After 2 years and 3 months as foster parents, we crossed the line. We committed ourselves to lifelong care and responsibility for 2 more lives. With 3 biological and 2 foster children in the seats next to us, the Judge asked if we were ready to embrace this sacred task: "Now Mr. Penley, can you please explain to the court why you believe it is in the best interests of the children to be placed in your family?" Here is our reply.
"Why is it 'in the children’s best interests' to be with us? That question is answered every morning when Bri and London race to my legs screaming “Daddy,” knowing my excitement for them is equal to their trust in me. When Bri tells us every week, “You are the best Mommy and Daddy ever,” we know where she belongs. When London says, “My name is London Penley,” we know where his identity is rooted.
Our connection didn’t happen easily or overnight. When Bri and London first entered our lives 2 ½ years ago, counseling and food hiding were the norm. Kicking and screaming from flashbacks, trembling in the corner, and deceptive survival tactics, all betrayed deep fear and brokenness. Therapists joined us in the battle against cyclical child neglect and abuse.
Our story with London and Bri is both beautiful and terrifying. It shouldn’t have to be this way. But in a world where one person’s irresponsibility becomes an 85% chance for a child to enter prison, we are doing what we must. We are doing what we believe in. We are giving our time, our money, our love, our wisdom, our lives to show Bri and London a different way.
A song our forefathers sang calls us to this task: “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows – this is God, who is set apart from all the rest. God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:5-6). Brokenness can be replaced by beauty. Today Bri and London are forever ours. They get a new name, a new identity, a new family and a new future. Bri can know there are many more Mommy dance parties and Daddy Daughter Date nights to come. London can know the swimming, swinging and hiking will continue.
We stand ready to fully accept and fully love Bri and London into our forever family. In many ways today is more of a formality because they have already been our family for years. Just look at their names on mom’s necklace or peruse the pictures of our family memories around the house.
They say it takes a village to raise children… and it is true. I am so thankful for the community of friends and family that have journeyed with us, supported and prayed for us…. many who are here and many more we will see tonight! THANK YOU! The journey has just begun."
In response, Judge Kennedy, moved to tears, declared us to be "of high and good moral character." Now that character must carry through for a lifetime.