Candy and Michael Palmer knew the moment they read the profile on Toby, Caylin, Codi and Shane that they wanted to adopt them. They had read many other files and had been placed in line to adopt other sibling groups but none of them worked out. Rightfully so – these kids were meant to be theirs.
The Palmers were selected right before Christmas in 2010 but had to wait until after the new year to meet the kids. In January, they first met with the children’s current foster parents at the local Child Protective Services office to learn more about them. Then they had 48 hours to decide.
But Candy and Michael didn’t want 48 hours – they knew immediately.
The first phone call with the kids was one Michael and Candy will remember forever. The kids called them Mom and Dad right away, and all four were full of energy while on the phone. Everyone appeared eager to learn about each other.
“The first time we got to meet them, we didn’t know exactly where we were going, but we passed one house and there was kind of a glass storm door and Candy is like, ‘I think we just passed it,’” Michael said.
“‘He said what makes you think that?’” Candy followed. “And I said, ‘Because there’s a little boy nailed to the front door, looking out.’”
That little boy was their youngest son, Shane.
It was the picture of just what this visit meant to the children – the anticipation and expectation something big was about to happen. Candy and Michael walked away from that visit knowing their future would always have Toby, Caylin, Codi and Shane.
“We got in the car to leave, and we knew,” Candy said. “People were calling us already, wanting to know. Family was calling, wanting to know. We knew. There was nothing there that said “don’t” and everything here that said “yes.” So we knew. There was no question at all, not at all.”
Life in foster care
Prior to being adopted by the Palmers, the four siblings lived in various foster homes. They were shuffled around, split up and reunited over the eight years they lived in foster care.
“We entered foster care when I was 4 or 5,” said Caylin, now 15. “I didn’t understand at all what was happening. I just thought they didn’t like us and they didn’t like our parents. So we were getting punished for something we didn’t do.”
“I was a little bit older, so I understood some of what was going on,” said Toby, now 18. “I didn’t know why it was happening, but I knew what was happening because I had heard about that happening to some other kids earlier that year.”
The four siblings were first placed in a local shelter for a few months. There were a lot of other children living there, a big cafeteria and a wall of board games. For the younger three, it just seemed like vacation. Then they were moved to a foster home and had to learn how to adapt to home life.
“For a while, they gave us false hope about going back, and they’d say, ‘If your mom does this and this and this, then you can go back,’” Caylin explained. “Well, of course being a young child, we always thought, ‘She loves us so of course she’s going to do this and this – anything. She’ll do anything to get us back.’
“And that’s not always the case because whenever drugs take over, they don’t really think clearly. So whenever they told us that, we all thought, oh, well, this is just temporary; we’ll be back with our parents in no time, and it will all go back to normal.”
They never returned to their parents. Instead, they continued to live in foster care until their parents’ rights were terminated.
“I struggled a lot once they told us our parents’ rights were terminated and that we weren’t going back,” Caylin said. “I think I struggled a lot with that just because I had thought, ‘I won’t be here long; I’ll be going home.’ So it was really hard for me. I became a very angry child after that.”
There was a time when the kids thought their biological grand- parents were going to adopt them. They went to live with them for “a long time,” Caylin said, but the time kept getting extended more and more until eventually, “they decided they didn’t want to adopt us, and we went back into foster care.”
They had resigned to the fact that their life would be lived in foster care, going from home to home to home. That was going to be their normal. When they found out there was a couple who wanted to adopt them, Toby and Caylin admitted they were hesitant to become emotional because they knew there was a chance it would fall through.
The desire for family
Family is central for Candy and Michael. They both come from big families and are close to their families. After living in Fort Worth for several years, they realized they needed to be closer to family in East Texas and moved back “home.”
They loved their extended families and felt something was missing in their own. But about five years ago, after 17 years of marriage and no children, God began moving their hearts toward the idea of growing their family through adoption.
“I believe God worked on our hearts because we were truly con- tent with God’s plan for our lives,” Candy said. “Our hearts’ desire was not to ‘complete us,’ but to make a difference. We have such a fun- loving extended family who we knew would welcome more family.”
Adoption was all around the couple for years. At their wedding, both the ring bearer and flower girl were adopted. Michael and Candy knew of several close friends who adopted infants.
Yet for some reason, adoption hadn’t come up for consideration. Suddenly after all those years, something changed. It started with some innocent interactions through people in their community and their jobs. They kept hearing more about adoption and started meeting more people with adoption-related stories.
“I finally said to Michael, ‘You know what, I don’t know where you are at this point, but to me God is moving,’” Candy said. “‘Four or five times in one week I’m meeting somebody. And I’m not asking about it, but it keeps presenting itself.’ So when I came home and told him that, each story, it was pretty clear that was where God was leading us, if we’d stop and listen to him.”
For Michael, it took a little bit longer to come around, but he also began to see how God was directing them toward adoption.
“I just ultimately decided to not get in God’s way,” Michael said.
The Palmers went to an informational meeting at Buckner in East Texas and started the process of becoming certified to adopt. They participated in training, met with social workers and finished their home study. After a year and a half of prayer and discernment, they were ready to grow their family.
Once the decision was made to adopt a sibling group, the excitement intensified.
“We have lots of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins who were so supportive of our decision, and we knew they would welcome our kids with lots of love. Once again we promised each other we would completely stay out of God’s way because if we did, we felt like he would bless us and bless the kids. We were open to any age, ethnicity, gender, whatever it was that God had in store for us,” Candy said.
The waiting had lots of ups and downs for the Palmers. They were presented with a brief description and a photo of many sibling groups and had to make a decision based on that small amount of information whether to pursue each group of kids. Some days were harder than others, yet Michael and Candy trusted God had just the right kids already chosen for them, and it would be worth the wait.
In August 2011, Toby, Caylin, Codi and Shane were adopted by Candy and Michael.
There was a honeymoon phase, which is normal, according to Candy and Michael, and then reality of learning how to live together set in. There were difficult times but now, outsiders would never know the six haven’t been family longer than four years.
“I don’t want to say I was different [after being adopted], because I wasn’t, but I was somewhat reserved but also somewhat relieved,” Toby said. “I was about to enter high school; I wanted somewhere I could come home to when I was in college. Or somewhere I could go hang out with friends and not worry if someone was certified to do that.”
The siblings melded right into their extended family as well, never taking for granted the peace and warmth they find in their loving home.
“I have so much respect for them because they came into our home – now it’s our home collectively – but that takes a lot of courage,” Candy said. “There are bumps in the road, but there are bumps in every home, no matter what the circumstances are.”
Now, all four are thriving in their own way. Toby is a senior at high school, the captain of his football team and a mentor to special needs children at the nearby elementary school. Caylin is a brilliant writer and talented musician.
“She’s gifted in so many ways,” Candy said. “If she really wants to do something, she puts her mind to it and there’s nothing else going to get in her way. She stands up for Christ a lot at school, and that’s not easy to do in the public school.”
“Codi is very athletic,” Michael said. “She’s a great artist. She loves to draw. She’s really picked it up in school. I’ve seen her do quite a bit better, and she’s smart. She’s active, but she’s still a girly girl. She likes clothes and fashion and that kind of stuff. She likes to window shop. She’s just a fun, all-around girl.”
Shane, the youngest, is “all boy,” according to Michael. He’s really active and loves soccer. He loves being around people.
The future is bright for the Palmer family and every day, they know how blessed they are to be together.
“Everything happens for a reason and God really uses everything that happens, even though we think it’s bad, but we don’t see the full picture,” Caylin said. “And so I’m glad I said yes to adoption because everything is different than it was, and the full picture is starting to become more clear.”