The moment a person decides to open their heart and home through foster care or adoption their world is turned upside down. It’s a decision filled with hope, courage, and determination to make a difference in a young life. For some, it may come after years of longing to expand their family, while for others, it may be a sudden realization that they have the capacity to make a positive impact. For Richelle Carr, Alexandra Headrick, and Boni Hepler; three inspiring women who have all fostered or adopted through CK Family Services; the incredible decision to open their hearts and homes to children in need was a result of prayer, compassion and a calling.
Richelle Carr and her husband, Brian Carr, had been married for almost a decade without any children when they decided they wanted to grow their family through fostering. However, when they learned about matched adoption, they knew that they wanted to pursue adoption instead. After a long legal process, they were soon matched with a sibling group of three children. At first, the children were resistant to the change, and her oldest son in particular “didn’t want anything to do with [them],” Richelle said. But the Carrs were patient, committed, and consistent, assuring the children daily that they were loved no matter what.
“We talked about it from day one that they were prayed for, loved, and wanted,” Richelle said.
Despite the initial resistance, Richelle and Brian didn’t push the children and allowed them to warm up to them organically. One day, as she was leaving for work, Richelle said her usual goodbyes, “I love you, and I’ll see you when I come home.” But this time, she had an unusual response. From the upstairs bedroom, her oldest son responded, “‘love you too.” It came as a surprise to the both of them and it was followed by a short awkward pause. In that moment she knew their hearts were softening and their bond was deepening. Richelle reflects, “It’s amazing what the Lord does through prayer when you’re not expecting it.”
Now, each child is flourishing and building confidence. Looking back on the journey, Richelle says, “I don’t think I could’ve ever prayed for anything more perfect.”
Since 2018, Alex Headrick and her family have been fostering children. Starting as a fictive kinship placement, they transitioned to foster parenting – something Alex always wanted to do. However, the biggest challenge she faced in the beginning was handling the ambiguity that comes with being a foster parent. Alex explained, “you don’t get much influence or control over anything other than the love and care you can show a child in the present.”
An experience that impacted the Headricks deeply was their first placement – two boys who were on their way to a boys home. It was tempting to believe what was said about them, but Alex was determined to “see through the labels and look at who they were and who they wanted to be.” She approached them both with new eyes and love. At every step she asked the professionals to start over with them and give the boys an opportunity of a clean slate. Eventually, they realized almost all their behavior issues came from trauma nobody had addressed. Before the oldest boy was reunified with his family, he took her face in his hands and said, “I finally feel safe, thank you.”
“He went back home a different kid,” Alex said.
In April 2023, Alex was recognized for her work as a foster parent when she was nominated by OCOK for the Parker County Today Magazine’s “Extraordinary Woman” award. This acknowledgment of her efforts meant a great deal to her as a stay-at-home parent. It served as a reminder that the work she does is important – even when it may feel insignificant. “That award just reminded me that what I’m doing daily matters, even when it feels innocuous or insignificant,” she stated. “I am seen and appreciated, not only by Jesus but by the community.”
Boni Hepler always felt a special connection with babies. Her fostering journey began when she felt a calling to help provide safety to infants in need which was reinforced by signs she felt were from God. In a span of two weeks three abandoned babies were found and featured on the local news in her Florida city. “I was frantically going through the phonebook and looking for ways to help,” Boni said. The news gave her the push she needed to pursue what was on her heart, and she didn’t stop until she could do something to help.
Eventually, the Heplers moved and got licensed in Texas and fostered babies through CK Family Services. Although fostering small children brought challenges, especially with sleep schedules, Boni’s love and dedication helped her through the tough times. She realized that the most important piece was that she was there to nurture and love the child while they were in her home. As her foster children grew older outside of her care, she learned to respect their boundaries as well as the boundaries of their eventual guardians.
After many years of caregiving, Boni advises new foster parents to understand that despite what they can provide, children often long to be reunited with their families. “No matter how great you have it, the children have a bond with their parents and most of the time they want to go back,” she said. She also advises families to expect the unexpected and in order to find balance in the midst of all their other responsibilities, “Sometimes [you] just have to step back from things. We let go of some of our commitments and tried not to let go of relationships.”
These days, Boni and her husband, Ken Hepler, are adoptive parents to a 4-year-old child. They are open to hearing from God about what the next phase of their lives will look like; and she hopes to inspire new foster parents to embrace the journey and to provide the support and love that children in foster care need.
For Richelle Carr, Alex Headrick, and Boni Hepler, their inspiring stories of fostering and adoption through CK Family Services are among hundreds of people who have made a profound impact on the lives and legacies of their communities. This Foster Care Awareness Month be inspired and encouraged that with patience, love, and a willingness to serve, anything is possible.
To learn more about becoming a licensed foster or adoptive parent, visit here.