The Children's Institute Blog

The Waits Family's Project STAR Story

Posted: Oct 06, 2017 by The Children's Institute

Pittsburghers Todd and Liz Waits first went to a Project STAR information session about foster care in 2012. Less than a year later, Nathan arrived.

He was their first placement and different from their biological son, Connor, just one month younger, in some ways – black to the family’s white, short to the family’s tall, and with a number of medical complexities, including a heart transplant, previous stroke, and ongoing seizure disorder.

None of that mattered.

“I try not to be cheesy but the second Nathan walked into the room, there was instant acceptance,” Todd said. “[Connor and Nathan] treat each other as brothers, too. He is just a part of the family. There’s no sense of ‘other.’”

“Nathan’s never like ‘Where did I come from?’” he added. “He’s never said anything about it being weird for him. It’s normal.”

Seven months after they started foster care with Nathan, the Waitses adopted him.

“It was right for us to take him in,” Liz said. “The following seven months there was a lot going on. Between learning how to be foster parents, while being foster parents, trying to bond with a kid who has experienced more trauma in his little, three-year-old life then I ever have – it was a rollercoaster, to say the least.”

What differs about adoptions like Nathan’s compared to those from a generation or two ago is that adoptive families often keep a biological parent or parents in the loop about the child’s life. Such is the case with Nathan and his birth mother, Lolene.

“It became very apparent to us that even though Nathan was a foster kid for nearly his entire life, the only consistent person he had was his birth mom,” Liz said. “As our love grew for him, it also grew for her. How could it not? When we hug her she feels like him, and when we see her she makes facial expressions like him. Also, they love each other!”

It’s been about four years now since Nathan arrived. The Waitses feel they might consider fostering again – but, for now, they want to focus on their immediate family.

“We want to make sure [Nathan] knows there’s absolute permanence here,” Todd said.

“A lot of people will say – in a thoughtful way – that Nathan is lucky to have us,” Liz added. “But we feel the very opposite. He didn't get to choose his life and circumstances he was born into. None of us do. Nathan has experienced a lot. I wouldn't call him lucky; I would call him very strong. We are lucky to get to be his parents, and get the privilege of seeing him grow up with his brother and see what kind of people they grow up to be.”

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