unfamiliar place) and her arms burned under the weight—they were thrust into this responsibility of carrying a three-year-old without the chance to gradually work up to it, starting with an 8-pound newborn.

From the fertility doctor’s office to the preschool playground, with vignettes of acting jobs sprinkled generously throughout, Nia writes a story that is a delight to read and will be enormously helpful for prospective fos-adopt families.

Bringing home baby: an adoption from foster care story

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Sunita and Andy Groth always wanted to adopt. From the time they each were young, they dreamed of building their future families through adoption. So when they’d been married a few years, the only question was: adopt first? or start with having kids the old-fashioned way?

groth family

They opted for biological children first, but the Lord had a different plan for them, and after some time of “trying”, they decided to pursue adoption. The couple decided against international adoption because of all the news about the various ethical issues that troubled so many countries, and instead explored domestic adoption. They researched adoption agencies, but as they learned more about the children in need in the foster care system, they felt their hearts tugged in that direction. However, if they’re honest, they had concerns about foster care, too. “My sister has always had a heart for foster care,” Sunita says, “but I thought it would be too hard, too messy. My sister would be great: she’s a teacher. But I worried I wasn’t equipped for doing foster care and would be terrible at it.” But her sister’s passion and Sunita and Andy’s increasing desire to love kids at risk inspired her to give foster care a chance. Her family also had history with foster care: during the Great Depression, her grandmother and her grandmother’s siblings were put into foster care, for a season, and her grandmother became a foster parent herself.

But it was discovering the number of kids in foster care already available for adoption that sealed the deal for the Groths. “We didn’t need a baby,” Sunita says. “We just wanted to love a child.”

In December 2012, they attended an informational meeting at D.C.’s Child and Family Services Agency and by New Year’s, they had their first meeting with the social worker who would eventually license their home. They signed up for January/February training classes, completed their home study during that time, and were licensed by April. “It happened very quickly for us.” Sunita shares, explaining that their situation was probably a bit unique, with and a shorter-than-average timeframe.

They went on the wait list June 1, approved to take any child under 7. They were interested in fostering to adopt, but learned that there weren’t any kids in their approved age range currently waiting for adoption. So they decided to foster while waiting for adoptive placement. They had several calls right away, but none worked out for various reasons.

Then they got a call about a baby boy in the hospital who needed a temporary home, with the possibility it could become permanent if he was not able to be reunited with relatives. Were they willing to take an “emergency” placement? Such a placement cannot be qualified as a fos-adopt case because nothing is known about the child’s background. So the Groths would be taking the baby, not knowing whether a family member would be located who would be able to raise him.

The baby was supposed to go home from the hospital the next day, but his preemie status and potential other health issues warranted a longer stay in a different hospital. Because of the emerging potential for family to adopt him, it was decided the baby would be placed with a foster family that wasn’t waiting to adopt, for whom it might be less painful to relinquish the child when the time came.

But Sunita and Andy were drawn to this baby. They felt the Lord had given them a name for him, and they already felt connected to him, so they assured the social workers they wanted to be his foster parents and asked to visit him in the second hospital. It took a week to get permission, but they were able to meet Gabriel on June 25, 2013. And that day, they were told there was a relative across the country who wanted to adopt him. “It was a beautiful journey with the Lord,” Sunita says now. “We wanted to love him like he was our own for as long as we had him and then release him if he was to be adopted by his relative. We wanted him to go from love to love.” Over the next week, they spent as much time as possible with him before he was discharged to their home. They would end up holding him 24/7 for six weeks because he suffered acid reflux and was simply starved for touch.

During his stay at the hospital, Sunita and Andy continued advocating to be his foster parents, even knowing he would likely end up with a family member. They even began communicating with the relative who had expressed interest in adopting the baby. But that relative was ultimately unable to, as was a second relative, so Sunita and Andy got first right of refusal, since they were already an adoptive home. In fall 2013, they met with the local extended birth family and received their blessing to adopt.

groth family 2Over the next few months, the Groths waited out the legal process as the system exhausted every opportunity to locate any family. Then, in early spring 2014, they were finally assigned a court date to finalize the adoption: May 7, 2014.

Legally a family, they celebrated with a trip to Rome and Cyprus.

Now home, they’re enjoying life as a trio. They acknowledge it wasn’t easy, but they’re grateful the Lord led them on this journey.




Foster care in the news

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This is a monthly roundup of news and blog posts about foster care and all things related. Come across an interesting article we missed? Email us:

  1. Siblings in care should be kept together. Almost two-thirds of looked-after children with siblings also in the care system are separated from them.
  2. What it takes to be a foster parent. (video) Being a foster parent is a serious commitment. It’s something Isaac and Alisha Guadalupe know well. To date, they have fostered 11 babies.
  3. Shane’s story of aging out. (video) Shane tells his story with honesty and candor, reflecting on his experience as a foster child and the profound impact it has had on his life.
  4. Bennett Chapel–Saving Children. (video) Pastor William C. Martin and his wife Donna, of Bennett Chapel Baptist Church in Possum Trot, Texas, began by adopting several hard-to-place children from the foster care system. The Martins adopted more children, and members of their congregation followed their example.
  5. For years a father figure to many at-risk kids, Russ Sullivan now hopes to adopt 3 boys. Over the years, Russ Sullivan has been a guardian to nearly two dozen teenage boys. He is now taking on the task of raising three young boys whose mother died.
  6. Wanted (and needed): Home sweet home, at any age. As CCAI continues to celebrate National Foster Care Month and highlight the stories of older youth in foster care awaiting adoptive families, they are honored to share the story of one adoption professional who also bears the title of adoptive mom: Susan Stockham.
  7. Child welfare agencies offer targeted care to troubled kids. It used to happen dozens of times each year. A deeply troubled child would rage uncontrollably, and staff members would ride out the storm with holds and restraints.
  8. From hardship to hope. “Foster care is not fun for anyone,” says 24-year-old law student Amy Peters, who entered Nebraska’s foster care system at age 12 and remained until she “aged out” at 19.
  9. Three things you should know about foster parenting. We all know that the orphan crisis is a worldwide issue, but did you know that it is impacting children in your own community? The United States foster care system cares for thousands of children every year and as a result, the need for safe, loving, and supportive foster families is greater than ever. If you are considering the possibility of engaging this need through becoming a foster parent, here are a few things to consider:
  10. Famous foster children. Here is a sampling of people who were fostered or raised by someone other than their birth parents and grew up to be successful and famous.
  11. Giving boys a bigger emotional tool box. Is America’s dominant “man up” ethos a hypermasculine cultural construct, a tenet rooted in biological gender difference or something in between? Educator Ashanti Branch doesn’t much care or, more accurately, doesn’t have time to care. He’s too busy trying to make a difference in boys’ lives.
  12. 8 phrases foster and adopted children need to hear. Abandonment, rejection, hopelessness and helplessness are profound voices in the minds of children who’ve suffered trauma and loss. These are the echoes in their minds that form their identity. During the very critical years when a child should feel the most protected, loved and nurtured these children experience overwhelming loss and upheaval. Instability breeds uncertainty which develops into deep-seated anxiety and fear.
  13. Six things I’ve learned about adoption. While I certainly can’t give ‘advice’ as (or to) an adoptive mother, perhaps a few things I’ve learned can help others whose lives have been changed, blessed, and enriched in some way through adoption – or those who aren’t quite sure how to respond to a friend or family member who has chosen to adopt.
  14. Soup kitchens and word of mouth have brought Sharon Lockwood 37 godchildren. Her godchildren aren’t part of a formal mentoring program. They didn’t come to her through a church or a government mentoring group or a grant. But somehow, in a soup kitchen or because a friend of a friend introduced them, Lockwood forged deep relationships with more than three dozen kids, many of whom grew up in D.C. public housing.

  15. Orange is the new Black’s trailblazing portrayal of foster care. From “The Blind Side” to “White Oleander,” foster care has been grossly oversimplified in TV and movies, until now.
  16. HUD report explores options for youth aging out of foster care. Even though we’re all legally adults in this country at age 18, most Americans experience a longer transition into “practical adulthood” and economic independence. And for most of us that transition is supported, often financially, by our families. Many youth aging out of foster care, however, have no family support to rely on. For them, the transition to adulthood just happens overnight when they exit the foster care system, whether they’re ready or not.
  17. Monroe Martin: Finding the funny in foster care. Comedian Monroe Martin doesn’t shy away from any subject, which includes his childhood spent in foster care. Instead of dwelling on his past, however, Martin uses it, like everything else in his life, as material for his work.
  18. Donated cars put SC foster youth on the road to independence. Frazier is one of more than 70 foster youths in South Carolina who have received a free vehicle in the past four years through the On the Road Again program.
  19. Kids who age out of foster care need ongoing support, study says. Ivery Castilloux, 23, says he might have ended up living on the streets, or worse, had he not had support from Aunt Leah’s Link program that helps young people from foster homes land on their feet after they’ve ‘aged out’ of government care.
  20. Program helps L.A. foster youth become high school grads. Unlike most of her classmates, Alicia Rodriguez’ birth parents and siblings weren’t there to see her walk across the stage. Instead, her foster mother and sister were in the crowd, along with Aguayo and Hernandez, the Los Angeles County social worker and tutor who had helped her make it to graduation.
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