Can You Be Pro Family Preservation AND Pro Adoption?

Written by Hannah Scott

A few months ago, I got the chance to connect with a foster and adoptive mom named Tristyn to hear all about the foster care journey that she and her family had been on, and her passion for family preservation and reunification.

Tristyn has been married to her husband Sean for nearly 13 years and they have four beautiful children. Their oldest Lucy is 10, Rhoades is 9, Joseph is 6, and Cici is 4. Sean and Tristyn did not step into foster care with the intention of adoption. During their time as foster parents they were home to three long-term placements, a myriad of short-term respite care placements, and when necessity dictated a change in goals, they eventually stepped out of the role of foster parents and into the role of adoptive parents for their youngest daughter, CiCi.

Tristyn is a fierce advocate for family preservation, but she will be the first to admit that this has not always been the case. She first got a front row seat to the ins and outs of foster care when her next-door neighbors became foster parents and welcomed two boys into their home. Tristyn remembers telling Sean “I could never do that…I could never love a child and then send them back.” As they grew to know and love these two boys, Tristyn experienced a massive change of heart. One evening as she was casually scrolling instagram, she saw a post that said children were sleeping on the floor of CPS offices due to a lack of foster homes in Texas. That was the final push she and Sean needed, and they decided to become licensed. At that point, Sean and Tristyn had witnessed firsthand the beauty of family preservation and were wholeheartedly convinced that God’s heart is for first families to stay together when safe and possible, and that the hard and holy work of foster care often calls you to love them and send them back. As we talked I could see the depth of her passion and her love—love for kiddos who no longer call her mom, passion for families to be given a fighting chance to persevere, passion that sets aside her own feelings for the sake of honoring biological ties and reunifying families.

Tristyn is also in the position, though, of being both an unashamed advocate for family preservation AND an adoptive parent to CiCi. CiCi came to the Mann’s house as a newborn on New Years Eve four years ago. Due to some of the complexities of her case, reunification with her biological family was not an option. When the time came, Tristyn and Sean adopted CiCi with equal parts abundant joy and sorrow. “We call it both/and in our home,” Tristyn said, “We’re both so grateful she’s ours, and we mourn for her and with her the loss of her first family.” Tristyn and Sean are fully supportive of CiCi having age-appropriate access to her story, and to her biological family. Even in adoption, they are still staunch advocates for allowing space for and advocating for first families in whatever capacity possible. Tristyn is often asked for advice from prospective foster parents, and she says “You have to be open handed, and you have to be for biological families.” In our talk she paused to point back to the conversation with Sean in their pre-foster care days, in her “I could never do that/handle that/love them and send them back” days and laughed at how drastically different her perspective is now. “You are a grown adult who can handle emotions and you can handle that loss. If you can provide a safe home for a kid for however long—a week, six weeks, a year or two—so that their families can get their life back on the track it needs to be on for them to parent, then you should absolutely do that…The benefit that it provides for that child far outweighs the sadness you will feel when they leave your home.”

As CiCi climbed in and out of her lap and showed me her sparkly shoes and how high she can count, I saw that sadness Tristyn mentioned well up in her eyes. I saw a mom whose heart longs for children she loves as her own who do not live in her home anymore, for children who at one point called her mom and now might have only a faint memory of the brunette, tattooed
woman who rocked them to sleep night after night. As the tears slowly spilled out onto her cheeks, the both/and was so obvious—I saw a woman feeling sorrow and joy knowing her pain is worth it. Because she fought hard so that some of the children she parented and advocated for and loved would get to reunify with their biological families. And because she loves her daughter Cici so fiercely. Is it possible to be both pro family preservation and pro adoption? Absolutely. Tristyn and her family are living proof of that fact. Tristyn will be the first to tell you that she is not special, or holier, or better than the next person; she’s simply a mom who is passionate about family preservation, who remains open handed when it comes to serving kids and their families, and who is willing to endure her own pain and sadness for the sake of families getting to stay together… and that is a good and beautiful thing.

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