“In November of 2017, I was scrolling through Instagram and saw a picture of a little boy living in an orphanage on the other side of the world. I had been following Reece’s Rainbow (an advocacy organization that provides grants for the adoption of children with special needs internationally) for a while. I had seen numerous pictures and profiles of children who were waiting to be adopted. But that day, it was different. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why it was different, but I just knew it was. There was something about this specific child that stuck out to me. I read his profile, saved his picture, sent it to my best friend with something along the lines of ‘look how precious this boy is!’ and moved on with my day. But to be honest, I never really moved on.
Throughout that year, I would find myself randomly thinking about him, going back to his post, and rereading his profile. I was always a little bit confused by it because I see tons of pictures and posts on social media every day, and I don’t give most of them a second thought… much less a third, fourth, or fifth thought. The idea of adoption had been in the back of my mind for years. Though, more of a casual thought of, ‘Yeah, maybe someday!’ At that time, I was in no place to adopt, though. I was living in a 400 square foot one-bedroom apartment with my dog in a city I had just moved to and was too young by many country’s standards to adopt internationally.
An entire year had passed and I would still randomly find myself thinking about him. I knew there was something I had to do about it, but I wasn’t sure what that was. I set an alarm on my phone for 11:30 a.m., and every day when it went off, I’d pray for him. I’d pray he would be loved, well-taken care of, and that he would find a family soon.
In the fall of 2019, I moved back to Fort Worth, Texas, where my family lives, and began working as a school nurse. It was around this time I started feeling a major shift. I couldn’t stand the idea he was still waiting for a family. Sometimes on the way to work, I would just cry for him. He needed a family. He deserved a family. He belongs in a family. This was around the first time that I had the thought… ‘Could I be his family?’
I started to realize so many things had been falling in place without me even realizing it. I now had a job that would make the day-to-day life as a single mom possible, because we’d have the same daily schedule. I was also back in the same city as my entire family, who would be an incredible support system, and I was now old enough to adopt internationally. Even before that… things had been falling into place for me to adopt him, all the way back to when I was 19 years old.
In the summer of 2013, one of my good friends had asked me to work with him at Charis Hills Camp. Charis Hills is a small camp in Sunset, Texas for children with Autism and ADHD. When he first asked me, my immediate reaction was thanks but no thanks. Out of complete ignorance, the idea of working with children with these diagnoses terrified me. Thankfully, he was persistent, and I eventually said yes. Even more thankfully, once I met the children at camp, I soon realized there was nothing to be afraid of, and that this was going to be the best summer of my life. That summer for me was completely life-changing. God became so much bigger to me that summer. I saw the way He uniquely pursues all of His children in the most incredible ways. From then on, I decided I was going to dedicate my life to children with disabilities.
That next school year, I was given the unique opportunity to provide respite care for one of the campers who lived in the same town as me. I loved my time with her so much, and I still consider her and her family to be a part of my family. I returned to camp the following summer and loved it just as much the second time as I did the first time. After that summer, I was nearing the end of my college career and had to decide what my next step would be.
One day, as I was googling nursing jobs I would be interested in for the millionth time, I came across a page that brought me to immediate tears. It said, ‘Are you about to graduate college with a nursing, social work, or special education degree? Do you feel a particular call from God to work with children with special needs and to love them as Jesus does? Apply now to gain real-world experience as a Jill’s House Fellow or Intern.’ Umm… yes to all of that! Long story short, this led me to move to Vienna, Virginia to work at a place called Jill’s House, a respite care facility for families of children with intellectual disabilities. I worked there for 2 incredible years from June 2015 to July 2017, gaining invaluable experience, as I was able to meet and care for over 100 children and their families.
In August 2017, I moved to Austin, Texas. I began working remotely for Jill’s House for the national camp program, traveling across the country to their many camp locations, training nurses. I also began providing respite for the family of a young boy. Words cannot explain how much the 2 years of working with him meant to me. His family took me in as one of their own, and I was truly able to experience and see what day-to-day life looks like raising a child with disabilities. From therapies to doctors’ appointments to hanging out at the house and going on walks. I was able to experience all of it, while also watching his parents care for and advocate for him daily. They taught me so much, and I’m forever thankful to call them my friends.
That leads us back to November of 2017. I was scrolling through Instagram and saw the picture of the child waiting for a family who I was now in the process of bringing home. One thing I didn’t mention earlier is when I first saw his profile, I remember scrolling to the bottom to see who was eligible to adopt him. It said, ‘available to single moms’ and I remember being so relieved. Even though back then, I would say I didn’t know one day I would pursue him in adoption. I think part of me knew.
At the beginning of 2020, I started really taking tangible steps to adopt him. My thought process was, ‘As long as he’s still waiting and available for adoption, I’m going to take steps to pursue him.’ I began reaching out to members of my church and close friends to talk about the idea of adoption. I honestly thought I’d be met with, ‘Are you crazy?’ or ‘How in the world are you going to do this?’ I was met with so much support, encouragement, and affirmation this is what I’m supposed to do. When I told my family, I was met with the same support, and maybe a little bit of, ‘Wait, you’re going to be a MOM?’ by a few of my sisters. The shock factor has since worn off, and everybody is incredibly excited to bring home a new family member.
So now, here I am in October of 2020, and I’m officially in the process of adopting him. I can’t believe it. At the same time, I believe it 100% because nothing else would make sense. International adoption is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a long process that requires a lot of work and patience. But I know it’s going to be worth it. Because he is worth it. I still pray for him daily, but the prayers are a little bit different now. I still pray but he’d be loved and well taken care of until I get to him, but rather than praying he’d find a family, I thank God one day soon, Lord willing, he’s going be a part of mine.
When I look back at everything that has led me to his point, it’s impossible not to see the love and faithfulness of God. I could have very easily said no to working at Charis Hills Camp. Or no to moving to Virginia to work at Jill’s House. Or no to moving to Austin. But He knew He was preparing me for something greater. When I decided to dedicate my life to children with disabilities, I had no idea one day that would lead me to my future son. God knew when I was 19 years old I was about to have my world rocked in the best of ways so one day I would be where I am today. So one day, this sweet boy would no longer be an orphan, but a loved son. I am forever thankful.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Carly Castaneda from Fort Worth, TX. You can follow their journey on Instagram and donate to their GoFundMe. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more amazing adoption stories here:
‘The lawyer called, she wanted him back and the papers were already signed. I knew we’d be saying goodbye.’: Couple credits birth mom for saving almost failed adoption, ‘The bond between us made this happen’
‘Would you be willing to adopt a baby girl?’ The day we matched, we saw two blue lines of our own. We were terrified.’: Woman surprised with pregnancy during adoption, becomes first-time mom to 2 newborns
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