In honor of November being National Adoption Month, Strengthening Families, Changing Lives is sharing some guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.
Ingrid Lawrence’s family story begins like a fairy tale – once upon a time. You might honestly be compelled to gather around this mother, grandmother and great-grandmother as she talks about how foster care and adoption formed the family she has and loves so much today.
“Let me start at the beginning of our marriage,” begins Ingrid, taking us to the year she married her husband, Frank – 1967. “As soon as we were married, we had a 14-year-old sister and a 16-year-old brother on Frank’s side to raise to adulthood. After being married for four months, we found out that we were going to have a baby of our own to add to this family. And this is how our life together started.”
Frank and Ingrid had two girls together – Jodie, now 44, and Candi, now 42– but the family would continue to grow both in love and in number.
“Through the years, we took in our relative’s children. Sometimes for the long term, sometimes for a short term. It was,” Ingrid observes happily “our path in life.”
The Lawrence home quickly became known as a safe and happy one by friends and relatives.
“When our own children were in their teens, we took in their friends,” Ingrid explains. “One girl in particular came over on a regular basis as she and her mother had violent fights. We were her safe house and we ended up getting our first foster care license so that we could keep her with us.”
That was in 1986 and the Lawrences haven’t looked back since.
“When our daughter and her friend turned 18, we continued in foster care and, a year later, we received into our home the most beautiful nine-month-old boy who no other foster parent would accept due to the extent of his illness. I had a bag full of medicine for him instead of a diaper bag whenever I went anywhere.”
Ingrid and Frank were immediately attached to Joseph, but, at the time, they were not encouraged to form such a meaningful bond.
“When he [Joseph] was three, we were told that, even with the TPR (termination of parental rights), we couldn’t adopt him because he is Native American and Frank and I were not. I knew that my husband had some Native American heritage, so I did a family tree. But we were still told that we wouldn’t be allowed to adopt Joseph. But, even though my worker told me I should, I never gave up believing that he would one day be ours.”
Ingrid was heartbroken when the time came for Joseph to leave her and Frank’s care. And understandably so – it was Ingrid who took Joseph to the doctor as often as three times a week. Even so, Ingrid and Frank prepared to be parted from Joseph.
“I bought him a bright purple outfit so that if he got separated from the worker on his flight back to the reservation where he was born, she could easily see him. The morning of the flight, our worker called to say that the tribe had given their consent for us to adopt. We were speechless – so excited and so happy!”
After they adopted Joseph, Frank and Ingrid continued to be foster parents. They were asked to adopt a few other of the children placed in their home, but the time was never right.
“We always felt that Joseph needed a lot of extra help, so we didn’t adopt,” Ingrid says. “But, when our son was seven, along came two little boys that weren’t to stay with us but a month. Needless to say, they are still here, almost eight years later, and we love all of them.”
Isaiah and Dion are now nine and eight, respectively. In addition, Frank and Ingrid are currently fostering two boys – one seven years old, the other five. They are Grandma and Grandpa to Skye, Jessica and Austin and are looking forward to taking part in the Wendy’s Wonderful Families program.
The Lawrence family is a diverse one, including many cultures and backgrounds; their children are Native American, African American, Caucasian and mixtures of those cultures and others. There are medical needs and emotional needs that demand to be considered and met. But to Ingrid, that just sweetens the pot.
“Special needs children seem to sneak their way into your heart and become so much a part of you,” she says. “Maybe that’s why they are called ‘special needs.’ One thing that I do know is that, to our children, ‘family’ is everything. It doesn’t matter if the household is mixed with four different nationalities or different needs. We are all one together – forever.”