J.D. and Gabby Range started their foster care journey with open minds and open hearts. They hoped the journey would eventually lead to an adoption, but they were committed to changing a child’s life either way.
The Range family was fully approved to foster by DePaul’s Big Stone Gap office in January 2017. The same day they were approved, they received a phone call. A newborn baby girl in a nearby town needed a home. Before that call, the Ranges had imagined they would welcome a school-aged child into their home. After all, babies are rare placements in the foster care system. But there she was: a little baby placed on their metaphorical doorstep.
A couple of hours—that’s all the Ranges had to make a decision that would change their lives forever. They decided to throw their expectations out the window and welcome a 13-day-old baby girl named Kaitlyn into their home. As their foster care journey began, the Ranges learned more about Kaitlyn’s journey into the world.
Kaitlyn’s mom had used drugs throughout her pregnancy. There was no prenatal care and Kaitlyn had been exposed to Hepatitis C. During childbirth, Kaitlyn and her mom were close to death—a shocking series of events that are part of a sad and growing national trend. The number of women giving birth while addicted to opioids more than quadrupled between 1999 and 2014, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2000, the number of children placed in foster care because of parental drug use has more than doubled, according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics.
“Our rural communities are feeling the effects of substance abuse more so than some of our more suburban/urban areas,” says Kate Means, director of foster care and independent living. “DePaul is committed to serving the children in these communities because we believe every child deserves to grow up in a loving, family home like the Ranges.”
Needless to say, Kaitlyn’s list of health concerns was long and scary, but the Ranges chose faith over fear.
“The first couple days were crazy because a lot of people have nine months to prepare for a baby and we had four days. We were asking everybody for extra baby things, a crib, clothes,” said J.D.
The Ranges say it took plenty of prayer, a lot of advice from friends, family, and their DePaul caseworker, and a few Google searches here and there to adjust to raising a newborn. But they learned and loved and let faith lead the way. Kaitlyn began to thrive. She even became a big sister when Gabby gave birth to a baby boy named Jack. After about a year of fostering, and visits with Kaitlyn’s biological parents that sometimes proved challenging, the Ranges adopted Kaitlyn in July 2018.
“She was always meant for our family,” said Gabby.
Kaitlyn will be 3 years old in January. She had some developmental delays at first but has overcome many of those obstacles. She’s a little small for her age, a sign of the battle she fought to be born.
It’s hard and heartbreaking for J.D. and Gabby to imagine what Kaitlyn’s life would have been like without an open foster home. Would she have ever felt loved or safe? They try not to think about those things too much. At the end of the day, they take comfort in the way Kaitlyn lives today, the way her and Jack navigate childhood together, the way she perfectly balances sweet and sassy.
In a year or two, the Ranges hope to reopen their home and welcome more foster children in need. They may go in with expectations of a typical placement, like they did almost three years ago. They may end up throwing those expectations out the window again like they did when they heard about Kaitlyn. It’s hard to know what the future holds, but what the Ranges do know is that they will do their best to be ready and willing for whatever the world brings their way.