‘I’ve never had real parents before. I’ve waited my entire life to be treated the way y’all treat me.’: Couple adopts 18-year-old who was ‘abandoned by his birth mother with no name’

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“From before the time I met my husband, I knew I was not the kind of person that would bear children. I knew it in my soul like I knew how to breathe. The weight of that didn’t hit me until a man showed up that wanted me for a wife. Being a pastor’s daughter with a Christian background meant marrying a nice man and bearing enough children to fill out the pew on Sunday morning, but God’s plan for me was different. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it is that most people don’t like different. My husband still chose me and chose to bear the labels placed on him as the husband of a ‘different’ woman. He never looked back on a ‘normal’ life. Shortly after our marriage, we began to volunteer at our church as youth pastors. Suddenly, our pew on Sunday morning was full of children, and it felt right.

The Hearnes Adventure Photography

We worked with students in a low-income area, most of which had sub-par parental figures. They were hurting and lost. After 3 years of marriage, we decided that Sundays and Wednesdays weren’t enough. We had to be all in. Slowly we started introducing the idea of fostering and adopting. It didn’t go well. We were met by many people who wanted to offer their advice on how we should start a family at the tender ages of 24 and 26.

‘You need to have your ‘own’ children first.’

‘Your husband needs to carry on his legacy.’

‘I would never adopt a child I didn’t raise, they have so much baggage.’

‘God will bless you with a child of your own. (insert information on infertility)’

So, like any reasonable couple in the face of that advice, we called and scheduled our classes with CPS and got a vasectomy. We chose to end our fertility to reduce the stigma that our children would be plan B or a result of not receiving our blessing from God. After we announced that we would only be taking children above the age of 13, the comments became more hateful and misguided.

‘Are you sure you don’t want younger kids? Teens will kill you in your sleep.’

‘You won’t even give your husband children; how could you raise someone else’s kids?’

‘You’re a waste of a good uterus.’

‘The best you will ever get is that a kid sees you as a mentor and then leaves the second he turns 18.’

Courtesy of Casey Douglas

This lasted for the entire 9 months it took to complete the licensing process. So many nights I went and sat in the rooms that would hold my children and I sobbed and prayed for their precious lives. I prayed they could somehow feel the love I had for them, even before we met. I would see kids and wonder if they were mine. Finally, the day came for our license to be delivered. When our new case worker showed up, she got out of the car and said, ‘So you are the people that want teenagers… are you crazy?’

I said, ‘Something like that.’

She came in and we discussed several children that were available for adoption. As she got ready to leave, she asked if we were open to fostering. I told her we wanted to be forever family, but we were open to it should an emergency take place.

She said, ‘Well, I got a phone call in your driveway for a 16-year-old male who needs a home by tonight.’

I told her, ‘Bring him home.’

My husband looked at me like I was crazy and asked if we needed to pray about it.

I told him, ‘I don’t need to pray again about the prayer God has already answered, but you are welcome to.’

His prayer went like this, ‘Lord?’ Then he looked up and said, ‘She’s right, bring him.’

After they left, I shut the door, put my back up against it, and stared at my husband in terror. ‘What have we done? We aren’t ready for this.’

I burst into tears and walked into my son’s room, finally having a name to go with the child I had prayed for. I prayed over his room and his life with us, and the tears stopped. Peace filled my heart and joy began.

Three hours later, I met my son. He came through our front door with his little fishing pole. It wasn’t in a hospital, not with hugs and kisses, but with a soft smile and a handshake. Nothing could have ever prepared me for the pain of a desperate child showing up on my doorstep. In that second I knew he was mine, and the love I had for him was completely indescribable. He was far too small to be nearly 17 and he came with two bags of clothes that were ripped, stained, or too small. I wept as I emptied his bags into my washing machine.

My son was abandoned by his birth mother at the hospital with no name, height, weight, or time on his birth certificate. There he sat for a week until family could be found to take him. He was raised by his grandmother until he was 11, and she fell ill. Over the next 5 years he was passed around and subjected to unspeakable abuse until he reached the end of the list of people who could take care of him. He called CPS and told them he was homeless and needed a place to go. His plan was to emancipate, work at Walmart, and make enough money to smoke pot and eat Ramen noodles. He had been rejected by everyone he had ever met and didn’t believe we would be any different.

Courtesy of Casey Douglas

We started to notice a change when he came home and threw himself on his bed in a puddle of tears. I sat by him and pat his back. He looked at me and said, ‘I have waited my entire life to be treated the way y’all treat me. I have never had real parents before.’

Courtesy of Casey Douglas

We fought against all odds to become family. We took custody of him less than three months after he moved in to allow CPS to step out and offer him more stability, but that meant he couldn’t be adopted. So many times he would beg for us to keep him, and so many times he tried to push us away to protect his heart. One day we got home and he burst into tears and asked me to make a promise he was sure was selfish. He said, ‘Mom, can I stay even after I’m 18, and will you promise to tuck me in even if it’s awkward?’ That was the easiest promise I could ever make to my son. He would always be ours.

Courtesy of Casey Douglas
Courtesy of Casey Douglas

While custody was fine, we all longed for more permanency. We asked to adopt him after his 18th birthday and share our last name. On January 10th, 2019, after nearly two years of waiting, he officially became ours. He took our name, and for the first time, has a mom and a dad of his very own.

As much as I hated the wait, I love that we were able to adopt him as an ‘adult.’

Tara Smith Photography
Tara Smith Photography
Tara Smith Photography

Parenthood came to us in a really unconventional way, but it has been more than I could have ever hoped for. In two years Randall has come so far and continues to grow every day. The boy whose dream was to smoke pot and get by on his own is now a new person. He will tell you, ‘I never dreamed of things like going to college or having a family, but now I have support and I am living a life I never even thought I could have.’

Photo by Katelyn Elise Moses
Photo by Katelyn Elise Moses

He is currently finishing up his junior year of high school and taking dual credit college classes. He is also an avid baseball player hoping to get picked up to play college baseball. His dream is to become a baseball player, coach, or inland fisheries scientist.

We are so thankful for the people we have met along this journey and the influence they have had on our lives. We maintain relationships with several members of Randall’s birth family that we consider family ourselves.

Photo by Katelyn Elise Moses

We continue to foster and adopt teenagers, and hope to finalize two more adoptions before the year is over. We live by the motto of, ‘It’s not about our family needing more kids, it’s about more kids needing our family.’ So when people ask how many kids we plan to have, the answer is, ‘We never planned for any.’”

Photo by Katelyn Elise Moses

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Casey Douglas of Athens, Texas. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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