Heather sent me this picture, it was the very first time they had a visit with the kids. I put my favorite question last, it's the most important. I love their story and how it came to be……...
Tell us a little about your family and why you decided to adopt from the foster system?
Before we were married, Bruce and I talked about adoption. Whether or not we could have biological children, we wanted to adopt. For us, adoption is a beautiful picture of exactly what God has done for us. He engrafts us into His family through the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. Adoption is not a man-made concept; it is the very heart of God!
Six years ago, God blessed us with the most incredible little girl. She is smart, funny, generous, and loves God even at a young age. She began asking for a sibling (a sister to be exact) and praying for one. It was then God promoted us to start our adoption journey. We briefly looked at international adoption and ruled it out for several reasons. Next, we met with private adoption agencies. Each agency had stacks of family profiles waiting to be filled and for us it was cost-prohibitive. Prior to our adoption journey, we made some decisions that radically altered our finances. We started Christ Fellowship Tampa, a church in the heart of Seminole Heights, and we went without a salary for an entire year. Each subsequent year we have given significantly to ministry and missions. We were not in a position to afford private adoption.
It was then that we turned to the foster care system. Adoption from foster care is not for everyone. There are hoops to jump through. Families wanting to adopt an infant or even young child might wait a long time. And let’s face it; children are in foster care because something has gone horribly wrong.
However, these are children who with consistency, time and a whole lot of love can and will make a transition into a healthy home. I am so glad we adopted from foster care! Beyond a shadow of a doubt, these two children were meant to be ours.
You went from a family of 3 to a family of 5, what are the 3 happiest moments you have had as a new family and the 3 most challenging moments you've had?
Well, to be honest it is like hitting a brick wall. There is a physical aspect for sure. Three times the meals, three times the baths, and three times the laundry. But, there is also an emotional and mental aspect that can be more taxing than the physical side.
This is where our most challenging moments have occurred. The abuse and neglect have impacted the children in different ways. One child is insecure and afraid of anything new. This child needs constant reassurance and prodding to try things, even fun things. The other child is angry. We have been bitten, kicked, hit, screamed and growled at. Balancing the transition of the two new children into the home, along with reassuring our firstborn daughter along the way is more emotionally draining than I thought.
Thankfully, our Christ Fellowship family has been there for us. They hosted an adoption shower, organized a meal train and have prayed for us. They have been our cheerleaders on the exhausting days and our encouragers on the difficult days. They have celebrated with us on the wonderful day. They texted us, brought us Starbucks and babysat all three kids so we can have date nights. They have loved us well!
And there have been moments we will treasure forever. Knowing their background, even the smallest movement forward is a huge victory! In the short time we have had them, they have made such huge strides. Some of our happiest moments are when the kids say, “I love you” of their own volition. Seeing the plethora of curse words drop from their vocabulary and being replaced with Bible songs and verses.
And for me personally (Heather), our daughter came into our home calling every adult female “mom.” This was even noted in the child study we read at Disclosure Meeting. It was like she spent years looking for a mom. Now, she refers to me and me alone as Mom. She found me. She found her Mom!
What was going through your mind and how did you feel after the adoption finalization hearing was over?
Of all the questions, this one is the hardest to answer. It is hard to put into words the emotions of hearing the gavel hit the Judge’s desk and knowing that Noelle and Titus are forever ours. There were the natural emotions of joy, happiness and love that have invaded our hearts over the last three months. But, for us it is so much richer and deeper than that. What happened in that courtroom was first and foremost a spiritual thing. This whole process has taught and continues to teach us about God and His great love for us.
Some of my favorite verses are:
…having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. Ephesians 1:5
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father. Romans 8:15
Our God, from your sacred home, you take care of orphans and protect widows.
You find families for those who are lonely. Psalm 68
What advice do you have for people who are deciding if adopting through the foster system is a journey they are looking to start?
First, don’t give up! We were presented with 6 different match options. We turned down 2 potential matches because of severe medical needs of the children. Neither Bruce nor I have a medical background or nursing degree. The match was just not right for us. However, for the remaining matches even though we were wiling to proceed the Match Committee chose anther family. Many times along the way, we could have given up. In fact, it was harder emotionally and mentally to continue to stay in the process. But, we preserved and now beyond a shadow of doubt we know why the previous matches never materialized. We were meant to the parents of Noelle and Titus.
Secondly, be flexible! The system has rules and procedures that at times can seem confusing or even contradictory. Ask your caseworker to explain or re-explain things if necessary. Endurance is key but so is communication.
Thirdly, be prepared! While I say that, there is no way to prepare fully. Each foster child’s background is different. And in turn, each child will respond differently to the neglect and/or abuse. So foster parents and adoptive parents are presented with a child who will not respond normally nor act in ways that are polite and mannerly. However, you can prepare yourself by reading The Connected Child. This book is widely considered to be the “bible “ for adoptive families. It has helped put so much into perspective for us. On days when our frustration level is sky high this book reminds us to extend grace and mercy to children who have never been taught nor loved properly.
What is your biggest hope and dream for these 2 new additions to your family?
We desire these two precious souls be free from their past and live a life that bears no scars of the neglect and abuse they suffered at an early age. God has created these two children in His image, so it naturally follows that He has plans for their lives--plans for a hope and future. Our greatest joy would be to see each of them embrace God’s plan and live a life wholly committed to Him.