“You have to have a calling, but you’re never fully ready for it,” Anna* reflects on why she and her husband Mark* decided to adopt their first children. They had always wanted to adopt. As their children got older, Anna and Mark felt the tug on their hearts to once again open their home to children in need. They weren’t ready to adopt this time but decided to become foster parents instead. In 2019, they reached out to Nexus-Kindred Family Healing to become licensed. They wanted to help children who faced medical challenges because they knew it was harder to place those children.
“We’ve had amazing support through this entire process,” Anna thinks back about the application process. “Our social worker helped hold things together, helping the kids, paperwork, did all their leg work, answer all their questions." After getting approved, they had one emergency placement during the pandemic; however, the pandemic made everything more complicated. In 2021, Anna and Mark thought about closing their license when they received an email from a social worker looking for the placement of a group of siblings. Not thinking twice about it, Mark texted Anna “I’m in if you are” and they set up a meeting with their and the youth’s social worker. At the time, Mark was so excited and thankful to get the call, he didn't realize it was a placement for adoption, not foster care. Anna, however, did realize it was an adoption, and was happy that Mark agreed so readily.
“…on the zoom call to meet the youth’s social worker, that’s where we realized it was an adoption…my heart just leapt out of my chest,” said Mark. “We hung up the call, and we both knew in our spirts that it was the right thing to do,” said Anna. “…There has not been a moment where we’ve questioned or doubted our decision.” Within weeks, their family grew exponentially.
Navigating the Challenges
While adoption is a happy event, it does come with its challenges. Before in Mark and Anna's care, the siblings had experienced trauma, and trauma is often expressed emotionally or behaviorally in children. Some behaviors can be violent outbursts or using cruel words. Mark and Anna always approach these moments with unconditional love and refuse to become embittered or cynical.
“We’ve had our share of challenges,” said Anna, “I firmly believe it takes a million acts of love and tender care to help undo all the damage that was done…it’s a process that happens over a period.”
Adoption and foster care are truly a labor of love, on the part of the parent and the youth.
"They have to choose to be our kids,” said Anna” …the older kids can be in a tough place of working through all the complex emotions…we always want to be honest about the challenges.”
“They can say the worst things to you,” said Mark, “when you take a step back and you look at it, you understand trauma and adoption dynamics, you can go ‘oh yeah that makes sense’, but when you’re in moment…it’s wild."
But through all the challenges, Anna and Mark still find joys in adoption, from snuggling to family walks, and giving firsts of many to youths who’ve never had opportunities before, like the viewing skyline of a new city, or having someone read them a book before bedtime.
“One of the joys [of adoption] is learning to say yes to something that’s a lot bigger than yourself,” said Mark. “…it absolutely takes you out of your comfort zone…in doing so it’s one of the greatest gifts on earth.”
“Our adoptive children, especially the older ones, have to choose us, choose to love again, choose to trust again,” said Anna, “to see young kids really having to open up their heart and choosing us, it’s pretty powerful…to have a kid who wants to be a part of your family."
It Takes a Village
Mark and Anna give credit to their community, from their children’s therapists and social workers to their church community and their faith to help them cope with stress and burnout. Their community has helped them prepare their home for new children, doing laundry, and bringing them meals and groceries. Almost everyone in their family has a therapist, and they cannot stress the importance of mental health care.
“I’ve definitely experienced a fair amount of burnout, both physically and mentally,” Anna admits, “but we’ve a tremendous amount of support, and we’ve had enough voices who understood that it’s a long-term job, that support does not go away.”
Mark and Anna also ask for help. “You have to figure out how to be vulnerable, ask for help, accept help, it’s been critical for us,” said Mark.
Mark and Anna have high hopes every day for their children’s future and look forward to the eventual long-term gains that they will have as a family, like no longer needing a PCA. They have confidence in their hearts that their kids will grow up to be well-functioning adults, whatever that means, and adjusting their expectations as needed, as success looks different for everyone.
“I’ve really been thinking and praying that not one of our children will grow up to struggle in significant ways,” said Mark. We see these kids healing, they want to belong, they want to be loved, and they are.”
Anna and Mark share encouragement for future and current foster and adoptive parents, “You’re never going to be fully ready for it, but don’t let your fears hold you back. Show kids unconditional love, it’s one of the most powerful forces on earth."
*Names and other details have been changed to maintain privacy.