Originally published in the Spring 2012 edition of the Yellowstone Boys and Girls’ Ranch newsletter The Wrangler
Everything about the park was inviting. The trees were lush. The birds were singing. It was a pleasant, sunny summer day. The only thing out of place, had anyone noticed, was the toddler sitting in her stroller, behind a picnic table, not easily seen. There she sat alone, for hours. Her mother and father, 14 and 15 years old respectively, had little sense when it came to babies and even less attention span when it didn’t involve their own immediate impulses and interests.
Their baby Josie was “forgotten” while they left and went about their day. Maybe it was the marijuana they smoked regularly. Maybe it was too much beer. They didn’t remember leaving her at the park until they returned home later that afternoon and the grandparents asked where was Josie? When they rushed back to the park, there she was, still strapped in her stroller, wide awake, but not crying. She was chilled, hungry and wet, but she didn’t cry. What good would tears do when no one listened?
This incident and several others eventually led to the parents’ loss of custody of Josie. Since the grandparents were unable to take responsibility for their granddaughter, Josie was turned over to the state for foster care placement. Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch was soon given the task of placing her with one of its therapeutic foster families. Meanwhile, hearts were being prepared in another part of town: “My wife, Allie, came to me one day and suggested the idea of doing foster care,” Christian LeFer said. “Oh good, I thought to myself! More chaos!” he said with a chuckle. They decided to enroll in rigorous therapeutic foster care classes offered by Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch.
Christian and Allie knew a couple who was already doing foster care through Yellowstone and was preparing to formally adopt a foster son. Christian and Allie decided they wanted to follow their example. They had two extra bedrooms. So, why not? One of the first children they learned about was Josie. “We were told she would be placed with us by the state for at least a year,” Christian said. “Even getting into foster care was scary because we knew we’d eventually have to say goodbye. We knew it would be difficult, but we said ‘yes.’”
They began preparing for Josie’s arrival by creating her own bedroom. They called it her “princess bedroom” because of the pink curtains and matching bedding. They couldn’t wait to show it to Josie when she arrived. Once she arrived, they soon learned that she had some very special needs. First of all they noticed that Josie had a need to touch everything in a room when she’d come into it. She would carefully go around and touch the desk, the objects on the desk, the tables, the chairs, everything! And she’d ask questions about each item and who it belonged to.
Before being placed in their home, Josie had spent much of her first two and a half years in some sort of restraint, such as a car seat, a stroller, even a dog kennel. Her counselor explained to the LeFers that her severe
limitations on being able to connect with her world outside the restraints caused her to become hyper vigilant about wanting to touch and mentally connect with surroundings that for so long she had been unable to reach.
Josie had also developed a keen memory, and even to this day remembers minute details of her infancy before coming to Christian and Allie’s home. Usually people are unable to remember much, if anything from their early years. Christian and Allie soon learned that Josie vividly remembered events that happened to her, even though she was only two and a half years old.
Just as Allie and Christian were helping Josie settle into her new home and get comfortable with two older brothers (that were already Allie and Christian’s), they received a call from the state that after only 10 days at their home, Josie would be moved to a new placement the very next day. They learned that the new placement would be cheaper for the state – a non therapeutic foster family, which would save the state a couple of hundred dollars a month. Christian and Allie were crushed. Their sons were confused. Josie was inconsolable. Christian was on the road for work, so he didn’t even have the chance to say goodbye. The next day when the social worker picked up Josie and her things it felt like the saddest day of their lives. Allie said, “I cried and Brenda (Yellowstone’s Foster Care Director) cried with me.”
They said they left Josie’s room just as she left it. “We didn’t have to change it right away, so we just closed the door and left it alone,” Allie said. “We couldn’t bring ourselves to change it. It was too painful.” That was in April of 2010. By July, Allie and Christian received a miraculous call. It was YBGR calling – about Josie. Would they consider taking Josie back into their home? Unable to adjust, Josie had “bounced” from two foster homes she’d gone to since leaving their home. Allie and Christian didn’t need to discuss it. Of course the answer was yes!
When her social worker arrived at the LeFer home, Josie marched down the hall and right to her room, opened the door, and said, “This is my room! Those are my curtains! This is my bed!” The little girl, at only 3 years-old, displayed a sense of confidence and knowing, as if she had ALWAYS known, she’d eventually get back to the LeFers.
On February 6, 2012, Josie was officially adopted by Christian, Allie and their other three children. Josie’s life story has taken some dramatic turns, but she now has the confidence in knowing that her future with the LeFers is for keeps.