Tammy and Debbie Marshall-Hewlitt’s adoption journey began back in September of 2011. After trying IVF for about a year, the couple decided to look into adoption from foster care. After a quick Google search, they came across the MARE website and knew that adoption would be the right way for them to grow their family.
“We wanted to adopt locally,” Tammy said. “International adoption was an option, but we knew that kids right in our home state needed homes.”
Tammy and Debbie completed their MAPP training and were ready to be matched by June of 2012. They began attending MARE matching events like the annual Adoption Option party. They were hoping to adopt siblings: either two boys or a boy and a girl.
In October of 2013, they attended a two-day adoption party.
“It was really exciting,” Debbie said. “It was a Harvest Party. I was in the military at the time, and I was supposed to have a National Guard weekend that weekend. It ended up being canceled because of the government shutdown happening at the time. In my 28 years with the National Guard, I had never seen anything like that happen before. I told Tammy it was meant to be – I wouldn’t have been able to go to that party if it hadn’t gotten canceled!”
Their first memory of the party was walking in and hearing a shriek of excitement coming from one of the children who was waiting to be adopted. She was running towards two other boys who were running towards her as well.
“They picked her up and spun her around,” Debbie said. “We thought it was so touching. We wondered if they were siblings, and if so, why they weren’t together. We wanted to know their story.”
After finding their social worker, Tammy and Debbie learned that all three siblings, Harley, Jessie, and Dylan, had been placed in separate foster homes in three different towns.
“They were cheery, loving kids who deserved a permanent home, so we all spent the day together eating pizza, going on hayrides, and doing other fun activities to get to know each other,” Debbie said.
Originally, Tammy and Debbie had decided that they wanted to go forward with adopting all three siblings. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out the way they had hoped. Because of the trauma they had experienced, Jessie, Harley, and Dylan had a difficult time coming back together and living in the same home.
“We knew that was a possibility with any sibling group that had been separated,” Debbie said.
In the end, it was only Harley and Jessie who moved in with Tammy and Debbie permanently. However, the transition into their new home still wasn’t easy.
“Adopting children, you expect them to be so happy in their new home,” Debbie said. “We thought it was going to be fluffy, beautiful rainbows, and I pictured all of this grandeur!”
Needless to say, it didn’t go exactly like that. It took a while for Harley and Jessie to get comfortable.
“They say kids act out when you first get them in your house…and that is one hundred percent true!” Debbie said, “But, we’re in a really great place now.”
Another hurdle they experienced was the waiting period. Harley and Jessie moved in with Tammy and Debbie in 2014 when they were eight and nine years old, but it took two and a half years for their adoption to be finalized. Though they waited a long time, it was worth it. Their adoption was finalized on National Adoption Day in 2016, surrounded by friends and family. They were even featured on the news!
While much of the Marshall-Hewlitt's adoption journey didn’t go as planned, there have been many rewarding moments along the way as well.
“These kids who went through unthinkable things are now in a loving, stable home,” Debbie said. “We were looking to complete our home with children, and they needed parents. It’s been wonderful to be able to give the kids what we think every child deserves. The kids in foster care are placed there for a reason; they go through some really horrible things.”
To families considering adoption, Tammy and Debbie encourage patience, preparation, and the utilization of resources like counselors, mentors, and even crisis hotlines.
"Your patience will be tried – multiple times!" Tammy said. "Whether it’s the children, the court system, anything. But, it’s so worth it.”