Jon, Amber, and Carter Schwalls have been united as a family for 11 years when Amber became an immediate mother to Carter upon marriage to Jon. From the beginning Carter, then age 6, pushed her parents for siblings, however, they decided to let God develop their family how and when He saw fit. Even though Carter was asking for siblings, Amber and Jon were content with their family of three and did not choose to open their home to foster care until 7 years later. Four years after making the initial decision to open their home to foster children, they adopted Ellie, age 3, after fostering her from the time she was a baby. Ellie is a brilliant, articulate, headstrong social butterfly, who is full of energy and lights up a room while quickly becoming friends with everyone she meets.
Today Carter is 17 and about to graduate from high school, with plans to go to law school. She is a highly intelligent student who strives to maintain her individuality and inner strength through life’s adventures and struggles. Jon is the Director of Operations at Southern Valley, while proudly and graciously loving his wife and two daughters. Amber currently serves on the Board of Directors for The Colquitt County Forgotten Initiative. Since she tells her story with such passion and conviction, here is Amber’s foster to adoption story in her own words.
Simply stated because God commands it. Even though we have no biological children together, we were happy remaining as a family of three. We had our routines and were content. The fostering process has been God-inspired and driven. He called us each individually by preparing our hearts. Some of us He prepared years in advance, while for others it was an abrupt calling. This lifestyle choice has been for us the “refining fire” the Bible talks about. It has and continues to bring to the surface and burn out the things in us that are not God’s best for us.
Our first intentions were to serve as a respite home, but those intentions quickly changed to fostering as soon as our home was approved. We received two placements within the first 20 days of our home being approved. Our extended family has been supportive since the moment we received our first placement, but they were initially hesitant to encourage us towards this path in fear of the emotional roller coaster that would inevitably happen. We strive to make all family decisions as a family and remain united with each person having a voice. It is important to have a supportive family and church body before beginning this adventure. It has been a very rewarding but challenging 3 years. Very eye opening to what’s happening in “our back yards” that we normally are by choice ignorantly unaware of because knowing means our conscience plagues us to take action. Taking action requires us to step out of our comfort zones and sacrifice our perfectly worldly defined “American Dream families” and do what Jesus commanded: to take care of the orphans. We do not believe everyone can or should foster or adopt but EVERYONE can become involved in breaking the cycle of fatherlessness using their God given talents and blessings to bless the lives of these children and be their voice.
Why not? We all know that the decision and steps to adopt are time consuming, complicated, emotionally messy, and in certain instances, costly. There are rules, and regulations, and hoops to jump through while strangers pick your family and home apart to determine if you are deemed eligible and able to parent. While the process does feel violating and unnecessary, we understand the need to ensure safety and the best match for all involved parties. The process is well worth the reward.
Advice For Others And Our Counties Needs
Our plea to everyone is, do not sit ignorantly idol but educate yourselves and your family on what is really going on all around us and pledge to get involved in some way! The Forgotten Initiative needs volunteers constantly and DFCS needs foster approved homes. There are very few homes in our county, which means most of our county’s children are being sent to foster homes and group homes in other counties. The entire state of GA is overwhelmed with the need for foster homes. Every child placed in our home, whether for a night, week, month, year, or forever has been more of a blessing to us than we could have ever been to them.