No one knows better than Jim and Paulina Palmer that background and experience often influence what God calls you to do later in life. Growing up as an orphan in Poland, Paulina has wanted to adopt for as long as she can remember. When she met her husband, Jim, who also had the desire to make a difference through adoption, it was the perfect fit.
“I love to mentor and I always thought that if I could instill self worth into at least one life, it would all be worth it,” Jim says.
It was no surprise to anyone when Paulina and Jim, after choosing not to have children of their own due to various genetic issues, immediately began to pursue adoption. Because the couple already had a twelve-year-old son, Tyler, from Jim’s first marriage, they narrowed their search to that general age range.
“I think many people are afraid of adopting older children. They think that if they don’t have them when they’re young, then they won’t have that special bond,” Jim notes. “What people don’t realize is that you can create and build that bond.”
The Palmers turned to BCFS for guidance in their quest. After endless hours on the Child Protective Services web site and praying over different children, the Palmers felt drawn to two sisters, Jasmine (eight) and Kylie (ten). However, the family soon realized that adopting was not as simple as picking out the children. It quickly became a long and frustrating process of delays and rejection. In fact, the home study alone took two months just to schedule, only to be canceled.
“We thought we were patient going into this process, but quickly realized that wasn’t true,” Paulina admits.
After experiencing numerous road blocks, the couple began to doubt whether or not Jasmine and Kylie were who they were supposed to end up with. They let go of the idea–but only temporarily.
“It’s so easy to get hurt feelings. We both have lots of experience with children as well as degrees in psychology and sociology. We felt as though we were pretty qualified,” Jim said. “We had to learn to respect other adopting parents also in the process.”
After considering a few other options, it became clear to the Palmers that it was Jasmine and Kylie that they wanted and they would do anything to get them, even if that meant waiting even longer.
“I tell parents going through the same situation now that what’s meant to be will happen. You have to just sit back and endure, trusting that the case workers are going to do what’s best for the children,” says Paulina. Luckily, the second time around ran a lot smoother. After sharing countless happy meals at McDonalds and several weekend visits, the girls came to live with the Palmers in May.
“First impressions are lasting impressions. We had to show the girls starting at that first visit that we truly cared and were here to stay. We took the time to talk to them in order to eliminate the uncertainty,” Jim explains.
Although the original plan was to wait until the end of the school year before pulling the girls from their foster home, everyone involved was anxious to move forward. Jasmine and Kylie spent one month in their new school before summer started. Jasmine and Kylie have now been with the Palmers for 5 months. The adoption was finalized October 12.
When talking to other adopting couples, Paulina describes the adoption process as a time line. She calls the first month the “honeymoon phase” and concedes. But the honeymoon ended.
“By the second and third month, the girls let their guard down and their true child came out,” Paulina says. “The most important and hardest thing is building trust, but it’s the gateway to everything else.”
“The things we take for granted is what is most important to them. Getting a haircut is a prime example. After having their hair chopped off out of convenience by foster parents most of their lives, it meant the world to get their hair just trimmed, “ Paulina explains.
Sarah McLornan, BCFS’s adoption coordinator, wishes more parents were like the Palmers, who took each issue as it came with determination to work everything out one step at a time.
“I think some parents just don’t realize how hard it’s going to be, and seem to give up at the first sign of trouble,” notes McLornan. “The Palmers have a really good attitude which makes them great parents.”
Like the Palmers, Kylie and Jasmine really couldn’t be more grateful. After living in a series of foster homes, one where the girls were severely mistreated, and a couple failed adoptions, the girls are thankful to be in a home where they are treated well. They have great respect for the Palmers. In a letter written to Jim and Paulina shortly after coming to live with them, Kylie said, “You’re the best parents I have ever had. I love the way you treat us, and the consequences you give us when we misbehave.”
Kylie was known as a mother hen before coming to live with the Palmers because she took responsibility for protecting her siblings. Her tough, protective attitude caused different care givers to treat her differently than her sister.
“I love that my new family treats me the same as Jasmine all the time,” Kylie said. “I’m a girly girl now and I know I’m beautiful, which is something I never thought before.”
“One of our favorite things is to get dressed up and just act like girls with our new Mom,” said Jasmine.
While, for Kylie and Jasmine, there is a happy ending to their story and long journey to find a permanent family, there are hundreds of other kids in the care of BCFS waiting to be adopted. Of those waiting, Kylie and Jasmine’s brothers, ages 12 and 14, still reside in a BCFS foster family hoping that they too will someday find a permanent home.
“Their brothers are great boys. We’ve had the chance to get to know them through visits with Kylie and Jasmine.” Pauline said. “We would adopt them all if we could.”
The Palmers know there are many great families out there wanting to adopt. They do everything they can to encourage them in the process.
“I think going into the process, parents just have to realize that they’re in for a rougher ride than most people. Kids coming out of the system have issues, but we just have to remember that it’s about them, not about us,” Jim said. Despite the challenges, the Palmers love every minute with their new family.
“It’s so worth it. It’s the most rewarding thing you could ever do.” Paulina said. “There’s nothing like seeing change take place in a child’s life.”