RICHLAND, Mo. (BP) — Chris and Tammi Ferkel didn’t have any plans to adopt a daughter. God, however, had been laying the groundwork for Summer’s new family for multiple generations.
Ferkel is the son of a man who was orphaned in the early 1940s. Never adopted or fostered, he grew up as a newsboy in an orphanage in St. Louis. Ferkel’s maternal grandmother, also an orphan, came to Missouri on a Catholic orphan train from New York around 1900.
“She was ‘fostered,’ but it was two old spinsters who brought her into their house, and she was basically an indentured servant,” Ferkel said. “They never gave her their name or anything like that.”
It wasn’t until Ferkel became a trustee for Missouri Baptist Children’s Home several years ago that he realized God had been preparing him to care for kids in need. When he volunteered at MBCH’s summer camp, he was hooked.
“It was emotionally the hardest, most joyful experience I’ve ever had,” said Ferkel, a veteran in the telecommunications industry. “Hearing their stories reminded me what my father and grandmother must have been through, and the Holy Spirit filled me with a calling to start fostering.”
After discussing it with Tammi — “It grew on her pretty quick,” Chris said — they started the process of becoming a foster home through the children’s home. Five years later, they had provided a stable, temporary home for a dozen kids in crisis.
In August 2015, 8-year-old Summer came into their home. She was in the foster care system apart from her two siblings, so after two months with the Ferkels, she went to live with her siblings. But the reunification process did not go smoothly. Caseworkers and her foster parents agreed that she thrived best where she would be the only child.
The Ferkels, with their biological children grown and moved out of state, had just finished a short-term foster of three children and were in a position to provide Summer with an adoptive home, one where she would be the only child. Except, they weren’t sure.
“There were a lot trials and issues with our last placement,” Tammi said. “I was exhausted. We had decided we were done; it wasn’t my plan to have children in the home again. But God had a different plan. I got out of God’s way and I really do feel that He placed her in our home.”
The Ferkels prayed through the situation together and were up front with Summer that they were welcoming her into their home but weren’t sure if adoption was in their future.
“Saying ‘no’ felt wrong, but saying ‘yes’ didn’t feel right at that moment either,” Tammi said. “Adoption is a lifelong commitment and we couldn’t say that in just one week.”
That was in March 2016. Summer was happy with the arrangement and, as the months went on, the Ferkels began to sense God’s affirmation that she was indeed a fit for their family. The adoption became final Jan. 17 of this year.
“I think she was chosen just for us,” Chris said.
“She’s my daughter,” Tammi said.
Though Summer has a new name (“Summer” was her choice) and a new Social Security card, she still has a close connection to the family who adopted her siblings and live just 20 minutes away. The two families meet every other week so she can still be in the lives of her 6-year-old sister and 3-year-old brother.
Ferkel, in urging people to be open to playing a role in a child’s life, said even if adoption or foster care can seem too intimidating, providing “respite care” for one night or a weekend can be a way to “dip your toe in the water.”
“Go through the classes” offered by Baptist children’s homes that are affiliated with many state Baptist conventions, he said. “There’s no obligation and it’s free. Most of all, pray about it.”