Adopt a middle-schooler. For some, that’s a scary thought. But for empty nesters Mike and Ramona Evans, it’s the reason they just completed Project 1.27’s parent training. Why?
Mike and Ramona put it this way-
We think the middle school years are the most impressionable, challenging years children go through. Their competence, their self-image, especially with girls, is forming. Middle-schoolers are being challenged by social media, by friends, by everyone. We lived it with our own five kids; saw them face challenges we thought they were prepared for and some we didn’t see coming. Middle-schoolers need that extra layer of support, a guide to help them navigate adolescence. They need caring parents in their lives and our prayers to help them get through.
What led you to explore adopting a middle-schooler from foster care?
One Saturday night, we were driving along having a vigorous debate about where to have dinner. We looked at each other and said, “If this is our biggest problem, we need to offer more to the world!” We had various influences like the Adopt a Child program on Channel 4. We attend Colorado Community Church, where Project 1.27 was launched. Watching Pastor Robert and his family (we don’t really know them, but we sit behind them in church and have watched the kids grow up) inspired us. We heard about Project 1.27’s vision of a family waiting for every child and the need for families and knew we had more to offer. Ramona has always had a heart for children, and mentored teen moms, one 13, one 16 for several years. This is a God-calling.
Tell us about your family.
When we married nine years ago, we blended a family of five children ranging in age from 21 to 28. We are blessed with four daughters and one son, all with unique personalities, all doing great things in the world. When we got together, our youngest children were in middle school.
How did your kids respond when you told them you wanted to adopt a middle-schooler?
Their reactions were all positive. Taylor, one of our older kids said, “I think I’m going to cry. That’s so awesome!” Our two college kids have snappy personalities and when we told them we had news to share, they were prepared for the absolute worst. When the college kids heard we wanted to adopt a child from foster care, they thought we were cool for doing something good for society. The youngest cried and said, “My heart is full now.”
What do you think it will be like when a new middle-schooler joins your family?
At first, we had a narrow focus that the changes would just be about us. After support group training, I (Ramona) texted my closest niece, that we were going to have an addition to the family. My niece texted back, “!!!??? Are you getting a dog?” When I responded that we were going to adopt a middle-schooler, a text came back, “What do you mean an addition to your family. It will be an addition to our family!”
Almost everything we do, we step back and ask ourselves, how will this change things. “Where’s he going to sleep?” “Go to school?” We were making a salad the other night and asked ourselves, “Is this something she’s going to want to eat?” We’re asking ourselves questions about how we’re going to help this kid fit into our life and how we’ll fit into her life, as well as what will make the transition easiest for the child.
What are your hopes and dreams for this child?
That he feels loved and safe so he can become his best self. We hope he will walk in a life of faith and become fully integrated into our family and broader extended family.
Where are you in the process?
We’ve completed the training classes, turned in our application packet – we still need a couple of documents. We’ve chosen an agency, Nightlight. Thankfully, we’re on the downside of all the mounds of paperwork!
What are your next steps?
We’re planning to adopt a middle- schooler so don’t have to do anything else to our home. Since we haven’t raised kids in our current home, we’re looking around the neighborhood as to what is available for middle-schoolers – what are schools like. We’re finishing paperwork, praying a lot and continuing to slowly tell friends and family about our decision.
Is there anything about training that caught you by surprise?
You’d think after raising five kids, you have a good handle on parenting, but during parts of training I (Mike) felt like I was back in drivers ed, relearning tools and skills, and wishing I had some of these new tools when raising our kids. The TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention) training was totally new; a different way to look at parenting.
How have you changed since you started the process?
I’m more intentional about connecting with our kids, more intentional about language with family members. I’m more aware that there are true needs out there and being intentional about getting off the couch and engaging with those needs. In our everyday life, we’re being more aware and open to learning new ways of doing things – I don’t think I’ve read as much as I have in the last eight months – so much about foster care and teenagers – lots of facts and learning.
What kind of support will you need as foster parents and later adoptive parents?
Prayer for sure. One thing we know we’ll need is therapy for the three of us to help engineer out missteps and miscommunication. With the behavioral and other issues that can come along with foster experiences we know that therapy and positive reinforcement is important. We’re opening ourselves to a whole new realm of friends – a support group. We want to find other families fostering middle schoolers and hope to introduce the child to the youth ministry at church.
What would you tell other people considering foster care or adoption?
Go to an Info Night. Take that step. At least schedule a call with Project 1.27. Go to a support group meeting. Pray about it.
Why do you think it’s important for churches to be involved?
Churches, on these important topics, should take the lead. When you see this modeled and talked about in church, it becomes a visualization about what you should do. You step past being afraid to do what is right, even if it is hard.
How can we be praying for you?
Pray that the child we will adopt knows she is loved and that we will never leave her. Pray that our current children know we don’t love them less and that they continue to understand why we are doing this. Pray that Ramona and I will keep our relationship strong and growing.