When Mary Culpepper’s father told her he had someone she should meet, she didn’t take him seriously. He father lived in Sparks, and she was in California, and he was persistent about her meeting a valet supervisor from the Nugget.
Mary met Marcus in 2008, she knew right away that he was The One. They were both teachers, and even when they were dating, they talked about the possibility of adopting children someday.
They started trying for their own child in 2010, and she got pregnant the first month, but she soon had a miscarriage. After a few months, they were ready to try again, and she got pregnant a second time with Grant. After Grant was born, they soon started trying again, knowing they wanted a large family.
The couple suffered miscarriage after miscarriage, and even one ectopic pregnancy. In total, Mary has been pregnant 8 times with one live birth. They finally decided that another biological child was just not meant to be, and decided it was time to start looking into adoption as a way to grow their family.
They looked into all the options available, including international and private adoptions. But in January 2014, they found a picture on the Washoe County Children Services website, and they both were drawn to the picture of the same boy, named Kristopher. There was also a note that Kristopher had a biological sibling that was also available for adoption, but was too young to be pictured on the website.
It was a gut feeling when they saw the picture of Kristopher that he was destined to be their son, and they also didn’t hesitate to know that he came with a little sister.
Their research then turned towards understanding what it’s like to adopt from foster care, and they learned that the children on the website are in the highest need for placement. By March of that year, they started doing the orientation required to start the foster care and adoption process. They took 27 hours of training, and were so thankful for the neighbors and friends that watched Grant while they were in class. They were licensed for foster care by May, and then exchanged letters with Kristopher and his sister’s foster parents about their needs and how the Culpeppers would address those needs.
When they were on vacation in Nebraska that July, they received a call that they had been matched as adoptive parents to Kristopher and his sister Keyara, and they had to cut their trip short to start the transition process that August.
The children had been with the same foster family since birth, and the transition process started with a playdate of sorts and dinner at the foster family’s house. The next step was to have the children over to their house for a sleepover. The actual transition came when they attended the sister, Keyara’s birthday party, which also served as an adoption party, as the children then kame home with Mary and Marcus after the party.
The children were too young to fully understand the transition process, and Mary and Marcus had their hands full adjusting themselves to going from one to three children overnight.
The Culpeppers officially adopted Kristopher and Keyara on May 1, 2015, and they’ve been so happy with this experience that they wanted to share their story and the process with other local families. Many people assume the adoption process will be extremely costly and will take multiple years, but the Culpeppers went from seeing their future son’s picture online in January to having him and his little sister live in their house by August.
According to the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), there are 108,000 children waiting to be adopted in the United States. Last year, there were 51,000 adoptions finalized in the country. And each year more than 23,000 kids will age out of foster care with no family or permanent home. At any given time, there are 900 children in Washoe County alone available for adoption.
The process didn’t come without some stress and concern, though, as when you adopt a child out of foster care, there is always the chance that the child will be reunified with their biological parents. “Children in foster care generally do better when they are reunified, as quickly as is safely possible, with their parents and/or their extended family. To be sure, reunification must be safe, and must serve the best interests of the children involved,” said Honorable Egan Walker, Washoe County Second Judicial District Court Family Division judge and member of the NCJFCJ Board of Directors.
When asked to comment on this risk, Judge Egan Walker of Washoe County Second Judicial Court Family Division offered this insight: “In truth, there are twice as many children in foster care and available for adoption as there are children who are actually adopted. The fastest, most consistent way out of foster care is reunification…
Judges, like myself, have the responsibility, along with the education offered by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, to measure and balance the needs of all the parties, keeping in mind the best interests of the children involved are most important, in order to try to ensure good outcomes for children.”
We at Reno Moms Blog thank the Culpeppers for sharing their story with us so that local parents that are considering options understand and may consider filling the local need for adoption and foster care. As they look forward to celebrating their first Christmas together as an official family, we wish them continued blessings and joy.
Here is an interview with the Culpeppers that ran on KOLO recently.