The scene: We’re sitting on a big, comfy sectional couch- all of us, including the family’s two dogs, and two visiting dogs. The kids are talking over each other answering questions; arguing about the details of the facts. The dogs can’t decide who they want to sit on, so keep moving around and stepping on people. The kids are all eager to share their perspective on the process. Mom and Dad just sit quietly, letting the kids get their stories out, before they clarify details and elaborate on the family story of the Waltons.
Meet the Waltons: Kristen and John, and their four kids: Hannah, Emily, Carly, and Sean. The Waltons are one of those families that you just gravitate to; they’re loud, they’re honest, they’re loving and they’re fun.
Their story: We met Kristen and John about two and a half years ago when they decided they wanted to adopt. John was adopted at six weeks old and says he and Kristen always knew they wanted to adopt a child who wasn’t as fortunate to be adopted as early as he was.
“We were led to adopt an older kid who had not been adopted yet” – John
Much like many families who are considering adoption, it took them a while to take the first step. It never seemed to be the right time; they had three daughters already who were active and busy, and they weren’t sure how to navigate the process. They were worried that adoption would be expensive, and they didn’t feel like they were financially prepared for that.
When they were ready to “take the plunge,” as Kristen calls it, they contacted The Settlement Home, where they worked with Megan Z., our Foster and Adoption Program Director.
“The Waltons were very much committed to adopting a child with barriers to adoption,” said Megan.” “Especially when a family already has biological children, it’s very important for the child they are adopting to make a thoughtful match”.
Kristen and John started the adoption process; over the course of a year, they attended pre-service trainings and got licensed. They met Sean, first without him knowing they were interested in adopting him. Then Carly, Emily and Hannah got to meet him. They admit that the first couple meetings were awkward, but they didn’t expect to just click right away.
“It’s not that expensive. It’s really more of an investment of time.” –John
Over the next two years, and through the adoption process, the Waltons grew. They grew individually, and they grew as a family. They are open, honest, and comfortable sharing the struggles. Adopting a child isn’t a perfect or easy process. Families question, disagree and stumble. But they work through it all together as a family.
“The Walton’s resilience as a family unit is what has kept them together and made them a successful adoption.”-Megan
“My family’s great,” Kristen beamed, as she shared her proud moments of each of the kids. She also shared some of the struggles Sean had after moving and starting at a new school. He wasn’t passing his classes, and homework in the evening was a challenge. Children from foster care have a history of trauma, abuse, and neglect. This combined with multiple moves before adoption usually means that children struggle more in school than their counterparts in stable homes.
Kristen asked for help, and the school responded. Over the last year and a half, Sean’s learning has improved and Kristen says that he has matured. She adds that his teach recently nominated him for a SPOT award.
“What I did to earn that was do all my work, make sure nothing was missing, and I try to be on target all the time,” Sean said. “I was actually pretty surprised because I know some other guys who have done well, too.”
“This is a huge, huge success story for Sean,”
If you bumped into the Waltons on the street, they would look just like you would imagine a family to look- an abundance of love, respect for each other, great kids and the typical disagreements that come with having four middle and high school-aged kids. They have hit bumps, they have climbed mountains, and they are incredibly close. They are an amazing family and are blessed to all have each other.
Their advice: Have you considered adopting? Kristen and John have this advice:
· Take the plunge
· Stick with it; it’s a growth process
· Find small celebrations
· Be open with the hard times
· Really listen- to your family and to your newest family member
· Have a good support system, like a church
For more information on The Settlement Home’s Foster and Adoption program, click here: https://www.settlementhome.org/foster-and-adoptive-parents#overlay-context=programs-and-services