By Lee Merrill
ovember is National Adoption Month. With more than 390,000 children in the U.S. foster care system, the need is great, but the helpers are few. Shreveport residents John Aaron and Shannon Crawford are doing their part. Not only are they foster parents, they also adopted a medically fragile boy from foster care.
“Before I was married, I was told I had health issues that may cause difficulty in getting pregnant,” said Shannon. “I thought to myself, ‘So what? I can always adopt.’ Well, it turned out I had no trouble getting pregnant, but my heart for adoption remained, even after having our two daughters.”
The Crawfords looked into international adoption but found the process daunting. A friend suggested they consider foster care. “We went into it knowing foster care is not about adoption,” said Shannon. “It’s about reuniting families and caring for kids until their parents can get them back. We did not go into it thinking we would adopt. We were content with our two girls.” But then they met Sam.
Baby Sam was their first placement. The case workers attempted to work with the parents and extended family members, but none were able to meet Sam’s extensive medical needs. Shannon’s experience as a NICU nurse made her home a safe and stable place for Sam. After almost three roller coaster years, they were finally able to adopt him. “By then, we had seen Sam through multiple surgeries and hospitalizations, so there was a strong attachment,” said Shannon.
Sam is now a nine-year-old ray of sunshine and a student at Shreve Island Elementary, where he loves to ride the school bus. “Sam requires complete care. He’s in a wheelchair and has a seizure disorder,” said Shannon, “but he’s a complete joy, and we can’t imagine our lives without him. In my heart, I knew he was here to stay from the start. I’ve never felt that way with subsequent foster placements.”
When asked why people should get involved in foster care and adoption, Shannon answered with earnest conviction, “As a Christian, I believe God calls us all to live sacrificially and to care for orphans and other people in need. We are called to love. There are a lot of different ways to fulfill that calling, but I feel everyone needs to be involved somehow. The system is not perfect; they are short-staffed in caseworkers and foster families. They are dealing with a lot of brokenness, drug abuse and mental illness.” While foster care/adoption is not for everyone, everyone can help. Shannon helped start The Foster and Adoption Ministry at Broadmoor Baptist Church. “We try to meet both practical and emotional needs of our foster-adoptive families, and we seek to raise community awareness.”
The Crawford’s daughters, Isabel and Olivia, have grown up with not only Sam but many foster kids coming into their home. It’s a way of life for this family. Could it become a way of life for yours? Deborah A. Beasley, author of Successful Foster Care Adoption, said, “Sometimes, our work as caregivers is not for the faint of heart. But you will never know what you are made of until you step into the fire. Step bravely!”
Visit the Department of Children and Families website at dcfs.louisiana.gov to learn more about how you can support foster children in Shreveport-Bossier.