The Lunsford Family

My name is Blake, and I adopted my kids in June of 2014. When I was growing up and in my 20s, I was very “success” oriented. I was driven and cared very much about going to college, getting a good job, and climbing the corporate ladder. Eventually, I obtained a master’s degree in business administration. I got a job I loved as a senior executive. Every few years, I moved, most recently to Kansas City. I fell in love with the area and bought a house. Not too long after that, I began to feel that something was missing.

After about a year, I started looking into foster care. I always knew I wanted to give back to the community and help children in need. Researching foster care, I saw many articles and comments about kids looking for their “forever home.” I never really thought about what happened to children who could not return to their birth families. After reading through adoptuskids.org, I opened up my heart on a whole new level. I found an agency and quickly enrolled in a TIPS-MAPP class. From there, I checked off the list of things I had to do to become an adoptive parent.

I knew immediately that I wanted to adopt older kids. Article after article highlighted how kids over a certain age struggle to find adoptive parents. Most people who want to adopt want the little ones. Therefore, the older kids often end up aging out of the system.

I also knew I wanted two children who were siblings. It was as important to me to keep a family together as it was to create a family. I went through probably 100 profiles of kids from all over the country. Two boys pictured on the Adopt Kansas Kids website drew my attention. They were ages 11 and 13. The website also contained a link to a Wednesday’s Child video featuring the boys. I requested more information.

The website mentioned only the two boys. However, the video also showed an older sister. I asked about the discrepancy and discovered that the sister had been separated from the boys. It seemed the sister thought the boys would have a better chance for adoption without her since she was 15 years old. The sister also thought finding a parent for two children would be easier than finding a parent for three.

“I connected with my three kids before I ever even met them and knew deep down inside that I’d found my babies.”

After getting some background on the kids, I decided to see if their case workers felt like I was a match. I questioned whether I wanted to adopt the two boys or all three children. They had been living in different foster homes for about two years. I talked to my family and friends, then started converting my basement to a third bedroom and asked to be considered for all three kids. Since I am single, I thought it might be a long shot. Still, I wanted to try.

Things moved pretty quickly. You read about how some parents see a kid and just know that’s their kid. I used to kind of laugh at that. When I started looking, I felt that way about 50 different kids — until I found my kids. I connected with my three kids before I ever even met them and knew deep down inside that I’d found my babies. My daughter deserves a lot of credit for getting our family together. If she hadn’t separated herself from the boys, I probably wouldn’t have found them! When I searched, I always filtered out any sibling groups over two.

My children moved in with me the week before Halloween two years ago. Some days are hard and some days are easy, but at the end of every day, I can’t imagine my life without my kids. I’ve never done anything that comes close to being as important as making the decision to start this process.

Italia is now 18. She has completed enough credits through an alternative school to graduate on time from high school. When Italia moved in with me, she hadn’t passed a core class in two years. She also wasn’t involved in any school activities. She had to retake many classes and struggled with self-confidence. Italia once considered dropping out of school and pursuing a GED. Now she wants a class ring and is excited about the idea of being a high school graduate! She also participates in choir, student council and yearbook staff, and has volunteered (without any prompting) to do community service projects through the school.

Italia has been working part-time at an assisted living facility for about a year. She has strong connections with many residents at the facility. We have our ups and downs, but success isn’t measured on a good day or a bad day. Success is measured over time.  I am amazed by what Italia has accomplished in such a short time.

“I wouldn’t change it for anything. My first job is mom, and until now, I had no idea how fulfilling that would be.”

Ed-Rick is 16. He is in the same school program as his sister. He is on track to graduate on time as well. Ed-Rick is in choir with his sister and takes guitar lessons. He adjusted very quickly to being here. The first day we met, he ran to my car and told me he was so happy to be adopted. During our first meeting, he asked me if he could call me mom. When I get frustrated at Ed-Rick’s teenage antics, I think back to that day and smile inwardly. I will carry that memory with me all of my life.

Xavion is 13. He likes to be involved in activities. Xavion asked me almost immediately if he could play soccer, which is something he’s always wanted to do. Since moving here, he has been playing soccer year-round. He plays trombone in the school band and joined his school’s jazz band last year. This summer he is learning the saxophone. I also call Xavion the dog whisperer. My three dogs all quickly attached to Xavion.

Life is much different since I adopted my kids. My house is never clean, the laundry is never done, nothing is ever where I left it. I only get personal time/quiet time when I’m in the shower. But I wouldn’t change it for anything. My first job is mom, and until now, I had no idea how fulfilling that would be.

I would advise anyone considering adoption to not be afraid. Case files and incidents reports don’t define the children. The children all do the best they can with the situation in which they find themselves. You will be surprised to see how kids can rise above it once their fears subside about where they will be living tomorrow. Adoption isn’t easy. But it’s not nearly as hard as I expected it to be. Don’t worry about how officials might perceive your marital status when you’re being considered as an adoptive parent. I was worried about adopting as a single person, and now I have three incredible children who call me “Mom.”

And finally, please be open-minded about older kids. Older children need parents too! My kids were in foster care for over six years. Open your heart and consider these older kids. I promise you, they’ll love you back, too, just like those little ones will!