Martha and Loren Manske are now the proud parents of two very cute and very active young boys, Harley, who is 4 ½ years old, and Dylan, who is 6. The couple married later in life, at ages 39 and 42 respectively, and when they could not have children on their own, they decided to adopt through the foster care system.
“No adoptions are easy, and we thought there were a lot of kids in the foster system waiting to be adopted,” Loren said. “But then we learned that over 70% go home.”
The couple became foster parents, nonetheless, with the goal of eventually adopting, preferably a boy under the age of 9.
Since being licensed in January of 2011, they have had two other placements, a young boy and two siblings, a girl and her brother. In both cases they developed good relationships with the biological parents, and, in fact, SaintA honored them two years ago with a Co-Parenting Award.
“We knew from classes to have a good relationship with the parents for a couple of reasons,” Loren said. “If the children go back home and you still want to see them, it’s just better. And if we did adopt, we knew we wanted to include the bio parents in the kids’ lives. We did not want them to get to be a teenager and say you kept me away from my Mom or my Dad.”
The young boy’s mother speaks only Spanish, but so does Martha, so the two communicated well. The couple also maintained good ties with the mother of the siblings. They still keep in touch and the kids visited at Christmas.
Then Loren and Martha remained childless for about six months.
“It was hard losing the other kids; it was really, really hard,” Martha said.
“You’re going to get attached because you treat them like your own.”
But then they got a call from their SaintA licensing worker, who knew about the two boys.
“We’d been through a roller coaster two times, so we were a bit more cautious this time,” Loren.
“Cautiously optimistic!” Martha added. “We figured this was our last shot, or else we’d get to sleep in late on Saturday mornings!”
So they got as much information as possible about the boys. They learned they had two other brothers and that their mother had taken all of them to a safe haven and never picked them up. An investigation showed neglect and abuse. The children were split into two foster homes, with Dylan and Harley going to place where they stayed for a year and a half.
“We figured that because the boys had been in a foster home that long, it boded well for us to potentially adopt,” Loren said, adding that it seemed the biological parents were not doing much to reunite with their kids.
So, the couple started moving forward. They took the boys for a four-day respite visit at Christmas.
“They were kind of shell shocked,” Loren said. “And we were strangers.”
Then they had three or four weekend visits, and the attachment grew. The couple were told the process to terminate the biological parents’ rights (TPR) was starting, so they committed to wanting to adopt.
“You obviously feel bad for the bio parents, but you want to adopt the kids and move on with their lives,” Martha said.
After an entire summer with no visits from the biological mom, a court date was scheduled. Then she asked for visits. That was hard on the boys, Martha said. Harley didn’t really know who she was because he had been removed at such a young age, but Dylan would return to Martha and Loren in tears. He also started acting out in other ways.
The court date for the TPR was set for November and the hearing was delayed because of confusion on transportation for the biological father. Martha took the time to talk with the mother.
“I told her we wanted to adopt the children, we want them to go to school and that Jesus is important to us. She said He was to her, too. I told her we want to give the boys a good life and that, as long as things are good, she could see them, and that I would send pictures.”
The mother told Martha that she and Loren seemed like a good family, and although the day was very hard for her, she agreed to voluntarily terminate her rights. The biological father’s rights also were terminated after a trial that day.
“But the parents then have 30 days to appeal (for any legal mistakes that occurred during the process), and they were talking about a year and a half to two years for an appeal to be heard,” Loren said. “Those 30 days was the most nerve-wracking time.”
Adoption day finally was scheduled this February.
“In the month or so leading up to the adoption we tried to explain to the boys, you will still have a biological mom and dad, but we’re now going to be your parents,” Loren said.
Dylan understood, but the couple were not sure about Harley. But the next day he went to school and told everybody, “I got adopted!”
Loren and Martha have kept the biological mother in their boys’ lives, through phone calls and occasional visits. They recently invited her to come to church to see the boys sing, then they all went out for pizza. Martha said she seems to understand now that they are the boys’ parents.
Three months after the adoption, the family moved to a large home with a huge back yard, where the boys play vigorously and loudly. Loren still drove Dylan back and forth to his school in Milwaukee until the end of the school year. And Martha has become a stay-at-home mother.
“It’s been fun, but they have a lot of energy!” Loren said.
“And we’re old!” Martha added with a laugh.
After being married for seven and a half years, having these children is a fulfillment of their dreams, both of them said.
“If you want to adopt, it’s worth it. If that’s what you want, you just have to do it,” Martha said.
“Even though this took four years, I don’t have any regrets, Loren said.
Interested in learning more about our foster care and adoption services? Visit growhope.net.