By Jenny Pope
Four-year-old Kellie Hodson loves to twirl in her pink dress. She makes faces with her big brother Jonathan, shares secrets with her Mom and rides the four-wheeler with her dad whenever she gets the chance.
Though Kellie just joined her family six months ago, it’s clear she was born to be a Hodson.
“A lot of people are very surprised to find out that our children aren’t biological,” said her mother Amy. They’re especially surprised, she said, that Kellie hasn’t been with them since day one.
Phil and Amy Hodson decided to adopt early in their marriage after several years of attempting to have a child failed.
“We always said we would stop trying to conceive and adopt when we reached three criteria: it became painful, money ran out and our only option left was en vitro [fertilization],” Phil said.
“It all happened at the same time,” Amy added.
They adopted their oldest son Jonathan, 8, through an adoption agency in Oklahoma while Phil attending seminary in Philadelphia. They still maintain contact with Jonathan’s birth mother on a yearly basis.
Once the couple moved back to Longview, where Amy grew up, finances were different, she explained. “Adoption is so costly.” So they looked into foster care and adoption of a child living in the state’s custody. That’s when they came across Buckner.
“We called and talked with Elisabeth [Sabella, foster care caseworker],” Amy said. “We prayed for something to happen soon if it was meant to be. Within the next two weeks, they were starting foster parenting classes. We knew that was our confirmation.”
The Hodsons entered into foster care with the intention of wanting a more permanent relationship with a child, Phil explained. “But [Buckner staff] was careful to make sure they didn’t paint a picture that wasn’t realistic. You could tell they were experienced at dealing with many different situations.”
“There is a natural fear factor when adopting children through CPS,” Amy said. “You know that they are some children who come with some baggage, whether that means abuse or neglect or other siblings. As a mother that worried me.”
Buckner helped to educate the couple and alleviate any worries or fears.
“They were professional and organized,” Phil said. “Doing what they said they would do. We were thankful that Buckner is a Christian agency not just in name, but in deed.”
The couple finished their classes and home inspections in September, not knowing how long it would be before they would called upon to consider placement. December came quick enough.
“We went to a Christmas party at Buckner and that was when we saw Kellie for the first time,” Amy said, with tears in her eyes. “They had told us there was a really sweet little girl who was coming up for adoption. So when we saw her we knew.”
Jonathan wasn’t so sure.
“I was thinking about a boy, not a girl,” he said, in typical 8-year-old fashion. “I was afraid to think a sister would be annoying.”
“We talked in the car on the way home from the party,” Amy explained. “We had been praying for a baby, so we asked Jonathan if he would be OK with it. He said he would.”
Kellie had been living with a foster family for almost a year and a half. Her parents’ rights had been terminated due to neglect. The Hodsons called Sabella the next day to tell her they were interested in adopting Kellie. She told them they were one of many families up for consideration, Amy said. So they waited.
One Dec. 20, 2007 Amy remembers standing in the kitchen making sausage balls when the telephone rang.
“It was Elisabeth,” she said. “She told me, ‘I get to tell you that you got picked for Kellie!’”
While the family celebrated, they were forced to face a sobering reality: adopting a child in the state’s custody is not simple.
“We had to wait until the second week in January before we could meet Kellie for the first time,” Amy said. “That was so hard.”
“It’s frustrating when you’re ready to meet your child, that there is all this red tape,” Phil added.
They spent time with Kellie in stages. Their first meeting was at her foster mother’s house. The second meeting was a little longer. Eventually she was allowed to stay the night at the Hodson’s home, and later she stayed a weekend.
“Her foster mother did a really good job at preparing Kellie for a family,” Amy said. “For a 3 and a half year old, she was well schooled.”
Phil said they had to spend a lot of time explaining to Kellie in the two-week transition period that they were coming back for her. “It was hard for her, too,” he said.
The day Kellie came home with the Hodsons was one of the best days of Kellie’s life, they said.
Throughout her transition period, she wasn’t allowed to ride on the Hodson’s four-wheeler. The day she came home, she took the four-wheeler for her first spin.
“It was yellow!” Kellie chimed in. Yellow is her favorite color.
“From the beginning, Kellie has been very ready to talk to people,” Phil said. “She’s gregarious. Never met a stranger.”
The Hodsons tell their adoption story frequently, using it as their “platform” to encourage others to consider adoption, he said.
“People always have an impression of adoption … wonder if it will be the same as having a child biologically. To me it’s more. You get the additional blessing of being able to tell people how God has provided for us and planned our family for us all along.
“You get the picture that God has adopted us all into His family,” he continued. “So when Kellie was adopted she was baptized into the family that we’re all a part of. It’s amazing how God works.”
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