When Love Walked In
As lawyer John Cord and his wife, Kelly, were working their way through their bucket list, they decided it was time to open their doors to a foster child
Published in 2018 Maryland Super Lawyers magazine on December 12, 2017
As my wife, Kelly, and I were checking off our bucket list—education, travel, first house—it felt like time to do something more. Like foster. The credit for this decision, like many things, belongs to my wife. She has a level of empathy that I know will be forever out of reach. When she was younger, she babysat for a family that fostered, and she always knew that if she ever had the means, she would do it.
We were eager to help a child in need; and excited, like any expectant parent, to turn our comparatively unencumbered lives upside down. We filled out forms, took classes, bought a fire extinguisher and had our home inspected. And then we waited. It was a long process, but the waiting was the hardest part. Then it happened. We got our first child, a 6-week-old boy. He was dropped off at our home, straight from hospital discharge due to suspicious, serious injuries. This little baby, his arm bandaged, was completely and totally dependent on us. Kelly and I looked at each other, each afraid to lift him from his carrier. Not only was he a baby (neither of us had much practical experience with babies), but his injuries made him look even more fragile. I put on a brave face, unbuckled him and cradled him. After an intense four months as first-time parents, he went home with a relative. We cried.
But we were hooked. There was more waiting—another two months, and then another baby; a 7-week-old girl. We knew she would likely go back to family. That is, after all, the point of foster care—to reunite the child with birth parents or relatives. When that didn’t happen, as weeks turned into months, we started to hope she would stay with us forever. Months turned into years, and we fell completely in love with her. On Nov. 17, 2012, National Adoption Day, three years after she came to us, we assembled in the Baltimore city circuit courthouse and formalized what we previously thought was unlikely: We were parents, officially and legally. That day ranks as the happiest of my life.
She’s now 8 and the oldest of our three kids. She loves candy, has perfect penmanship, aces her spelling tests and is incredibly headstrong. Though we’ve fostered a few other children over the years, they were all very temporary. In our blended family, we talk frequently about the adoption and her birth mother. She is incredibly insightful, and her emotions regarding the adoption are complex. We know that her feelings will develop and evolve as she grows, and our goal is to help her along the way.
When people find out we’ve fostered, we usually hear, “I could never do that.” The “that” being giving a child “back.” They think they could never handle the moment when you must let that child go, and live on hope that he or she will be safe. But it’s the right thing to do. And without foster parents, what options would those children have? For our first baby, we were able to give him a good life after a rocky start. We don’t know how he’s doing, but we celebrate his birthday every year.
And you know what? Anyone can do it. In mid-2017, there were 4,636 children in out-of-home placement in Maryland. In Baltimore City alone, there is an average of 112 kids put into the system monthly. Each of those kids needs a family immediately. Sometimes foster families are temporary, sometimes permanent, but they are always critical. Fostering a child is a life-changing experience—for you, and for someone who needs it more.