Embracing family and community
A family adopts five children from foster care, and the community pitches in.
November 22, 2016
Denise and Bruce Kendrick had fostered and cared for more than 15 children when they decided to adopt for the first time in 2009. All of their foster children had moved on to permanent homes, and the Kendricks had assumed that this was every child’s experience.
“It turned out we were kind of a statistical anomaly,” says Denise. The couple discovered that many older youth age out of foster care without ever being adopted—more than 20,000 youth per year. “It just seemed unacceptable to us.”
They decided to pursue adoption of a teenage boy from foster care.
An instant connection
The Kendricks were quickly matched with their son Brandan. He was nearly 16 and was already in classes to prepare for adult living when the couple met him for the first time.
“We were waiting out in front of the foster group home where he was living,” says Denise. “When Brandan walked out, I truly felt like I was seeing my own newborn. I welled up with emotion and felt an instant connection.”
Since then, the family has adopted four more children and youth from foster care, including three siblings Reuben, Ellen, and Mattie, whom they adopted in 2011 when they were 2, 3, and 4 years old.
“They had not ever been in one home together, and they were reunified for the first time in our home,” says Denise.
They adopted their daughter Genet in 2012 when she was 17. All of the adoptions are open, and many of the children’s extended family members are a part of the Kendricks’ lives.
“We really value openness in adoption when it is safe and possible,” says Denise.
“Our kids have their own cheering section”
With an additional four biological children, the Kendricks have a very full house. It can be a lot of work, but having fun is important, too.
“Getting outside to play games, do sports, camp, or go fishing can get us out of whatever funk we might be in,” says Bruce.
The children get a lot of moral support from their siblings.
“It doesn’t matter if you are on a first-grade soccer team,” says Denise. “You’ve got a whole cheering section. The kids are there for one another.”
In a way, Denise and Bruce also have their own cheering section.
“The community is part of our lives,” says Denise.
The parents draw support from the public school most of the children attend, extended family, neighbors, and friends from church. The couple’s nonprofit, Embrace Texas, equips churches to care for adopted, orphaned, and abandoned children, and Denise and Bruce also hold parenting support groups for foster and adoptive parents. The groups share knowledge, comfort, advice, and hand-me-downs.
“Some challenges are unique to foster and adoptive parents so it’s nice to be around others who really get it,” says Denise.
This past year, the Kendricks expanded their community by taking all the kids but Brandan, who is now in the Army, on a year-long road trip visiting every state while conducting foster care workshops.
Hard times okay, too
Games and adventure are the fun of parenting, but Bruce and Denise also treasure the more difficult times, such as when one of their daughters wanted to run away to be with her birth mother, who was not available for her. Denise said her daughter went on to show immense bravery and trust by sharing her grief over her loss.
“For me it’s a privilege that I get to be beside and support my kids during happy times, as well as the hard and the bittersweet times,” says Denise.
“We’ve been required to be more attentive, educated parents and more compassionate people,” says Bruce. “We are really fortunate to have been given this vision and this opportunity to step into the lives of these children.”
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