Gary and Janell embarked on a journey that would forever change their life and the lives of their children. Their journey began when they accepted the challenge of becoming foster parents. At that time two of their biological daughters were grown and the other was in high school. Gary and Janell were well on their way to being empty nesters. Little did they know other plans were in store for them. They say that they “simply felt a calling” to become foster parents. There was no other way to describe it.
Gary and Janell have opened their arms to 10 babies over the last 5 years, their stays ranging from 2 days to 17 months.
“We can’t remember what our family was like before foster babies. We must have been boring,” Gary and Janell joke. Their lives with foster children are anything but boring. They go to Disney World, take family trips, and have numerous family gatherings. Their foster children have certainly felt the love and support from their foster family.
Foster parenting comes with joy, but it can also be challenging. Gary and Janell have felt the heartache of babies leaving their home to uncertain futures. They have endured sleepless nights and walking the floors with infants.
Amidst the challenges, they have experienced numerous blessings. Both Gary and Janell agree that when a child runs to them with open arms, their hearts swell. They feel the pride when a child recites a Bible story for the first time. They know the joy from comforting a scared child. Rewards far outnumber the challenges.
“It hurts sometimes, but in the big picture, the blessings outweigh the hurt.” states Janell.
When two of their foster children became eligible for adoption, they felt it was in the best interest of the children for younger parents to adopt them. Bailey and Avery, the Smiths’ older biological daughters, stepped forward to open their homes to the children. Having already gone through the foster care training, Bailey and Avery were well equipped to become foster parents themselves. Without much delay, the two foster children were able to remain in the family, with their older daughters.
Now that their older daughters are foster parents, Gary and Janell feel extremely proud of them for the decision they have made to provide homes for children who would otherwise be placed in shelters. Bailey and Avery joke about how easy their parents made fostering look.
Avery is now married and has a biological daughter of her own. Her foster child and biological daughter are only ten months apart. They hope their foster child will soon become a permanent member of their family. At first Avery was a little nervous that her love would be different for her biological child. Her anxiety was quickly overcome. When asked what it was like to have a foster baby and a biological baby, she expressed, “There is no difference [in love] in adopting a child and having a child.”
The family has been asked frequently how they can cope with difficulties of fostering, such as having to let a child go. Their outlook is “You take care of the physical and let God do the rest. It’s not about you.”
When Gary and Janell decided to become foster parents, they immediately turned to Lilyfield Christian Adoption and Foster Care agency located in Edmond, Oklahoma. They knew the agency to be a reputable, Christian organization specializing in adoption and foster care.
Understanding the need for foster families and having a heart for the most vulnerable in our community is originally what led Gary and Janell to step forward on this journey. Five years later they have still felt overwhelming peace with their decision and have now passed their legacy of fostering to their own children.
Through all the joys and heartaches Gary and Janell have endured through fostering, they know it’s not over for their family. Their hearts and arms are open wide for children who need love and support.