They say nothing prepares you for parenthood. The same can be said, even more so, for foster parenthood. Gaile Osborne knows firsthand.
Gaile always wanted to be a mother. It was just in her. But when she and her husband, Thomas, decided it was time to start a family, they were left in shock at her infertility diagnosis.
Considering IVF and adoption, Gaile found both options prohibitively expensive. She also found the adoption agencies hyper-focused on her financial status, yet indifferent to her qualities as a parent.
“I was mad, and ‘mad’ turns me into change,” Gaile said. “I knew I needed to do something.”
In 2008, the Osbornes, who reside in Western N.C., decided to become foster parents, welcoming a four-year-old girl into their home with nothing but the clothes on her back. The little girl’s trauma was immediately evident, as she broke into tears with every tiny accident or misstep she made. Gaile was beside herself.
“Nothing prepares you for the trauma. I was just devastated that this baby had to go through this,” said Gaile, who refers to each of her foster children as her “babies.” “I remember thinking to myself in that first placement that I wanted to prepare foster parents with better training.”
She held onto that thought as she welcomed her next foster children: three brothers—a nine-month-old, a two-year old and a four-year old—who Gaile said arrived with an “alphabet soup of diagnoses.”
Even as a licensed special education teacher with a master’s in education and a focus on child behavior, Gaile was at a loss. There was no system to follow, no protocols in place. After three months, reluctant and heartbroken, her husband made the decision to place the boys in another home.
For two years, the Osbornes welcomed more foster children. But fighting to mend the pain in each child, only to say goodbye as they entered adoption or kinship placement, left Gaile emotionally exhausted. “I was tired of riding the foster parent roller coaster,” she said. Instead, Gaile and Thomas took the first steps to a lifetime commitment—adoption.
When imagining a family, Gaile always pictured a child with red hair. So, when four-year-old Sierra, with her ginger locks, and her two-year-old brother, Derek, came into their lives, it felt like fate.
During their initial respite visits, Gaile and her husband drove the children up to their home in the mountains. Sierra and Derek were in awe at the clouds resting gently on the mountaintops like blankets. One evening, as the family sat looking out at those clouds, Thomas turned to Gaile and said, “They’re ours.”