📷: @millieholloman 

You may be familiar with the well-known African Proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” But what you may not know is that it also takes a village to adopt a child. The process of foster care and adoption is one that is long and complicated, requiring the help of many different people. Vera’s mother, Millie, decided to photograph the various people involved in Vera’s adoption process. With each person holding up their message, we began to see all the different perspectives and the joy that adoption brings spreading far beyond the parents and child.

First off, tell us a little about the series of photos and the story they tell.

On March 7, 2017, I adopted Wren after she spent 1,070 days in foster care. I wanted to find a way to document the day in a way that allowed her to look back and see how much she was wanted and loved. I also wanted to have a collection of images to express my gratitude to my village that supported me on this foster care journey. Without them, this single woman who also runs her own business would never have taken the leap into foster care. My friends helped me pull of a collection of images using my Letterfolk board and I posted them online that evening with a letter to them.

Tell us more about Vera's adoption. How did you find her and eventually adopt her?

This little girl entered my life a little over 3 years ago. She was the first foster child to walk through my front door that April day. When her feet crossed into the threshold of my home, she walked right into my heart, but little did I know one day she would nest there forever. I was instantly smitten, even though she presented as a scared and shy two-year-old who wanted nothing to do with me. Wren was just spending a few days with me while her foster mom finished 2 weeks of work before retiring. She warmed up to me slowly as she spent the next week tagging along with me to work. I spent that first week we met slowly gaining her trust, but we still had a long ways to go. She returned to spending weekdays with her foster mom. A short time later, I was asked to do respite care for Wren. Respite is when foster parents help each other by watching the children so they can travel or get some time away. Her foster mother would sometimes ask me to watch her for several days to a week at a time while she traveled. I loved having her so much. We would plan fun weekend events to fill our time together. When I look back on her story, I can see The Lord's hand in every single aspect of it. He was planning the entire time for the two of us to be together, I just couldn't see it yet. The circumstances seemed far from likely that I would ever be able to adopt her.

In November of 2015, I had a six-week-old baby boy. He had come to me right out of the hospital at just 4 days old. I was struggling to find a balance between sleep, work and being a mom again with no maternity leave. I got a call explaining that Wren was being moved and asking if I was willing to take her for a brief period of time. I was informed that the placement might turn into adoption. I told them I wanted her for as little or long as would allow. I was overjoyed to have the chance to spend more time with this little girl! When my family returned from our vacation on December 6, 2015, I greeted her with a Pluto pillow pal from Disney (which is still her favorite today). That’s where our forever story began.

It's often easy to forget all the people involved in an adoption. What made you want to include all these people in Vera's adoption announcement? 

I’m a single mom and a business owner. Without many of the people in this photo and knowing I had their support, I most likely would never have ventured into foster care. Perhaps the letter I posted to them online will give you even better insight:

"Today was a big day for me and my girl, but it wasn’t just about the two of us. Sure, our lives are the most dramatically changed through this adoption but Wren’s story is far reaching. We’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village.” Well it’s true! I’ve often said that when I signed up for foster care, I signed up for the heartache and pain that often come with it. But my family and friends didn’t sign those papers, just me. I just drug them all into it. They’ve been through the ups and downs with me. They’ve supported me when I called crying after court hearings or given me a shoulder to cry on when I’ve had to buckle kids in their car seat and send them off with another family to love. They have fallen in love with these kids and they have prayed big prayers for us all. They have stepped up and filled in the gaps for the roles I can’t be to these kids. Today they cried great big tears and they celebrated alongside us! I’m so grateful for my friends and family, those there today and those who could not be with us but were in spirit! I would not be where I am today without my village, and words can’t express how much you mean to us! Thank you for bringing Vera Wren into our tribe and loving her like your own!“

Describe how you felt the day the adoption became official. 

The day was busy and full of family and friends and celebration, so I think it hit me on the way home that afternoon. I was talking to my Mom and I realized that I was solely responsible for making decisions for her life right now. And that’s a BIG deal when up until now, major decisions had been made in a courtroom by people who had either never met her or only met her a handful of times. There are no words to describe the joy I felt knowing we had the promise of forever together, just a big ole’ bucket of happy tears. 

Tell us about Vera's personality and what she likes to do.

Her joy is evident and she shines a little brighter than most! She is spunky and hilarious. She always has a fun idea for a new adventure. Right now she is really into swimming and loves to go to the pool. She also loves to ride bikes, go get a snowball, play with her cousins and enjoys the company of her American Girl doll pretty much everywhere we go.

Vera's story has touched the hearts of so many people. How can one support the cause and make sure more kids like Vera find loving homes?

Get involved in foster care! Whether it is helping support other foster parents with meals and resources so they can keep helping more kids, getting licensed for respite care to give breaks to others, or even taking placements long term. One thing I’ve learned over the past 3 years is that all of these kids need a loving home, and love is the only thing that can really change them and their circumstances. All of these kids deserve a family who cares! I wish I could take them all in and give them a village that loves like ours.

Lastly, we always like to ask: what is currently up on your letter board?

All you need is love