Adopting a Son of a Different Race Opened My Eyes to the Foster Care System
The first thing people notice about my family is that it’s bigger than most. I have seven kids: a teenage son and daughter from a previous marriage, and four biological daughters and an adopted son with my husband, Nolan. Back in 2012, I was pregnant with what would have been my fifth child, when tragedy struck my family. An ultrasound in my second trimester revealed that I had lost my baby. It was such a traumatic loss. I had to deliver my daughter, whom we named Elizabeth, stillborn, and then we had to bury her. I had experienced miscarriages before, but this was a new level of loss—and it changed me permanently.
I became grateful for any small blessing that came my way. I spent more time with my children, recognized how fortunate I was to have had four healthy babies, and began volunteering at a home for teen mothers and their babies. I got pregnant again three months after the loss, and my fifth child, Maggie, arrived safely that fall. Then we had Charlotte— number six and my fifth cesarean—and I decided to have my tubes tied. But in the hospital, a certified nurse-midwife I know told me, “This is not your last baby—I know it.” Her words planted a seed in my mind about the possibility of adoption, something I had thought about casually over the years.
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When Charlotte was turning 1, I couldn’t shake this feeling that Nolan and I were destined to do more, and that maybe we were supposed to bring another child into our home. When I told Nolan, a recently retired Major League Baseball player, that I wanted to explore adoption, he thought I was crazy at first—we already had six kids—but he agreed that we should explore our options. I started making some calls, but everyone I talked to told me that we’d be unlikely to get a child placed with us because we had more than two children. I was discouraged but reminded myself that if God puts a dream in your heart, he’ll also provide the resources.
That November, the nurse who had told me Charlotte wasn’t my last child reached out to us. She let us know that an adoption agency had called some doctors to say there were a few unmatched pregnant mothers seeking adoptive families near us in Jacksonville, Florida. We hadn’t officially put our names in yet with an agency, but we decided to move forward. We were matched with a teenage mother who’d had a really rough childhood. She and I formed a bond, not just as birth mother and adoptive parent, but also as friends. Fourteen weeks later, our son Asher was born.
Before the end of the year, my family relocated to the Nashville area for the slower pace and green space we were craving. I started volunteering at S.A.F.E. at Gratidude Ranch, the organization’s nonprofit arm that hosts birthday parties for kids in foster care. At an Easter-egg hunt at the ranch, I met A., another pregnant teen who had lost her mom and ended up in foster care. She and I developed a relationship. I would call her to check in or we’d meet for lunch, and, ultimately, I was there with her for the delivery of her son.
In April, Nolan and I went to court with A. to advocate for her, and a judge agreed to allow A. to visit our home on weekends, which we hope will let us be a positive, steadying part of her life. Through meeting A. and learning about the foster-care system, I discovered that there are fewer than 4,000 families signed up to accept foster children in Tennessee and approximately 8,000 kids in foster care (and more than 400,000 children nationwide).
I learned that teenagers, teen mothers, and sibling groups are the hardest children to place with foster families. I also found out that many families want to foster and adopt children within their own race because they feel it would be “easier.” I was heartbroken to think someone would overlook a beautiful, intelligent child like my son Asher, who is black, because of the color of his skin.
I started sharing our story on social media. I wanted to show what kind of love we have for our son and for A., to show the story of adopting outside of our race, and maybe help others realize that they can do the same. One day last fall, an Instagram follower who’d seen me advocating for children in foster care introduced me to a local nonprofit, Bloom Family Designs, which creates bedrooms for children in foster care or on the verge of adoption. I reached out to the director and said, “I would love to help you in any way I can.”
Volunteering with Bloom Family Designs is a way to combine my decorating skills and my desire to help kids in need. Every child deserves to go to sleep in a bed of her own. Bloom Family Designs recruits businesses and local families to donate furniture, paint, and labor so all children have a warm and welcoming place to call home. It also reduces some of the financial burden for adoptive and foster families, a factor that Bloom Family Designs hopes will encourage more people to look into the process.
Through my volunteer work, I’ve learned that people want to help, but they don’t always know how. They don’t want to be on auto-pay for a charity donation each month—they want a connection. That’s why I love volunteering so much. It’s about neighbors helping neighbors.
I believe that there are more people out there who are willing to foster; they just need to discover that they can. For example, there is a program within child services called respite foster care. With respite care, you house a child for a few days when the regular foster family cannot care for the child (like in a family emergency in which foster parents must travel out of state). When you get a call, you can say yes or no.
By sharing our story, I hope we can inspire more families to consider adopting a child outside of their race, to become a foster family, or to go out and find a way to volunteer for foster-care children in their community. Through our own adoption journey and our experience with a teenage mother and her son in foster care, we know that every person has the ability to change someone’s life and to say, “I will not let this child’s story end like this.”