Adopted from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at age 16
Phoebe at age 17
We first learned of Phoebe and Julia when I was coordinating the 2007 summer program. As the camp coordinator, I advocated for families for many children, but I was unable to find a family for Phoebe and Julia. Our children were very aware of the children we were trying to find families for, and several of them begged us to host Phoebe and Julia. Their profiles seemed like they would fit into our family so perfectly, but there was no way we would host children that summer knowing that we would possibly be leaving to bring our Colombian daughters home shortly after the Ethiopian children returned.
I remember seeing Phoebe and Julia the day they arrived in Fort Worth at the Gladney Center for Adoption. They looked so beautiful, yet so scared. I’m sure the culture shock must have been difficult for them. They were wearing their native dresses and they seemed to hide behind some of the other children. Gladney had found a family for them, but it was not near the area where most of the other children were placed. During the time the children from Ethiopia were here, we had a barbeque dinner at our home. We tried to expose the children to Texas culture.
We also had horseback riding, steer riding, apple bobbing, fishing, a piñata and more. The kids also enjoyed a very competitive game of soccer. All the Ethiopian children were very good at soccer. Some of our older girls seemed to really connect with Phoebe and Julia. At one point it was so quiet in the house, that we went to see where everyone was. We found a crowd of girls huddled in the upstairs bathroom doing each other’s hair. Abigail and Phoebe seemed to have a lot in common and Abigail talked about her for several days after their visit.
The children returned to Ethiopia two weeks after their arrival, and families immediately began the process to bring them home as a permanent part of their families. Phoebe and Julia joined their original adoptive family in May of 2008. They did not adjust well and there were so many changes for them.
On September 23rd, I received a call from a Gladney representative explaining that they needed a foster family for Phoebe and Julia. I was in the car and surrounded by children when they called. As soon as I hung up the phone, Joshua, Elizabeth, Sarah and several other children started asking if there was any way we could take them. I explained that we didn’t have beds or anything and that I thought we were pretty “full” at home. Immediately the girls started offering to sleep on the sleeper-sofa so that Phoebe and Julia could have their beds. I didn’t know what to say. So I called Jay to talk to him about it. T he timing could not have been much worse. It was a month when we were so stretched financially and we wondered if we would even make ends meet that month.
The following day, I talked to the social worker again. She explained that they desperately needed a family to take them for respite care if nothing else. They were staying in a hotel in Fort Worth with their original adoptive mother and she needed to return home.
So we agreed to take the girls for respite care through the weekend. The only problem was that we were going to be at a show that weekend. The girls were delivered to the East Texas State Fair in Tyler, Texas. I was not sure how they would respond to all the animals and the work associated with showing cattle, but they did amazingly well. During their time at the show, they had so much fun with the rest of the kids. It was as if they had always been a part of our family. Several other families saw this and mentioned it to us. We returned home that Saturday night. The following day, we spent a lot of time at the ranch. We caught up on the chores that had to be done after being gone for several days. Jay spent some time with the girls and it was neat to see how they reacted to spending time with a father-figure. We learned a lot about the girls’ individual personalities that day.
The following week, we decided to continue as their foster parents. We had some really rough days for a while, but eventually the girls adjusted well. We finalized their adoptions in August of 2009.
The girls have adapted to ranch life well and both of them enjoy showing Texas Longhorn Cattle and riding horses at the ranch. We are still trying to help them get caught up in school, but they are making progress. We pray that God gives us the strength and endurance to parent them as they transition into their adult life in the next few years. Until then, we hope they enjoy their childhood and flourish in the love of their forever family.
Phoebe left home only 18 months after she joined our family. She was only 17 years old. She passed through several homes and we have only heard from her a few times in the last three years. It certainly was not the life we had hoped for her, but God gives each of us a free will and the gift of choice. We pray she is able to get the help she needs to fill whatever deep hurts have made it so difficult for her to find peace within a family.