Have you ever thought about foster care adoption?
A few months ago, we chatted with Marcy Bursac on her bout with COVID and navigating the virus in the earlier days of the pandemic. In that interview, she mentioned movie nights she had with her kids over the phone from different rooms in their home while she remained in quarantine. Now, in the month that celebrates adoption, we learn more about the journey she and her husband took bringing those two children into their homes.
To some, it may have appeared the Bursacs became a family of four overnight. But to Marcy and her husband, the process of adopting their two children hardly felt instantaneous. From their home in St. Charles, Missouri, here is their incredible story of adopting their children.
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The road to adoption can look very different from one family’s journey to the next. Marcy and her husband had been looking for information on how to adopt children locally for more than five years. It was also important to them to find a path that allows families to do this with a more financially conservative method.
What led you and your husband to decide to adopt? And that it was the right time to do so?
“Our church at the time hosted a "Heart Cry Expo" where they brought in organizations serving orphans,” explained Marcy. “When we walked into service those two weekends, they gave us a brochure of the organizations and agencies that would be in the lobby after service.”
After the service, the Bursacs stopped by the information tables, hoping to speak with someone about adoption. However, they found no one at the table, only one last packet of information for One Heart Family Ministries. This organization is local to them and trains Christian families to foster and adopt children through foster care.
“We took the packet home. After seeing that the application was four pages in length and knowing my husband was not completely ready to plunge right in (I tend to be quick to take action, and my husband likes to think and sleep on it before doing things), I would ask him questions one page each night to allow him time to digest the process.”
While they went through the process at different rates, their visions eventually aligned.
“Foster care adoption was important to me because I had participated in several service projects with orphans. Also, my husband's grandfather was orphaned in St. Louis at age seven but was never adopted,” shared Marcy.
“My husband and I both knew we wanted to adopt as our way to expand our family and that we wanted to adopt older children. We had never discussed how many children until filling out the application. My husband said, ‘up to two children.’ Since I grew up with three siblings, I told him we should adopt a sibling pair because they often separate siblings.”
Can you share challenges that came up for your family during your process?
“Sure, the main challenges we faced were navigating life with boundaries,” Marcy said. “There, we were two adults who all of a sudden had two children who weren't babies. People were curious. And sometimes we answered questions, and sometimes we shared what the person needed to know.”
“As a team, my husband and I had to figure out how to filter what we shared and how we shared it. In the end, it is our kids' story. We needed support, so we quickly determined who our safe and trusted mentors and supporters are.”
“While I don't think anyone meant to be hurtful, there were dynamics that we didn’t expect. For example, I skipped having a baby shower as a new mom. Another time, a long-time friend told me that she and her husband were so inspired that my husband and I were ‘helping damaged children.’ Someone also told me, ‘I thought you would have biological children first.’ People sometimes think out loud, but hearing their plans for your life is sometimes hard to hear.”
What was the process of being matched with your kids?
“Before getting licensed, my husband and I knew of a pair of siblings in need of an adoptive home. We weren’t sure we were meant to be their adoptive parents, but we were interested in learning more. After getting licensed, we were invited to the staffing for that pair of siblings.
Can you explain what staffing means in this situation?
“A staffing is a group interview with prospective adoptive parents. Different states have different names and rules for this process. In Missouri, where we live, two to six families can be invited at one time. All the professionals who touch the child's case will interview families multiple times. They'll typically inform the families within 24 hours if they are selected to move forward in the process.”
“We were one of two families invited. It felt crazy to be in front of a team, answering questions about how we would care for children we had never met. A few hours later, we got a phone call telling us that they didn't select us. They chose the other family who had an older son who would be a strong and needed role model to the siblings. Talk about a flood of emotions going through all that!”
“That night, my husband and I decided stress eating was a way to cope. He headed to the store for a frozen pizza and a bag of Oreos. While he was gone, I opened my email and found a message about a pair of siblings in another county. The thread only had two short paragraphs, no photos.”
“I did not see any red flags in what I read, so I drafted a reply to the email. When my husband arrived back home, I told him about the pair of siblings. Having been through a lot that day, he suggested we sleep on it. The email said the deadline to apply was the very next day. Also, our license, at that point, was for kids ages four and up, and this sibling pair was a two-year-old and four-year-old; we’d have to get our licensing worker to get that changed even to be eligible to apply. My husband agreed we could submit our interest.”
My heart replied, ‘Tomorrow.’
“About a week later, on a Friday afternoon, I got a phone call from a number I did not recognize. I picked it up. The woman on the other line told me 10 families had applied for the sibling pair, and they selected us. They thought that my husband, who is a teacher, and I, who was working in social service (at the time), would be a good fit. They asked how soon we could meet the children.”
“My husband was at school teaching, so there was no way to add him to the call. My heart replied, ‘Tomorrow.’ We drove 5 hours the very next day to meet with the social worker for my now children. They gave us a 5-inch stack file to read about what our children had gone through. Then, we met our children and their foster family at a park. We played together and had pizza for lunch. My husband and I had agreed we would not make a decision on the spot but would decide on the drive back home.”
The weather for the drive back home paralleled the Bursac’s heaviness and was met with a hail storm.
“You go first,” my husband told me after we got on the highway.
“I have just one question,” I replied.
“Tell me one reason why we shouldn’t do this.”
There was a long pause from both of us. We did not have a single reason. We called the social worker and arranged to bring our kids home five days later.
Do you celebrate the day they came home as their “Gotcha Day?”
“We don't exactly celebrate or have a ‘gotcha day.’ We met one day, began living with each other five days later. Then legally, we became a family with the same last name 18 months later. It's hard to pick which of those days was when I "got" my children. Or when they felt like we were their forever parents. Because for a time, we were their foster parents. Additionally, you're not allowed to post photos of children who are in foster care. So we could not post photos of our entire family until we legally adopted them.”
“We willingly knew our children were a legal-risk placement. "Legal risk” means children are nearing being “legally free” to be adopted. But at the moment, there are a lot of legal processes that are still up in the air. Children are “legal risk” because while the current status looks like they will need an adoptive home, the children’s biological family could start demonstrating signs of stability and/or safety.
In short, we were keenly and consciously aware of the risk of falling in love, loving deeply, and bonding, and how all that could all change with little notice. Because we believe children deserve a safe and loving family, my husband had heard countless stories of what his grandpa's life was like growing up in the streets, and not many sign up to do this. We agreed there was no reason to NOT risk it all.
Describe what it was like walking into your home for the first time with your kids.
“We arrived home around 10 PM, having made a 10-hour round-trip across the state to bring our kids home. We stopped mid-way home at a park to eat sandwiches. My children were amazing on the car ride. A friend insisted we borrow his SUV, so we had plenty of space. I sat in the middle back seat for the drive home so I could hold hands and snuggle with both kids. When we arrived home, both kids were asleep. They woke up in a fog to enter their new home and climb into their very own bed. My daughter was only 2-years-old and startled by our small dachshund poodle wanting to greet her. While I tucked the kids into bed, our sweet neighbor surprised us and waited up to help my husband unpack the SUV.”
What would you tell someone considering adopting a child? And what is something you wish you'd known before you began the process?
“I would tell them - Do it. Ask questions. Name your fears. Adoption has been my family's ‘Plan A’ for family expansion, and it has been one of the greatest ways I have grown as a person,” Marcy explained.
“Before I began the process, I wish I would have known how often and how to respond to people who look at me like I have three eyeballs for adopting a sibling set through the foster care system. Sometimes these looks are because people don't get it, and they think adoption is overwhelming or the children are too much.”
What inspired you to write a book about your family's adoption story?
“Countless times, friends and friends of friends have reached out asking about foster care adoption and how we adopted our children through foster care. I once heard it said that for every ONE family that adopts through foster care, SEVEN of their friends will do the same. I have seen that to be true in my life by retelling my story. And it made me wonder how many kids will find forever families if I wrote down our story and shared it.
What is the biggest takeaway you hope people will gain from your book?
(1) Children who have been in foster care are humans with incredible hearts and loads of potential. They are not damaged.
(2) Not all routes to adoption are "expensive." I didn't spend thousands of dollars or do a single fundraiser. I hope safe and caring adults learn that foster care adoption is the fastest and most affordable way to adopt and that the 120,000 waiting children find a forever family.
Their adoption story definitely opened their eyes to the challenges and realities of foster care adoption. Now, you can find Marcy and her husband enjoying a quiet evening with their two children. Often they are playing board games, taking their two small dogs on bike rides in their dog trailer. They also love making homemade kettle corn and cheddar popcorn, which you can read about here!
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent or becoming an adoptive family through foster care, there are many fantastic resources available through various agencies and organizations nationwide. You can read more about Marcy's story through her new book, The Forgotten Adoption Option: A Self-Reflection and How-To Guide for Pursuing Foster Care Adoption.