Susanna and Doug knew they wanted to adopt a child who needed a family “someday.” But after going through fertility treatment, two unsuccessful pregnancies, and Susanna being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, “someday” quickly became “right now.”
They began by reviewing the children listed on the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange (TARE) website, which has profiles of nearly 1,000 children in foster care who are available for adoption.
“We actually fell in love with a sibling group of three,” said Susanna. “That’s when we decided we definitely wanted a sibling group. We thought it was going to be a perfect match. We took it as a sign that this is what we were supposed to do. So, we started the adoption process with these three kids in mind.”
They didn’t realize the investment of time and effort it was going to take. Six months later, on the very day they became certified, Doug and Susanna received word that the three children they thought were their perfect match, were matched with another family.
“We were too late,” Susanna explained. “I was devastated. I thought, ‘but there was a sign! They were supposed to be with us!’ So, we had to take a step back. But we realized it’s not just about us, it’s about kids who need a family and how we can help.”
Their next challenge would soon present itself. They were asked if they would consider a “legal risk” adoption. Which meant there was a possibility that the birth parents could get their children back.
“That was something we really had to pray about,” Susanna shared. We’ve had friends who fostered, and it was very difficult on them when their foster kids returned home. But we agreed to consider a legal risk adoption.”
Susanna is a 34-year-old high school assistant principal and Doug is a 37-year-old former Marine turned software manager, so they were prepared for, and opened to, any age, any group, any ethnicity. They even “put in” for a set of 17-year-old twins!
“During the year long process, it was heartbreaking to see all the emails, week after week, of all the kids that really needed a family,” explained Susanna. “So, we just put our name out there for a lot of different kids and sibling groups, all ages and ethnicities.”
They were eventually matched with an infant, and were told they were in the “final staffing.” The decision had been narrowed down between them and one other couple. They excitedly bought a crib and got everything ready, just in case.
“We were not chosen,” said Susanna. “Again, we were heartbroken. Just devastated. Doug and I talked about it…is this for us, this never-ending cycle of heartbreak? Gregory (their Arrow adoption coordinator) told us, ‘Look, when it’s right, you wouldn’t have imagined it any other way.’ My mom told me, ‘I don’t know why, but God is telling me that you don’t know the whole story.’”
Doug and Susanna took a break to allow for their own emotional healing, but after about six months they decided, “No, this is what we really want to do.” So, they “put their name in” on a set of six-month-old twin baby boys…it was a “legal risk” adoption.
“We mostly looked at sibling groups of three or four,” said Susanna. “We just wanted to help some kids and we wanted to have a family. We didn’t have any expectations of matching or not matching.”
It came as a complete surprise when three weeks later, Gregory called to let Doug and Susanna know that they were in the “final staffing” for the twins. The day the decision was being made between Doug and Susanna and the other family, Susanna was at her school giving a presentation to a group of 20 teachers. Her phone rang. She excused herself to take the call, but by the time she reached the hallway to answer her phone, the caller had hung up. Susanna decided to finish her presentation while she was still composed, and then return the call in case it wasn’t good news again.
“I wasn’t able to get a hold of anybody,” Susanna explained. “I finally called Doug and he asked if I had talked with Gregory. I told him ‘no’. But apparently after they couldn’t reach me, they had called Doug. He said, “We got them.” When I realized the twins were ours, I screamed, I was dancing in the parking lot at school. I was crying and the teachers started coming out to see what was going on.”
Despite all the excitement, there was still the possibility the twins could be reunited with their birth parents if they fulfilled the court’s orders, which included overcoming their drug addiction.
Doug and Susanna made 11 trips total between their location and three hours away, where the twins were being fostered, to begin the bonding process. Their first trip to be with the twins was a four-hour visit, then eight hours, then an “overnighter,” then weekends, and a whole week.
The boy’s foster parents had some concerns about the Susanna and Doug having pets at home since the twins had respiratory issues after being born premature. So, during one of their trips to see the boys, they drove the them to two hours to another large city to see an allergist and a respiratory specialist, and paid out of their pockets to have the twins tested for allergies. Everything came back negative, so the pets weren’t a concern.
Now came the most significant threat to the adoption being consummated. The birth parents decided they were going to fight for custody. A court date was set for a permanency hearing.
The day before the hearing, the call came that nobody was expecting. The birth parents had looked through the Susana and Doug’s life book, realized what awesome parents they were and what kind of life they could give the boys…and they relinquished their rights!
“We just broke down of course,” said Susanna. “Lots of tears, and just realizing, we only had to wait six more months and these two beautiful boys would be ours!”
They made the three hour trip to where the boys lived for the adoption. It was the last day the court would be open for two months because of the pandemic, and Susanna and Doug were scheduled to be the last court case of the day.
“Our lawyer asked which of us would respond to her questions when we go before the judge,” said Susanna. “Of course, it’s me. I’m quite the talker. So, we walked into the court room, and immediately I started bawling. I was incapacitated. I couldn’t say one word. It was tears of joy and relief, knowing they’re finally going to be our boys. It was healing. I cannot imagine our lives without these boys. They’re perfect for us, and we’re perfect for them…and it’s…it’s amazing! Gregory was right, I could not imagine it any other way.
“When we saw the picture of our boys in an email broadcast, we took a chance and leap of faith to love more and believe in something bigger. We never imagined our life where it is right now. Our house is chaotic and cluttered with toys. We have two of everything. We are exhausted (lol). But…we got to experience our boys first steps, the first time they said mama, their first teeth (that was rough times two).
“This week Jacob ran up to me and held my hand as I was walking out to get the mail, and I just about burst. I live for these “small” moments now. Our hearts and our arms are so full. This whole experience brought both of our extended families together, and Doug and I as well, in such an amazing way. Bradley and Jacob have completely stolen their papa’s and gramma’s hearts.
“Originally when we started this process, we thought we may not be chosen because of our demanding careers. But now I’d tell anybody, you can have both. You can love your job and love your kids. I am so glad we said ‘yes,’ because although, in a way, foster parents save kids’ lives…in reality, it’s more like they save ours.”