A Family of Three
“I believe we are each called to life—true, abundant, purposeful life. You have a call patiently waiting and whispering. You might already be hearing it but are afraid to listen. My message to you is this: Trust the Whisper.” – Kathy Izard, The Hundred Story Home
Jim and Caroline Hart are a couple who have lived their lives in service to God, their family, and to others. Jim is a pastor with the United Methodist Church and serves as Crossnore’s Director of Christian Education and Campus Pastor. Caroline is Crossnore’s Chief Advancement Officer. Their involvement began in 2014, when Caroline left development in higher education institutions and came to Crossnore. At that time, she says she knew very little about child welfare in North Carolina. “I was very naïve to kids in foster care. I was naïve to what was involved in adoption. It hadn’t touched my life, so I just didn’t think about it,” Caroline related.
Happy as a family of three with their son, McRae, Jim and Caroline enjoyed their life in the mountains of Avery County, where Jim pastored two small churches and McRae played a lot of soccer. But at Crossnore, the Harts began to realize the importance of healthy family relationships and how that could transform the life of a child. “I had never understood how important a safe environment and just having enough to eat was for a child,” Caroline said. So a little tug began on their hearts as Jim and Caroline began to grapple with what this meant for them as Christians. It was hard not to be angry that people weren’t doing more for the children living in foster care.
Trusting the Whisper
While Jim was still pastoring a community church, one of Crossnore’s cottages came to church with a new sibling group of four. After observing them for several weeks, Jim told Caroline one day, “That little brown headed girl from the cottage could be a Hart.” And Caroline’s response was a firm no, “They are a four-pack.” Inquiring after the children, the Harts were thrilled to learn that the children’s plan was reunification with their family. Jim and Caroline had seen the looks on the faces of Liam, then 4, and Nevaeh, then 6, when they saw other children sitting on their parents’ laps at church. The Harts knew the best thing for the children was for their parents to provide a safe and loving home for them to return to.
As the Harts continued to serve at Crossnore, Caroline read Kathy Izard’s book, The Hundred Story Home. Kathy is a member of Crossnore’s Board of Trustees and had written the book about her own journey of leaving her job and building a home for homeless people in Charlotte, NC. Kathy’s story is one of listening to the whisper within your heart and doing what it is telling you to do. After reading it, Caroline called Kathy and confessed that the whisper in her heart was for adoption and Kathy replied, “Please don’t let me be the reason you adopt four children!”
Moving to Action
But the whisper stayed strong. So in late 2016, Jim and Caroline became visiting resources for Liam, Nevaeh, Aiden, and Cain. Visiting resources are an added support for children whose families are not able to visit with them at Crossnore. Around this same time, Jim admitted that he too was hearing a whisper of adoption. As the children’s case progressed through the courts, it became apparent that reunification was not going to occur. The Harts struggled to understand how parents would not do absolutely everything they could do to provide for their children and by this time, they knew they wanted to adopt these four children.
The summer of 2017 flew by as Jim and Caroline went through training and licensure to become a foster family. On September 1, 2017, the children moved into the Harts’ home as a foster-to-adopt placement. On February 26, 2018, the adoption was finalized, and Cain, Aiden, Nevaeh, and Liam officially became Harts.
Life With a Family of Seven
Life with a family of seven is certainly different for the Harts than it was a year ago. Caroline says they were immediately forced to re-prioritize. “We’ve had to learn to look at things and respond to them differently,” said Caroline. “We cannot parent these four children like we do our biological son. They have their own experiences and a history that he doesn’t have.” Logistics are different with five kids too. It takes a bigger car to go somewhere, there are mountains of laundry, and tons of groceries to buy.
When asked what makes it all worth it, Caroline said, “Hearing them say it’s the best day of their lives, finding a note on my pillow that says I love you to the moon and back, and having your 10-year-old son say he never wants to live like that again makes it all worth it.”
Are You Hearing It Too?
Have you heard the whisper of foster care or adoption in your own heart? If you have, the Harts suggest that you put all your excuses aside. “We had a lot of them,” Caroline said. “We were too old, we don’t have the money, we’re used to one kid. But you’ve got to trust what’s in your heart and that call you are hearing. It’s not easy, and you may have to learn to accept help from other people. It will also help to surround yourself with people who don’t think you are crazy. You will say I can’t do it and I want my old life back. And then the Lord will remind you that this is your life, and you will love it!”
To find out more about foster care or adoption, please visit www.crossnore.org/foster-care-adoptions and complete the Foster & Adoptions Inquiry form.