“From the beginning, our adoption process has been a slow, steady course. Looking back, I’ve been guided by the Lord in small ways most of my life in order to come to this eventually. As a kid, I watched Roots for the first time and grew a deep respect and love for people of color. I always held onto this admiration. As a teenager, I had a strong desire to adopt children some day, when I had a family of my own. My older cousin Donna and her husband had adopted 6 kids, which included 1 Native American boy, 3 African American kids, 1 Caucasian boy, and 1 Hispanic girl through first fostering them. I thought the world of her and her husband. In fact, at one family reunion at Lake Tahoe when I was newly married, she brought 3 little kids with her that they were fostering at the time who were African American. The kids had been in foster care most of their lives and were confused at what a family was, so they immediately called me mommy and I took them everywhere with me that week. I was in Heaven!
When Mark and I were just dating, we had talked about what we wanted our family to look like in terms of size. I wanted a big family. I had come from a family of 8 kids and loved every moment of my childhood. I had siblings who were my best friends and a family that supported every aspect of my life. I felt like we were the perfect family and I wanted this for my own future family. Mark came from a family of 4 kids and thought it was the perfect size despite his very rocky childhood. He wanted 4 and I said I wanted 6, so we compromised and had 5. This was enough to feel like a bigger family to the rest of the world, even though it was small in my eyes. Our kids were amazing friends and we enjoyed every minute of our time together as a family. That lingering feeling of wanting to adopt never went away, though.
My brother, whom I was always very close to, and his wife, after trying to have a baby of their own for years, had adopted 3 African American babies over the course of 5 years. They adopted their first daughter after many years of trying to adopt through a private agency. They put on their application they would take a baby of any gender or ethnicity. They finally switched the agency they were going through and before even getting their paperwork done, within the first week they were called and told there was an African American baby girl who had just been born if they were interested. I told my brother, ‘She was supposed to be mine!’ This was the same phrase he had said to me when our red-headed son was born. I was so happy for them, and they were blessed in the next several years with 2 more African American babies. I knew in order for our family to ever be blessed this way, we would need to look into the foster care system because we would not ever be able to afford the $40,000 that private agencies cost.
I didn’t know how to take the next steps and really wasn’t ready to at the time. This was 13 years ago. 9 years ago, our family moved to a small town and Mark changed careers. He became a police officer and had found his calling, as he loved making a positive difference in the lives of the people in our community. Almost immediately after moving, we started meeting people who had been foster parents and ending up adopting. I didn’t even know of anyone who were foster parents in the previous places we had lived. I was intrigued by their selflessness and sacrifice. It just seemed everywhere I turned, there was someone else who was sharing their story with me about adoption and foster care.
Mark had also been working with so many youth who were in foster care as he coached our oldest son in football and wrestling, and our new community was full of kids in the system. The middle schoolers and high schoolers all looked up to Mark as they knew him from sports or from coming to their homes on 911 calls (almost always involving domestic violence). He gave them a lot of support and care as he helped them better their situations. He even was asked to come speak to the Oregon Health Authority to give the kids who were troubled teens an example to look up to and hope for their futures. The need was just so eye opening for us. I told Mark I knew this was a big reason we were guided to move to our small town. We had many struggles with the quirks and good ole’ boys club mentality that comes with small town living, but this was the reason God had put us here.
I still didn’t want to be a foster parent, but I finally got enough information from others to call the Department of Human Services and find out how the process works with fostering to adopt. Mark really didn’t want to make any changes to our family and wasn’t interested in adoption in the least. Our family was happy and pretty much perfect. I mulled over the information I was given for the next couple of years and finally convinced Mark to humor me and look into the possibility of adoption with me.
He finally agreed and we did the training over the course of a few months that were needed. We met many more selfless people in our community at these classes. Now we needed to have a home study written. The DHS had told us they take about a year to write one, so our best option would be to hire a private agency. My second cousin had recently adopted a sibling group and they lived in our state of Oregon, so I thought they would be a good resource to find an agency. I had never met his wife, but I got their number from my mom’s cousin and gave her a call. She was so helpful and gave me the name of the agency they had hired to write their home study and help them adopt their kids.
I got in contact with A Family For Every Child and started the process with our first case worker, Crissy. She came to our home and interviewed us initially, along with checking certain things about our house that would accommodate more kids and how safe it was. She gave us tons and tons of paperwork and basically autobiographies that she told us we each needed to write. It was very overwhelming to say the least. Throughout the next 3 years, Mark asked me several times if I wouldn’t rather just have another baby, which would be much easier. I knew it wasn’t what the Lord had in store for our family so I easily told him no, something that would have normally been exactly what I wanted him to ask.
I started working on my autobiography, which was very hard for me because I absolutely hate writing. I would try to gently nudge Mark to do the same, but he wouldn’t have anything to do with it. He had looked over the questions they wanted to be answered and he wasn’t ready to go there. He had a pretty horrible upbringing, which included everything children in the system were being saved from, and he hated having to relive it. He said they would never consider him as an adoptive parent because of the trauma he had been through as a kid and the baggage it brought with it. It actually ended up taking us about a year to get our stories written, all the background checking done, a bigger car purchased to accommodate a bigger family, and all the changes to our home made for inspection. Now we were anxious to find the child who was supposed to be a part of our family.
We were assigned to a new case worker and it took a few months for her to get our paperwork handed over and to start working. We were her first clients. Kimberly was very hard to pin down, and when she finally got our home study written (her first one ever) almost another year later, it was horrible! I felt like she was trying to make sure nobody picked our family. She had interviewed each of our kids for about 20 minutes and wrote up a bio full of assumptions for each child that were completely ridiculous. I called her and I was able to have her make minor changes after assuring her over and over she had done a good job (cough, cough), but she was in control of our future and so I had to be very careful not to offend her in criticizing her work. I had even called her supervisor to discuss our options and she was not willing to make any changes to our case worker or get involved, so we were stuck with a home study that gave a very poor representation of our family.
It was finally written though, and so I thought the doors would be completely open to us on picking a child. It was very rare to find a child who was under 6 years old, which was a must for us as our youngest at home was 6. I had also been told through our agency most states were hard to work with and generally don’t want to adopt children out to other states. They told us we most likely would never hear back from case workers in most other states if we were to submit our home study to them. So I patiently waited and watched the websites for any changes on a daily basis. I submitted on a few children who didn’t meet what we were looking for, just to feel like I was trying, but the response was always several weeks later and we were always told we had too many children already and wouldn’t be considered.
One day I saw a sibling group of 3 kids who were 3, 4, and 5. I immediately submitted on them. I had talked Mark into considering a sibling group of 2 so we could increase our chances of finding kids to adopt as sibling groups are a little harder to place. I also had always hoped to adopt 2 kids because I didn’t want to make a child feel alone in our family by being the only one who wasn’t a biological child. This sibling group of 3 was pushing it, but they were adorable and Mark might come around. I got an email back confirming our submission and it included the contact information of the children’s case worker, Edna. This hadn’t happened before. I sent her an email asking for more information on the kids and she responded that families with kids similar in age wouldn’t be considered, but she was very informative and friendly. This was in January.
I had decided even though this was out of my comfort zone, if the Lord was nudging me to adopt, I needed to do my part. I needed to be a little pushy and make sure to stay on top of things. I needed to bug case workers rather than the more comfortable patient approach. A couple weeks later, I reached out again and Edna sent me an email asking me to call her office. I was super nervous, but every time I talked to anyone or emailed anyone, I always prayed first. I prayed to be led by the Spirit to know what to say and what to ask.
Edna, a recruiter through the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, and one of her colleagues asked me lots of questions, mainly about the area we live and what kind of services there are. She asked me how far we were from another VERY small town in Oregon. This was the town where my second cousin lived and I knew this was the Lord putting Edna in my life! She just happened to be the worker all the way in Missouri, who had helped them get their children and had even come to bring them to Oregon. Before, when I had seen their profiles on the website, I had really wanted to adopt these beautiful children. After finding out Edna had already worked with my family members all the way from Missouri, I knew God had a plan for our family and it included these kids!
I called our caseworker, Kimberly, and told her the good news. She was livid! She told me I was under no circumstances allowed to talk to or email caseworkers about children who are able to be adopted. Everything needed to go through her. She said even if down the road, our family was considered, our agency would throw it out because I had broken protocol. Once again, I was floored my case worker seemed to be doing everything she could to keep us from adopting. Luckily, everything was smoothed over and I could claim ignorance to her supervisor. I let Edna know she needed to go through Kimberly for any of her correspondence with us. Edna was kind enough to include me in her emails and kept us in the loop of what was going on with staffing for the kids. I would also email every couple weeks (attaching Kimberly to them, of course) just to make sure we weren’t forgotten about.
I was very naïve to the whole adoption process at this point. I was under the impression you could pretty much pick any kids you wanted to adopt and it was a done deal. I knew it was really hard for my brother when they were trying to adopt an infant, but that was different. A birth mom was going through hundreds to thousands of home studies and picking the one she thought would be best for her unborn child. This was adoption through the foster care system. These were kids who had already been moved around multiple times and were now free and clear from parental rights so they could finally find a permanent home. I really didn’t think it was that competitive of a process.
At the beginning of April, our agency sent out a newsletter to all adoptive families trying to promote our sibling group! They hadn’t been on our agency’s website before. I was freaking out! I knew we were already up against the world on this, but I didn’t want it brought to the attention of everyone who hadn’t searched these kids out already. They had also already been taken off of Missouri’s website for a couple months because of too many submissions on them. I continued to email Edna every couple weeks to see if she had any news on a staffing for the kids. I think staffing is the term used when they narrow the applications down to 3 families they want to interview. I got an email from our agency about 6 weeks later in the middle of May, that we were not one of the families chosen. Edna told us she kept pushing for our family, but the other members of the team weren’t willing to consider us.
A week later I sent Edna another email describing the unique circumstances of our large family and why we were more loving, supportive and available than most other families. I had been prompted to do this after I had recently submitted on another child and was instantly told no based on our family size. Edna responded to me and said she would argue our case again with her team. I didn’t hear anything after this. I knew the families were being interviewed and one might have even been picked. I just kept praying it would fall through. In July, I got an email from our wonderful new caseworker, Jammie, letting me know all adoption prospects for the children had been ended because a family member had come forward to adopt the children instead. There is a hierarchy in state adoptions and biological family always takes precedence. I had been given disappointing news in the past, but I really wasn’t phased by it because I had been told by God these were my kids.
In October, I got an email from Edna asking if we were still interested in adoption for these kids. She said the state wouldn’t license the family member that was willing to adopt them, and so she was contacting the families who had been interested back in the spring before putting their profiles back on the website and starting over. I started hysterically sobbing when I read her email. Mark was panicked because he thought something really bad had just happened. Through my sobs, I said, ‘I told you we were getting these kids!’ I think this is the point it became real to him. I responded to Edna, saying I had been expecting to hear from her and we were definitely still interested.
Edna emailed me a week later asking for dates we could do a staffing. I assumed this meant we were being chosen now as one of the 3 families they would interview. When I clarified this with her, she told me this actually meant she had convinced the team to only look at our family before pursuing anyone else! We set up a staffing for the first of November. Edna sent me links for lots of training and told us to go to as many classes as we could to show the team we were doing continuing education on trauma. This was something our agency had suggested and we had been doing all year, but we really kicked it into high gear in preparing to be interviewed by the team. We got in contact with the Department of Human Services and were able to join their classes to review our training on trauma. I also took lots more online classes that month.
We had our staffing in November on a Skype call. It was super intimidating because we had no idea the room would be full of about 15 people who made up the team. They asked us a lot of questions and answered the ones we had about the kids. We still were pretty vague in our questions as we didn’t want to seem like we were being critical or picky. Unfortunately, this meant we still really didn’t know anything about the kids except they were cute and had been in foster care for about 3 ½ years. They had been taken from their birth mom because she was physically abusing them. They had been temporarily placed together, but within a few months the boys were in 1 home, while their sister was in another. The boys had moved around a lot and had even been separated for a 6-month period. We didn’t know if they had any disabilities and didn’t dare ask.
Mark had not been super involved in the tons of paperwork and really much of the process at all. He supported me in my desire to pursue adoption, but personally didn’t feel the need to add to our family. During our staffing interview, he did a 180. He was very sincere and teary-eyed through most of it. He had felt that calling to be a stable, loving dad in these children’s’ lives much like the passion he had for his calling in his career. It was amazing to see him realize how much good he could do, and for him to have the drive to be the best dad he could be for these kids he had never had in his life. We ended the staffing interview and hung up. Within about 20 minutes, we got a phone call asking us if we could get back on Skype because there was another question they hadn’t asked. We got back on and saw a room full of people who were almost all smiling at us. They asked us if we would be willing to adopt these 3 children!
This process has been long and exhausting, but we have been sustained with the faith and knowledge it was meant to happen and even in this way. Only through much effort and sacrifice do we ever truly appreciate what we are given. I am so grateful for the blessings I have been awarded by my loving Father in Heaven. He knows me and knows exactly what I need. He knows how to help me become the person He knows I can become. He knows and loves my children and has put them in a home where they can be loved and taught of his love for them also. This is just our story of being placed with our kids and the start of our forever family with them. Their placement has just been the beginning of our story.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Celeste Scott of Oregon. Celeste was able to adopt the three siblings with help from the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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