For children in foster care, it could be their only lasting connection to their biological family. It could also be a painful reminder of a past they’d like to move on from. That was the case for 19-year-old John, who no longer thought of his birth parents as his “family.” He didn’t want that connection to his parents any longer. After all, his foster family had more of a positive impact on his life than his bio parents did. That’s why when John came back home to Tucson on leave from the military, he asked to legally change his last name to that of his foster family.
Kelley and her husband, John Sr., have been foster parents in Arizona for more than a decade and each foster child has a special place in their heart. But not every placement has been easy. When 12-year-old John entered their home in 2011, he came to them with a lot of anger and resentment. There was no honeymoon stage with John. The difficult behaviors started immediately, especially at school. He was defiant, disruptive, cursed at the teachers, and would walk out of the classroom out of frustration. Still, Kelley and John Sr. could see through the anger and knew his heart just needed healing and he just needed nurturing. They stuck by John through trouble at school, breakdowns at home, and shocking outbursts.
“John’s Principal asked me why I stood by him with such loyalty and I replied that I could see the good in his heart. We had no doubt that God had a reason for us to parent John and with each day that passed, our relationship began to build.“ – Kelley
John experienced a lot of firsts with his new family: his first birthday cake, his first Christmas gifts, and his first party. When John graduated high school, he turned 18-years-old and shipped off to basic training all in the same month, so his family threw him his very first party to celebrate his next adventure.
“He was like a little kid, so excited for ‘his’ party but the sadness in my heart was that this young man was going off to the military to fight for our country and he was having his first party. I wanted to embrace the little kid in him because I knew a few days later he would be on a different journey.” – Kelley
John finally felt like he was a member of a family. He knew that his foster family would always be there for him and love him unconditionally. That’s why when John returned from the military on leave, he sat his family down and asked them if he could officially take their last name. God used this family to help John become the loving and hard-working young man that he is today. A young man who is determined to be the best medic in the military he can be and spend his life serving others. The best part is that he’ll always have a family to come home to.