The desire to adopt had been in Christina’s heart from a young age. She mentioned this to her husband Josh as they were dating but did not bring it up again during the first several years of marriage. Josh’s family had always modeled taking care of others in need when he was growing up and now seeing his friends adopt internationally created a spark in him. The Marlows completed the paperwork to adopt from Ethiopia as well only to find out that the country had closed their foreign adoption program to address trafficking issues.
The Marlows had considered adopting from foster care but had initial concerns about how hard it would be if kids were placed in their home and later reunified with birth families. They thought and prayed about it for several weeks and God really opened their hearts both for children in the system and their birth parents.
Josh & Christina started the process to become foster parents and in October 2018, when their biological kids were 5 and 2 ½, they got a call for a sibling set of 2 boys. They were initially told that the older child was 3 and his younger brother was still a baby. On their first visit meeting Kody and Erik, the Marlows quickly realized that Erik had some special needs. He was only a year old but almost the same size as his younger brother. He was sitting in a high chair, his head leaning to one side and a trickle of drool running down his cheek. The social worker told them that he was mostly non-responsive, had very poor trunk control and would likely require services throughout his life. This was a hard decision to make but Josh and Christina welcomed both boys into their home.
In the first 6 months with the boys, they attended lots of therapy appointments for Erik while working with Kody to manage some big feelings and behaviors. Even at 3 years old, Kody only knew 5 words and had significant trauma before being taken into care. Christina said he was “a screamer” and can distinctly remember needing to buckle him into their wagon when walking to pick up their son Luke from school just so he didn’t run into the street. She truly appreciated the friends and family members that stuck by them during the first year as Kody would often act out, throwing things and screaming for hours. During those early months, their primary goal was to create a loving and safe environment for both boys.
With lots of consistent parenting, both boys were making great progress. After 12 months in the Marlows home, Erik had progressed from having no core strength to crawling, pulling to stand and walking. He was making great progress in therapy and able to maintain eye contact and use a few words. Kody’s behaviors were also calming down and he was making good progress emotionally. Both Josh & Christina mentioned that it took about a year for their family to bond. One of the top pieces of advice they have for new foster families is not to expect an instant love connection with new kids in your home especially as they often push you away with challenging behaviors. "It can be hard to have hope until the attachment process really begins."
Now, 4 years after placement, the boys have officially become Marlows as their adoption finalized in 2020. Both Erik & Kody have exceeded all expectations and are doing well in the family and at school. Christina said it’s been amazing to watch our kids’ brains turn on as they learn and grow. Kody is in 1st grade and learning to keep his hands to himself but doing well. Erik, who is now a kindergartener, has made such excellent progress that he’s already reading! The Marlows enjoy family game nights, riding bikes and just being a “normal" family of 6.