Single foster mother, Estrellita “Essie” Bradic, is a long-time elementary school teacher and advocate for foster children. Despite the year and a half of hurdles and setbacks she experienced while finalizing her foster/adopt license, she kept going until she found her perfect match in December 2016. Today, she says fostering is a gift she almost missed and is looking forward to adopting her son.
In December 2016, I met my 7-year-old son Elijah for the first time. Today, he is the joy of my life. I know for sure that if I had given up during the year and a half it took to bring him into my home, I would have lost out on my life and wouldn’t have been blessed to help my two other foster kids Alejandro and Daniel, along the way. What I’d say to parents who start the journey to fostering and adopting, is don’t give up even when there are hurdles. The outcome is way worth it.
My journey to Elijah started with a 12-year-old-boy named Jermaine, a child I fell in love with but ultimately never met. I still remember Jermaine like it was yesterday. It was May 2015 and I was watching a program one night about foster children waiting to be adopted. My ears perked up when I heard a teenage boy talk about wanting a family. Jermaine was probably 12 years old and something about his young voice and plea for wanting a family made me want to help him. It was like a spirit speaking to me saying, “Foster care is the way.”
Still single at that time, I had pretty much given up on having a child. With most of my family being in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles and my long career of working for the City of Los Angeles in media, for several political campaigns and then going into education, I had thought having kids wasn’t in my future. But God had a plan.
The next day, I called the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), signed up for Orientation and began the process of becoming a foster parent. To this day, I’m not sure what happened with Jermaine (I hope that he got the family he wanted), but I do know that hearing him talk set me on my path to fostering, and eventually adoption.
Orientation was the beginning of the marathon of paperwork. Then, I had to attend Partnering for Safety and Permanency Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (“PS-MAPP”) foster/adopt training classes for six weeks. Shortly after enrolling in PS-MAPP, my best friend died. Since I was learning about grief and loss in my training classes, the social worker recommended I stop attending. She wanted to make sure I was emotionally ready to meet the needs of my future foster child, who would be experiencing his/her own issues from trauma like abuse, neglect or abandonment.
My best friend’s death set me back a month and a half. But I knew she would want me to continue the process, so I re-enrolled and completed the PS-MAPP training. I was assigned a new social worker, who was an angel. She helped me finalize my home study, which assesses a prospective foster/adopt parent’s psychological and social readiness to parent and gives them a chance to ask questions.
Everything was going well in my process to becoming a licensed foster/adopt parent until I learned that the criminal history portion of my application had not cleared. One of the women who provided in-home support for my mother had an incident on her record from 1975 and that was causing the delay in my license. Her daily presence in my home required her to also be finger printed and have her background checked. After five months of haggling with DCFS, I finally received my license. Getting licensed was a test of my endurance, but I knew I was in it for the long haul. A year later, DCFS let me know that my foster/adopt license for children ages 2-17 was officially approved.
At first, I only wanted children 10-12 years old. Having been a 5th grade teacher for 16 years, I was most familiar with children that age, and had seen my share of foster children in the schools where I have worked. I knew the tell-tale signs of children who are impacted by foster care in my classroom. I could tell when the child was unkempt, when there was no connection between “mother” and child. I could also tell when the racial differences were obvious, yet the child appeared to be happy and there was a warmth between “mother” and child. However, the principal at my school encouraged me to teach 2nd grade. Despite being on the fence about it, I decided to give it a try. I very quickly discovered that I liked working with younger children and developed a soft spot for children ages 4-7. I think if I had fostered older children, I would have missed out on the moments of playing tooth fairy and getting excited over Christmas. With young kids, I got a chance to mold them.
After becoming a 2nd grade teacher, my mom died. Since my mom was no longer part of the living equation, my home study had to be redone and my foster/adopt application was placed on hold again. That’s when my social worker asked if I had thought of going the foster care route. I thought, “why not?” Emotionally and mentally ready to be a foster parent, I received my first call in September 2016 about a 4-year-old named “Alejandro.” He was a joy but sadly, his placement with me only lasted two days because his grandmother was awarded kinship custody.
A month later, DCFS called with another 4-year-old boy named David. Our first month together was fine, but soon after, his parents’ absence started to impact his behavior. They would cancel visits and not call. When he did get to see them, his behavior would spiral out of control. He began wetting the bed, acting out at school, stealing and taking his anger out on me–his foster mother. He was hurt because when his mother promised him Christmas presents, she would show up with nothing. When she finally did bring him toys a month after Christmas, it was too late. With his behavior continuing to get worse and me not being able to reach him emotionally, he was removed from my home. I felt bad because my home was his fourth foster home and he would soon go to his fifth placement, but I really had no choice. My health was comprised and I was losing time at work because I had to take off and tend to his behavior at his school.
Even now I still think about David, but I know that I made the right decision for me and another foster child I met at the same time. I started arranging visits with a 7-year old boy named Elijah who would become my son. I stumbled across his photo in late December on DCFS’ Heart Gallery LA website, which is devoted to placing foster children in permanent homes. His photo jumped out at me and I couldn’t shake him from my soul. A friend mentioned that he looked like my mother and I agreed. I called DCFS the next morning and 20 minutes later heard the good news. Not only was Elijah available, but his dream of what he wanted to be when he grew up was a teacher. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect match.