The reasons people have for adopting a child are many.
Some turn to adoption when they discover that they cannot have children biologically. Some women who didn’t have children when they were younger realize that they can still experience the joys of motherhood through adoption. Some parents who themselves were adopted continue the process into the next generation.
Others decide to adopt – and go on to promote the welfare of children without families – after a life-changing experience.
That was the case of Laura and John Roberts of Sharpe, who already had two biological children, now grown. Their son Jonathan, an 11-year-old student at North Marshall Middle School, was an infant in Guatemala when they first met him. The Robertses had friends who were adopting a young girl from an orphanage there, and the friends, smitten by another child as well, asked them, “Don’t you know anyone who wants this little boy?”
Jonathan was 6 months old when they hoped to adopt him, Laura Roberts said, but due to some unusual legal complications in Guatemala, they were not able to complete his adoption until he was 18 months old.
Their experiences during that extra year “opened our eyes to all the children in the world that need a family,” she said. And those experiences led her to start Starfish Orphan Ministry, in Paducah, in 2006.
“We would not be involved now in the ministry we are in” if not for Jonathan, she said.
Since its inception, the non-profit ministry has taken about 600 people on mission trips to projects involving orphanages in other countries, such as El Salvador, Tanzania and Haiti. They hope to visit Zambia in the future.
Roberts cited a study conducted by the Dave Thomas Foundation, which found that although 40% of Americans polled had considered adoption, only 2% actually had adopted a child. So while her non-profit ministry does not facilitate actual adoptions, it does promote adoption and foster care. “We have resources and information on domestic and international adoptions and foster care,” she said.
Another Marshall County couple has fostered about 16 children since 2007 but only recently decided to adopt teenage sisters, Jenna and Jazz. “Of all the kids, these two girls just seemed to fit,” said Bette Foster, of Benton.
Foster was quick to point out that the situation is not perfect. “We have our problems,” she said, although nothing like those the family has had with a few other foster children, some of whom became runaways, and some put holes in the walls of the couple’s home. One younger boy the couple could not keep because of difficult behavior issues affecting the other children.
The girls’ placement with Bette and David Foster is the teenagers’ third, she said. In the girls’ first placement, the foster mother had issues; and in the second placement, lasting about four years, the foster parents talked of adoption on and off, she said, and that was hard on the girls. The girls have been with the Fosters only since March, she said, and “we don’t know what our lives would be like without them. We enjoy everything about them. They are a perfect fit.”
Bette Foster has four grown biological children and five grandsons, and the couple’s impending adoption of Jenna and Jazz means a great deal to her husband, an outside sales rep for O’Reilly Auto Parts. “The best part,” Bette Foster said, “is that my husband has no children of his own and he is now able to fulfill a dream, to have two kids of his very own.”
The Fosters started the adoption process in the summer, when they gave notice of their intentions to the state and to Benchmark Family Services, of Paducah, a private care provider that placed the girls with the Fosters.
By August the couple and their attorney had initiated the necessary paperwork, and they are now awaiting a court date, the final step in the journey.
“Things are proceeding right along,” Foster said, her voice full of happy anticipation.