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February 12, 2015


Blogger Liz Curtis Faria, a former social worker, graciously allowed us to repost her blog entry about a troubled foster child, desperately reaching out for someone to love him. Unfortunately, his story is not unique. Thousands of children in the foster care system are waiting to be adopted right now, and are at risk  of meeting the same fate as him. The boy in the story was never adopted, and we can’t help but wonder how much differently his life could have turned out if a family would have taken a chance on him.

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upset boyIt was something about the phrasing that got to me. Something about the cadence of his words, the staccato of his speech.

“Nobody loves me. Not even my mother who gave birth to me.”

It is an odd turn of phrase, isn’t it?

Not even my mother who gave birth to me.

He was buckled into the backseat of my Toyota, still too little to sit up front. At seven he had already moved more times than the total number of years he had been on the earth. And this time, like the times before it, he moved with his belongings in a trash bag. A suitcase, at least, would have added a small degree of dignity to the whole affair – to being “placed” in another and another and yet another foster home before reaching the 3rd grade. Trash bags break, you know. Trash bags can’t possibly support the contents of any life, and certainly not a life as fragile as this.

They break from the strain, eventually.

This move was harder for Stephen than most. It was a home he thought he would stay in, at least for awhile. He had felt affection there. When I went to pick him up, after his foster mother gave notice that he could no longer stay, he came easily with me; head down, no reaction on the surface of it. It was only when he got into my car that he began to sob the kind of aching sound that leaves you limp in its wake.

He could barely get out the words. Nobody loves me. Not even my mother who gave birth to me.

Months later, in a repeat scene (another foster mother, another removal), he would put up a fight. He would run around the living room, ducking behind furniture, refusing to leave. But on this night he had no fight in him.

That was Stephen at seven.

Nine-year old Stephen grips his report card in sweaty hands. We’re headed to an adoption event, where we will meet families who want to adopt an older child; families who do not automatically rule out a boy like Stephen with all of his long “history.” And he wants to impress them, these strangers. He wants to win them over, and so he brings his good report card along as tangible proof that he is a child worth loving.

A child should never have to prove they are worth loving.

Twelve-year old Stephen tells me that I’m his best friend. I’m his social worker, and he should have a real best friend, but I don’t say this to him. We’re at a taping for Wednesday’s Child, the news spot featuring children who are up for adoption. Stephen is engaging on camera. Maybe somebody will pick him this time. Maybe he is offering just enough evidence, at twelve, that he’s a boy worth loving. And he is lovable, truly. But it is not enough. A family never comes.

Years later, long after I’ve left the agency, I get an email from my old boss asking how I’m doing, and ending with a short P.S. Stephen is in DYS lockup after running away from his foster home. You need to adopt him.” My stomach drops. I’ve had this thought many times. I should adopt him myself. But I don’t.

I heard about his murder from a friend who had seen it in the news. Shot outside a party over some foolish dispute. Dead at 18, dead just as he became a man. Not my Stephen, I prayed. When I realized that it was really him – that it could be no other – I sobbed gripped by the kind of anguish that leaves you limp in its wake.

What have we all done? What haven’t we all done.

The newspapers ran very little about the murder, as if it were an afterthought. Barely worth a mention, really. Anonymous strangers posted nasty comments online: “Just another gangbanger,” they said. You don’t even know him. You don’t know the first thing about this boy. You don’t know that as a child he would trace letters into my back with his finger to pass time at the doctor’s office, asking me to guess what phrase he was spelling out. “I ♥ U” he traced between my shoulders, the last time we played this game.

Stephen had been wrong, that night in my Toyota. His mother did love him, in her way. She was there, at the funeral. She greeted me kindly. I think she knew I loved Stephen as I knew she did. We both failed him in the end, and that joined us I suppose. Neither of us could give him a family.

There were no photos from Stephen’s childhood at the funeral home. No images of the green-eyed boy with the sweet smile to remind us of what had been lost. There were no pictures of Stephen with his brothers, and so I printed up snapshots of the four boys together, taken on a supervised visit, and brought them to the funeral to give to the family. It was something I could do, against the larger backdrop of nothing I could do.

There were very few social workers at the funeral, and none of Stephen’s many foster mothers. Were they even told he was dead? Stephen spent more of his life being raised in the system than out of it. If you claim legal responsibility for a child, you best show up at his funeral. You should show up when he dies. He was yours, in a way, wasn’t he? You owe it to him. And if he did not belong to you, then who did he ever belong to?

His mother was there, at least. His mother who gave birth to him. I hear the echo of his voice from those many years ago.

Somebody does love you Stephen. I want to tell him. But it’s too late.

Stephen was the one, for me. The one who embodied all the failures of a system so broken that to heal it would take far more than the casts that heal the literal broken bones of the children growing up within it.

They break, you know. These kids we leave behind. Eventually they break.

You can learn more about fostering and adopting through Arrow at https://www.arrow.org/foster.

You can find Liz’s blog at www.amothershipdown.com and her Facebook  page at https://www.facebook.com/amothershipdown.

*Stephen is a fictional name for a real boy the world lost.

 



January 15, 2015

In the beautifully written sentiments below, written by Arrow adoptive mom Jennie Sulfridge, she contemplates the struggles of adopting her three children, as well as the immense amount of joy they have brought into her life. As they sleep peacefully, she writes about a fourth daughter who will soon become part of their family. It’s clear Jennie has a huge heart, and we’re so grateful she chose to adopt through Arrow. 

 


It’s late. I should be in bed. I always end up turning in later than I had planned. There’s just a lot to do in a day around here. We sometimes struggle to keep up. Most days we succeed. Some days, not so much. We try again tomorrow.

But tonight they sleep. All three of them. I’ll check on them one more time before turning in. I’ll straighten blankets and pick pillows off the floor. I’ll kiss foreheads and pet the cat that sleeps at the foot of one of their beds. They love that cat.

And it will all look so ordinary. But it’s not. It’s so much more than that.

These three that I tuck in each night are sisters, not by birth, but by adoption. It was a long road, a rocky one. I wasn’t very good at navigating it, but that’s okay because I didn’t have to walk it alone. The folks at Arrow were our biggest cheerleaders. They believed in us when we didn’t believe in ourselves. They knew how great it would be before we did and they play a part in this nightly ritual I stumble through. They play a big part.

sulfridge

You see as I walk out of their room tonight I’ll pause at a fourth bed, an empty bed. One that will soon be filled by another little Arrow girl. I’ll look at that bed in the dark and dream about the day I’ll straighten her blankets and kiss her forehead. It’s all ready for her with a new mattress and pillows, a quilt made by me, a blanket and special pillowcases made by her sisters. We’ve had fun preparing that bed for her.

And in the quiet of that dark room I pray for her little heart and I wonder what she will be like. I wonder what kind of spark she will add to our family. I wonder.

It won’t be easy, the beginning never is, but it will be worth it. She will be worth it. I won’t do it perfectly this fourth time around. I guarantee I will fall and get up just to fall again. There will be apologies, probably lots of them.

As I walk out of that room each night I can’t imagine life without them. They fill me up to overflowing every single day. I’m so very blessed.

Our adoption journey did not look like I thought it would. It was messy and hard and most days we barely made it through. But we made it. Together. That’s what counts.

This adoption thing isn’t always pretty, but it’s always beautiful.

Thankful for those beautiful daughters of mine. And thankful for Arrow too.



December 11, 2014


When Jason and Mistie Stephens met 3-year-old Emma while volunteering in a special needs classroom at their church, they knew God was calling them to adopt her.

Emma was removed from her biological family with non-accidental trauma and malnutrition, which also left her blind. When the Stephens met her, she was being cared for by another Arrow foster family, but the Stephens instantly connected with her.

Stephens“She’s just amazing,” said Mistie Stephens. “We fell in love with her the first day we met her. We thought God had sent her, and we were supposed to adopt her. We didn’t know if she was even available for adoption, and we didn’t know anything about adoption agencies, but that was what God was calling us to do.”

The Stephens trained through Arrow in the hopes that they may one day be able to adopt Emma, and became a respite care provider for her foster family. Even though she was unavailable for adoption at the time, the Stephens were sure Emma was meant to be part of their family.

Over the next two and half years, the Stephens grew closer to Emma. Eventually they became her foster parents, and in time Emma’s birth parents parental rights were terminated. Emma officially became a Stephens on August 7, 2013.

“We just had faith in God that this was God’s will for our life, and we were dependent on him every step of the way,” Mistie said.

Mistie says Emma’s blindness is hardly an issue. She’s always quick to adapt and excels in school. She’s reading braille two grade levels above where she should be, and was added to the school’s Gifted and Talented program this year.

But most of all, she’s just a normal 6-year-old girl.

“She’s so friendly and so happy and bubbly and jumpy,” Mistie said. “She loves princesses and girly things, and bows in her hair, and having her nails painted, and she’s just got a big personality and a love for the Lord,” Mistie said. “She talks about the Lord and about Jesus all the time. She’s just wonderful.”

Emma even inspired the Stephens to become champions for adoption. Before she was even placed with them, they started a foster/adoption ministry at their church, and held a mini-conference where Christian agencies, including Arrow, could give out information on orphan care.

Additionally, they’ll soon begin working with a local children’s home that has 18 foster children placed in its care.

“We’re just doing what God was calling us to do,” Mistie said. “We’re blessed he put this desire in our hearts.”



December 4, 2014


On November 21, Gabby Gullett became the first child to be adopted into a permanent, loving family through Arrow’s partnership with the Assemblies of God North TX District and their orphan care initiative “The Keep.” The Keep is focused on developing church-based solutions to local orphan care needs in Texas and other partner Assembly of God conferences, as well as other faith-based groups.

Before the adoption, Katie Gullett, Gabby’s adoptive mother, wrote about her family’s adoption journey. You can read her story below about how God brought Gabby into their lives, as well as watch a video of the special day when the adoption was finalized!


Gullet picIn October 2012, we felt God’s call for us to expand our family through adoption. We had no idea where or how to begin, but knew if God had called us…He would show us the way. In October 2013, The Keep visited our church and shared their ministry and mission. God was showing us the way! After service we attended an informational lunch/meeting. We left the meeting with peace, joy, hope, and confirmation of God’s call for us to adopt. Our journey had begun! Paperwork and meetings were in store, but we were ready! Our next meeting came on December 19, 2013 just before Christmas. We learned more about the process and what to expect. We also received “the paperwork”. The holidays came and our home was filled with great happiness. In the midst of such a wonderful season, we found ourselves missing our child/children. God was preparing our entire family and had already birthed our child/children in our hearts. Although we had yet to meet them or see them or anything…we loved them and missed them! We know that God’s timing is perfect, so we waited and prayed….

Our Precious Child,
Your life is not a mistake. God made you out of the love that He is. He called you into being at the right time and the right place. You are a privilege, not a burden. You are a joy and a delight. You are God’s masterpiece! We pray for you. We ask God to protect and strengthen you. We ask God to heal you and give you peace. We ask God to carry you and wrap His arms around you until we are able to. You are cherished! You are loved! You are chosen!
Love, Your Forever Family

Our home study was completed in February 2014 and we were officially licensed on April 4, 2014. We submitted several home studies and patiently waited to welcome home the child/children that God had chosen to join our family. God had a different plan, and on June 10, 2014 we received a phone call from our adoption coordinator explaining to us that there was a unique situation and they were needing to place a child quickly with an adoptive home. Unbeknownst to us, the day before our adoption coordinator had presented our family and our home had been approved for this child. All we needed to do was say, “yes”. We knew that this was the child that God had chosen. So with little information and sight unseen, we said “yes”. We met our precious daughter on Wednesday, June 11th and welcomed her home on Friday, June 13th. As we began receiving information about our sweet girl, we discovered that she was born in October of 2012. The very month that God had began calling us to adopt! God was preparing us from the moment she entered the world! We are so excited, blessed, humbled, and overwhelmed by all God has done and will continue to do!

– Katie Gullett

 

 

 

 



November 24, 2014


Sitting around the dinner table enjoying chicken noodle soup, the Senofsky family shared their “highs and lows” for the day.

For the youngest, 6-year-old Abigail, the highlight of her day was being with everyone at the table, from her adoptive mom and dad, Lori and Nick, to her three siblings and her nanny, Hannah. Her low was that a bully at school told her to “shut up,” which hurt her feelings.

But even though hurtful, the quip is mild compared to the traumas Abigail has experienced in her short life.Nick reading Bible at bedtime

She and her siblings, 11-year-old Samantha and 7-year-old Daniel, were placed in Lori and Nick Senofsky’s care in September of last year. Their previous foster parents told the children they would adopt them, but then things fell apart, leaving them even more wary, especially Daniel.

When Daniel threw a toy and accidentally broke a picture in his new home, he immediately broke down and hid, fearful that Lori and Nick would send him to yet another foster home. Samantha, the eldest, estimated that she had been in at least 10 foster homes, some with Abigail and Daniel, some split apart from them.

The result is that the three are working through issues that most adults can’t even begin to imagine.

However, before even meeting the kids, Lori and Nick were committed to adopting them, giving them a permanent, stable home.

“We believe that God gave them to us,” Lori said. “There was no plan B right from the start.  We trusted God to pick our three biological kids, and we trusted God to pick our adopted kids too.”

With patience, love and faith in God, Lori and Nick are seeing God begin to heal the siblings’ hearts from their feelings of abandonment and betrayal.  Their official adoption in July was an especially important part of the healing process.

Lori and Abigail hugging“They were very wounded,” Nick said. “You can take all the classes you want, but until you live it, you can’t imagine what it’s like.”

One of the most difficult problems the children are overcoming is their nightmares. Lori and Nick have relied on God to grant their children peaceful sleep. They even anointed the children’s beds, and have taught them to pray for Jesus to take away their nightmares before going to sleep.  Lori said the prayers have helped with their nightmares tremendously because they empower the children to ask Jesus for help, and not feel like victims and live in fear.

“For me, it was a miracle,” she said.

Prayer plays a huge role in the family’s life constantly, not just at bedtime. When the kids are having a bad day, Lori has a group of supporters she texts to ask for prayers.

The couple’s 17-year-old birth daughter, Lauren, and 22-year-old birth son, Will, have been another huge help in caring for their new siblings. Both have made sacrifices in order to spend time with them. Lauren sacrificed time with her friends or dates to watch them, and Will even decided to live at home instead of on his own so the three would get to know him.

However, there was still a need for another set of helping hands, especially so Lauren could a chance to enjoy her senior year of high school to its fullest, so Lori and Nick hired a nanny, Hannah, to help out.Senofsky Family portrait

“Hannah really saved our family dynamic,” Nick said.

Lori, Nick, Lauren, Will, Hannah and other family and friends have come together as a team to help the siblings, and they’ve shown dramatic improvement over the past year. They are doing better in school, their fears have lessened and their behavior continues to improve.

Along the way, Lori and Nick have grown spiritually.

“We’ve experienced God in a way we never had before,” Nick said. “All you can do is depend on God. My faith has really deepened.”

But more importantly, the kids “have a stable home, a lot of love and a better shot at a future,” he said.



October 16, 2014


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.

The Ridgel family
The Ridgel family

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.”



May 24, 2014


Originally posted at showhope.org

GUEST POST: Why does God call people to adopt?

This might seem like a question with an obvious answer. But sometimes, stating the obvious is a good thing.

For us, the call to adopt was heard relatively late in life. In fact, it was about the time we’d decided we were done growing our family the biological way. Yes, we’d told God we were His, and surrendered our plans to Him, but no more kids, m’kay?

Adoption was not even on our radar.

Almost 10 years later, we have adopted 7 children from China. Our beautiful brood has grown from 4 to 11. The Lord has done a mighty big work in our little family.

But why? Why are some of us called to adopt?

When we accept Christ as our Savior, He calls us to join Him in His story of redemption. In fact, Jesus tells us to “Go…” For each of us that is a unique directive, and for some of us, that is adoption. And when God calls us to adopt, I can testify… He can use it to transform us in a big way.

5 Reasons God Calls Us To Adopt:

1. For the orphan. This might seem painfully obvious, but oh my, does the Lord do an amazing work in the life of a once-orphaned-but-now-beloved-child. And please don’t miss this: when we adopt, it’s God’s idea. It is God that’s going in – and He asks us to join Him. If we try to get into the driver’s seat, it can breed self-righteousness and back-patting. And God wants to use all things to draw us closer to Him, not elevate ourselves. The beautiful thing about being God’s assistant in this thing called adoption is that is you get go join in His work, get your hands dirty, see the way the Lord transforms and yet He holds up both ends. He begins the work – way before He invited you in – and He promises to finish it. And then He gets the real glory. There is nothing I have experienced in my 45 years that compares to witnessing a child bloom in a forever family. It’s a beautiful thing.

Continue Reading HERE



May 14, 2014

Originally posted on The Gospel Coalition Blog by Chelsea Patterson.

Apart from the gift of my salvation, earthly adoption is the greatest gift I’ve ever received. I was an orphan—both physically and spiritually. My story began in Romania with a 19-year-old unwed girl who wasn’t able to take care of me. The Lord sovereignly chose adoption for me. I am blessed that a man and a woman from the United States made a decision that radically altered my life forever when they traveled across the world and chose me as their daughter.

I was rescued from a life void of love and care and freely given a new life beyond my wildest dreams. Adoption is immensely personal, because I was specifically chosen, sought out, bought, declared to have all the rights and privileges of being a member of a new family, and most importantly, loved beyond belief.

As I pause to meditate on my adoption from Romania, I cannot help but meditate on an even greater adoption.

Greater Adoption

Earthly adoption, while incredible, must be viewed as a representing God’s greater adoption. My adoption was a result of sin—the fallen nature of man and the specific sin of my birth parents. The greater adoption redeems from sin.

Whom did Jesus intentionally seek out while he was doing his earthly ministry? The sick, the outcast, the children, the sinners—those whom most Americans shy away from, those whom most Americans build their perfect little lives in order to avoid. We don’t want to “get dirty,” we don’t want to love until it hurts, and we don’t want to sacrifice. But that is what Christ has called us to do.

The Great Commission is beautifully and accurately displayed in adoption. God commands his followers to go into all the world making disciples. The Lord has called his church and his people to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. John Piper said it well when he taught, “The gospel is not a picture of adoption, adoption is a picture of the gospel.”

If the Lord chooses you for adoption, and you repent and trust in his finished work of Jesus on the cross to atone for your sins, you are adopted into his family. As a result, you receive the King of the universe as your Father, you are granted full access to come to him, and you are called his own.

Unconditional Love

God did not choose to adopt you because of anything you did, for we are completely undeserving of his great adoption. As a helpless baby in Romania, I could not do anything to prove that I was worthy of being adopted. I could not work my way into my earthly father’s heart. I could do nothing but accept and enjoy the gift of adoption. As God’s child, there is nothing you can do to make him love you more, for he has already given the greatest gift—his Son.

Delight in the greater adoption. Live as one who knows you have God as your Father. You were purchased by the precious blood of Jesus, redeemed from sin, and offered an eternal inheritance.

Every February, my family remembers my adoption day. We exchange flowers, hugs, tears, good memories, and love. Like other former orphans, I consider my adoption day a cause of great celebration. But how much greater and more worthy of celebration is our salvation and the greater adoption! Praise the Father that you are his own. Meditate on the implications of this great adoption for your life, the life of the body, and for those who don’t call God their father. Thank the Lord that he redeemed you, encourage your brothers and sisters with the truths of the greater adoption, and seek to share this redemption and love with those who aren’t yet God’s children.