It was such an honor to sit down with Dave and Alanna Thompson. Their hearts for serving their family and kids in their community is huge. We got to hear about the emotional roller coaster of fostering kids that become a part of your family, a personal journey of adoption and a little of the unexpected. Be blessed by the Thompson’s foster-to-adopt journey, and if you’re interested in taking a similar journey, let us know! We’d love to help connect you!
Q: Tell us about your family.
Alanna: Well there’s seven of us. David and I were married 14 years ago. Makkedah’s 12. Jennifer’s 10. Jaden is 9. Annie is 7. Jackson is 4. We are the birth parents of Jennifer and Makkedah, and we adopted the other 3.
Q: Dave, how did you and Alanna meet?
Dave: So the truth of the true story is that we were separately at a restaurant with mutual friends. Our mutual friends saw each other and went to say hi to each other. And Alanna turned around and saw me and was like, how do I get on a date with that dude? And that’s the true story.
Alanna: NOT the true story. I never saw him. After that, our friends set us up on a blind date at Bennigan’s – I didn’t think I’d see him after it either – but we had 2 dates afterward that went goodish. Somehow we persevered! And that’s the true story.
Q: Tell us your story of fostering and adoption.
Dave: I have a backstory to the story. In short, I grew up not really having a deep desire to adopt, but I remember saying to myself early on, If I can’t have kids one day, it’s no big deal. I’ll just adopt. And that was that. Fast forward to a few years into our marriage, and we had no problem conceiving 2 awesome girls. At that point, I was good. It was game over. Adoption wasn’t in my head at all.
Alanna: And I really wanted a little boy! Around the time that Jen was a few years old, I started having several things lining up in my heart that were confirming that I wasn’t done – I really wanted to go the adoption route. I remember I was driving to work one day on a busy street during rush hour, and I saw a toddler in a diaper just walking around alone. Obviously, this was weird, so I turned around and called the police. Several hours later, they located the parents who also had more kids in their care. I couldn’t escape the fact that this sort of environment is a reality for some kids, and it affected me. I needed to do something about it. So we really started talking about it at that point and made a deal.
Dave: I got a vasectomy and we also went to our first class on fostering and adoption. 🙂
Alanna: Originally, we were interested in adopting a baby boy, but when we left our first class, we knew that there were so many kids in current situations that needed our help who were already born and living in less than ideal conditions. So that opened our options up to even more things: do you adopt a 12-year-old, do you foster one child at a time, do you foster-to-adopt?
Dave: At the time we decided to go the foster route almost as a trial run to see what it was like for our family. We ended up getting called almost immediately with the opportunity of fostering a toddler boy. After a few months, he had a family member come back into the picture and they took him back into their care.
Alanna: At that point after experiencing just a taste of loving this child who wasn’t my own, I told God – it’s not about boy or girl anymore. Give me whatever you want me to have! And almost immediately, we got the call for Annie. We said YES! And ended up finding out that Annie’s birth mom was pregnant, with none other than a boy, who is now our Jackson. We ended up getting called that he was being released from the hospital (he was in NICU because he was premature due to drug & alcohol abuse). So we picked him up too.
Dave: At this point, we are fostering these kids, and we started talking about the possibility of adoption. When fostering kids before they’re adopted, the possibility of losing them back to their families is always present. And this reality came up with Annie about 18 months after she came to us. A family member in Georgia expressed interest in taking her, and they were going to move forward with the process, which would split Annie and Jackson up. But after realizing it would be a forever thing, she decided she didn’t want to commit. We certainly felt the emotions of losing her and getting her back.
Q: What are those emotions like?
Alanna: It can be like a roller coaster. Just always aware of the fact that they can go somewhere new at the drop of a hat. You just have to pray that God has your best interest in place and believe that if this one doesn’t work out, another situation will. It’s a trusting exercise for sure. The goal of the foster system (even up until adoption day) is to keep the kids with their family, sometimes to a fault. It’s important to realize at any moment, you will have to give the child back no matter how connected they are to you and your family.
Dave: But thankfully, through the long process of fostering-to-adopting, we were successful with both Annie and Jackson, and they’ve been a part of our home for almost 5 years now.
Q: So fast forward a few years, you’ve gone through 2 adoptions and reopened your home and family to accept a foster child. Tell us what happens next.
Alanna: So yes, we opened our home to accept a 6 to 8-year-old boy after the adoption of the other two, and we didn’t get a call or anything, which is extremely rare. Because the need is so great for foster families, you typically will get contacted to foster almost immediately. But we didn’t. So two months go by, and we found out we had a family member that needed our help with one of their kids, and it just so happened to be a boy, age 7.
Dave: We fought for two weeks, due to paperwork and interviews, before they finally allowed him to come home with us. Originally, we thought it might be temporary, but over time, it worked out for us to adopt him also. It’s a really unique situation because we can keep him in touch with his family members who he already had relationships with.
Alanna: We wondered why it was taking so long to get called with news of being able to help another child. Looking back, I just see God’s hand in our situation, and we’re thankful. He made a way for Jayden to come to a home where he’s loved and belongs.
Q: Wow! So tell us why. Why are you doing what you’re doing?
Alanna: I think that you don’t realize the extent of trauma that kids have been through until you actually have them in your house; there are other things that they’ve gone through to get there and then you don’t realize how much they remember. For instance, Annie was 2 when she came to live with us, but to this day she hates sirens. She was not living with us, young and didn’t even know what was going on when that was a regular part of her life, but it triggers something. It’s just hard to see them go through those triggers.
And medically, both Annie and Jackson have had difficulties because of the choices of their mom while she was pregnant. Addiction is real, and I don’t cast judgment on her ever, but those choices have affected their physicality, their ability to interact socially and learn. It’s our heart to create an environment for these kids to feel comfortable and safe, to experience the love of Jesus through parents that love them unconditionally. And plain and simple, God just really led us to do this.
Q: Next up, what do you think are the greatest strengths and weaknesses of the foster & adoption systems?
Dave: I think the strength and weakness of the system are humans. We have had the opportunity to work with some amazing CPS workers and child advocates, and we’ve had the struggle of working with very difficult ones. I think the system itself is set up to do a good thing, but a person over-worked (because the need for workers is so huge), sitting at a desk all day can sometimes lose the ability to see these “cases” as actual kids. But in my opinion, it’s less of a “system” problem and more of a cultural problem in our society.
Q: What are some of the most unexpected things on your journey?
Alanna: I think one of the most surprising things is how the adopted child’s birth family interacts with the kids. I assumed there would be more effort from the birth family to stay in relationship with the kids, because we have it set up for them to be able to do so, but we just haven’t gotten anything on that end.
Dave: I think it can also be difficult for your family and birth kids. The year Jayden came was the hardest year of our marriage and hardest year as a family because you’re having to navigate things that you haven’t had to before. We ended up going to family counseling which was the best decision for us, and we’ve seen almost all of the tension go away since giving the kids a place to learn how to communicate well with each other.
Alanna: We were also surprised by the reactions of our own friends. Some people will say, that’s awesome and be embracing. And some will take a step back and say, too messy, why are you doing that? And that kills me! How can people call themselves Christians and not love these kids or understand our reason for giving kids a home? We treat these kids as our own flesh and blood. They aren’t too messy for us. It’s the same way Jesus looks at us. He doesn’t leave us because we have too many issues or our situations are too complicated. He doesn’t wash his hands of us. He dives in deep and gets in the mess with us.
Q: What would you say to someone considering fostering/adoption?
Dave: It’s an emotional rollercoaster. The love you get in return is worth every last bit of it! There are a lot of unexpected things that come up, but the good so far outweighs the bad. We are confident that God led us to these 3 for a reason.
Alanna: I would also say, pray about it, and if it’s something that keeps coming up in your heart and you don’t know what to do with it, go to a class that gives you information. If more people would allow themselves to try it, they would do it and do it long term.
Make our prayer to care for those who cannot care for themselves, O God.