I was born in Los Angeles in 1984. The year marked the beginning of the crack cocaine epidemic that would sweep the nation, springing from South Central Los Angeles.
The black community was hit hardest. The crack epidemic was a major factor in black fetal deaths increasing by 25 percent, lower birth weights increasing by 10 percent, and the number of black children being placed into foster care more than doubling.
This was the world my identical twin sister and I were born into. Our birth mother conceived twins at age 40, was rumored to be living in a garage in South Central, and was almost certainly addicted to crack. This would be her eighth pregnancy and final delivery—twin girls.
Our birth mother’s due date wasn’t until February, but a few weeks before Christmas, she went into labor.
I don’t know the details of our birth, because I don’t know anyone who was there. But our birth certificate says my sister and I were born in Los Angeles County Hospital, at night, weighing a pound and a half each.
Our birth certificate declares our given names—names that hardly sounded like those of inner-city black kids born in the ’80s.
But what our birth certificate doesn’t say is far more interesting.
Our birth certificate doesn’t say that our birth mother snuck out the hospital window shortly after our birth. It doesn’t say she was on drugs during her pregnancy and probably during delivery. It doesn’t say where she went or if she planned on returning.
It doesn’t say that a nurse more than likely named us (another rumor I heard later in life). It doesn’t say my twin and I were in the hospital for months, suffering from withdrawal and recovering from surgical operations. It doesn’t say God was watching over us and had a plan to give us a future and hope.
By the pure and powerful grace of God, my sister and I were placed in foster care, together. We moved from home to home, together. And against all odds, in 1986, our mom and dad, Tommy and Theresa, took us home to an Air Force base in England, together. My parents changed our names to Jacqueline and Stephanie.
Out of all my siblings, my sister and I were the only ones to be adopted.
My Mom, My Dad
I never got to know my birth mom. I met her once when I was 5. She was drunk and fell out of a chair while holding my sister. We didn’t want to see her after that.
We talked on the phone again when I was around 10. She said she would send us money for Christmas. My mom told us not to believe her. I did anyway. Needless to say, the money never came.
And that was it. She died from cancer in 2011. I never felt I needed anything deeper, because I already had a mom.
Every night before bed, my mom talked to my twin and me about life (I could do anything I wanted), adoption (we were “chosen”), my dream to drive a strawberry truck (after I graduated from college), and the love of Christ (we were so loved).
She told us we were beautiful—and that we could do all things through Christ, especially the impossible. And when my twin sister was diagnosed with cancer, she took care of her as only a mommy can, loving us all through the most difficult times in our lives.
I didn’t get to know my birth father either, although he’s still around. While I was in law school, I did write to him for a few months—when he went to prison.
He would send beautifully illustrated cards, with words that didn’t always make sense. But it was enough that I knew he was trying to apologize for not having been a dad to us. He would sign the cards sometimes with his full name, sometimes with his initials, but always with “Your Dad.”
But he wasn’t my dad. My dad is a military veteran, who bought my sister and me our first bikes and wrestled with us on the living room floor and braided our hair.
My parents were with both my sister and me for the birth of our children, buying all three children their first car seats—while we were in labor.
At the age of 28, my identical twin sister was diagnosed with a rare cancer. She was already stage IV when they found it. She died a year later.
As I was pulling pictures from her Facebook page for her home-going service, I saw a picture of us as babies, with our biological grandparents. I had never seen a baby photo of us, and I didn’t even know my biological grandparents had known us as babies, let alone held us long enough for someone to snap a picture.
At my sister’s funeral, I learned from my biological father’s sister that their father, my grandfather, had worked at the hospital where we were born. On his lunch breaks, she said, “He would go up to the nursery and pray for you guys every day. Every day.”
There it was, a powerful and essential piece of our life story, suddenly falling into place. A huge “why” was answered for me in that moment: Why my sister and I survived. Why we weren’t separated in foster care. Why we were the only ones out of all our biological siblings to be adopted. A loving God who answers prayer.
It was in that moment that God, the Father, became so real to me. I truly understood what David was talking about when he said God lovingly knits us together in our mother’s womb.
God had known and loved my sister and me from the beginning. He had a plan for us that no one could mess up. My biological grandfather lived long enough to see the twin granddaughters he prayed for be adopted into a loving family, and I’m sure God reassured him his legacy of faith would be grown and nurtured by my parents.
Beauty From Ashes
Through adoption, my parents took abandoned girls, broken and unwanted. They changed our names and gave us theirs. They gave us love and acceptance in spite of who we had been, in spite of where we had come from. They gave us a new and hopeful future.
I can’t express what adoption means to me. I truly believe it’s the calling of every Christian to carry the spirit of adoption with us, bringing hope and light to the broken and unwanted.
Every day, ministries like the Family Policy Alliance and our state allies in more than 40 states fight for the right of families to bring children into their homes and love them with the love of Christ.
These families give a future and a hope to children, and tell them who they are and who they can be.
There are more than a half-million children in foster care in America each year. States desperately need the support of private adoption agencies to place children with loving, supportive families.
Instead, many are closing their doors because of laws that restrict the rights of agencies to place children according to religious values and morals. Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, and South Dakota are trailblazers in protecting these vital charities that are critical for quicker placement of children into forever homes and families.
At the federal level, Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., has introduced the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, a bill similar to those passed at the state level, to protect faith-based adoption agencies from being discriminated against by the government.
Help support the spirit of adoption by standing with us in fighting for the religious freedom of private adoption agencies throughout our nation.
Originally published by the Family Policy Alliance.