David and Naomi Meeks planned to adopt one baby. Today, they are the parents of two groups of siblings.
My wife, Naomi, had always dreamed of having a big family. But I was one of three children, and thought that might be enough—maybe even too much!
When we started talking about adopting early in our marriage, I am positive that neither of us thought that someday we would be the parents of eight children. But on July 3, that is exactly what we became.
Deciding to adopt
We were dealing with infertility when we were presented with an opportunity to adopt a baby girl. We were busy getting our home ready when, a month before the baby was due, the mom decided she wanted to keep her. It was heartbreaking, but the desire to adopt stayed with us. We knew that God had other plans, perhaps even better plans, for us.
Committing to adopting siblings
I have been an Arkansas state representative for seven years and was chair of the committee that oversees the Department of Child Welfare. In that role, I learned that even in our small state, there are more than 300 children waiting for forever families. Many are siblings who risk being separated because most people do not have homes large enough to accommodate them.
I also learned about a group in Arkansas that helps people become foster and adoptive parents. After attending an informational meeting with them, our hearts were moved with the desire to keep siblings together. We started the process to become a foster and potential adoptive family.
A license—and an immediate family!
We were one final walk-through away from being an open foster home when we discovered that our agency was trying to find a placement for three brothers. They were one, two and three years old. We expressed interest, and a week later, we found out that our family had been selected! The boys moved in a couple days later and never left. We finalized their adoption in November 2015, after 15 months of having them in our home.
On the way back from the adoption ceremony, my wife said, “I do not feel like our family is complete yet. I think we are supposed to keep fostering.” I completely agreed.
We went on to make our carport a bedroom that would add several more beds in our home and focused on fostering. We had 13 more foster placements before our hearts were moved toward adoption again.
Room for five more?
We knew that, once again, we wanted to adopt a sibling group. Shortly after we told our caseworker, she called to let us know about a sibling group of five she was working with would need an adoptive family soon.
When she told us more, we realized that we knew these children! As part of our work with our church, we used to visit their family every Saturday and bring them to church on Sundays. We loved these kids!
It had been a few years, and we had lost track of them. But the two oldest remembered us. The first time we met, they ran over and gave us the biggest hugs. We knew then and there that we would do whatever we needed to do to adopt them.
Making adjustments and finding support
Of course, becoming a family of ten has required many adjustments—starting with buying a mega van and getting very, very organized! Those were the easy things. More difficult was the process of helping our children, who had been in several homes before joining ours, learn to trust that this was their final home and we would love them unconditionally and keep them safe.
It was a little rough in the beginning, and we still have our crazy days, but now everyone gets along wonderfully, and we really love each other. As Naomi says: “Our family was formed because of brokenness. From it, we have created something beautiful.”
Thankfully, we have not done this alone. We have a very amazing support system. Our families have been alongside us through this entire journey, our church has been encouraging, and we have an amazing group of local foster and adoptive parents who we lean on for advice and counsel. When we feel burned out or need a date night we always have someone to call who is willing to help.
Reflecting on the rewards
We started down this path with a heart for keeping siblings together, and we have helped eight children not only keep their brothers and sisters but gain new ones as well. We’ve built a family, and that is tremendously rewarding.
Hearing our children call us Mommy and Daddy or say, “I love you” melts our hearts every time. Naomi says that every time she looks at our family photo and sees the ten of us together, she feels overwhelmed—and humbled—at what we’ve created.
There is a false assumption that antisocial behaviors only occur in older children who were adopted out of the foster care system after suffering neglect or abuse. In fact, time and again I hear from distressed parents of children adopted at all ages that their children have been lying and stealing – and that they don’t know what to do about it.
Parents of children adopted as newborns or young babies are often bewildered and caught by surprise if their child hoards food, steals money and tells falsehoods. “I could understand if he had a history of hunger and trauma,” one mother explained. “But my son has never been deprived of food or love. I brought him home with me when he was 4 days old. Why is he constantly stealing money from my wallet and sneaking food from other people’s houses?”
The possibility that an adopted child may have an increased tendency to lie or steal is something that is not discussed enough in pre-adoption consultations, nor in online comment threads, because nobody wants to be attacked for perpetuating the stereotype of the “troubled adoptee” or the “bad parent.”
In a society that is quick to shame parents, it is scary to acknowledge and openly talk about a child’s behavioral struggles. The key is to move away from judgment and learn that what is happening is actually an understandable adaptive behavior by a child in psychological pain.
There is so much need… Please consider donating your time, your skills, or even gently used furniture to local foster care support groups. Connect w/ your nearest Promise 686 or other not-for-profit organization, or message us for more info. Thanks.
Michael Fulcher said his combative personality makes it difficult for him to stay out of trouble.
The 19-year-old was kicked out of his mother’s Tennessee home at 16 because he was causing problems at school and getting arrested for fighting.
So he found himself living in a hotel room in the Athens area and not going to school when someone tipped off Georgia Division of Family and Children Services officials. DFCS placed him in foster care in Athens.
Normally he would have been back out on his own in a few years, but six months after he turned 18, Fulcher decided to take advantage of a state program that helps young adults transition to independent life by the time they turn 21.
“I tend to get in trouble on my own,” he said. “As foster kids, and kids in general, we’re still discovering ourselves, even at 18.
“The state, acting as your parent, has been kicking kids out when they turn 18. Would you kick your kids out of the house on their 18th birthday?”
Few noticed, but Congress passed a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s troubled foster care system. Child welfare advocates say it will have a dramatic impact on children and their families…
“If I am unwilling to be an advocate not just for MY son and daughter, but for ALL black sons and daughters… what am I doing here? I have no right to be their mother.”
Jen Hatmaker shares her experience as a white mom raising black children.
The children were going to die.
Mohamed Bzeek knew that. But in his more than two decades as a foster father, he took them in anyway — the sickest of the sick in Los Angeles County’s sprawling foster care system.
He has buried about 10 children. Some died in his arms.
Now, Bzeek spends long days and sleepless nights caring for a bedridden 6-year-old foster girl with a rare brain defect. She’s blind and deaf. She has daily seizures. Her arms and legs are paralyzed.
Bzeek, a quiet, devout Libyan-born Muslim who lives in Azusa, just wants her to know she’s not alone in this life.
“I know she can’t hear, can’t see, but I always talk to her,” he said. “I’m always holding her, playing with her, touching her. … She has feelings. She has a soul. She’s a human being.”
“Have you ever held a broken child in your arms as they cried out for their mommy, hoping, wishing, praying you could do anything to take the pain away? Have you ever tried brushing the teeth of a 2 year old who screamed in pain because every tooth was decayed due to the neglect they faced at the very hands of their own parents? Have you ever had to sit down two children, both under the age of 5, and explain to them how their mommy is in jail and you have no idea when she’ll be out? Each and every one of these things are true stories. These are the real life moments of being a foster parent and once you’ve experienced the emotions that sit behind the closed doors of a foster home you will never go back to living life the same way again.” -Bailey H.
“People tell me all the time, ‘I don’t know how you do it! I could never become a foster parent. It would be too hard to say good-bye to the kids once I’ve gotten attached.’ And I get it, I do. I used to say the exact same thing. But now, I wonder what in the world I was thinking. Was I serious? It would be too hard for… me?
Make no mistake. It is hard. There are plenty of days when I feel like I just don’t have it in me to do this. My ideas and energy and patience fall flat. There are endless meetings and appointments and phone calls. There are false accusations and frustrating decisions. Foster parenting can be tough.
And yet these kids are forced to do hard things every single day, through no fault or choice of their own. They are abused and neglected and forced to fend for themselves. They are separated from siblings and shuffled from place to place. Kids in the foster care system have endured more hurt in their short lives than most of us will pause to think about, let alone experience, in our own.
“The call came from a DHS supervisor at midnight: “We have a 3-year old girl at the hospital. Her mom was shot and is not expected to live through the night. Her dad has been arrested. Domestic violence. All clothing was taken by police as evidence so if you could bring a blanket that would be great. Can you come pick her up?” ‘Yes.’
“The call came from a CPS worker while I was making dinner: “I just came on the scene to find a 4-year old boy sitting in the back of a police car. His clothing is soaked with urine from his mentally unstable mother; he may have lice, and he is filthy. Can we bring him to your house?” ‘Yes.’
“The call came from another county as we were getting ready for bed. “We have a 2-year old who is sound asleep at the DHS office now. She was brought to the ER with an injury. Her mom was so high on drugs she could hardly function. This little girl is adorable. We just need someone who can take her for the night. Could you?” ‘Yes.’
“The call came from the placement desk while I was in the middle of a run. “We have a tiny 10-day old baby boy. Things aren’t working out with his current foster home, and we need to move him. Do you have an infant car seat?” ‘Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.’
My husband and I are biological parents to two young kids, as well as foster parents to a revolving crew of kids under the age of five. A friend, who also fosters, once told me that calls from DHS are like a Create-Your-Own-Adventure Game. Each “yes” takes your family on a wild new adventure you never expected. I always wonder what adventure we are missing out on with the calls we can’t take.
We say yes because these broken babies need a safe place to land. They need a mommy to wrap them in blankets and tuck them in at night. They need a daddy to hoist them up on his shoulders and gallop them around the backyard. They need clothing that fits and food that nourishes. They need to be tickled and trained and taken to the zoo. They need boundaries. They need love.
I have been surprised to find how much we need these little people, too. They are sweet and feisty and stubborn and funny. They keep us on our toes and teach us lessons we need to learn.
The next phone call will come. And my husband and I will say yes. Not because we are some amazing poster family for foster care. We will say yes because these kids are forced to do hard things. The least we can do is look into their broken eyes and say, ‘Yes. I will do hard things with you. I will hold your hand and kiss your head and calm your tantrums. By God’s grace, we will figure this out together.’
When it is time to say good-bye, I will wash their clothes and pack their stuffed animals. I will ache and cry and wish it could be different. But I will never regret saying yes.”