Below are some real stories of real people who have been impacted through our adoption programs. Click on their names to read how we are helping make a difference in their lives.
Lori & Brad's Story
One in four Americans say they have considered becoming foster or adoptive parents, but fewer than one in 500 ever act on that impulse. With so many adults thinking about it, and with such a huge need in the child welfare system, why don’t more adults actually become foster parents?
That question weighs heavily on the minds of Lori and Brad, a couple living in suburban Grand Rapids. They are parents of three biological daughters, now adults, four young adopted children, and an infant daughter with special needs they are currently fostering. Besides being busy and devoted parents, Lori says they often find themselves “crawling up on our soapboxes” to convince other couples to become foster parents.
Lori grew up in a large blended family in Kentwood. As a young girl, she was fascinated by a foster mother in her church “who always had a baby in her arms.” When she married Brad 26 years ago, they started their family the traditional way. Mothering came easily to Lori, but her pregnancies were difficult and all three girls were born prematurely. “When my obstetrician refused to deliver any more of my babies, I thought about that lady in my church,” Lori says.
Brad, who is employed outside the home, was happy to become a foster dad and says he’s an expert at “holding babies.” Over the last ten years he and Lori have fostered more than 40 children and have adopted four of them: Sam, age 10, Mackenzie, 9, Ashley, 4 and Alexis 22 months. Brad is serious when he talks about the need for more foster families. “I know a lot of people who would make great foster parents. But they reject the idea for the wrong reasons,” he says.
“People remember the horror stories of birth parents who demand their child back. That has not been our experience at all,” says Brad. “Our case workers at D.A. Blodgett - St. John’s are always very clear about whether a foster child is available for adoption. They are very careful. You know what’s going in with every child you take into your home.”
People are also fearful of adopting a child because of physical or emotional problems a child might have, Lori says. “When you adopt a child through D.A. Blodgett - St. John’s the case worker requires you to read the entire case file,” says Lori. “They want you to know everything there is to know about this child."
In most cases the foster placement is temporary and the children are eventually returned to their biological parents. However, if children become available for adoption, they are often adopted by their foster parents. This was the case with four of Brad and Lori’s children.
Brad wonders why more families don’t foster and adopt. “The process is simpler, faster and less costly than an international adoption, and it helps children in this community,” he says. “Becoming a foster parent typically takes three to five months, and families receive a stipend to help cover the child’s expenses.”
“We talked to a lot of agencies before choosing D.A. Blodgett - St. John’s,” Lori adds. “We’ve loved every single worker from D.A. Blodgett - St. John’s. They listen to our needs. They visit us and the kids at least once a month and we talk on the phone or chat by email every three to four days.”
Mary Lou Bomgaars, a Supervisor in the Department for Foster Care Licensing is happy to have this couple in the program. “Parenting is a passion for Lori and Brad. They are very hands on. Lori is very thoughtful and intentional about being a mom. She is on our Foster Parent Advisory Council and helps to train new foster parents.”
Despite all of Lori’s skill and experience, she still welcomes the support she gets for her growing family. “When you become a foster parent, you aren’t alone. There’s a big network of case workers and other foster parents. We support each other.”