2 MONTHS PREGNANT, SHE AGREED TO ADOPT 5 CHILDREN SHE HAD NEVER MET
There is much to be said about someone who helps someone else. There is more to be said of someone who helps someone else for an extended amount of time. There is much much more to be said of someone who helps five other people and not for a moment, but for a lifetime. There is A LOT to be said about Calyn Stringer. When she was two months pregnant with her first child, she and her husband agreed to adopt FIVE children, whom they had NEVER met, nine days later they became a forever family! I had a chance to interview this Renaissance Woman and to find out HOW she does it and WHY.
When did you decide that you wanted to adopt?
“We decided when we were engaged. We weren’t sure if we wanted to have biological children, but we knew there were a lot of children already out there who needed homes, so we decided to foster first and see what happened.”
What inspired you to want to adopt?
“I think it’s just a great representation of what God has done for us- adopting us into His family. And I knew that there were millions of kids out there needing a home and I didn’t want to tell myself that I had known and didn’t do anything. We had two extra rooms and the resources to do it, so why not?”
What’s it like to be a foster parent?
“The kids are amazing. They are so resilient and remarkable considering the things they’ve been through. But the system is an emotional rollercoaster that’s incredibly difficult to navigate and can be infuriating. There is so much red tape and bureaucracy, but through it all it made us more and more confident that it was something we needed to do. As hard as it was for us, if we could take even a little bit of the burden for the kids experiencing it and to be a safe place for as long as they stayed, as adults, we needed to step up. I think of it sometimes this way- my yes will never cost me more than my no will cost them. No kid wants to be in foster care. They don’t have a choice. But I can choose to help them. It might be messy; it might be inconvenient; it might be frustrating, but I should never let the fear of losing someone I love keep me from letting them experience love, perhaps for the first time.”
Do you have any advice for those who are looking to adopt?
“Be prepared for a lot of ups and downs. Adoption is a wonderful thing; bureaucracy is not. But the kids are always worth it. When I think that we could have missed it, it’s hard to imagine.”
Any general parenting advice?
“All kids are different and you have to loosen up. My kids eat dirt sometimes. Their health is just fine. If I tried to wash a pacifier every time it fell on the ground, my water bill would be through the roof. Do the big things- love and care, and the rest is just details.”
What is the hardest thing about adoption/fostering?
“The unknown. We lost our little guy we fostered after 15 months. We were told we would be able to adopt him and in the end, he was reunited with an unfit family member. It was hard. I spent a lot of time crying out to God. We were matched with three girls in Uganda and my husband went to meet them for the first time. There were legal issues that the US government was unwilling to budge on and that adoption fell apart. We still wonder about our girls. We know they’re safe, but they will never have a family due to the kind of documentation they have. It breaks my heart. We only had 9 days notice when we brought our first crew of 4 home. It was a whirlwind. So, the unknown and the spontaneity of it all can be difficult.”
What is the best thing about adoption/fostering?
“So many things. But I think the best thing is knowing you’ve been able to meet a fundamental need for a child who may have never had another chance to have that need met. Security, family, stability- those are things that a government program cannot recreate for a child. But I can do that. And sure, I may not be the best parent out there, but my 8-year-old told me yesterday that I was the best cook in the world. As untrue as that it, I’m the best cook in his world. And that means something.”
What does being a Renaissance Woman mean to you?
“Well, they say a Renaissance man is someone who juggles a lot of gifts and talents. I can’t speak to the latter part, but I am an excellent juggler of ‘all the things’ as we say. We have a bumper sticker on the back of our mini van with a stick person family. My stick person figure is juggling soccer balls, laptops, and cookware. My 6-year old pointed out the other day that he has never seen me juggle, and I just rolled my eyes.”
What enables you to work full time, mother six children and remain sane? I’m struggling just working full time and remaining sane.
“A great support group! My mother babysits for us and our oldest 4 are in school now, which makes things so much easier. Our kids’ school is amazing. They are so supportive and have been a God-send to our family. Our church family has been there for us through thick and thin. But regular date nights and a Netflix subscription help a great deal also.”
Can you tell us a little bit about your adoption story?
“In the summer of last year, my husband headed to Uganda to work on the adoption of 3 little girls we had been matched with. We were so excited that after being foster parents, we were going to actually adopt kids who would be with us forever. Sadly, our adoption hit all sorts of legal hurdles and after months of trying to work around a corrupt Ugandan system and an ever-more-complicated U.S. system, we had to give up trying to bring our girls home. We were heartbroken. We had a home study ready for up to 5 children but we just couldn’t figure out how to get them. We contacted the agency we fostered with to see if they could help us find a sibling group in Florida that would be a good fit for us, but it seemed like we were being ignored. Months went by and we became more and more frustrated. Then, one day in November, someone posted information about a sibling group of 5 in Jacksonville who had been in foster care. Their mother’s rights were being terminated and she knew the foster mother did not want to adopt them. She was afraid that they would end up being separated and not finding a home. She was trying to find someone herself that would adopt all 5. It was kind of an unorthodox way of adopting foster children, but we sent our home study to the attorney and were contacted back a few days later to learn that she had picked us and wanted us to adopt her children. We had never met the kids, but we knew they were 3 boys and 2 girls, ages 6, 4, 2, 1 and 4 months. We had just learned we were pregnant a few weeks before, so it took a little bit of praying and faith to figure out if we were up for adopting 5 kids knowing we had one on the way! We went to Jacksonville the next day to go to court and sadly the mother didn’t show up. We thought that was probably the end. But after Thanksgiving, the attorney contacted us and told us that the mother had changed her mind and decided she did want us to have the kids. So, on December 9th, 2014, we headed to Jacksonville again and went to court. The judge awarded us custody of 4 of the kids right then and there, and we had never met them! Talk about scary. We headed to Chick-Fil-A and met them for the first time. We introduced ourselves as mom and dad and brought them home 9 days later. It was a whirlwind, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Their 5th sibling was brought to us 4 weeks after our son Benjamin was born, in August of 2015. Adoption through foster care can be scary and challenging, but I love our kids to the moon and back. They have come so far to have been through so much and my husband and I are just excited to see all the amazing things they do with their lives.”
Calyn Stringer is a teacher, jogger, and mother of 6. She is passionate about good grammar and finding great families for children who need them. If she’s not schlepping family members to various activities, you can probably find her in her pantry trying to down some Oreos before one of her kids discovers her.