Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Gift of a Child

Reading my title, please don't get too worked up...I'm not referring to the Brownie family. I've been waiting all week to share of a new family member to our extended family. My sister and brother-in-law, Aunt and Uncle Berry have added a new Berry to their family one week ago today.

Aunt Berry is a photographer and she taught at a youth camp in Kentucky this past summer season. There were 3 sessions, 1 week for elementary school students, 1 week for middle school students, and 1 week for high school students. Because her Berries are currently in elementary and middle school, she was able to take 3 Berries (Cranberry, Strawberry and Raspberry) to week 1 and 1 Berry (Blueberry) to week 2. Not having children in high school yet, she made the third trip without any Berries in tow.

Aunt Berry has a special heart for children in middle/high school. She loves this age group and when she is able to teach a bible study in church, she always picks this age group. She has a special ability to connect with these kids on so many levels. While sharing time with some of the kids at camp, 1 kid stood out above the rest. A beautiful 16 year old girl with blonde hair and beautiful smile. Aunt Berry felt an immediate connection with this teenager. After talking to her for about 30 minutes, she felt as if she were talking to her own child. She spoke with some of the counselors and found out this teenager was in the foster care system right here in Tennessee and had been since the age of 10. She became burdened by this teenagers situation and commented, "I wish we had the means to adopt her." She text messaged Uncle Berry and surprisingly he replied, "Well, let's talk about it when you get home, maybe we can." Upon leaving the camp, Aunt Berry wrote this teenager an anonymous letter to let her know that she was loved, cared for and to keep her chin up.

This was the beginning of a long fight for the Berry Family. We all prayed for God's hands to be on this decision. Many roadblocks from the agency the State of Tennessee in trusts for the placement of their foster care children. Over the next 5 months, personnel changes, incorrect information given, classes scheduled then canceled indefinitely, were just a few of the many problems they encountered through this process. At one point, they considered whether these difficulties were God's hand closing the door. Then...a light. Uncle Berry made a final phone call to the State of Tennessee and explained their issues. They were immediately placed in the necessary classes and the ball was officially rolling.

Now the process to become a foster and ultimately an adoptive parent is an arduous process. Several home study classes and interviews from a social worker, 6 weeks of what are called "PATH" classes and of course the invasion of all things private to be disclosed. The Path classes were to conclude on December 19th and it would be possible that they would have this teenager in their home by Christmas. Hopeful is the best description of what my sister and her family were feeling.

The first week in December, they received a phone call from the case worker. If they were willing, the state may place the teenager in their home that week, even before all the classes had been concluded. The state felt comfortable enough with what they had seen so far and their commitment to this young girl, who is now 17 years old, to place her. The journey was almost over, she would be safe in the arms and home of the Berry Family. But unfortunately, heartbreak was to follow. 2 hours later on the same day they agreed to take the teenager into their home, the case worker called and told them there are now 2 families interested in this teenager and it would be January possible February, if ever, that she would be placed in their home.

A roller coaster of emotions...sadness, despair, hopelessness. Here is a teenager that has a family that wants her, is now stuck in the system because as chance would have it, someone else has seen what an amazing young lady she is and wants her too. But wait, there was one more phone call one day later. There had been an incident in this teenagers foster home that forced an immediate extraction from the home. An emergency placement into a group home within 10 minutes of my sisters home. The case worker told the teenager that their were 2 families interested in her and when the case worker told her a little about each family and told her to choose where she would like to go, she remembered my sister from 6 months ago at camp. A 30 minute conversation that made an impression on this teenager...and she chose to be apart of the Berry family.

Within 24 hours, we have a new Berry in the family...Mulberry. We are so pleased and happy to have an early Christmas gift of love and compassion of a young girl who has experienced so much in her young lifetime so far. She is enrolled in high school and is all honors classes. She sings in the choir and had her first recital with her new classmates last night. She is thriving.

Because my sister and brother-in-law had hopes of having her in their home before Christmas, when they ordered their kids stockings, they ordered her a stocking too and had her name embroidered on the stocking. Did I mention they have 4 children of their own, ages 8-12. When she walked into her new home for the first time, she saw her stocking and was puzzled. She asked, "Why do I have a stocking on the mantle?" My sister replied, "We have been preparing for you since July and this is your new home." From that moment, Mulberry has been calling them Mom and Dad. This is her new home and finally, she has a family. One that will love her unconditionally, provide for her every need and probably every want.

Matthew 21:22 says, "And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive." and Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Endurance and determination describes the Berry family over the last 6 months. It has been a journey of happiness, pain, heartbreak and love. An early Christmas gift of child is always a blessing. A blessing that will impact a young teenager at a critical point in her life. Hopefully, we can show her what a real family is like, that we love, encourage and support one another through all the trials and triumphs in life. Welcome sweet Mulberry to our family.


Dr. Mom said...

Thanks for this story! It seems that every time you turn around you read about some major tragedy online, so it is nice to read about a happy ending! I am so glad everything worked out! She's beautiful!

Brian and Audra said...

Thanks so much for leaving a post on our blog. We're actually in the same PATH class as your family and we think they are so awesome. We are so excited and pray that God blesses their new family.