By Kate Hursh
November is National Adoption month. There are so many children who need a family; who need love and care. Here is an amazing story of a local family who has given their hearts and home to help some of those children.
I was asked by a sweet, yet confused house painter recently, “When do the parents pick up their babies?” I nicely replied, “They don’t, these are our babies!” With 10 children under the age of ten, he had assumed I ran a daycare out of our home. The funny part is that only one third of our precious munchkins were home at the time. We get asked lots of funny questions when we venture out with our “circus” and the kids think it is hysterical when people count them. The majority of these questions, while some come across inappropriately, all come down to people wanting to know how such a beautiful group of children, whom we are blessed to love, came to be in our family.
Our story begins way before George, my husband, and I even met. My grandfather was adopted and my parents fostered children before I was born. Fast forward to the fall of 1999 when George and I began our journey together. We knew from the beginning that we shared the same desire and willingness for adoption. In 2002, we were married. We waited a year or so before attempting to start a family. After a time, while still struggling to conceive a child, we decided to begin the adoption process. In the spring of 2006, we got a call from my doctor explaining we were not able to have children naturally. We were heartbroken, yet hopeful that we would still have a family.
All the while we had been taking classes, filling out paperwork, and still preparing our home to welcome a baby. The very next week, we were told that two amazingly selfless birth parents, who wanted their soon-to-be-born baby girl to be loved something fierce, chose us to be her forever family. Our hearts overflowed with joy! We did the math, and from the date of calling our licensing agency, Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK), to the day we held our daughter, Lillie, was nine months!
A couple of years later, after hearing of the tremendous need for foster parents, we decided to open up our hearts and home for another child. By the winter of 2009, we had fostered and helped reunify seven children with their biological families. Was it tough? Yes! Was it worth it? Absolutely!
In February of 2010, we welcomed our baby James, through foster care, with the goal of family reunification. At the time, we were still being considered for babies that had the case plan of possible adoption. Our profile had been considered for 20 children, but we were told “no” each time. We didn’t even know these children, but each time we cried. Again, we were heartbroken, yet hopeful.
I remember vividly, I had just left my office after we had been given the answer that we had been dreading for that 20th child. His name was Louie. I got home and tried to pull myself together and called George at work to lament. The house phone rang and it was our precious licensing worker from AASK, letting us know that there was a mix-up and that they indeed wanted us to be Louie’s forever family. And so in March of 2010, we met and fell in love with our son, Louie.
The next year was a whirlwind. Now we were a family of 5, but not for long! We were on vacation in San Diego, when we got the call to come home quick, as Division of Child Safely (DCS) needed us. The baby brother of one of our foster children, James, had just been taken into care and they wanted us to take placement of him. Our hearts almost burst as we drove home and raced to meet the DCS worker at our house. George unloaded the car and the kids and I ran to Target to prepare for a newborn as fast as I could. I called George on my way home from the store and heard the new baby, Jack, in the background. Family reunification was still the plan for these two adorable brothers so we tried to guard our hearts without loving them any differently.
This is when we decided it was best for our family to have me be home full-time. So after 12 years of working full-time at our Catholic parish, I retired to be more available to our family. As the need for more foster homes grew, George and I decided to open our home and hearts again. We cared for and helped reunify three more children. In August of 2012, our lives changed again when we received a call for a newborn baby who needed us and we brought Hayden home from the hospital. We were a family of 7. Next, we fostered and reunified two more sweet girls.
In the fall of 2013, we officially adopted our son, Hayden, and in the spring of 2014, after a long rough road, we finally adopted James and Jack. About a year and a half ago, while at a school play for Lillie, we got a call for a 5-year-old girl who needed a place to stay for a while. We never imagined adoption would be an option for her, but our beautiful Lizzie, officially joined our forever family in October.
We are still fostering and have reunified another 3 children with a few more planning to go home sometime soon, and one that we hope to adopt in the coming year. We are currently a family of 13.
Our cousin, McKenna, is a live-in helper and we couldn’t be more grateful for the love she gives to all of these children. She gets just as excited as we do when another child comes to our home. What 19-year-old voluntarily lives with 10 children under the age of 10? She does. We have an incredible support system in our family, friends and community. An African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Our village is vast and generous. These children, from the moment they step into our lives, are showered with love from our village.
George and I never imagined that our lives would be so blessed by adoption and foster care. We have cared for over 25 children to date and have no plan to stop… OK, maybe when our 15-passenger van is filled to capacity.
There is such a shortage of willing families. Children are waiting. It has been said that “Adopting one child won’t change the world: but for that child, the world will change” (unknown). We propose that these children have changed our lives! Is it chaotic, messy, and sometimes downright exhausting? Yes, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We love each and every one of these children that God has brought into our lives. We love them forever, no matter how long they stay. We are eternally grateful for the birth parents that gave life to these priceless gifts of ours. We pray for and talk about them often.
November is National Adoption month and we encourage you to take time to consider adoption. Right now there are over 3,000 children in Arizona waiting to be adopted. You could be the forever family a child is waiting for.
How Can You Become a Foster/Adoptive Parent?
A foster or adoptive parent simply needs to be committed to loving and caring for a child. You do not need to have a large house or a lot of money. You don't have to be married or be a stay-at-home parent. You don't even have to have parenting experience. Foster and adoptive families need to be willing to learn and grow right alongside the child.
The first step to becoming a foster or adoptive family is to attend an orientation. After orientation, your licensing agency will set you up with training classes called PS-MAPP, write your home study, help you fill out necessary paperwork, and provide support along the way. All in all, it takes a few months to be licensed or certified, depending on your situation.
The state provides financial assistance to care for the children in foster care as well as a no-copay health insurance called CMDP (Comprehensive Medical and Dental Plan). There are amazing organizations such as Helen's Hope Chest and Jose's Closet who assist foster families with clothing and toys. Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation assists families with bikes, dance classes, swimming lessons, theme park tickets, camp, music lessons and much more. Families can apply for and receive adoption subsidy if the child qualifies, which helps with the financial worries and health care costs of raising a child long after adoption. Many people think they cannot financially and emotionally handle being a foster or adoptive parent. There is a false assumption that it's too hard and too expensive. We challenge families to talk to a licensing agency, like Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK), to answer any questions that may be holding you back. Training and assistance is provided all along the way. AASK is full of resources to support families long after the children are adopted.
For more information about adopting privately or through foster care in Arizona, contact Aid to Adoption of Special Kids. Visit online at www.aask-az.org
or call 602-254-2275.
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