Hi! My name is Brittany. My husband, Eric, and I have been married for 13 years. We have 7 children (in our home) and quite a few more that we have the privilege of being mom and dad to. Our family is made up of biological, adopted, and foster children, but no one “wears” that label; they’re just ALL my children. We also have the amazing opportunity to serve the Lord as missionaries in Arizona on the Gila River and Tohono O’odham Reservations. And in my spare time, I decided to go back to college and get my degree in social work. I graduate in 2 weeks!
Adoption is something that I have thought about since I was a little girl. I dreamed of having a big family and being a mom to many. Not long after Eric and I started dating in high school, we had a conversation about each of our desires and dreams for having a family one day. We both had said that we were interested in adoption. Several years down the road, when we were engaged, we had the conversation again. We definitely agreed in this area.
Eric and I were married on May 1, 2004. About 6 months into our marriage, we started researching international adoption. We had no idea really where to begin so we started requesting information from different agencies. We were just trying to wrap our minds around the process and the cost. We noticed that most requirements were for couples to be married a minimum of 2 years. We were bummed, but wanted to keep researching over the next couple of months. Then we found out that I was pregnant, and all adoption conversation came to a halt.
We spent the next couple of years focused on having and raising our 2 biological children. Our desire to adopt never really went away, but we had put it on the back burner for a while. Then we became involved with an organization called Starfish Orphan Ministry. The more we learned about orphan statistics and orphan care, the more our desire grew to begin the adoption process. Then I went on a mission trip to El Salvador to work with orphans, and my life was totally changed. I was no longer hearing statistics, I was holding an actual orphan in my arms. My heart was broken, and I knew that God was calling me and my family to action.
Not long after that trip, Eric and I really began to pray for God to show us where we should adopt from. I literally researched for months. I would go through each country and read through all the requirements to see which ones we qualified for. I would seek out recommendations for agencies that we were considering. And then we prayed over each country. Each time we would do this, we felt led to the Democratic Republic of Congo. We had no idea why. We literally knew nothing about the country, but knew that was the direction the Lord was leading. So, we decided to jump in!
Although we knew that the adoption process was not going to be easy, we had no idea how hard it would actually be. For this first adoption, we had 2 failed referrals. This means that the agency we were using had given us a referral for 2 different children that we thought we would be adopting only to find out that we no longer could adopt them. Our emotions were all over the place. When we finally received the referral for our daughter, Emmalyn, we were ecstatic but also afraid to get our hopes up. We had been told that the adoption process would only take 9-12 months, but it was taking much longer. We also found out that our agency had hired an attorney that was corrupt. He was taking the money we were sending each month for our daughter’s care and keeping it for himself. Although the process was extremely hard, it was all worth it the moment we held our daughter in our arms for the first time on November 7, 2012.
Through the 2-year process of Emmalyn’s adoption, Eric and I also became foster parents through Tribal Social Services. 5 months before traveling to Congo, we were placed with an adorable 11-month-old little boy. He had a rough start in life, but we were going to love him and help him grow as much as we could for as long as he was placed with us. After we realized that his case plan was going from reunification to permanency placement, we knew that we wanted to be his forever family. However, we had been told that adoption was not a possibility through the tribe. The next best option was to seek guardianship so that is what we did. On August 11, 2013 we were made permanent legal guardians to Santos.
Just one week later, we received a phone call from Tribal Social Services letting us know that Santos’s older sister was in need of placement. They were wondering if we were willing to open our home to her as well. We didn’t need to take very long to think about that. Of course, we said yes! We spent the next two months doing transition visits, and on October 4, 2013 Audri came to live with us. Her case plan was not the same as Santos’s, and we had no idea how long she would stay with us, but we were committed to her no matter how long. We had many ups and downs through this process, mainly disagreements with the case manager, but we were able to eventually become Audri’s guardians on December 1, 2015.
Although we were Santos and Audri’s legal guardians, we wanted to make everything official and legally adopt them. We knew that the process would not be easy, but we decided to try anyway. We began the process in February 2015, and had delay upon delay. (One being that we had to become Audri’s guardians before they would consider adoption.) I won’t go into all the details of this adoption because many of the details are about other people involved in the case and it would not be appropriate to discuss those details for the whole world to read, but please know this was one of the most difficult things that I have even been through. Eric and I literally had no idea what the outcome would be. We just knew that we were going to trust God no matter what. On August 3, 2017 Santos and Audri officially received our last name. For those of you counting, that was 5 years that Santos was in our home and 4 years for Audri. Wow!
And in the middle of all of that, we had begun the process to adopt a sweet 4-year-old boy from the Democratic Republic of Congo in March 2013 (4 months after Emmalyn had come home, not knowing what was going to happen with Santos’s case plan, before Audri came to live with us). He was from the same orphanage as our daughter, Emmalyn. We thought things would go much faster and easier this time around since we were familiar with the process and were not using the same agency we had before. Boy, were we wrong. This time around the government of Congo issued a suspension on exit letters. Exit letters were not necessary to complete an adoption, but were necessary for the adopted child to leave the country. Isaiah was officially adopted on October 9, 2013 in the country of DRC but could not leave due to the exit letter suspension. We were told it could take up to 2 years before the government decided to change the policy. This wait was brutal. We watched our son grow up in pictures. We watched his personality change from that of a sweet little boy to a strong, tough boy that showed no emotion. I cannot accurately describe to you how hard this wait was. But, we were finally united with our son on September 19, 2016. It was a long 4-year wait, but so worth it to finally have our son home!
Would I do it all over again? Absolutely! I have seen God work miracles. I have learned what it means to truly trust Him. I have been able to watch God start the healing process in my children. I have seen them grow and flourish in our family.
I read this quote the other day from Jason Johnson, and I think it accurately describes the foster care and/or adoption journey: “It’s the mercy of God that He doesn’t show us everything that will unfold in the foster care and adoption journey the moment we first say “yes” to it. All the hard would be too unbearable and all the good would be too unbelievable.”