EDITOR’S NOTE: November is National Adoption Month.
THOMASVILLE, N.C. – Janina DeHart had a dream that she was at a party, celebrating the adoption of two boys into her family. That dream came true when the Lord brought together the DeHarts and two brothers who needed a family.
Nathen and Tylor were homeless, living in a tent outdoors with their mother. The boys had different fathers who had each left their mother shortly after the boys were born.
“Our mom didn’t really take care of us. She just kind of always slept,” Nathen said in a video produced by Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina. “We ran out of food in our tent, so our mother texted DSS [Department of Social Services] and asked them to get somebody to pick us up so we could go get food. And so DSS saw that she wasn’t able to provide for us.
“So they took us. They took custody from my mother.”
The boys were brought to a Baptist Children’s Homes cottage home residential care facility in the middle of the night. It would be their home for about a year.
“Nathen and Tylor … ran and checked out the rooms, and ran through the whole building, saying, ‘We’ve got our own room! We’ve got our own bathroom!’” said Tim Daley, director of western area group homes for Baptist Children’s Homes.
The boys were given food, clothes and a shower before bed.
“That’s the first time we had slept well in a while,” Nathen recounted.
The boys did well in the cottage home, but longed for a forever family.
Meanwhile, God was working on the hearts of Janina DeHart and her husband Mark.
“For a while, we’d talked about becoming foster parents and wanting to adopt,” Janina said. “I couldn’t have children because of medical issues. And I would always say, ‘Well, in a couple years, in a couple years.’
“I dreamed that we adopted two boys. And the dream was about our celebration party with our family, welcoming them to the family. And I woke up, and I was like, ‘Okay God, is that Your way of telling me that this is something we need to do?’”
Mark said, “And I knew that by putting our faith in Him, that He was going to open doors. And of course, He did.”
Over the past few years, foster care and adoption have grown as part of Baptist Children’s Homes’ ministries, said Blake Ragsdale, the organization’s director of communications.
“One of the things that Baptist Children’s Homes has always strived to do … is being able to really change and evolve with the needs that are going on in our state, in our society,” Ragsdale said. “It’s always about what’s in the best interest of the child.”
As the need for foster care and adoption ministries became more evident, Baptist Children’s Homes saw the opportunity to come alongside churches who wanted to start those ministries by providing training and licensing procedures to couples wanting to become foster parents, such as the DeHarts.
While Janina and Mark were finishing their licensing requirements, they were allowed to serve as a visiting resource so that the boys were able to stay with them on weekends.
Nathen and Tylor were told that some people would be coming to meet them and they would stay with those people for the weekend. Nathen remembered meeting Janina previously at a fellowship event at the cottage home, and he instantly thought of her.
“At the moment we didn’t even know she’d eventually be our mother,” Nathen said.
Mark DeHart described the moment he met the boys as “surreal.”
“It’s just like I became a dad right then, to me, the way it felt in my heart,” he said, adding: “I didn’t know I had that much love in me, to have for somebody that I’ve never known. But I love these boys like they’re my own kids. And I’d do anything for them.”
The boys moved in with the DeHarts full time in August 2018. Though their adoption was finalized on Oct. 24, 2019, it felt to the DeHarts that they had been together for much longer.
“I’m just glad that God is using me and Janina to help these young boys,” Mark said. “And I want them to grow up in a godly home, to be able to be a witness for Christ. And I know they’re going to be. They already are.”
While Nathen and Tylor were living in the cottage home, they each had individually come to know Christ, Janina said. Mark got to assist his pastor in baptizing his sons in the Tuckasegee River, just as his own father had baptized him.
“I would highly recommend anybody that’s wanting to become a foster parent, to do it,” Mark said. “It’ll change their lives for the better. And to go through the Baptist Children’s Home is the best route because they’re tremendous.”
“There’s such a need, there’s so many kids who need a home,” Janina said. “And if we could get one couple, or family, or person from each church in our county, we wouldn’t have kids who need homes. We need people to just say yes.
“When God calls you – because it’s a calling – when He calls you, say, ‘Yes, Lord’ and take the step.”
Churches considering foster care and adoption ministries should start by praying for direction and praying for the children in need in their communities. Baptist children’s homes can serve as resources for churches and individuals wanting to take the next steps. Though children’s homes in different states don’t have identical programs, they have the same mission to serve families and the same heart for Christ, Ragsdale said.
“When I had that dream and I woke up the next morning and I was praying,” Janina recalled. “And I made my excuse: ‘Well, God, there’s some other things I want to do. In a couple of years. And it was as if He was in the room with me – I could hear Him say, ‘These kids need someone now.’”