Tennessee residents, Steve and Brittany, have a marriage founded on a level of commitment many couples never face. Due to Steve’s disability he is physically dependent on Brittany for his care and provision. But despite the physical limitations and challenges, Steve and Brittany didn’t let that hold them back from pursuing their passion to serve as foster parents. When others gave excuses for why they couldn’t foster, this couple dove in, completing their PATH classes with Tennessee Department of Children’s Services and opening up their home to kids in need.
It all started about five years ago when they transferred to Nashville for Steve’s new job. With just the two of them, they tried to fill their empty home with the adoption of two dogs. They pursued information about infertility treatments but were unsatisfied with the options and the enormous expense. Deciding they would be better justified spending that money on children in need, they decided to to focus on fostering.
They took in their first foster placement, siblings, ages five and twelve. That placement turned into a long term engagement, but they continued to take short term or respite placements, a total of 12, over the next two years. The bonds between Steve and Brittany and their first placement, a boy and girl, grew throughout the years. They became more than foster parents to these kids, they became their advocates making sure the changing team around the kids kept up with their needs.
They built a good relationship with the birthmother, helping to educate her about the kids and their progress. They were able to model good parenting skills to her and help the kids balance their loyalty issues. Because as the kids spent more and more time with Brittany and Steve, they began to fall in love with them. To love their new lives, but to feel sad about not being with their birthmother. For two years they were always anxious to go home and had the expectation that their birthmother would make things right this time around.
“We realized we had to always do what was in the best interest of the kids. So we worked hard to build a relationship with the birthmother that helped to establish a healthy bond between us all,” shared Brittany. “We may not think or do things the same way, but we discovered there is always common ground we can find between us.”
Two years after the kids had first been placed into the custody of Steve and Brittany, the courts ruled in favor of sending the kids back to their birthmother on a trial placement. Many of the case workers opposed the move, but shockingly Steve and Brittany supported it. “We knew the kids had to go back and see for themselves if it could work. They lived with this dream of being reunited with their birthmom, even though they were happy with us. We couldn’t take that away from them,” Brittany said.
Right after the court session, the birthmother came to Steve and Brittany’s home. She got to see where her kids had been living the past two years and understand what their lives had been like. She grew emotional, seeing pictures of the kids all throughout the house. Then began the process of packing up all the kids’ belonging and making the move. Whereas the kids had come to Steve and Brittany with nothing, it now took four trips to transport all the stuff they had accumulated over the past two years. It was only during those exchanges of materials, that Steve and Brittany were able to see the kids once again.
“It was so hard for us to be separated and not be able to talk with the kids on a daily basis,” Brittany recalls. “It was hard on them too, because they honestly loved us.”
With broken hearts Steve and Brittany returned to their now empty home, wondering what their next steps would be. They knew they had fulfilled their role as foster parents properly, but their hearts still ached for the kids they had grown to love. However, it was within 30 days, that Steve and Brittany got a call that changed things. The placement with the birthmother had failed and the kids were coming back into custody. The kids came back and were delighted to be home. They no longer talked about going to live with their birthmother. Instead they settled into their new lives and focused on the future. So did Steve and Brittany.
As the birthmother voluntarily surrendered her rights to parent the kids, Steve and Brittany stepped up to adopt them. However they asked the birthmother to explain her actions to the kids, so they didn’t have feeling of resentment or pain. She was very brave and explained in a positive manner to the kids why it was in their best interest and why she supported them moving forward in their lives with Steve and Brittany.
All of this happened in July, but the long process of adopting the kids, didn’t finalize until the following February. Steve and Brittany have been open to the birthmother offering her opportunities to visit with the kids, so long as it always remains positive and in their best interest. As the process for finalization dragged on, Steve and Brittany decided not to let it hold up their lives. They went on a cruise as a pre-celebration. They returned home and visited the animal shelter where the kids got to pick out a dog to adopt. They choose a four year old Jack Russell Terrier that they named, Oreo.
Today the kids are thriving in their new lives. They are both intelligent and gifted, able to reach their full potential under the loving care of Steve and Brittany. They’re also understanding of the the family’s desire to continue to help other kids in need. They moved to a bigger house to provide an extra bedroom in which to host more foster children. Steve and Brittany prefer to foster teenagers. They share that teens are easier placements. “They have always been respectful and kind and appreciative of what’s being provided to them,” says Brittany.
Steve encourages other to give foster parenting a chance. He shares, “I have a lot of things impacting my life, but I don’t let that hold me back. There will always be some excuse you can make, but I refuse to do that. You just don’t know what to expect until you go out and try it for yourself. You have to try.”