By Analiz González Schremmer
Cory and Lori Pepiton’s children like playing make believe.
In their mind, the playground in their yard is a space ship. They pretend that they are ninjas, princesses or Power Rangers. They’ve been pretending as far back as they can remember, they just haven’t always done it together.
Before Dec. 1, 2008, Heather, 5, and Ella, 2, lived in a foster home. There was also a chance they’d be separated from each other to be placed in different families.
Meanwhile, the Pepiton’s birth children: Aubry, 7, and Asher, 4, were dreaming of a sister, or sisters of their own.
“(My parents) told me they were getting the girls and was I OK with that,” Aubry said. “We were really excited!”
“We heard about our girls in Christmas 2007 and were licensed in July,” Lori said. “We met them at a Buckner Christmas foster-to-adopt event. Elisabeth Sabella (Buckner adoption specialist), pointed them out and said those are the girls. So we saw them and went, ‘Those are our daughters.’
Elisabeth Sabella, adoption specialist for Buckner in Tyler, Texas said that doing foster to adopt means having a child in your home that may not ever become available for adoption. The Pepitons, however, went through legal risk foster to adopt.
“Basically, this means that they are licensed to foster and adopt but are only willing to take foster kids whose permanency plan is adoption; they just don't have legal termination of parental rights yet.
“Child Protective Services wants them in a home that plans to adopt them because CPS is planning to terminate the parental rights.”
When the Pepitons went to Buckner with an interest in adopting a healthy 2-year-old girl and they were quickly swayed to adopt a sibling group.
Sabella explained that all adoptive families have to have the children in their home for a six month pre-adopt placement. The Pepitons will be in that stage through June; meaning the girls aren't legally adopted yet. CPS and Buckner still monitor the placement for six months to ensure the family gets all their needs met before finalizing the adoption.
The Pepitons also mentioned the huge role played by the girl’s foster parents of almost two years: Mike and Kathy James, who helped Heather stabilize emotionally and who still maintain a strong relationship with all of the Pepiton children.
Lori said that if it hadn’t been for the Jameses, the girls may not have been ready to join their boys as a family.
But due in large part to that, the four children bonded right away.
“The first time we had Christmas together was a blast,” Lori said. “They were all so excited about their costumes that they immediately put them on and went around the house playing and forgot all about their other toys.”
She said that the children get along very well, dancing together, playing “family” and playing Heather’s favorite pretend game: the princess and the ninja.
A few things have changed in their household since the girls joined the bunch.
“When we go in somewhere, we take the place by storm,” Cory said. He added that it’s a good thing God gave him two legs because there’s “usually one on each one.”
The girls have found a permanent home with the Pepitons and Cory said they couldn’t imagine life without them.
“Your name is Pepiton,” Lori explained to Heather. “It is always going to be Pepiton, forever.” She paused. “Well, except when you get married. After that you can have two names or decide what you want.”
Heather nodded. She was finally home.
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