Though parts of her journey are filled with some of the worst trauma a child can ever experience, God has brought her through those hard times and connected her with a forever family. It started with her new Aunt, Lindy Charles – who also happens to be her small group leader at church and a former foster parent. Lindy was with Joslynn at SuperStart when she shared her story with some of the other preteens in her group. And she was with her a month later when she was baptized at Christ Covenant Church in Beaumont, Texas.
Looking back over the years that led up to that eternal decision, Lindy said there’s no other explanation – God pursued Joslynn before she was even born. But it wasn’t until 2015 that God would bring Joslynn to Lindy’s attention. It was during that year when Joslynn came to live with Lindy and her family as their first placement child with the foster care system. Joslynn was 5 at the time, and prior to placement Lindy was informed that Joslynn had experienced neglect and had traces of meth in her system when she was removed from her original home. This would also be the fifth foster care placement she’d had over the years, which only added to her trauma.
When Joslynn came to live with Lindy’s family she was still on a re-unification plan that would hopefully see her connected with her birth parents. Every day was uncertain, and she spent a lot of days feeling scared and angry. As 5-year-olds will do in that kind of stressful situation, she grasped for control in anything in her life – from the food she ate to the clothes she wore. It was a hard transition for Lindy’s family, but they stayed consistent and showed Joslynn what it meant to be loved unconditionally.
In time, Joslynn was able to accept more stability in her life and the love of Lindy’s family – which included Lindy’s sister, Kerri Beard, and her family. Unbeknown to Joslynn, Kerri and her husband Chris had been considering foster care and adoption for the better part of a decade. They felt that God had called them to consider adoption, and they were prayerfully considering what steps to take to obey that call on their lives. When Joslynn was brought into Lindy’s home, Kerri and Chris felt that it would be wise to be as much of a support system as possible. They considered it a kind of hands-on research for what it could be like to eventually adopt a child of their own from out of foster care. But when the more time they spent around Joslynn and the more they got to know her, it felt as if God were giving them a very clear answer to their prayers.
“Both families fell crazy in love with Joslynn very quickly,” Kerri said. “She called me ‘Aunt Kerri’ and we were fast friends. I took her for ice cream, trips to the park and let her play silly games on my phone. I’ll never forget the conversation my husband and I had that Christmas Eve as we drove home from my sister's home. We both knew we were going to have to adopt that little girl – we’d been thinking about it for weeks, but we’d been too scared to say it out loud.”
No one knew if it was even possible, but the Kerri and Chris knew God had been preparing them for this moment.
“We realized that we had gone into this with some arrogance steeped in cluelessness,” Kerri said. “We felt we'd done a pretty decent job with our three children so why not do this for someone else. As we learned the depths of caring for a traumatized child we were overwhelmed by the gravity of that responsibility. We realized if we didn't do this extremely well, not only would we not help a child, but could genuinely do more harm.”
Chris and Kerri’s children were 13, 15 and 17 when they gathered them for a meeting on their back porch to ask if Joslynn could join their family.
“They were immediately enthusiastic, and I think also had some sense of a notion that she belonged in our family,” Kerri said. “After that conversation we awkwardly brought this notion to my sister (Lindy). She was moved and excited by it, but as the person on the front lines of the system she had the most realistic view of how improbable this would be.”
Kerri’s family followed through with the necessary steps to make their home a possibility for Joslynn’s adoption – even though every individual in the foster care system warned them it was “unlikely.” For seven months the families watched “unlikely” steps happen – one after another – until November 2017 when Joslynn was placed in Chris and Kerri’s home.
“We were official foster parents,” Kerri said. “We dove into a world of caseworker visits, CASA visits, counseling appointments and ongoing foster care training, but we knew we were working for our girl."
“It’s just been incredible to see the distance God has brought our stories,” Lindy said. “He gets all the credit. He weaved it all together from the very beginning. And what’s also awesome is how many CIY tie-in’s there are to our story. Kerri’s teens had been to multiple CIY events where they learned about Kingdom work and sacrifice and what it looks like to devote your life to Christ – all leading up to that moment when they said ‘Yes’ to Joslynn.”
“Joslynn is one of the best things to ever happen to us,” Kerri said. “She brings life and energy to everything she does. I can't believe how far she's come. This little girl who used to fight for control of everything in her sphere is now relaxed, kind and obedient. She is a high-energy 9-year-old and eats healthy food without protest. She does her homework and helps with household tasks. She performs at a high-level in school and keeps quality friendships. She's witty and hilarious. We didn't do anything special to create this reality for her. She just needed to feel loved and safe. When she was able to stop feeling like she had to fight for her own security and stability, her beautiful personality shines through.”
Joe and Lindy’s sons are 11 and 7, and the family is excited to see where God leads them next. Currently there are no foster kids in her home, but Lindy said her family hasn’t shut the door on the possibility. A valuable source of encouragement through the years continues to be the ministry of CIY – where Lindy says she watches God move in the lives of students.
“CIY MOVE opened a lot of great conversations this summer about how we can serve the Kingdom in different ways when it comes to foster care,” Lindy said. “We encourage church families to find ways to support foster kids and families because it is a hard journey, but it is the most beautiful story of redemption and His glory.”