As the 40 Days for Life prayer campaign to end abortion draws to a close, my mind goes back to a protest outside a Tempe clinic more than 30 years ago. An employee came out and challenged the crowd: “How many of you are going to adopt children?”
Rose Bustamente and Phil Jeffery both raised their hands. Not long after, they married, had four children and then, true to their declaration, adopted two little girls. “I figured that if I was supposed to be willing to lay down my life, I could at least adopt children,” Rose says of that long-ago day.
Across town, another couple is set to take a similar plunge. Dawn Marie and Robert Roeder are counting down the hours to the moment when the two little girls they love will officially become their daughters. This week, the Phoenix couple will adopt the 5- and 8-year-olds who stole their hearts last year.
Five years ago, the Roeders began the process of becoming licensed foster parents. “It’s been an incredible journey,” Dawn Marie explained. And a bit of a bumpy ride; the first two classes filled them with enthusiasm, but the third was a curve ball. “They give you the raw stories. It’s tough,” she said. “You’re listening to what these kids have been through and it’s a gut punch.”
That’s because the 17,000 children in Arizona’s foster care system have often experienced trauma. “You have everything from your worst nightmare to these kids being abandoned and left, murder that happens right in front of them — it’s tough beyond what we can imagine,” Dawn Marie said.
Robert began having second thoughts. Were they up for this? That’s when his wife turned everything over to the Lord. In her heart of hearts, she longed to adopt two children. “But how could I ask for two when my husband wasn’t ready for even one? I said, ‘Lord, if it’s not your will for us to have children then I will accept it. But if it is, we’re going to need a miracle.’”
The next day, Robert was serving at the parish’s pancake breakfast when a friend who was a foster parent approached him with two little girls in tow. The woman spoke of how her husband got cold feet after the first licensing class but later warmed to the idea of welcoming children into their family. They wound up adopting three and fostering more than two dozen. As a matter of fact, the two little girls with her at church that day would soon be up for adoption.
The next thing Robert knew, the 4-year-old girl crawled up in his lap and began to tell him the story of how she’d lost her tooth the night before. The girl’s sister, a 7-year-old at the time, chimed in.
“By the time those two kids were finished chatting with him he was completely in love,” Dawn Marie laughed.
“When he got home, I looked at him and said, “What happened to you?” Robert told her he wanted to adopt the two girls. For the last 10 months, the girls have lived with the Roeders. This week, they’ll be adopted.
“The biological parents made some mistakes but we get to come in now and provide a strong, loving home for these two girls and give them a future full of hope,” Robert said. “It’s an overwhelming joy.”
Catholic Charities Foster Care
This program helps hundreds of parents seeking to open their homes and provide care to foster children.
The adoption, taking place during National Adoption Month, was arranged through Catholic Charities. “It’s not a cakewalk but it is something that is the most rewarding and gratifying feeling you would ever experience,” Robert said. “It’s the toughest job you’ll ever love.”
Are you being called to foster or adopt one of the thousands of children in Arizona’s foster system? Might you be able to offer respite care or financial support? We who claim to be pro-life need to prayerfully ponder Our Lord Jesus’ words: “Whoever receives one child such as this in My name, receives Me … ” (Mt 18:5; Mk 9:37).
May we open our hearts — and our wallets — to the invitation to love children in need of a forever family.