We are Jared and Kristal Black. We live in southwest Missouri with our 5 adopted children and 2 furry pups.
We found out in 2011 as we tried to grow our family that we struggled with infertility. We knew that infertility treatments can get expensive so we decided to try the cheapest and easiest infertility treatment and if we still were unable to conceive we would dive in to adoption. Unfortunately, later that year, I, (Kristal) had my first of 4 abdominal surgeries that cemented our plans to adopt.
In 2014 we signed on with Bethany Christian Services (BCS) in St. Louis, Missouri. We labored through the paperwork, home study, and training required to adopt through them. Fully embracing the concept of an open adoption, we read profile after profile for the next 2 years in hopes we would find not only a child, but a mom who we could share our lives with. As nothing seemed to be working out, Jared started mentioning the word, “foster”. I refused. I was afraid of being placed with a child I could not properly take care of. I was afraid of becoming a “revolving door”. Most of all, I was afraid of pouring my heart into a child and then having to watch them return to a home I knew was not safe for them. All the stereotypical fears I believe most potential foster parents have.
Jared was patient and in 2015 we renewed our contract with Bethany. We were disappointed with our lack of progress but I believed with my whole heart that God had called us to contract with them. That summer, everything changed.
My office at the time was located in the general vicinity of our school district’s year-round preschool. That summer I met a small girl, recently removed from a horrific situation, and placed with a staff member at my school. She was everything I feared in a foster child and yet, I was captivated by her. God knew that I needed a face to change my heart and give me the courage to follow Him into the world of foster care. I needed an actual, tangible, relationship to ease my fears and give me peace.
As my heart was softening, God was still working. We were connected with friends who began fostering two little girls. As we met and got to know them well I finally relented and we signed up for foster classes. Each week as we attended some really tough class sessions my mind and my heart were set on those two little girls. They were the faces God knew that I needed to endure and complete the requirements to receive our foster license.
We had our first placement in October of 2015. Two small children, ages 3 and 4. Non-verbal, not potty trained, and severely neglected. I didn’t sleep for the first week! I knew almost immediately that we were an emergency placement, meaning we would not have them long. So, I made a list of the things I wanted to get done for them. Clothing, medical and dental care, eyeglasses for the little girl, identification in the school system for special services, potty training, and speech. We taught them how to pray and read the Jesus Storybook Bible to them. We fed them healthy food and treated them as if they were our own. In the end, I was able to accomplish everything on my list except for the potty training. When they left the day before Thanksgiving to go live with their grandparents, I was emotionally and physically exhausted.
Because the holidays can get a bit crazy with work and travel, we decided to take our name off the foster list until after Christmas. Lo and behold, in mid-December, I got a phone call from Bethany Christian Services. A mom had been searching their website for someone to adopt her unborn son and she picked us! To say we were shocked is quite the understatement! This is it! This is why we were led to hire BCS. We drove to St. Louis the week after Christmas to meet her and over the following months developed a close relationship with her.
She was scheduled to be induced the first week of March and asked if I would like to be in the room when she had him. Ummm…ya I do! What an amazing chance! One I knew would not come my way again. I immediately said yes. Her induction was scheduled on a Monday so we drove up Sunday and checked into our hotel. We had every baby essential we needed, car seat, diapers, blankets, and clothing. We were prepared to stay until we could get in to the courthouse for the official adoption. Monday morning came. We waited. And waited. Our communication was limited so we were nervous wrecks. She had him! Healthy mom and baby! Hooray! I was a little bummed to miss the birth but so happy everyone was doing well. We waited. And waited. Finally we were invited to meet him. It was quite awkward and extremely short but we knew we had the rest of our lives with him and wanted to respect his bio-mom and her family. The next morning we received a phone call from BCS. She changed her mind. She would be keeping him.
I don’t think I will ever be able to describe how we felt that day as we drove home with a car full of baby gear and no baby. I was numb but I was assured of two things: 1) That God knew she would change her mind, which meant that 2) it was about the mom, not the baby. I had encouraged and talked with the mom about Jesus and His love for her many times over the course of our short relationship. Our time with BCS ended at that time and though we had spent a lot of money during our two years with them, we felt that we had accomplished the purpose God had for us with them simply by showing love to a young mother.
Still reeling, a few weeks later we received an e-mail from our caseworker with the State about five children seeking an adoption placement. We had received many such e-mails over the course of our foster license and had responded to several that never panned out. I learned pretty quickly to read between the lines when I received such an e-mail, sometimes there are underlying issues there that we would not be a good fit for. This one was different. As I read through the brief description that the kids’ current foster mom had written I thought to myself, “These kids are perfect.” I called Jared, “Have you seen our e-mail? Read it and call me back.” A few minutes later he called back and I’m pretty sure he said something along the lines of, “Are you crazy??” He, of course, was all in. We contacted our caseworker and the kids’ caseworker to arrange a meeting to learn more about these kids.
The rest, of course is history. The #crazytrain (as I like to call them), was placed with us in June of 2016. The foster home they had been living in has continued to be heavily involved in their lives and are now known as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We’ve had lots of ups and downs as we’ve learned to be a family but we’re all learning together.
I believe that I am not the only one who needs a face to have the courage to dive in. We not only want to encourage you to jump in, we want you to jump all in. Because when you do, God will do something beautiful.
This is all because of a group of beautiful little foster girls and a husband and a God who did not give up on me. Let our family be that for you.