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Katie Page’s marriage ended in her early 30s. She’d later describe this period as the most difficult time in her life. “I remember literally looking in the mirror one day and sobbing at the woman I saw,” she said. “I knew I was not the woman my heart desired to be.” Even though she had built her life in Alabama, she knew she needed to start over.
Katie decided to make a brave new start by leaving her life and career in Alabama behind to seek out an opportunity in Colorado.
A new job and a new home
A graduate of Duke University, Page was able to land a job as an integrated service manager at GE Johnson, a construction company.
She also purchased a four-bedroom home, which she describes as a “fixer-upper.” It was far from ideal, but she felt she was on the right path.
Her friends were puzzled by her decision to buy such a big house, but Katie knew it was made for more. “Though I really didn’t know what ‘more’ meant at the time,” she said.
The job was going well, and so were the renovations on her new house. Still, she couldn’t help feeling like something was missing. Katie just wasn’t fulfilled. One day, while checking her email, she came across a message from the pastor at her church.
It was an email about an upcoming informational session about foster care. For some reason, it caught her interest and she decided she wanted to attend.
People had their doubts
Her parents and friends were skeptical. Was she really ready to take on so much responsibility? Was she signing up for more heartbreak? Even though her mom had concerns about her daughter juggling so many things, she decided to attend the session with her daughter.
“What I heard that evening about foster care gave me chills and scared me, but it also pulled at my heart in a way I couldn’t stop thinking about,” Katie said.
The foster-to-adopt process
Foster care is encouraged for potential parents who are considering adoption. The program gives these future parents the chance to experience caring for children of different ages before adopting a child permanently, while helping a family in desperate need.
In Colorado, as in many other states, adoption through foster care is done through either a private or county agency. After someone attends a foster care orientation and decides they want to be a foster parent, they must undergo a rigorous application and training process.
Making the leap
After lots of consideration, Katie finally decided to become a foster parent for traumatized children. She completed her application on Mother’s Day, in 2015. Shortly thereafter, she was given a young child to look after as a temporary placement.
Within a year, she had cared for a total of four children. While caring for the fourth child, a 13-month-old boy, she told the caseworker she would be open to permanently adopting a child through the system’s foster-to-adopt program.
An opportunity arises
It wasn’t long before she received a life-changing phone call. Her caseworker told her about a newborn boy who’d been abandoned at the hospital. Sadly, he’d been exposed to drugs before birth, but luckily, he wasn’t showing signs of withdrawal. “Give me five minutes and please don’t call anyone else,” Katie told the caseworker.
She quickly called her mother and asked her to spend a few months living at her house. Katie’s mother agreed to help out, so Katie called the caseworker back and, within 24 hours, she brought home a 4-day-old child.
A boy without a name
Because the mother left just hours after he was born, the newborn was dubbed “Baby Boy” by the hospital staff. Fortunately, Katie already had a perfect name in mind — she decided to name him Grayson, since it was through God’s grace that she finally had a son, or so she hoped.
The road from fostering a child to adopting one is complicated. The courts often prefer for the child to end up with their biological parents or a family member when possible — foster care is supposed to be temporary while the parents straighten things out.
The next year was stressful
While Katie cared for Grayson, the foster system sought out his biological parents. Ads were posted in the newspaper, but no one responded, and no one returned to the hospital claiming to be the parents. Katie was cautiously optimistic — she hoped to get permanent custody of Grayson.
“Part of me was relieved that no one came forward, so that he would be mine forever with no opposition,” she said. When Grayson turned 11 months old, it became official — he was Katie’s son.
Even though Grayson didn’t show signs of withdrawal, he was still affected physically and developmentally from his time in the womb. Katie knew she wanted to expand the family, but she wanted to give it some time before she brought home another child.
She got a few calls about short-term placements but something told her she wasn’t ready yet. Then, two weeks after the adoption of Grayson became official, she got a phone call that would change everything …
It was from her caseworker. At first, the caseworker inquired about how well things were going with Grayson’s adoption, then they told Katie a familiar story. There was a four-day-old girl at the same hospital where Grayson had been born that needed emergency placement.
Like Grayson, the child was suffering from exposure to substances in the womb. “I could feel the fear inside me and the chills in my body,” Katie said. “Something was different about this one. I know over the next 10 minutes and subsequent phone calls I made that afternoon, the phrase ‘I know I am crazy, but God is telling me to say “YES”’ kept coming out of my mouth.”
A temporary home
Just four hours after the phone call, Katie brought a little girl home. “Her drug exposure and medical condition was identical to Grayson’s, so I thought to myself ‘You can do this, you have done it before.’” That wasn’t the only similarity.
The mother’s first name on the little girl’s bracelet was the same as Grayson’s biological mother. The date of birth the mother gave was only one day off from the one Grayson’s biological mother had given. Katie and her roommate looked at each other in disbelief.
Katie had her suspicions
Immediately, Katie called Grayson’s caseworker and expressed her concerns. Could Grayson and “Baby Girl” have the same mother? The caseworker thought it was unlikely. Despite the similarity in the situation, the two babies appeared to have little in common.
“Grayson is half African-American with beautiful darker skin and dark curly hair,” Katie said. “Baby Girl has a pale white skin tone with straight red-blonde hair. From first glance the children looked nothing alike.” Katie started calling the little girl Hannah.
Digging up more information
Even so, the similarities sparked Katie’s curiosity. She wanted to find out any information she could about Hannah’s mother. According to the caseworker, the mother wanted to regain custody of the little girl and was interested in visiting.
They did some calculations and determined that based on Grayson and Hannah’s ages, it was possible, though unlikely, that Hannah could have been conceived shortly after Grayson was born. Though she was nervous, Katie agreed to meet with Hannah’s biological mother.
The first meeting
Katie was shaking at the prospect of meeting her foster daughter’s birth mother and the potential discovery she might make. She didn’t have to wait long to get her answer. “When we finally were introduced, I knew instantly I was looking at my own son’s birth mom,” Katie said.
The conversation went well, and Hannah’s biological mother admitted to have given birth to more children than the county had accounted for. “Part of me wanted to just blab it all out in that moment and reveal this huge secret,” Katie said. But she kept her cool.
Katie was sympathetic to the woman
“We only spent about 5 minutes together at that first visit and she was so pleasant and open with me,” Katie said about the woman she suspected of being the biological mother of both her children. “She had brought me candy and a gift for Baby Girl. She gave me small insights into her life that broke my heart. She was beautiful just like my son.”
Even though this woman had left Grayson behind at the hospital, Katie couldn’t help but be moved by her story and wanted to help in any way that she could.
Her caseworker still wasn’t convinced
Katie was excited to share the information she’d discovered with her caseworker. After some conversation, the caseworker agreed to meet with Hannah’s biological mother. At this time, Katie says, she still thought Katie was crazy. But all that was about to change …
Right after the meeting concluded, the caseworker called Katie back. Finally, she was convinced. ‘“Katie, I think you’re right!” she said. “Her story breaks my heart and I can’t believe it but I am 90% sure you are right and this is a miracle.” She was able to further confirm their suspicions when she found out the last name the biological mother had given for Hannah matched the last name of a relative’s given for Grayson.
A DNA test confirmed it
Of course, Katie had to know for sure. Sure enough, a DNA test confirmed what she already knew — Hannah and Grayson were brother and sister. Katie’s mind often races when she thinks about how things could have turned out differently.
“What if I had said no?” Katie asked herself. “What if Baby Girl had gone to another family?” She shudders to think about what could have happened if she hadn’t listened to her heart. “My brain was telling me to say ‘no’ because it made no sense and was not in my plans, but something inside kept saying you have to say ‘YES.’”
Hannah became part of the family
Katie was now more determined than ever. She took it as a sign from God — these two siblings had somehow found each other, and Katie knew she had to keep them together. Soon after, she got her wish and was able to officially adopt Hannah.
“(Hannah) is the opposite of Grayson,” Katie Page told Good Morning America. “He loves to chill and she’s a wild thing.” But this incredible story doesn’t end here …
Plans for the future
Katie still has a lot more love to give, and so do Hannah and Grayson. Incredibly, she’s now fostering another younger sibling from the same biological mother, who was born 13 months after Hannah. Katie hopes the baby boy will also become a permanent member of their family.
“I was a single woman in a four-bedroom house and now every room in my house is full,” Page told Good Morning America. “It’s never dull. People ask me all the time, ‘How do you do it?’ I never thought I’d have three babies, but God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”
There are many kids that still need help
Things seem to be going well for Hannah, Grayson, and their younger sibling, but there are still many children struggling to find temporary and permanent homes. While caseworkers try their best, the system is strained and overcrowded.
Currently, there are around 443,000 children in foster care in the United States. Of these, 60% of children are in the system two to five years before they’re permanently adopted. In addition, 20% remain in the system even longer, while some never get adopted at all. Sadly, these are often children that need the most help.
Agencies have a hard time finding permanent homes for children over 8 years old. Any child who enters the foster care system has endured some form of trauma — often the older children have endured sustained trauma over a long period of time.
Kids with special needs and/or physical and developmental disabilities often spend a long time waiting for a match. Children in foster care come from all different backgrounds, as do foster parents.
Eligibility requirements vary from state to state, but in most cases, you can become a foster parent as long as you’re an adult with a clean criminal record, home, and stable finances.
Potential parents have to be able to prove they’re capable of caring for a child 24 hours a day without relying on the financial stipend to cover their own expenses. They must also meet with representatives to determine whether their home is safe and that they are equipped to care for a child in need.
Types of foster care
There are several different forms of foster care, including traditional care, emergency care, short-term care, medical care, and more. Matches are made based on the potential parent’s experience and the child’s specific needs.
Most foster parents consider it one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives, but it’s not easy. The first step in becoming a foster parent is to contact an agency and attend an orientation.
Becoming a foster parent
After an initial meeting, where potential parents are given reading material and forms for the application process, a home assessment is typically the next step. A representative from the agency will have to make sure a potential parent’s home is clean and safe, as well as determine what kind of care would be best suited for the parents.
Once a criminal background check goes through, additional training is completed, and references are contacted, the agency will issue a license for the foster parent and begin contacting them with possible matches.