First a Foster Child, Then a Foster Parent: Man’s Life Comes Full Circle

Book to be released November 11, 2016.

Denalee Chapman March 18, 2016

Richard and Brittany met when Richard was a foster child. Their friendship grew to love and the couple married. There were never any secrets between the two—knowing each other first as friends, their lives were open books to each other.

So when they created a family through marriage, Brittany was completely on board with Richard’s desire to help foster kids. They always knew they would foster children. The Oden’s plan was to begin their family, having a few biological children, then they would welcome in foster children and fill their lives with love—a love that was often missing in Richard’s young life.

Richard joined the military and the couple got pregnant . . . Three times. Each pregnancy ended in miscarriage. One day the couple got a call—there was a sibling group that needed a home, would they take them in? They did. This faith-filled couple realized that God’s plan was different than the one they had made. In the Oden family, they would foster first, have a biological child later. The Odens have shared portions of their story here, here, and here.

GROWING UP IN FOSTER CARE
1. GROWING UP IN FOSTER CARE

Richard could relate to the kids he and Brittany took into their home. Although the specifics in the kids’ lives were different than Richard’s, many of the feelings were the same. In Richard’s words: "As a child in foster care, I never thought I would be adopted. We foster children always think our 'real' parents would come back to get us. Being a foster child moving around a lot, you get your heart broken. So eventually you realize not to get your hopes up and try not to become attached to the next family in fear of your heart getting broken again. One of the longest stints of my foster care homes was five years. I lived in the same foster home from age 7 to 11. I did let my guard down at this home because I had been there so long. I guess I thought I would always be there, even though adoption was not ever apart of my thoughts. But this family had to move away due to the dad’s job, and I was devastated. There is a lot of baggage still with me because of my moving around a lot and getting my heart broken. I still have security issues today, but God and my family have sustained me! Being a foster kid, I knew the statistics were stacked against me, so I felt like I was facing a Philistine (David and Goliath in the Bible 1 Samuel 17, 1-58). Most of the time growing up I would overhear adults talking about me and my story. I remember some people saying 'That kid won't amount to anything, he doesn’t have a chance.' I guess hearing this so much, some kids might start buying into that, but my attitude was, I will show you and the world that this kid, although dealt a bad hand which I had no control over, will be a productive member of society and so much more! And let’s remember who won that fight: I Samuel 17:50 reads, 'So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and there was no sword in the hand of David.' I have tried to live my life based on that attitude to this day. But I guess I will always feel like I have something to prove."

BRINGING FOSTER CHILDREN HOME
2. BRINGING FOSTER CHILDREN HOME

Richard and Brittany were smitten when these three beautiful children entered their lives. "I thought they were the most beautiful children I had ever seen," said Richard. But his heart hurt for them too. From his childhood experience, he knew that this was just the beginning of their foster care lives. Brittany saw it differently. She was immediately drawn in to the children and felt a quick bond. "I was sure they would be going home to their biological mom, but that first night they came home with us I told Richard that I wanted to adopt them." Together, Richard and Brittany showered the kids with love and at the very least, they hoped to give them two things: To know what love is, and to know God. "Come what may, these kids could have a future and a hope."

FINDING PURPOSE
3. FINDING PURPOSE

From Richard: "I would often ask God why he put me in foster care. I would ask Him why I couldn't have a 'normal' life like some of the other kids I knew- a life with what we foster kids refer to as our real mom and dad. Throughout my life God has answered that question time and time again. My prayer now is that he will bless me with the wisdom, courage, strength, and words to show world the providence of Him, and His will in my life. I know without a shadow of a doubt that He put me in this situation so that one day, I could indeed inspire, encourage, and minister to others."

ADDING A CHILD
4. ADDING A CHILD

Not long after Richard and Brittany were blessed with their three foster children, Brittany got pregnant. This pregnancy resulted in the birth of little Annabelle. "Annabelle has known Gabbi, Kentrell, and Elijah her whole life. The fact that they came to us through foster care and adoption mean nothing to her. They are just brother and sister to her, and they take care of her as well. Kentrell, our middle child, loves Annabelle and always goes out of his way to take care of his baby sister. It’s really a beautiful thing to watch. And Annabelle loves her big brothers and sister. She squeals in delight when they come in from school in the afternoons."

Transracial Adoption
5. Transracial Adoption

But what of the difference in skin color? Transracial adoption can be difficult for some. And racism is a definite concern of the Odens. Although skin color makes no difference to their family, outsiders can say and do hurtful things. From Richard’s perspective, he knew how hard it was growing up in foster care. He heard and felt hurtful things from children and adults. And so these good parents will be extra vigilant as they raise their transracial family.

"We had a conversation with their biological mom about this very topic. I asked her if she or her friends or family had a problem with us being white and her children living with us being black. She did admit that she got some flak from some of her friends. We went on to tell her that as long as they were under our house, we would raise them to see as God sees: "God is colorblind, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.” Besides talking with them, all we can do is train them in the scriptures, hope for the best and pray, just like any other biological parents should with their children.

HOPES AND DREAMS
6. HOPES AND DREAMS

Brittany and Richard will continue to love and to teach their children. But the story won’t end there. They continue to offer love to foster children when they’re called to do so. And "Brittany and I have a dream to purchase land and build a home on it that is big enough to take in 5 siblings at once. I came from a big biological family and they had to split us up because they could not find a home that would take four kids at once." The Odens want to make a difference - one child at a time, and even one sibling group at a time.

My Full Circle, Squared
7. My Full Circle, Squared

With an intense desire to help as many children as possible, Richard has written a book about his life experiences. Growing up as a foster child, being part of the military, having a wife who chooses to do hard things, and raising a beautiful blended family, Richard’s experiences are many. "Foster/adoption families and my military experience have many parallels. It takes very special people to be foster parents and the same can be said for our military men and women. For our foster care, we know we can get our hearts broken, get attached to our children we foster and watch them leave. We also know what could happen while serving in the military - however, we still go. We still put children and our country first!

When I tell people that I was a foster child, they always have so many questions: Do you still know your real parents, your real siblings; why did you come in to foster care; what was foster care like, etc. I really felt like I would be doing a disservice to God if I didn't share with people what he has done for me in my life. My book 'My Full Life Circle, Squared' comes out Veterans Day, November 11, 2016 which also happens to be National Adoption Month. The title of my book comes from the fact that I was a foster child who became a foster parent (my first circle). Then I got adopted out of foster care, and adopted three children out of foster care (my second circle) in 'My Full Life Circle, Squared.' I will be donating a portion of all proceeds to foster care/adoption and military charities."

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Denalee Chapman

Denalee is an adoptive mother, a motivational speaker, a writer, and a lover of life. She and her husband have adventured through the hills and valleys of life to find that the highest highs and the lowest lows are equally fulfilling. Book Denalee to speak to your group, or find Denalee's writings, including her books on her website at DenaleeChapman.com.


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