By Guest Blogger Gina McCarn

Phil and I were both raised in the Triad and moved to Atlanta in 2016. Currently I am living the dream in Norcross, GA married to my husband of 20 years and raising our family. We have been parents for almost 18 years. We have five gorgeous children who call me mom. The Lord has graciously gifted me with four sons and one daughter: Davis (17), Antony (16), Lily (16), Carter (13), and Joshua (11). Along this motherhood journey, I became a foster mom in 2012. For eight years, we have been a foster family. On September 9, 2020 we finalized the adoption of our two sons, Antony and Joshua.

This is our story that began with a simple “yes.” As a family, we said yes to helping vulnerable families and becoming a safe place for children who, for a variety of reasons, are not able to return home. The first question I am often asked is, “Why?” Simply answered: the gospel. As a family, we want to be the face of Jesus to hurting children and the hands and feet of Jesus to families deserving a chance to thrive. We wanted them to experience the love and grace of a Savior. We have never seen ourselves as heroes but rather a family willing and available to love another family.

The next question is typically regarding our original family unit and our biological children. “What about your children? Are you worried they will get hurt? As parents you signed up for this but did your kids? Are you worried that everything will change?” The answer is, “Yes.” We considered all of these when saying yes to opening our hearts and home to ultimately become a bigger family. Recently, our oldest, Davis, answered for me. He answered, “My parents didn’t talk us into this. We said yes as kids too.” The truth is you can’t say yes to foster care without the “buy in” of the entire family. It just doesn’t work. There will be sacrifices and changes and hard days. There will equally be joy and healing and good days. Our family has been forever changed as we have witnessed beauty from ashes. We are equally wise enough to know that even the strongest of families need a community of love and support.

“Wow, you are super heroes, extra special people.” The truth is we are nothing extra special. We are ordinary people with flaws, stress and problems similar to yours, your neighbors or family members you avoid at the holidays. The only difference is we were crazy enough to say yes. Saying yes was scary. There have been days I never want to relive. I have sat in courtrooms where a court-appointed attorney couldn’t remember the name of the biological mother she was representing. I have watched a system, never intended to care for children long term, fail children and families repeatedly. I have witnessed more parental rights be terminated than families be reunified. I have wiped away tears and have cared for children that have experienced loss and grief no child should ever experience. I have weathered the storms that come with trauma. I have cried with a biological dad who missed his son. I have been tattered and torn in ways I could never have imagined. I would say yes all over again because our family is better because we said yes.

There is the dreaded question, often the unavoidable topic asked because curiosity trumps acknowledgement that we are talking about my son. I know people ask it because of the movies they have seen and the news which reports only part of the story.  There is consistent political controversy surrounding undocumented children. The difference is this young man has a face, a name and a story. I have been asked, “Why would you and Phil say yes to a an undocumented, teenage, foster youth that comes from a different culture?” That young man is my son and he is one of the greatest joys of my life. He has hopes and dreams like any teenager. He loves loud music and good food. He’s an athlete and an artist. He’s brilliant and kind. He’s loving and loveable. He is not a statistic in the foster system. He’s a young man that deserves parents and a family just like any other child. He dreams of joining the military and fighting for a country that hasn’t yet recognized him as a citizen. He hopes to go to college and buy a motorcycle. He wants to have his own family one day and I know he will be a loving husband and father. For now, he gets the chance to be a kid with the everyday normal joys and challenges of being a teenager: homework, football practice, homecoming dates and learning to drive. If we had not said yes to him, we would have missed a miracle. Davis, Lily and Carter would have missed having more brothers. Phil and I would have missed the joy of raising two more children. The truth is I really don’t remember who we were before Antony and Joshua.

To learn more about Foster Care, click here

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