Gift of Love: Christina's Forever Family

By Gillian Sheridan

Sitting in Lufkin, Texas looking through family photo albums, and seeing her picture, is a dream come true for Christina.

"I'm glad I got adopted. My dad means a whole lot to me. He's the first real dad I've ever had." Christina goes on the say, "My mom, we have our ups and downs, but I love her and I will always love her."

Those ups and downs are the reality of adoption; when complete strangers are joined to be a family.

"It wasn't what I expected. They opened my eyes. I know that now, because I had a whole different look when I came into the family."

Tim says, "We have found, and even our caseworker had said, don't make it a fantasy land; don't buy them things, don't do anything that you wouldn't do for your own child and it's true."

Tina adds, "I think there is a point in every relationship you can love somebody but, there is a point where you have to fall in love with them and I think that doesn't happen right away."

After spending 7 years in foster care, it was like starting over for Christina.

Tina says, "I think she's been so hurt in the past that she doesn't fully trust yet and that's going to take time."

"And it's just getting them to understand you're not just a foster kid anymore, you are a part of this family and no matter what happens, no matter how mad we get or how happy we are, there is always going to be love there, it's unconditional," explains Tim.

But change, did not come easy.

"When I first started therapy, I thought nothing was wrong with me."

Not only did Christina not think anything was wrong, she couldn't find anything right with herself either.

"I didn't have very much self esteem. I didn't care about myself."

At first, Tina and Tim were told that Christina would need special education classes. They didn't believe it and began trying to tap into her potential.

"All we can do as a family is give them the tools to have the best life they can and get them headed in the direction they need to go, but sometimes it's up to them to make that decision as well," Tim said.

Tina says, "That's where honestly, as a parent, I had to say this is your horse you ride it wherever you want. If you want to ride it off the cliff then that's where it's going to go."

"It really made me stop and think, do I really want to be dumb? I want to go to college one day and if I'm dumb I can't go cause I won't last. That's when I made the change to want to be smart. I want to be a straight A student."

And today, at 14 years old, Christina is a straight A student, taking pre-college classes.  And, she's getting involved in activities like 4-H.  Among other things, she's learning to sew. She showed off a dress she just made that won first place in a fashion contest.

This family learned that life can be tough, requiring a lot of patience. But they also learned the rewards can be great.

"They can get a family, a mom and a dad, people who really care about them and really give them a chance," Tim said.

A second chance that has given this diamond in the rough a chance to shine.

"She's really beginning to open up to see that the world is really a big place and in foster care they have a sense that the world is very small. So, it's great to see her kind of open up and begin to see her not survive but live life," Tina said.

And Christina is hoping her story will give hope to other foster children still waiting for the Gift of Love.

"There's a lot of miracles out there that are waiting for you and if you open your mind and open your heart there will be a family that will come along hopefully."

If you'd like information on fostering or adopting, call our Gift of Love hotline, toll-free, 1-888-kids-275.