Richmond—When you see Brian smile, you know it’s genuine. The 11-year-old has been through so much in the past few years. He and his 13-year-old sister, Sarah, have been in and out of several foster homes. Last summer, Brian was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and endured five months of chemotherapy.
But still he smiles, and for good reason. In October, he and his sister were legally adopted by Justin and Ashley Padgett of Richmond. A few weeks ago, he was told he is cancer-free. Life is good for Brian and his sister as the family begins the new year.
Justin and Ashley began inquiring about foster care in 2012. About four years ago they were told they would never have biological children and they were unsuccessful in one adoption attempt.
Ashley had heard on the radio about the need for foster parents and the couple were soon signed up at a church event for those interested. “We were so ignorant about foster care,” said Ashley. “I didn’t realize you could adopt kids through foster care,” she said.
Sunrise’s flexible training schedule and faith-based focus fit their needs and the couple completed training. Justin, a seminary student, said Sunrise’s connection to the Kentucky Baptist Convention was also a key factor for him. Ashley said the agency’s support was also key.
“They have been so supportive of our family from day one,” she said. “They’ve gone above and beyond to make sure we had everything we needed to be successful.”
Their first placements were a sibling group of four, all under the age of five. They had the children for about three months and were initially told the children may eventually be eligible for adoption. However, the children were ultimately placed back in their biological home after about three months.
Ashley wasn’t sure she could go through such a disappointment again. “I told Justin I couldn’t do it again,” said Ashley. “He said he just felt this is what God really wanted us to do.”
So the couple opened their home to another sibling group, this time Sarah and Brian.
“We were open to whatever God had for us,” said Justin.
Brian and Sarah came into the home with an understanding they could be adopted. Their first stay with the Padgetts was a three-day visit which would allow all parties to determine whether this was something each wanted to pursue. The children had been in foster care about three years prior, but quickly grew comfortable with the Padgetts. At the end of that first visit, young Sarah sat at the table and proclaimed, “I think this is going to be a good fit for us.”
Her judgment proved correct.
In the summer of 2013, the children came to live with the Padgetts and the adoption process was begun. However, those proceedings don’t also move along quickly and by the next summer, things were still toiling. That was about to change.
Brian was rollerblading and hurt his foot. The initial diagnosis was a sprain, but the swelling didn’t ease. A couple of more trips to the doctor finally led to a visit to a specialist and a tumor was discovered. More tests revealed that Brian was suffering from lymphoma.
The news came at a busy time for the Padgetts. Justin had made the decision to resign as youth minister at a church he had been serving so he could complete his seminary training. The couple moved to Madison County where Ashley worked as a teacher. They also found out that despite the earlier doctors’ pronouncements, Ashley was pregnant.
It was a whirlwind of events that had Justin questioning whether he’d made the right decision about going back to school.
“Man, I really messed up,” he recalls thinking. “We’ve left our church and I’ve lost a paycheck.” But God provided, and looking back, the timing proved perfect. Justin says Brian’s chemo treatments required week-long stays in the hospital and two weeks of rest at home.
“What I thought had been a foolish move, turned out to be great. I got to be with him during the whole process and care for him.”
Through it all, the Padgetts had never lost faith that God would see Brian through.
His sickness also spurred on the state to expedite the adoption process. It was trying early on because the state had to approve all of Brian’s medical treatments, but when the adoption was made official in October, those decisions could made directly by the Padgetts.
A few weeks before Christmas, Brian had completed his treatments and the doctors gave them the good news that the cancer was in remission. The family had much to celebrate during the holiday season and so much to look forward to in the coming year. Their baby girl, Naomi, is due in April.
“God has taught us so much through this process,” said Justin. “So much about himself and the gospel and it’s great to be part of that.”
Sarah came to Christ with a previous foster family and Justin had the thrill of baptizing Brian.
“We’re doing what the Lord has commanded us to do,” said Justin. “We are to care for the orphans,” he said.
“It’s so essential that we show these kids a little glimpse of what God’s love does for us. Christ comes to us when we’re needy and desperate for love and desperate for salvation.”
The Padgetts have encouraged others to pursue foster parenting as well, but said it’s a decision that should be entered into with prayer.
“It’s one of the most challenging but rewarding things we’ve done,” said Ashley.
Justin encourages those who are being led to fostering to follow through. “I think it’s a matter of obedience to those of us who are believers.”
It will also bring a smile to the children who most desperately need one. (Sunrise)
John Shindlebower is associate director of communications for Sunrise Children’s Services.
By John Shindlebower