A biological family came together in a unique way to help a group of four foster siblings stay together.
Pam and Ricky Countryman were in their late 50s and empty-nesters, but when they saw a story on their local news about foster care, they felt called to adopt.
Pam talked to her grown daughter, Jennifer Ridgel, about what she had seen on TV, and Jennifer and her husband Jesse also decided they wanted to add to their family through adoption.
“We both had a heart for these kids,” Pam said.
Pam, Ricky, Jennifer and Jesse all trained through Arrow’s Waco office.
Eventually, a sibling group of four, ages 10, 9, 5 and 3, were placed in Pam and Ricky’s care.
But the eldest, Jerome, proved a bit much for Pam and Ricky to handle. They loved him deeply, but struggled with his behavioral issues. That’s when Jennifer and Jesse “stepped up to the plate,” as Pam puts it. They decided they would adopt Jerome instead of Pam and Ricky.“When they arrived, they called me Miss Pam because they had hopped around to several foster homes,” Pam said. “At first, Yvonne (the 9 year old) didn’t call me anything. The second week she was here, she called me grandma. No one else did, just her. When I asked her about it, she said, ‘Because I knew you were the one.’ [Kids] perceive these things.”
“He was already in our family before he was in our home,” Jennifer said.
At that point, Jennifer and Jesse already had two foster placements—Damarion and Ro’Nozzio, and had plans to adopt the two boys, but they were confident in their ability to help Jerome as well. Damarion, Ro’Nozzio and Jermoe’s adoptions were all finalized in the latter half of that year, as were Pam and Ricky’s adoptions of Yvonne, Jaden and Milly, Jerome’s siblings.
Jennifer, Jesse, Pam and Ricky can rely on each other for support, but that doesn’t mean fostering and adopting the siblings has been without obstacles.
“They don’t walk in the door and you love them,” Pam said. “You have to create a bond. You have to create a love for them.”
Jennifer said another challenge is having patience, and pushing forward when it seems progress with the children is slow.
“When you start to peel back the layers, it gets worse before it gets better,” Jennifer said. “People think, ‘If you just give them a good home and love them…’ and that’s true to a certain extent, but some things you have to dig [out].”
However, when the kids do start to heal and mesh with the rest of the family, it’s an amazing thing to witness, Pam said.
“At first, they’re afraid to open up because they think you’re going to leave like everyone else has. You can see a little fear in their hearts,” Pam said. “But then you see them blossom, and that’s a blessing.”
Both Pam and Jennifer said relying on God was paramount during the fostering and adoption process.
“You have to trust that God will get you through it, because the kids are trusting you to make the right decisions,” Jennifer said. “There is no turning back. Once you open your home to these kids you have to be committed.”