My name is Tim, and I want to tell you our adoption story. We were scared. We didn’t know what to expect. But, we trusted in God’s plan, and he felt our fears, heard our prayers, and stitched our family together in His timing.
I married my beautiful wife, Sara, October 8, 2011. From the beginning, we always said we wanted to adopt a child. Little did I know how quickly she had planned to move forward. One evening while we were watching television after a long day of cleaning pools in the Arizona heat, Sara turned to me and said “So what are we waiting for? Do you want to look into adoption?”
I was not expecting to have that conversation so soon, and a flood of emotions and thoughts began sweeping through my mind like a wall of water rushing through a desert wash.
Am I ready to be a dad? How will this affect our current family dynamic? Can we afford to feed another person? Can we afford the adoption fees? I haven’t even gotten a dog yet!
You see, as far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a dad. It was more than just a desire, it was a dream. Every fiber in my being wanted to be a dad. To coach little league. To tell stories. To teach them how to ride a bike. To teach my son how to treat a woman like she was the only one left on earth, and to teach my daughter to never settle for any man who wouldn’t treat her that way.
My desire to be a dad flooded my mind, the fears quickly went away (for now), and we went to work planning.
THE PLANNING STAGE OF FOSTERING
That night, we turned off the television, and did what most curious folks would do….opened up Google and searched “how to adopt a child.” We quickly learned that if you adopt from the state foster care system, there are no adoption fees. Well, there went my biggest concern!
We found a Foster/Adoption information class and immediately signed up. We went excited and nervous but with our minds made up that we were only interested in the adoption process. While at that class we learned the next step was to pick a foster and adoption agency. We chose Arizona Baptist Children’s Services and after an interview, we started taking the required PSMAP classes in order to receive our adoption license.
While in the PSMAP classes, we learned about the dire need for foster parents in Arizona. We learned that there were 19,000 children in the foster care system in Arizona (closer to 21,000 now). We heard stories of over-populated group homes, babies sleeping in DCS offices, siblings being separated, etc. That first night of a 10 night training my wife and I drove home completely heart-broken for these children.
I did not mention wanting to foster to my wife after that initial informational meeting because she said she didn’t think she could get attached and then have to give the kids back. If we were going to start fostering children, God was going to have to change my wife’s heart. To my surprise, on the drive home that first night, my wife turned to me and said “We need to become foster parents and help!” I immediately agreed and our whole focus on the PSMAP classes changed.
When we went into foster care our plan was to take in children, form a good bond with the biological parents, share Jesus with all of them, then return the children to their parents. In the foster system, the state requires parents to do certain things to get their kids back, and every situation is different. Our hope and prayer was to continue a relationship with the children and their parents once they were returned. Unfortunately in some ways, that was not God’s plan for our first placement.
THE DAY HARMONY ARRIVED
On September 19, 2014 we opened our front door to a beautiful 11 month old African American girl named Harmony. From the second Sara opened the door Harmony extended her hands pointing to Sara to be held by her. And just like that, our hearts melted.
A couple weeks later our DCS caseworker showed up for the first time to check on Harmony and to answer any questions we had as well as tell us what the case plan was going to be. We told her our goals and plans of co-parenting and forming a good relationship with Harmony’s biological parents. We were immediately told that, in Harmony’s situation, it would not be a good idea to co-parent. Harmony had a very rough and traumatic 11 months on this earth; the details would break your heart, so I will spare you. It was not in her best interest to try and co-parent. She still went on visits to see her biological mom but that was the only contact she was to have with her, and those visits were supervised by the DCS caseworker.
We were also told at that time the Harmony’s bio-mom was pregnant and asked if we would be willing to take in her newborn sister once she was born. Without hesitation we agreed and anxiously awaited her arrival.
ARTAISHA & THE BATTLE TO ADOPT THE GIRLS
On January 27, 2015, Artaisha was born; Two days later, she was brought to our home from the hospital. We had grown from a family of two to four in just four months! Harmony was a great big sister, and our lives felt complete.
The caseworker was certain that this case would not result in reunification and that we were the girls’ best chance at living a normal and healthy life. Even though those were the thoughts of the Department of Child Safety, they were still required to try and find a suitable kinship placement for the girls.
At last count, we went through 39 family members. And with each one, our hearts feared losing the girls. In the end, no suitable kinship placement was found.
There were frustrations with the lack of information coming from the state. The caseworkers (we had 3 over that span of time) tried their best but they were often overworked with upwards of 60 different cases on their plates..
What seemed worse than the lack of information was the amount of misinformation we were given. A lot of times the information we were told was only partially true or not true at all. We learned real quick to just roll with the punches and remain as flexible as possible.
In September of 2016 we went to our Severance Trial. The next two days turned into a roller coaster of emotions for my wife and me. After those two days there was nothing left to do but pray and wait for the judge to make his ruling.
In November, right before Thanksgiving, we received the news that we had been praying for. The judge finally ruled that Harmony and Artaisha were set to officially be a Jennings. However, under state law, their biological mom had 15 days to appeal the judge’s ruling. And on the 15th day, she did just that. We were scared that we were going to lose our girls.
We waited as patiently as possible, and a few months later the judges on the appeals panel finally upheld the ruling. The girls biological mom decided not to appeal again and all that was left was to wait for our court date to officially sign the documents and have a final judge make it official.
On July 5, 2017 Harmony and Artaisha officially became Jennings’. The three year wait was over. God had finally allowed our family to become officially complete.
Over the span of nearly three years fostering Harmony and Artaisha, it was not always a fun and easy process.
SO WHAT WOULD I SAY TO PEOPLE WHO ARE INTERESTED IN FOSTERING?
It is a long and frustrating process but the kids are worth it. They need someone to stand up for them. They need someone to protect them. But most of all, they need someone to show them that unconditional love is possible.
TO THOSE WHO SAY “I COULD NEVER DO THAT. I WOULD GET WAY TOO ATTACHED.”
Yes, you get attached. And if the judge ruled differently, it would have crushed Sara and me. However, we are grown adults. We can maneuver through our emotions. These are kids who don’t know what it is like to be loved. A child experiencing love for quite possibly the very first time is well worth the potential pain you might experience.
TO THOSE LOOKING TO ADOPT: CONSIDER ADOPTING THROUGH THE FOSTER SYSTEM IN YOUR STATE.
You do not have to foster to adopt these children. There are thousands of children in your state who have already had their parental rights severed. I am not saying private adoption or international adoption is a bad thing! There is a place for every child throughout the world who needs a home to be adopted but please consider the thousands of children in your own state right now who are just sitting there waiting for a forever family to show them that they are loved. And in the vast majority of states, if not all, adopting a child from the foster care system is free! There is no need to raise money.
TO THOSE WHO WANT TO HELP WITH THE FOSTER CARE EPIDEMIC GOING ON IN OUR COUNTRY RIGHT NOW BUT CAN’T FOSTER OR ADOPT:
That’s ok too! We wrote an article giving some incredible ideas on how you can get involved and make a difference!
Our prayer at ChurchPress is to help end the orphan epidemic going on in our country and around the world. We would love to connect with you to see how we can help you and your church minister to orphans and foster families. Contact us today to talk about ways we can partner with you!