Growing a family doesn't always happen naturally.

It's through journeys like this one that we often learn that family does not always equal blood.

Chris and Shay always wanted to have a family of their own, but nature did not cooperate. When considering the many options available to add children to their family, foster care felt like just the right fit. Knowing that the journey could have moments of heartbreak and many challenges along the way, they stepped into the role of Foster Parents willingly, with open hearts to whatever children might come into their lives.

If you are unfamiliar with the foster system, there are some things to be aware of.

It can be really, really messy. Kids are removed from their homes and birth parents for a variety of reasons, and most of those reasons have left kids scarred and traumatized. They can get bounced from home to home, never feeling a sense of belonging or permanence.

Being a foster parent is not much like being a "normal" parent. Whether you're fostering a baby, toddler, or older child, you are faced with the challenges wrought in trauma - physical, psychological, emotional, even spiritual. It's vital for foster parents to accept the children that they welcome to their home, as they are, understanding that they may have been raised with very different views and beliefs.

Perhaps the hardest part of all is when Goodbye comes. The goal of foster care is reunification, which is absolutely amazing. But when you have one of these young ones under your roof... you often bond. And while those bonds remain even when the child leaves, their absence still leaves a hole that can't simply be filled by another child. They each leave their unique mark on their foster parents/family.

But sometimes... they stay. And in the case of the Dorion family, when Max, and then his biological sister Heavenly, came into their home and life, it didn't take long to realize that for both kids and parents, this match was meant to be. Chris and Shay felt equipped to help Max and Heavenly in the ways they need, and all four found they shared a unique, dark sense of humor. While their original plan was to adopt younger kids, Chris and Shay both feel content adopting these teenagers and believe this was the right path for all of them.

Despite that rightness, the decision didn't come isntantly - nor was it entirely in their hands. First came the overwhelm of appointments, new challenges, and a global pandemic, and then the sudden slow-down of the world brought some clarity. Time together created bonds between parents and children that revealed understanding. As Shay told me, they were "learning how to be a family" and encouraged open, honest relationships by being open and honest themselves.

As the possibility of adoption became more of a reality, Chris and Shay involved Max and Heavenly in the decision process. Being teens they are old enough to have some say in the path of their lives, and Chris and Shay wanted them to be absolutely sure this was what they wanted. Being able to have regular contact with their biological parents brought some peace for them as well.

The day Max (who was adopted second of the two siblings) found out his official adoption date, he said, "Oh! That means you're mine soon!" I love that so much, and all it reveals about the bond this family shares.

There are many avenues for growing a family, all amazing in their own right. Adopting out of foster care certainly is not the easiest road to choose. It's not for everyone. It's not for the faint of heart. But with proper training, expectations, and a heart open to young humans in desperate need of love, foster care and adoption from foster care can build families forged from something much stronger than blood.

I've so enjoyed observing this family's journey over the years, and I can't wait to see what the future holds for them! Congratulations Chis, Shay, Heavenly, and Max!

Let's capture your own story for your family to cherish for generations to come.

Let's connect and plan your next session today! It is truly a pleasure for me to celebrate all that you and your family are through images that will be treasured keepsakes for all time!