Jacob and Trina have always been the adventurous types. Within a few years, they earned their Doctorates in Psychology (Jacob in pediatrics and health psychology and Trina focused her work on victims of childhood trauma and abuse), traveled around the world, and spent two years in Costa Rica with the Peace Corps.
When it came time to start a family, no two people seemed better equipped. But as any parent can tell you, nothing can totally prepare you for the emotional investment of raising children. And the emotions become even more complicated when diving headlong into the foster-to-adopt process. Add to that equation not one child, but three, and you can imagine the true adventure they are now on.
Deciding that 3 really is the magic number.
Raised in families where adoption was a part of their daily lives, they always knew that they would one day adopt, too. The question was never ‘if,’ but ‘when’ and perhaps more importantly, ‘how many?’
“We didn’t really talk about how many kids we would adopt until we were filling out the paperwork and it questioned, ‘How many children are you licensed for?’” Trina explained, “I looked at Jacob and asked, ‘Two? Three?’” That’s when they considered a sibling group. “We talked about the importance of keeping siblings together,” Trina said, “as well as knowing that we didn’t want to go through the process multiple times.” They decided that three would be their answer.
Several months later, three siblings were at their door. Trina had literally only hours to prepare. The social worker would be bringing Max, Alexis, and Alex to their new home for dinner and the only type of food they had in the house was vegan. Trina recalls scrambling to the store for some mac and cheese and other ‘kid-friendly’ foods; the first challenge of many in navigating instant parenthood.
Childcare for 3? No problem!
Finding childcare on the fly for three kids would be the initial hurdle, a frustrating task for even the most experienced caregivers. Alexis was in her last month of the school year, so they also had to enroll her in their district. Luckily, a neighbor worked at a day care program that had openings for the two boys and also a summer program that they could attend. What a relief!
And then, life happens. Not long after the children moved in, Jacob and Trina needed to travel out of town to attend a family funeral. They had respite care lined up for the kids with their cousin. The catch was that the children would have to stay with their cousin, not in their own home. In the past, the siblings had changed homes quickly and without knowing what was happening. They were terrified to sleep anywhere without Jacob and Trina, worried that they wouldn’t see their new parents again. So leaving the kids – regardless of how short the stay – was very emotional.
The attachment question, times 3.
Jacob and Trina both have professional experience working with child victims of trauma and abuse. During the foster-to-adopt process, they worried about the children’s development, especially attachment issues they were facing. “It was really hard,” Trina states, “not just because we didn’t know whether or not the kids would be leaving us, but because seeing the kids not have stability and not knowing what their future holds for so long was so hard on them.” The effects of attachment issues can range from being too open and affectionate with people in one moment to pushing them away the next.
Despite their preparation — foster care trainings and backgrounds in child psychology, Jacob and Trina often felt overwhelmed,
“Nothing could have prepared me for the depth of emotion that was involved,” Jacob said, “just because something is hard, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.”
Trina noted how important it was to have self-compassion during the process,
“You have to be comfortable with your own difficult emotions and forgiving of yourself when you make mistakes,” she said.
And you have to be prepared to rely on others. Jacob and Trina had Deborah, their social worker at Amara. “It was wonderful to have someone we could email and call with questions throughout the process and get a very timely response. We are very grateful for all of her help,” Trina said.
The family adventure continues.
Today, Trina and Jacob are not the strictest of vegans, eating vegetarian at home. Their adventures often don’t take them beyond the borders of their own neighborhood, let alone to distant lands like Costa Rica. There is still no TV in the house. There is a ready supply of board games stacked up to the ceiling in the bathroom.
As Peace Corps volunteers, Trina and Jacob helped people build better lives for themselves. Now, their best skills are put to the test daily as they build a new life for their own family. As parents of Max, Alexis, and Alex, they are on the greatest adventure of their lives. And they wouldn’t give it up for the world.
*Rachel Ervin is a mom, freelance writer and editor from Tacoma, Washington, where she works primarily with the online magazine, Post Defiance. Discover her recent interview with Ira Glass and follow her thoughts @RacheErvKorbski.