Katie and Aaron Stephens had a plan: foster young children, adopt, be a forever family. But five years later, they saw six children come and go from their home in Midland, Texas. They began to doubt they would ever have a forever family until they met 16-year-old Christopher.
Katie’s first introduction to Christopher was through a Facebook post. Chris was in a group home in Abilene, Texas, and expecting to age out of foster care. His lawyer made a random post asking if anyone could open their home to a young
boy who desperately wanted a family. Katie and Aaron were already fostering two young children through Buckner. They didn’t think they were ready for three children, much less a teenager, but Katie could not stop thinking about that post or about Christopher. They decided to meet him.
“We had no idea what to think,” Katie said about meeting Christopher for the first time. “And then we met him, and he has the kindest heart I think I’ve ever seen in my life. He just wants a family.”
After their first meeting, they knew he was meant to be a part of their family. From the very beginning, Christopher instantly began calling the couple mom and dad.
Christopher started living with the Stephens family and fit right in. Every day, Katie makes Christopher’s lunch to take to school because he never had anyone do that for him before and he likes it. In his lunch, Katie always slipped in a note to encourage him or remind him he is loved. She didn’t realize how much he appreciated those notes until one rushed morning, she forgot to slip one in. He came home from school sad he didn’t have a note. Katie never forgot again.
“He’s a great kid,” Katie said. “And he’s very thankful for everything and very appreciative. His story is not pretty, and we didn’t know what to expect. He has every reason in the world to hate everybody, but he has such a sweet spirit. Of course, he has his own set of issues we’ve had to figure out how to handle, but for the most part, he’s really easy. I would take another Chris in a heartbeat.”
And Christopher is thriving in their home. He came severely behind in school, but he was able to make up credits fast because he’s anxious to learn and is smart. He’s joyful, goofy and loves being part of a family.
He has especially bonded with their youngest foster son – he’s Christopher’s biggest fan, Katie said.
For the Stephenses who once only requested to have young foster children, Christopher has opened their eyes for the need for foster parents for teenagers.
“There’s this whole stigma that comes with teenagers and the fact that they’ve been through so much. There’s so much more questions when it comes to teenagers,” Katie said. “But they choose to bond with you. With babies, it’s so automatic, but with teenagers, they don’t have to, but they choose to. Yes, the babies are so fun, but so are the teenagers.”
On June 5, Katie and Aaron adopted Christopher. He was their first adoption.
“He was the missing piece to our puzzle,” Katie and Aaron said.
And in the fall, the Stephenses also adopted 2-year-old Macy and 1-year-old Andy.
“It truly is amazing,” said Jennifer Bernal, the Stephenses’ case manager through Buckner Foster Care. “They wanted so desperately to have a forever family and once they opened their hearts up to the possibility of older children, that’s when their family began to grow. They are so honest about their journey and are great examples of what fostering can look like.”
When it comes to their foster and adoption story, Katie and Aaron would be the first to tell you it hasn’t been easy.
“The bad is bad, and the bad is hard. But there’s so much good,” Katie said. “When you get to see the impact you have on the whole family when it’s done correctly, it’s amazing. I tell everybody that I don’t personally believe foster care is God’s plan. I think it’s God’s grace. I think his plan is always for children to be raised by their parents. And then his grace comes in for when they can’t be. God just has a big plan we can’t see. Even for Chris, he must have quite the calling on him for God to intervene the way he has. We’re just honored to be a part of that.”