Readers share stories of adoption and foster care

Editor’s note: Throughout the month of November, the Sunday Gazette-Mail Life & Style section has been profiling people in our area who have built their families through adoption or foster care. We also invited readers to submit their own stories — because no two are alike. Here are the few readers shared.

Sarah Frazer, South Charleston

I feel funny calling myself an “adoptive” mom because I feel like I’m just a mom. I have five littles ones (ages 9, 7, 5, 4 and 2). Our youngest two were adopted from China in 2015 and 2017.

My husband and I never saw adoption on the table until we attended an Andrew Peterson concert in 2010. We went for the concert but arrived early, so we stayed to hear the speaker. It was Russell Moore, who wrote a book called “Adopted for Life.” We sat in our car on the way home that night only talking about adoption. We couldn’t shake the feeling or the urge.

At the time, I had just given birth to our second boy, but it was a seed planted in our hearts. Fast forward a few years to 2013. I had given birth again to a little girl. We had three children, and the last pregnancy was a little rough. I knew we were not finished having children, but we didn’t necessarily want to get pregnant again.

The seed God planted in 2010 began to grow. The more I researched, the more I read, the small steps we took all lead us to adopting our sweet Liana Joy ManHua from China in 2015. It was then I think I really began the adoption journey. Sure, during the 15-month waiting period full of paperwork and preparation we were “adopting,” but my heart didn’t know how much adoption would have to continue to grow even when we brought her home.

Her special needs were much worse than we expected. I was thrown into the toughest year of my entire life. Our marriage struggled. Our children struggled. My faith struggled. But God is faithful to growing seeds, even in the darkest seasons. And good things can grow in the dark — the tiniest seeds have to start under the soil, and so I see that year as a time of immense heartache, but also growth.

The most beautiful thing to grow was my love for my daughter. It was magnificent to watch God mold and mend my heart. One year after bringing her home, we began the process again to adopt a little boy. I wish I had 10,000 words to tell you how he came to be ours, but let’s just say he fits perfectly. Our sweet China-boy is Joel Phillip and a fireball. When he smiles and his eyes disappear, that’s just the best.

Adoption is an amazing journey, and I’m so privileged to have been called to such a path. My husband and I have a stronger marriage, a deeper understanding of the Gospel, and a better view of the world because of adoption.

Virginia Thomasson

My husband and I tried for years to have a child on our own. We decided to open our home to foster.

Kaylee moved in on Jan. 4, 2016. She was 11 years old and had been in foster care for three years. It was instant love.

This child, a foster child, just needed love and care to thrive. She became a Thomasson on Aug. 11, 2016, and we are opening our foster home back up in the coming weeks.

Stephanie Adkins, Sod

My husband and I have adopted two children through the West Virginia foster care system — Ethan, who is 5, and Olivia, 2. The process of adopting through foster care has opened my eyes and changed my life in ways I would have never imagined. Without a doubt, the best part of the experience has been becoming a mommy and having two beautiful souls to love. They bring so much joy and laughter to our lives that it’s hard to remember a time without them.

Fostering to adopt is one of the hardest journeys imaginable. You are emotionally invested and bond with a child knowing there is the chance he or she could be reunified with the biological parents or placed with a family member and you have no control over the situation. You have to put your faith in a system that is overloaded, burnt out and gives biological parents more opportunities than seem reasonable.

You hear horror stories of situations children were removed from that are unimaginable, see firsthand the impact the drug epidemic is having on this state, and worry about the circumstances your child came from and the effects that may have on his or her future. It’s a life full of fear, uncertainty and, at times, hopelessness. However, it is also a life full of community, support, happy endings and unconditional love.

Through this journey, I have become part of a community of organizations and people that has helped us immensely. We have had some wonderful social workers, adoption workers and guardian ad litems who have eased fears, talked us through court processes and proceedings, and encouraged us through the journey.

Our daughter was born 10 weeks premature and exposed to heroin, cocaine, marijuana and snake venom, and she spent six weeks at Lily’s Place to be therapeutically weaned. The staff was amazing and answered questions, provided constant updates and educated us in preparation for taking her home.

I’ve connected with countless other foster/adoptive families and am constantly amazed at their strength, resilience and selflessness. We really are a community and will do anything we can to support each other. I have met foster parents who run programs through their churches or homes to provide clothes and necessities to foster families when needed at a moment’s notice, who take placements at 3 a.m., and who, against all odds, always make room for one more.

Foster care and adoption also introduced me organizations like Mission West Virginia. Through my involvement with it, I have had the opportunity to speak at several events and be interviewed for news segments, the most recent being the PBS NewsHour series on “America Addicted” for a segment focusing on the effect drugs are having on the children of addicts.

I now serve as president of the board at Mission West Virginia and take any opportunity available to advocate for children in foster care and encourage and answer questions of families who are considering opening their homes to a child in need.

For anyone considering foster care/adoption, I encourage you to reach out and ask questions and educate yourself. Mission West Virginia is a wonderful resource and can even arrange for a staff member to come to a church or group to discuss foster care and adoption. Not only are you changing the life of a child, but your own, as well. Regardless of the outcome, you are providing safety, comfort and love to a child in their time of need, and that is priceless.

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