Our Surprise Family

It’s not what I’d originally imagined—but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

by Brenda B. Covert

If someone had told me years ago my future children wouldn’t inherit their grandfather’s red hair or look a bit like my husband, Kevin, or I do, I would have been stunned. After all, the thought I couldn’t have Kevin, Jr. or little Brenda never entered my mind.

But six years into our marriage, when I hadn’t gotten pregnant, I suffered bouts of anxiety and self-doubt. We were more than ready—Kevin had a solid job as an accounting manager, while I worked in marketing for an electrical contractor. What were we doing wrong? It seemed as though everyone else had a baby!

I have to admit, patience has never been one of my virtues. I’ve burned my mouth on pizza countless times because I’m unable to wait for the cheese to cool down. So when we decided to start a family and it wasn’t happening, my impatience kicked in. I had to have a baby, any baby—and soon!

A local newspaper article about crack babies taken into protective custody while their mothers underwent treatment caught my eye—and the idea of foster parenting was born. I felt those children were orphans, and as Christians, we should heed James 1:27 and look after them—at least temporarily. Kevin, however, worried about becoming attached to a baby we’d later have to give up. It took him a month to consider the idea, plus a special Sunday school lesson about unwanted children, before he agreed foster parenting was something we could do.

After we spent three months filling out personal history forms, financial statements, and taking child development classes, we were licensed by the Department of Social Services for one child, either sex, any race, from newborn to age three. Before a month went by, we got the call: A foster family was needed for an African-American baby boy born addicted to drugs. He was waiting for us at the hospital.

We went to the hospital for CPR training, something all foster parents are required to have before they can leave the premises with a newborn. Like two kids at Christmas, Kevin and I asked if we could please peek at "our" baby. The nurse led us into a room where the babies lay sleeping in a row. All, that is, except a curly-headed infant at the far end, whose liquid brown eyes were wide open.

"Would you like to hold him?" the nurse asked me.

I could scarcely breathe. I trembled with excitement as she gently picked him up and placed him in my arms. It was amazing. The baby trusted me completely. He didn’t cry!

It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with Barron, my bouncing, brown-skinned boy. I was finally somebody’s mom! It was a wonderful, scary, exhausting, delightful feeling.

Assuming the birth family was taking the necessary steps to reclaim Barron, I cried every time I imagined giving him up. I prayed God would always protect Barron and allow him to be raised in a Christian family. I thought it would be selfish to ask for more.

When Barron was 10 months old, a caseworker approached Kevin with an announcement: They had a little girl for us! Kevin thought taking another baby would help to distract us from the agony and suspense of not knowing our foster son’s future.

‘"But we’ll have twice as many dirty diapers!" I agrued.

"We can handle that," he said.

"Have you forgotten the midnight feedings? And how crabby I was?"

"I’ll do my best to help," Kevin said calmly. "I did before."

We went to the hospital to see the baby. She looked like a fragile kitten. Not only had she been exposed to drugs and alcohol, but Jasmine was also premature. By the time we met her, she was 6 weeks old and had grown to a "whopping" 4 pounds, 10 ounces. She was of black or biracial heritage, and her father was unknown. We took Jasmine home with us.

I tried not to dwell on what it would be like to be separated from Barron and Jasmine. After all, neither was yet adoptable, and we weren’t sure adoption was part of God’s plan for us. Kevin and I still harbored hope I would become pregnant, but we enrolled in an adoption class "just in case."

Since we didn’t know any other interracial families, we wondered how Barron and Jasmine would feel, as they grew older if we adopted them. I decided to research the success of interracial adoptions and discovered mixed adoptions share the same success rate at producing well-adjusted, happy families—75 percent—as same-race adoptions. Then I read a May 1991 study by Harvard Professor Elizabeth Bartolet entitled, "Where Do Black Children Belong? The Politics of Race Matching in Adoption," which drew a balanced, positive picture of such adoptions. Finally, we received encouragement from our circle of Christian friends, whose feelings mirrored ours as well as those of author Christine Moriarty Field, who in her most recent book, Should You Adopt? says, "I believe children need parents who love, understand, and accept them, no matter what their color or background."

Armed with this encouragement and a serenity that came from God, we bowed to the wisdom of Psalm 27:14—"Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD."

Shortly before Barron turned two in 1993, I received a phone call at work from his caseworker. In a stunning turn of events, Barron’s birthparents signed relinquishment papers, freeing him for adoption. After I picked myself off the floor, I shut my office door and called Kevin, tears of shock mingling with joy. When he answered, he heard my sobbing and suspected the worst.

"Honey, what’s wrong?" he asked, panic lacing his voice. "Did you get fired? Has there been an accident?"

I choked out the news, laughed about my tearful reaction, and mopped my face with a tissue. Outside my door, coworkers wondered what misfortune had befallen me. Soon, everyone knew our good news. I didn’t get much work done that afternoon!

Jasmine’s birthmother signed relinquishment papers a few months later. Finally, God’s plan for our family was clear. When the adoptions were finalized, we embraced the children as our own.

We’ve had nothing but positive reactions to bringing Barron, now seven, and Jasmine, six, into our family. We belong to a support group called GIFT, which stands for Guiding Interracial Families Together; it’s made up of Christian families that look like ours. GIFT offers activities such as zoo trips, potluck dinners, and holiday parties, and we try to join the fun whenever possible.

Kevin and I now run a limousine service from our home; this arrangement allows me to homeschool Barron and Jasmine, and Kevin to spend more time with them. We’ve seen Barron ask Jesus into his heart in the spring of 1996, and Jasmine has since done the same.

For the past year, we’ve been raising a foster baby whose face lights up at the sight of Jasmine and Barron. He couldn’t ask for a better big brother or sister! Our calendars filled with field trips, music lessons, gymnastics, ice-skating, and church activities. Not surprisingly, Jasmine’s first question every morning is, "Where are we going today?"

Acknowledging Barron and Jasmine’s racial heritage is important to us. For Homeschoolers International Day this past March, we studied Kenya and put together a display using some of the African carvings we’ve collected. We also take them to a salon that specializes in black hair care. It’s another way to acknowledge their race, plus it puts Kevin and me in the minority for a change!

Many African Americans in our community have extended a friendly hand, and we’ve been blessed with several honorary "grandpas" and "uncles" who are part of Barron and Jasmine’s lives. My children know they’re black, they’re adopted, and that we’ll love them forever.

While this wasn’t the vision of family with which I grew up, today I can’t imagine life without our two little blessings.