Rather than dwell in the “honeymoon” phase of their new marriage, Chante and Matt decided to dive right into starting a family. That may or may not sound uncommon until you find out they did so by enrolling in PATH training courses; the required coursework to become a licensed foster parent. From the beginning, these two knew that any children they would have would come through adoption. And due to the heart, Chante had developed serving foster kids as a social worker, they were determined to adopt a child from Tennessee foster care.
They worked directly with The Department of Children’s Services (DCS) to obtain their foster care training and licensure. They felt this choice gave them the biggest opportunity of matching with a younger child (under five years old) since private agencies supporting DCS typically handle the harder to place children or sibling groups because of the additional training and support staff available.
With the process underway in November and the home study completed the following January, Chante and Matt were ready to open their home to a placement. Excited about how quickly things were moving, they were still a bit surprised when just one week after becoming licensed, they received an email from their social worker about a set of children in need of a permeant placement.
A brother and sister, ages 4 and 2, were in the process of having their parental rights terminated, and DCS was ready to move them into a permeant home, so they could begin the bonding process with their forever family. Chante and Matt took a few days to pray over the situation and then told their social worker they were ready. Before they met the kids, Chante put together a “Welcome book” in which she shared pictures and descriptions of her and Matt, their home, dogs, etc. so the current foster mother could share it with the young kids and prepare them for the move. When the kids first met Chante and Matt, they weren’t meeting total strangers, but rather seeing people they had read about come to life before them. It was a great age appropriate resource that helped assist with the bonding process.
After a few visitations and weekend stays, the kids moved in one month later and were adopted seven months later on October 2, 2013. In less than one year, Chante and Matt went from registering as foster parents to becoming mom and dad! It was an amazing process and just what new parents Chante and Matt needed. It allowed them to focus their energies on developing their parenting skills, adapting to the lifestyle change and most importantly, connecting with their new children. One of the biggest hurdles they had to cross, was helping the four-year-old feel total assurance that he was in his forever home, surrounded by parents who would love and cherish him from here on out.
As their family grew more rooted in each other and their routines, Chante and Matt began to feel the urge to return to fostering. They had just mentioned adding their names back to the available home list when they got a call from their social worker about a set of kids in need of temporary respite. Chante explained that although they’d like to help, they were in the middle of packing and moving homes; it was not a good time to take in new kids. But as the day wore on, and the social worker was unable to find another home to welcome these two kids, so Chante received a follow-up call asking if she would please take the kids just for a couple days. To their surprise, this temporary placement turned into long term, and to this day, the kids are still living with Chante and Matt.
While raising four young children, Chante and Matt continued to serve as respite foster parents, taking in 45 kids on a temporary basis of typically 48 hours of less. These type of placements are vital to the success of the foster care system, as it is often a struggle for social workers to find an immediate long term placement for kids entering or moving around in the system. Respite workers also serve the vital role of offering a break for existing foster parents.
Content in their family situation, Chante and Matt kept up their foster care licensure but were not seeking to take in any more long term placements. But then on a whim, their social worker contacted Chante in August 2014, telling her about a three-week-old baby girl that needed a home. Chante remembers calling Matt at work and telling him about the situation, hoping he wouldn’t say no. He agreed, and the little girl moved in. Over the next few months they worked with her birth mother trying to help her regain custody, but with a drug addiction, the birthmother decided to surrender her rights so Chante and Matt could adopt.
Delighted about their growing family, and the choices they had made, Chante and Matt, had yet another blessing coming. Just a few months after the adoption of their baby girl, a biological sister was born and in need of care. The birth mother requested Chante and Matt so her daughters could be placed together. Consenting, Chante and Matt welcomed in baby girl #2 and adopted her ten months later.
Needless to say, the growing of their family has been a whirlwind of activity and big decisions, but it has been one they have fully committed themselves to and been blessed to experience. Chante shares that most important thing you can do is open your heart and do your research. Don’t be afraid to say yes to a child until you have all the facts of their situation. Don’t let one thing set you off and scare you away when there could be so many benefits to taking that child into your home and working with them to understand their situation and find healing from their past. By talking with their social workers and doing your due diligence, you’ll also prevent taking in a child you can’t commit to, causing further disruption.
Chante acknowledges that she has been blessed with children in which the legal requirements of adoption have been faster and less rigorous than many other cases. But that’s not to say it has always been easy. The most important thing she acknowledges from her experience is to be flexible. You can’t let yourself get hung up about changing dates and court sessions. Things will get rescheduled, delayed, moved and changed, so you have to go with the flow, trusting that if the kids are supposed to be with you, things will work out.
She also advises trying to maintain any type of birth parent experience and connection you can for the sake of the children. It helps kids to answer questions about their past and fill in emotional gaps they may feel. Knowing where they came from, why they ended up in foster care and why their parental rights were terminated, helps them understand how they came to be in your family and how you sacrificed of yourself to love them and give them a family.