How the Carpenter Family Chose to Grow Through Foster Care and Adoption
One decision, one phone call and one day made all the difference for the Carpenters. Their family grew from one daughter to four children over the course of several years, but it all began with one simple choice: to open their hearts and their home to kids in temporary foster care.
Adoption had always been in the back of Christy Carpenter’s mind. When she and husband Logan were engaged, they talked about the possibility and said, “someday.”
The couple welcomed their first child, their biological daughter Ellie, early on in their marriage. Christy became a stay-at-home mom and Logan worked as a pastor at Second Baptist Church. At that point, Christy said the “someday” was seeming more and more like it might be “never.”
“Adoption honestly seemed like it couldn’t happen because the price tag for a private adoption — domestically or internationally — just wasn’t in the cards,” Christy said. “So I was pretty discouraged.”
But she was determined. As the self-proclaimed “gas pedal” in their marriage, Christy was searching for a solution, and when The CALL visited Second Baptist in 2009, the Carpenters’ answer was right in front of them. The CALL is a nonprofit that works to mobilize and recruit people around Arkansas to serve as adoptive and foster parents.
Christy and Logan attended an informational meeting and discovered there is no cost to foster or adopt through the system, while adopting through a private agency can cost tens of thousands of dollars. They had figured out their “how.”
“I was like ‘my name’s Christy Carpenter, sign me up!’ and Logan was like ‘slow down,’” Christy said, laughing.
But the gas pedal outweighed the brakes and, during that meeting, they filled out background checks, did fingerprints and signed up for a training class. Within four months, in March 2010, they had completed the paperwork, interviews and 30 hours of training and were open and certified.
They entered into the process wanting to permanently grow their family, so the Carpenters decided to open their file as “adoption only.” The idea of fostering a child and having to say goodbye seemed too difficult.
“When you’re fostering, the goal of fostering is reunification with the biological family or relative and you have to be on that page,” Christy said. “You have to be rooting for the biological family, and at that point, we didn’t know if we were there. If you’re adopting through the state, it’s only children whose parental rights have been terminated.”
For about six months, the Carpenters waited for a phone call; they were ready to welcome a new child into their family.Growing impatient, they decided to step out of their comfort zone and made a decision early one morning.
“In September, we called our resource worker and said ‘Hey, we would like to foster while we wait. So keep us on the adoption waiting list, but let’s foster while we wait so we can be meeting a need,’” Christy said.
On that same call, the caseworker told Christy she was going to bring over a baby girl that evening. Even remembering the moment, Christy smiled in excitement. She said she began getting out baby supplies and preparing to welcome a little one into their home.
The day went on and her excitement began to turn to confusion when, by 5 p.m., there was still no baby. She called the caseworker and found out that the child wouldn’t be coming because they had found a placement in her county.
“What we didn’t know was that at 5:40-something that night our son was being born over in a hospital downtown,” Christy said. “It’s so crazy because when you look back in hindsight it all makes sense, but right there at that moment we were so disappointed.”
The next morning, Christy got a phone call for another placement — a newborn baby boy who they were invited to start visiting in the NICU. They met their son, Levi, as a foster-only placement when he was less than 24 hours old. Six months later he became a permanent part of their family.
“The crazy thing is, looking back, as we were kind of mourning that we didn’t get to foster this baby girl, he was being born,” Christy said.
Shortly after adopting Levi, Christy got another phone call. The caseworker told her that another baby boy needed somewhere to go and it would likely be a short-term placement. This child ended up going home with a relative after a few months, which was difficult for Christy and Logan, but they knew it was best for him.
“You do get attached and it is hard,” Christy said. “We put that little boy having a safe, loving place to stay … above our own personal feelings of ‘this is hard’ or ‘I’m going to cry a little bit.’”
After this foster son went home, Christy and Logan were emotionally worn out. They decided to close — meaning they wouldn’t be on the list for calls about adoption or foster care — and focus on their two kids. But they weren’t done yet.
When Levi was about 15 months old, the phone rang again. It was the adoption specialist from Levi’s case, who told Christy that Levi’s birth mother had a baby girl who had come into care. She wanted to know if the Carpenters would be willing to re-open and take her into their home.
“The funny thing is that I was talking to some friends saying, ‘Yeah, I think two kids might be it,’ and then the next day … the adoption specialist calls,” Christy said.
“We had always said is two the right number for us? But if another sibling came we always wanted to be able to do that,” Logan added.
Annabelle came to the Carpenter home when she was a few weeks old as a legal risk pre-adoptive placement. And while they were excited at the potential of a new daughter and sibling for their children, Logan and Christy realized there was no guarantee that she was there to stay.
“We understand this could be the time that the birth mom turns her life around,” Christy said. “And while that’s hard, at the same time, in a different kind of way, we love her … we said we will never root for the birth mom to fail so that we get to keep her.”
Less than a year later, they finalized Annabelle’s adoption, and again closed their file. But again, their adoption story wasn’t over.
About four years later, the Carpenters found out that Levi and Annabelle’s birth mother had had another daughter, Josephine. They immediately began working to re-open, Josephine came into their home when she was about a month old and by the end of the year they finalized her adoption.
“It’s just one of those crazy things that it’s such a blessing that we found out about her early and she came to us early and that we get to keep them all together,” Christy said.
And while the Carpenters’ story has seemingly worked out perfectly, it wasn’t without fear that they entered into the process.
“It’s scary in some ways to go through the foster care system, just because it’s unknown and nothing is sure and you’re putting your emotions on the line,” Christy said. “But it’s so worth it because when you’re willing to step out and say 'yes' and do something that scares you a little bit, God blows you away with a story that’s like only He could write.”
Logan said they knew it might be difficult, but they were willing to sacrifice their own comfort in order to help children in need.
“It’s not about what’s best for you,” Logan said. “Foster care is about looking out for the kids who need it … You never know what’s going to happen when you walk into a courtroom. That might be the day the judge decides reunification is happening.”
The saying is that blood is thicker than water, but looking at the Carpenter family, you wouldn’t think twice about the depth of their love for one another. The siblings play together, tease each other and most of all love and care for each other.
Ellie is what her parents call “an old soul.” Christy said that she understood, even at 3, when Levi joined their family, what adoption was and why they were growing their family that way.
“The cool thing is that it opened her eyes to the fact that there are children out there who don’t have parents and there is a need out there and you can live your life in a way that you’re living for others and looking to do for others,” Christy said.
While Levi, Annabelle and Josephine’s birth mother is not involved in their lives, Christy and Logan had an opportunity to meet her. Initially, Christy struggled with the fact that she would be sharing her children, but after meeting the birth mother, it helped her realize there was nothing to be jealous over.
“I realize looking at her that she’s just a mom, she’s just a woman, I’m just a woman,” Christy said. “I didn’t grow these children, but I’m no less their mother. She can’t care for them, but she’s no less their mother. We are their mother and that is fine and it’s going to take two of us.”
Another difficulty of being adoptive parents has been figuring out what details to share with the kids and when. Each child has different questions, so deciding how much detail to go into and what is appropriate for each age has been a learning process.
“At some point in their life they’re going to know the whole story — as much as they want to know and some of the more hard truths,” Logan said. “But how do you let them lead that and ask questions and when’s the right time to just say something?”
Despite the challenges of becoming adoptive parents, Christy and Logan couldn’t imagine their lives any other way. And they encourage other families to seriously consider if adoption and foster care could be part of their stories.
“I would say if you’re considering it, that just might be a sign that you’re supposed to do it,” Logan said. “Research it and look into it, but if you’re considering it, you know there’s a need and there are kids out there who need homes.”
And for the Carpenters, they know their story all stems back to that one decision to say “yes” to foster care.
“Here’s the thing that keeps you up at night: If we had not called that morning and gotten ready (for foster care) then we wouldn’t have gotten (Levi) necessarily — they would’ve called someone else,” Christy said. “And if we wouldn’t have gotten him, we wouldn’t have gotten Annabelle and we wouldn’t have gotten Josie. The crazy thing in this foster care and adoption world is the tiny little minute details. Us being people of faith we see God in it ... But it’s crazy to think that 24 hours of waiting to say ‘yes’ and we could have had a totally different story.”
Growing the Carpenter Family
Attended The CALL informational meeting.
Attended PRIDE foster and adoptive parent training.
Opened as a waiting adoptive family with the Department of Human Services.
Called DHS to open as a foster family and met Levi when he was born the very next day.
Annabelle came into the family as a foster child.
Welcomed Josephine into the family as a foster placement.