“Through a series of events, my husband and I became aware it would be next to impossible to have biological children. Infertility sucks and it hurts in ways so unimaginable! When you want nothing more in life than to be a parent, it tears at the fabric of your soul, and you believe lies about yourself and your situation. It’s exhausting! We waded through the filth of it all for over 6 years before we realized maybe we were being allowed to experience this for a greater good.
My husband felt through it all we would ‘be given someone else’s children.’ When he’d say that to me, in the midst of our infertility pain, I felt such anger. Those just weren’t words nor a situation I was wanting to hear anything about. Then one afternoon, everything changed. One day, I found myself standing in front of a friend, a woman who experienced infertility herself. She has walked through miscarriages, has given birth biologically, and has adopted both domestically and internationally. This woman is amazing, my hero in so many ways, and she heard my pain. She said something that echoes in my mind to this day. She said she believed certain people have been allowed (by life’s design) to experience infertility to have their hearts and eyes opened to the orphan.
Mind blown, heart pounding, tears welling, adrenaline rushing — as she spoke, I knew this was me, this was us. We were the people she was speaking of. All of the years and pain and agony of wanting to be parents was not in vain. There was a greater purpose in it all and I wasn’t made aware of it until now. She spoke to me so kindly and directly, ‘Let’s say it’s in the cards for you to have children biologically but it’s not for five more years. Do you want your arms to be empty for five more years?’ ‘NO!’ the word leaped from my belly and flew from my mouth faster than I had time to think!
I felt what she was giving me was permission to see my situation from a different perspective. Instead of viewing myself as a victim of my circumstances, I had power over them. I’m in the driver’s seat and I can make something happen here and now! There were children, so many of them out there, waiting for a mama and a daddy, and here we stood, a mama and a daddy waiting for children. It was a moment I’ll never forget as long as I live.
Soon after, we began looking into all the adoption options. We looked into international first and then domestic but both of those led us right back to our own backyard in Arizona for a few reasons. It seems so cold and awkward to talk about it this way, but it’s the truth — adoption is just so expensive! While I understand why, I just hate that giving a child a home or not ultimately comes down to money for some. If we had the money, we would have gladly used it to bring home a child that way but we didn’t, and that led our attention elsewhere… to the children in foster care.
We didn’t realize how great the need was to provide homes for the children in our state’s care until we looked. At the time, in 2013, our state had somewhere around 13,000 kids in care and in 2020, it’s close to 20,000. Obviously, the need was great and we found ourselves in a position to help. Also, because the children are in the care of the state, the cost to adopt — should their case plan lead that way — is covered by the state. I think it’s important to note this because I’ve talked to many people over the years who tell me they’d love to bring a child into their home but they don’t have the money to do so. If that’s the only thing standing in the way of you giving a wanting child a loving home, please know it doesn’t have to be that way. Look into your state’s foster care system for more information on how you can be a help to these deserving children.
We found a licensing agency, went through the process and became licensed foster parents in June 2013. One of the many things you learn when going through the classes to be a licensed foster parent is how important it is you ‘know your family.’ In other words, the state wants you to be aware of your unique capabilities and limitations when it comes to bringing children into your home. What ages are you comfortable with? Do you have a preference for gender, ethnicity, disabilities, drug exposure, high needs, siblings groups, etc? It’s vital you know and understand what you’re comfortable with because once the state places you with a child or children, they want to make sure the child or children are in a safe space they can stay in and not disrupt from.
With this as our understanding and being new to the whole parenting gig, we knew we only wanted to take in children (any gender, ethnicity, drug exposure) up to 2 years of age. It’s what we felt we were comfortable with and could handle mentally right out of the gate, but we were licensed by the state to house two children from newborn to 6 years of age.
One Sunday afternoon, I received a call from the state asking us to take in an emergency placement of a sister and brother, 5 years and 11 months respectively. Knowing our family and what we felt comfortable with at the time, I said no to the placement. It killed me inside to do it but I knew it was better to say no now than to say yes out of guilt and disrupt the child from our home. The state told me they were going to try and keep the kids together but if they couldn’t they may call me back to place the 11-month-old with us. Days went by and I didn’t hear anything. I didn’t expect to either — with so many foster families and children to place, the odds of receiving the call for the same child were slim to none.
Later that week, I received a call to place an 11-month-old boy. They told us his name was Braxton and they would be at our house in an hour if we were able. This was the moment I had been waiting for my whole life. I was finally going to be a mother! I didn’t know for how long but in that present moment, it didn’t matter. All I knew was there was a baby on the other side of town and he needed me. I was ready!
Soon enough, our doorbell rang, and in walked two DCS workers and a baby carrier. They stepped into my living room, turned the baby carrier around, and my eyes fell to the most precious human I’d ever laid eyes on. There, with the most stunned and saddened expression, sat a tiny red-headed baby boy. They pulled him out of his seat and impulsively I reached for him. They handed him to me, my arms empty no more.
Instantly my fears and worries if I was going to be enough for the children in foster care were silenced. Here was a face to the name ‘foster child’ and he was beautiful and worthy of so much more than what he was experiencing. As I held him, I began to zone in on the details and piece together his reality from my observations. The onesie he was wearing was filthy and on backward, his shorts soaking wet from the full diaper underneath, the bottoms of his bare feet filthy, and his red hair matted sticky to one side of his head. He hadn’t been cared for attentively and it broke me. He cradled a half-eaten bottle and a stuffed blue dolphin half his size tightly to his chest. As I held him, it was not lost on me how eerily quiet he was. He didn’t cry, scream, or try to escape my embrace. He just sat in my lap pressed close to my chest and he watched… watched me, my husband and the caseworker unfold what would be next for him.
We sat at my kitchen table and talked with the caseworker about the details of his case, what was going on, and what to expect moving forward. That’s when she told us he had been in the state’s care since birth and living with a friend of mom’s, how it was a bad situation all around, and why they moved him immediately from her care. She told us he had a 5-year-old sister currently with the grandparents. They had just found out mom was pregnant and they were going to request at the next court hearing that her parental rights be severed. They would all be up for adoption and if we were thinking about adopting through foster care, this could be an option and very quickly at that.
These were the kids I said no to on Sunday! I was stunned by what my ears heard and instantaneously, my heart expanded so fully it pushed my fears out of the way. I knew with every fiber of my being, we had to take in his 5-year-old sister and the baby when the time came.
Three weeks later, Brax’s sister, Birdie, came home to us and in November that same year, Brooks was born and came home to us. About a year later, in October 2014, their adoption was finalized and the next month, we found out mom was pregnant again!
It was a warm November evening 2014. We had just finalized Birdie, Brax, and Brooks’ adoption the month before and we were settling into our new life as a household of legal McLennans. We were on cloud nine, enjoying the honeymoon period of our new family. The dramatics and uncertainty of the Foster Care system was a thing of the past and we had the certainty of each other fresh within our hearts.
On this particular November evening, I picked up my phone while lying in bed to mindlessly scroll, and I thought to myself, ‘Hmm, I wonder what she’s up to.’ She being their biological mother. We’d silently search her page from time to time to keep up to date on her whereabouts and to pull any baby pictures off her profile and tuck them away for the kids to have in their personal files. They have zero baby pictures and we’d like to give them as much as we can when they ask for it. As I came across her public profile, I saw an image I thought for sure was a mistake. As I looked closer to the details, it wasn’t until my eyes caught the date marked on this particular photograph I realized this honeymoon period was about to be over. I knew in my heart we were going to experience this all over again at some point in the distant future because what I saw was the sonogram picture of baby number 4.
My heart sunk and leaped all within the same beat. Leaped because there was a baby and babies are always a blessing. Sunk because she had only recently had her parental rights terminated for the three children sleeping in the rooms down the hall from me. It was my very valid concern this unborn baby would soon encounter the same tragedy my sweet three babies did. In that moment, I prayed the first desperate prayer of many like it to come. ‘Lord bless that baby. I pray her mother can heal but Lord if things go wrong I pray you make that baby to us. Somehow, someway send that baby to her siblings.’ That is the exact prayer I echoed for the 20 months leading up to one of the most life-changing text messages I’d ever received.
Bio-mom ended up moving. We lost touch, but never forgot that wonderful baby and wondered under what circumstances would she come into our lives.
Through our time as foster parents, many of our friends would ask questions about what it was like. We would sit in their houses over dinner and tell our story. We would hold their hands, pray with them as they soul-searched asking…
‘How did you know you could do it?’ We didn’t. We just took it one day, one step at a time.
‘What if you fall in love with the kid(s) and they leave?’ All healthy attachment is good attachment, even if it has to end, but if we love them and they have to leave, we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
In August of 2015, we picked up our family, three kids, a dog, and two cats, and moved to Frisco, Texas. We would consistently get phone calls and text messages from friends in Arizona telling us about the kids they were placed with. We did our best to help navigate the ups and downs of the system. How to be the best advocate for the kids in your care. How to co-parent. We spent time on the phone with friends of friends answering questions and advocating for the children in this broken system. In May of 2016, we got a call from one of our best friends they had been placed with a BEAUTIFUL one-year-old girl and we HAVE to meet her next time we come to Arizona for a visit. Two weeks later, I get a text message from this same friend, ‘What’s your kids’ Bio-Mom’s name?’
It all rushed together in my mind faster than lightning! Out of 20,000 kids in the Arizona foster care system, our BEST FRIENDS have been placed with our kids’ sister. Unbeknownst to us or the Department of Child Services, that little baby I have been secretly praying for the last 20 months was in foster care in my best friends’ home. We spent the next 4 months figuring out how to move back to Arizona. By October 2016, we had returned and on April 1, 2017, Blake came home to stay.
Those friends, who nurtured and cared for our little girl during the most impactful and critical time of her life, are now aunt and uncle to all of our kids. Their older son is our kids’ hero. Because of Blake’s impact on their lives, they have started a non-profit, Giving Sole, buying brand new shoes for kids in foster care. They have given away 600+ pairs of shoes and their 12-year-old son writes a handwritten message to every single recipient.
There is so much more to be told. May of this year, we adopted two more babies, one of them a fifth sibling of our older four. How she came to us, and those same friends involvement, is amazing as well.
If you are a foster and/or adoptive parent, thank you! Thank you for choosing the road less traveled. Thank you for advocating for the broken and hurting. If you are considering foster care, reach out to a friend, a friend of a friend, or an agency in your area. If you don’t feel that is your place, advocate for the hurting and broken in your community. We all can give our time, talent, and treasure. We all have something to give. When the time is right, step outside of yourself. It won’t be perfect. Redemption is messy. But progress is greater than perfection.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Bex McLennan. You can follow their journey on Instagram. 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:
‘You can offer him a better life than I can. Please. Take him,’ she begged. How can I fall in love with a child and then leave him behind?’: Woman takes in Haitian shoeshine boy, ‘I didn’t birth him, but he is mine’
‘Oh, are you babysitting?’ ‘They’re mine.’ I’m a 30-year-old single black woman with 3 white kids. Love has no color in my home.’: Woman adopts 1 boy, 2 siblings from foster care, ‘love is love, no matter the color’
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