In Costco, a tall black man pushing a cart was balancing a blonde, blue-eyed little girl on his hip. It was hardly a common sight in Eugene, Oregon, and shoppers paused to stare. One woman, who had been eyeing him for some time, stopped him:
“That’s a beautiful baby you’ve got there.” She stood, waiting.
The man smiled. “She’s in foster care,” he said.
“Oh! Foster care. It makes sense now,” the woman said to the people next to her.
But that was in 2018, and we’re getting ahead of ourselves. This is the story of an adoptive family through the eyes of 18-year-old Devinee Stroud, an adoptive sibling. Let’s rewind.
In 2010, Stroud’s mother, Talia, returned home after a trip to Ethiopia. She had seen suffering children, and when she came back, Stroud said, “she wanted to take all the kids home.”
One night, Stroud’s mother had a dream that her family adopted children of Asian descent. When she talked to her husband the next day, she warned him, “Now listen, and don’t laugh at me.” She told him about her dream. He listened—and laughed.
That afternoon, Joshua Stroud was listening to a podcast while washing dishes. The podcast unexpectedly talked about caring for children without families, and it gripped his heart. He thought about what his wife had said. And he knew it was the right thing to do.
“I have two biological brothers, so my parents talked to me and my brothers first,” said Devinee Stroud. “They asked how we felt about adoption. I always wanted a sister. So I felt like, ‘As long as I get a sister, I’m on board with it.’”
Stroud’s parents took classes from the Department of Human Services about foster parenting, and then they waited for a call. Stroud expected her family to foster a girl soon. She had no idea the number of children in her family would double overnight.
DHS called. A trio of siblings was about to be torn apart. They needed a family—the only way to keep them together. Three at once. That was more than the Strouds had anticipated. But they knew this was it.
Stroud was 10 years old. Her biological brothers were 8 and 6. In a single day, they added three more to the family, ages 3, 2 and 8 months old. The children—Corinne, Lydia and Josiah—were half-Laotian, half-Italian.
“Our family has always stood out because there are so few black people in Oregon,” Stroud said. “But now we stood out even more. It’s so rare to see a black adoptive family. We’re such a diverse family, and I love it.”
But not everything about adoption was exciting. At 10 years old, Stroud quickly realized that adoption was going to change her life dramatically, and not always in the ways she wanted.
“In the beginning, it was difficult because I was just selfish,” said Stroud. “I had to go from being the only girl in the family to sharing my room with two little girls. I didn’t wrap my head around the fact that they’d just been taken away from their mom and dad. All night, Corinne would cry. I was so upset—‘Why is she crying all night long? This is my room!’ I didn’t understand the layers of trauma. I didn’t know long years of healing lay ahead. My parents had to give me a reality check. This is what we were called to do. I had to learn humility, to come to the realization that it’s not about me.”
The Strouds wanted to keep helping children in need. So, they answered another call from DHS and fostered two brothers for a year. When the boys were placed back with their relatives, the Strouds were devastated. But they stayed on the call list.
DHS called again. This time, a blue-eyed baby girl needed a family. She was tiny. Two months old, just five pounds, diagnosed with failure to thrive. She almost died in the hospital.
But she was a fierce little one, and she lived. The Strouds fostered her for a few years, then adopted Navaeh into their family August 2018. “She’s talking and laughing and always getting into things,” Stroud said, smiling with her whole face.
As the Strouds worked through the day-to-day challenges and joys of being an adoptive family, they were amazed by the community that gathered around them in support. Friends from church brought them meals to feed a family of nine. People offered to give Joshua and Talia date nights by watching their children. Friends gave the kids clothes—heaping trash bags filled with hand-me-downs. One family even let them borrow a car for the week when theirs broke down.
“A lot of people think you have to adopt to make a difference,” said Stroud. “But I don’t think that adoption and foster care are right for everyone. I believe everyone has a role to play, mainly just coming around to help adoptive families. That’s a big part of adoption—community. For us, it was life-changing.”
How businesses can support adoptive families:
Every year, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption publishes an annual report on the 100 best adoption-friendly workplaces. These companies have supported adoption by giving financial reimbursements to help with adoption expenses for employees, offered unpaid and paid leave for new adoptive parents and support for foster families. According to Foundation President & CEO Rita Soronen, employers have found that adoption benefits are not only a good way to build a company’s family-friendly image, but are also “an affordable way to enhance employee recruitment, retention and goodwill.” And ultimately, she said, “it’s the right thing to do.”
How individuals (you and I) can support adoptive families:
For Devinee Stroud and her family, the biggest support came from their church community and friends. Here are a few ideas she shared that you can do to support adoptive families:
Make dinner for the family and bring it to their house or invite them to yours.
If you have children of a similar age and/or can be a mentor, offer to pick up one of the children for lunch or an event.
Walk in love instead of judgment.
Give your gently used clothes to an adoptive family.
Offer to babysit for an evening at no charge.
Look for needs and ask, “Can I help you with that?”
At Costco and everywhere else they go, Stroud’s family sticks out as different. But Stroud thinks being different is beautiful, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. “Adoption is hard, but it’s worth it,” she said, her eyes shining. “It’s fun. It’s wonderful to have such a big family and so many people to love.”