March 20, 2019 | Andrew Hurst
Children in the foster care system often report experiencing feelings of grief and anxiety as a result of their transitional lifestyles. Having a sense of family, community, or even identity can be near impossible when living out of a suitcase hopping from home to home and usually separated from siblings.
It is because of these feelings of neglect and disassociation that resulted in Lacey Todd, Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) Social Work Instructor, and her husband, Brian, to make the decision of adopting three sibling children in the foster care system on March 6.
“We felt that it was important for the children to be able to stay together,” says Todd. “It’s highly uncommon for a sibling group of three to be able to be placed in the same home, so that’s one of the reasons we decided to open our house to them.
Though the adoption was just recently finalized, the children moved in with Lacey, Brian, and their 8-year-old daughter, Roxie, on December 8, 2017. The placement was considered a kinship placement due to the fact that the children were related to the Todds.
“Whenever we got the call asking if we would take them, my husband and I decided then that if they were coming with us, then they were going to stay. If we were going to take them into the house, then we were going to have them and eventually go towards adoption if the parental rights were terminated.”
According to Lacey, all three children currently ages 8, 5, and 3 have adjusted well to a stable home setting.
Lacey and Brian were intentional to set a tone of permanency and make them feel at home when they arrived. They immediately unpacked and put away their suitcases along with putting all their clothes on hangers. Family members also came over to meet them and help put the boys' new bunk beds together.
“The children have lived in many different homes through their short lives and have been moved around more times than we can count. They are very loving, get along well with our daughter and have adjusted well to a routine.”
“They are also quite rambunctious” she laughed.
“I’ve had to learn how to be a mom of boys, since before we only had my daughter, and how to go from one child to managing four, making dinner, baths, and how to fit them all along with car seats in one car. It’s definitely an experience…. And to do diapers all over again. You forget how to do diapers,” she said.
Though she and her husband continue to tackle the newfound duties of parenting multiple children, Lacey says that the amount of support they have received from SAGU and the local community has been overwhelming.
Lacey was pleased to find out that many SAGU professors on campus are foster parents including Dr. Darren Daugherty, Program Director of SAGU’s Child and Family Studies degree program. “There are multiple times I messaged him asking advice,” she said.
Along with Dr. Daugherty, Lacey mentioned how Sandra Harp, SAGU Instructor and a former director at Arrow Child & Family Ministries, greatly helped her. “There were often times when I reached out to her to see what I should do,” says Lacey. “Being a foster parent is very isolating and it’s not always like a traditional parenting problem, but being in an atmosphere where foster care and adoption is a commonality helped it feel not as isolating. It was important to have the SAGU community supporting us and giving us advice. Multiple students got “approved” to be sitters for me so we (husband and I) could go out. There are certain steps you have to go through to babysit kids in foster care so Ms. Harp did that and so did another student just so we can have a night out.”
When Lacey and Brian decided to become licensed foster parents, working with the Oaks Church Orphan Care helped fast track the licensing process. “Their Orphan Care program has been a big support. SAGU has actually had interns work closely with the program. Seeing how the local churches work together to provide support for social services and emphasized the churches-needed role in this area was great to see.”
Orphan Care assisted them with the foster care approval process through the agency, Arrow Child & Family Ministries. Lauren O’Leary, SAGU alumna and one of the first SAGU Social Work majors, was their case agent throughout the whole process. “It was an interesting dynamic to both learn alongside her and just see how she’s functioning in the field as a professional,” said Lacey. “Ms. Harp was also one of her first professors and got to see Lauren in action and they both got to join us at the adoption hearing.”
In the midst of the adoption procedures, Lacey thought this would be an opportunity to shed a positive light on CPS workers and foster care services for her students. March serves as the official Social Work Month every year in which social workers throughout the nation are recognized for the important contributions they make to society. As such, Lacey invited students from her Human Behavior and Social Environment and Social Work Practice class to witness the official adoption in court and talk to the Child Protective Services (CPS) worker and foster care worker on the case.
“I wanted the students to see a positive moment in a field that at times can be overwhelming, heartbreaking, and stressful. Although the field of social work is broad and is practiced in multiple different arenas, many of the students want to work in the area of child welfare.”
Since first opening their doors to the children, Lacey and Brian have been able to invest in their lives in more ways than one. The oldest two children were recently baptized at their home church, Highland Meadows in Red Oak. The children have all bonded with their children’s pastors, Austin, SAGU alumnus, and Shallen Slusher. They have also attended North Texas Kids Camp and participated in Fine Arts with Shine Bright Kids Ministry (Lighthouse Church, Bowie, TX) where their aunt is the children’s pastor.
“Although I’ve practiced as a social worker for over 10 years, I have always worked in the area of mental health and only seen the child welfare system work as an outsider. This new journey into foster care and adoption was unexpected and has stretched us in more ways than one. Our family is adjusting to our new normal and seeing each of the children reach new milestones and thrive is worth every struggle. Seeing how many people from all different areas of our lives where there to support our children on adoption day was amazing and emphasized our adoption day motto- “Ohana means family and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten-Stitch.’”