Building an unconventional family

Shane and Kristi Hodges like to say they are an unconventional family.

“I guess we think outside the box,” Kristi said. “Not much embarrasses us or phases us, either.”

It’s a mindset that has worked well for their family. When they decided to foster-to-adopt through Buckner International, they were willing to have any child placed in their home regardless of ethnicity or behavioral issues.

“The Hodges are a wonderful couple,” Jessica Hernandez, Buckner case manager, said. “They are in for the right reasons. A lot of our kids suffer from neglect and abuse, but the Hodges have been willing to accept those that have issues and take on the special needs children to meet the developmental and spiritual needs of a child.”

It hasn’t always been an easy journey, but after adopting two children, the Hodges say they can’t imagine their life any other way.

“We were always talking about adoption even before we got married,” Shane said. “We thought we would have a kid or two and then adopt after that. So we did what we always thought we would do; we just did it a little sooner than we thought.”

After suffering from a severe medical condition, Kristi went through two rounds of infertility treatments before she and Shane decided the medication and shots weren’t worth it.

“Lots of people will spend lots of money on infertility treatments and that’s fine for them, but I said, 'Forget it, let’s adopt,'” Kristi said.

After the first Buckner informational meeting, the Hodges instantly connected with not only the Buckner staff, but other families as well. Many of the people they met at that first meeting became lifelong friends.

“We instantly loved them, and they instantly accepted our odd little personality,” Kristi said. “We get tickled over the silliest things, but they were OK with that. We just clicked with them.”

In 2008 on their 10th wedding anniversary, Kristi and Shane welcomed their first foster children. Mikayla was 2 years old and her brother was 4 when they came to live with the Hodges. Having come from an abusive and neglectful home, the children needed a lot of care.

After a year, CPS thought it was best to separate Mikayla and her brother. A year later, Kristi and Shane adopted Mikayla while another local family adopted her brother.

“It was not an easy two years,” Kristi admitted. “Mikayla had a lot issues when she came to us, so we closed our license for a while so we could focus on her. She is really a little miracle. She came just absolutely feral and transformed to a little person with the most interesting personality. You just never know what she’s going to say because her perspective on life is so different from lots of kids.”

Because of Mikayla’s success, the Hodges decided to start fostering again, hoping to adopt a sister for 9-year-old Mikayla.

In January, 3-year-old Brianna was placed in their home. Like Mikayla, Brianna also needed a lot of care. She had severe behavioral issues and could not speak well. Partly because of Kristi’s background as a speech therapist, Brianna thrived in the Hodges home.

“I can’t even describe the drastic change Brianna has made since coming to the Hodges home,” Hernandez said. “She had extreme tantrums and she couldn’t speak. Now she’s in physical therapy and acts like a typical 3-year-old. Compared to where she was, it’s amazing.”

Even at her young age, Brianna is able to connect with people and goes out of her way to interact with those others might ignore.

“Brianna has a heart for people,” Kristi said. “At daycare when a new kid starts, the teacher says she just loves on them all day long. Both girls definitely each have their own little paths that God has set out for them, and we are trying to help foster that in them.”

Both the children adore Shane.

“I come right in the door, they see me and come running, yelling, ‘Daddy,’” he said. “They pretty much maul me to death and jump into my arms. That’s pretty awesome.”

“What are you going to do when you can’t hold her anymore,” Kristi asked Shane after remarking on how tall Mikayla is getting.

“I’ll hold her no matter what,” Shane answered.

Shane and Kristi adopted Brianna on National Adoption Day – Nov. 14. The ceremony took place at Rose Heights Church in Tyler, Texas. Jessica, who attended the adoption, said it was amazing to watch Brianna’s excitement.

“It was the cutest ceremony I have ever seen,” she said. “Brianna just wanted to be on the microphone the whole time, and she kept telling the judge she is now Brianna Amelia Hodges.”

Aimee Freston is the print publications editor for Buckner International. Reach her at afreston[at]buckner[dot]org.

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