Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.
– Proverbs 3:5-6
Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn. Ben and Tracy, parents of three children, always felt called to foster and open up their home to babies needing a safe place to stay.
“We have such a nice home and family, and we were blessed to have such good kids,” Tracy said. “I felt that if we could give a baby a positive start in life, then that would be a good thing to do.”
The Dallas residents became licensed foster parents with MCH Family Outreach in 2009 when their youngest child was 11 years old. At first, they provided respite care for children needing a temporary place to stay – no more than two weeks – due to an emergency or simply if a family needed a break for vacation or personal obligations. After six months of being licensed through MCH, the family received their first long-term placement, a boy named Cash who was only three days old.
Cash’s mother was incarcerated but expected to take custody of him when she was released. However, after a year-and-a-half Ben and Tracy received word the Texas
Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) was looking for a permanent placement for Cash.
“We already knew he was a fit with our family,” Ben said. On July 17, 2012, they officially adopted him.
Ben and Tracy continued to serve as foster parents and two years later a newborn girl named Alexa, whose mother was incarcerated, came into their home. Alexa’s placement was supposed to last six weeks until she was old enough to go to daycare. At that time her biological grandmother would assume custody.
However, her grandmother decided she could not handle the financial obligations of caring for Alexa. She was already working two jobs and taking care of her other grandchildren. It was decided that Alexa would remain in foster care with Ben and Tracy.
Once released, Alexa’s biological mother had some visits with her, but in time they knew her case was moving toward adoption. MCH was not yet licensed for adoptions at the start of their process, so the family proceeded with outside agencies. When Alexa’s adoption became complicated and the family dealt with several delays, Nicole Buchmann, a case manager at MCH Family Outreach in Dallas, was able to support the family as they navigated the emotional ups and downs.
“They had already started their adoption journey with Alexa when I began my position with MCH,” Buchmann said. “Due to past experience with adoption cases I was able to acclimate to the case rather quickly. I knew most of the steps that needed to be completed for adoption, so when one of the steps took longer than any of us anticipated I was able to provide some insight regarding any hiccups that occurred in the process.”
Finally on Jan. 24, 2020, Alexa’s adoption became official. The family celebrated her “Gotcha Day” with a courtroom full of relatives and friends. For her celebration, Alexa wanted everything to be just like her brother’s adoption day, down to the types of food served at the party and where her family members should stand in the courtroom adoption photograph. It was a joyous event for the entire family.
“They are wonderful and patient people who handle any situation with grace and strength,” Buchmann said about Ben and Tracy. “In the midst of the chaos they chose to remain calm. I truly believe it is because they have surrounded themselves with a wonderful support system including their church, family, close friends, MCH, and most of all their faith in God. All of this was the anchor they needed during this process and they were not afraid to lean on that support.”
We’ve been blessed. These two kids we adopted have been great kids, and they really are a blessing to our family. I can’t imagine life without them now. You never know what God has planned for you. Sometimes it’s a nice surprise.
Several hours away, another family was going through a similar journey. Sherry knew she always wanted to foster children, and when her youngest biological child was about to graduate from high school, she felt it was the right time. She went to lunch with a friend who worked at MCH Family Outreach in Tyler to learn more about the program. After attending a foster care information meeting, Sherry decided respite care was her best option.
“Adoption was never on my mind,” Sherry said. “I was thinking that I loved kids and I could have them on a weekend here and there to help out, and that’s it. But God had another plan.”
Sherry became licensed in July 2015 and one month later, Sayde – a 9-month-old who had been removed from her biological mother’s care by DFPS – was placed in her home. Sayde remained in Sherry’s care for a year while her biological mother tried to work through her issues. When she went back to her biological mother, Sherry was able to stay in contact and help out with babysitting. She thought everything was going well, but several months later Sayde and her 9-month-old brother Dranger were placed back with Sherry.
A rollercoaster began as Sherry waited and wondered what would happen to the siblings. She was supported by Tyler case manager Christy Lopez who helped her adjust to having two small children in her home.
“MCH was there to answer questions and keep me informed,” Sherry said. “If they didn’t know the answer, they would find out. They are so awesome and sweet.”
When Sherry learned the biological parents’ rights were terminated and family members of the children were not approved to care for them, she worried the siblings would be split up.
“I never intended to adopt but when I got them both, I knew I didn’t want them separated,” Sherry said. “I was the most stable person they had.”
Sherry’s adoption of Sayde and Dranger became official on July 18, 2019, and was the first foster-to-adopt case completed by MCH Family Outreach in Tyler.
MCH added adoption services to its license in October 2018 and is currently offered in its five foster care locations: Abilene, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Tyler. As of February 2020, MCH had completed 19 adoptions.
“Many families who are interested in foster care are also interested in adoption,” said Kelly Smith, program administrator of the Western region of MCH Family Outreach. “This allows us to prepare a family for both scenarios from the start, so when a child is placed with them and becomes available for adoption, and the family wants to do it, we can move things along quickly.”
Before obtaining the adoption services license, MCH had to turn cases over to DFPS and families completed the process with DFPS staff. Now MCH case managers can support through foster care placement, transition to adoptive placement and the adoption, Smith said.
“We can maintain established relationships, help the family navigate the process and celebrate the new family composition with them,” Smith said.
Once an adoption is complete, MCH staff also follow up with the family to make sure they are transitioning well into their new phase.
Although adoption was not her objective at the start of her journey, Sherry is grateful for Lopez and MCH for their role in bringing the children into her home.
“God has a purpose and a plan for everything,” she said. “He can take something bad and make it good. And here I am with these precious babies. They had to go through a hard start in life, but God was going to make it good for them. I get excited thinking about what they are going to be when they grow up. I know God has a plan for them.”
For Ben and Tracy, their journey with MCH changed their lives. With their older children now out of the house or in college, Cash and Alexa, 10 and 5, have brought new joy and energy into their home.
Although MCH was not licensed for adoption services before Alexa’s adoption process began, Ben and Tracy said they are grateful for the compassion and support they were shown throughout their journey.
“If it wasn’t for MCH, we probably wouldn’t have them in our home,” Ben said.
“We’ve been blessed,” Tracy said. “These two kids we adopted have been great kids, and they really are a blessing to our family. I can’t imagine life without them now. You never know what God has planned for you. Sometimes it is a nice surprise.”
God has a purpose and a plan for everything. He can take something bad and make it good. And here I am with these precious babies. They had to go through a hard start in life, but God was going to make it good for them. I get excited thinking about what they are going to be when they grow up. I know God has a plan for them.
To learn more about our foster care services in one of our MCH Family Outreach locations, please visit our foster care page.