Unconditional love. Those two words may remind you of Hallmark cards, or wedding vows, or lines in your favorite book. But for Jared and Ashley Walding, those words were a commitment they made to two boys who were in desperate need.
When Jared and Ashley got married, they knew they wanted kids but didn’t necessarily want to go the traditional route. For them, adoption just made sense. They arrived at DePaul’s office in Charlottesville ready and willing for whatever would come their way. Both Jared and Ashley have experience in education and behavior analysis, so they were prepared to handle children with challenges. Their home was approved in 2014, and the journey began.
One day, the Waldings got a call about a boy in need of a home—a boy with a brother. Sadly, it is often difficult to place siblings together in the foster care system.
“They had lost everything else. They were all they had,” said Ashley.
In 2017, the Waldings welcomed Jayden and Devon into their home. They were prepared but not naïve. They knew this would be hard, but they also knew it would be worth it. When the boys came to the Waldings, they were struggling. They lacked social skills. They were taking lots of medication. Their violent, hour-long tantrums were challenging, to say the least. One of the boys had even been described as “unparentable.”
“They did not have the skills they needed to moderate the world,” said Jared.
On top of trying to parent the boys, the Waldings were also in limbo, waiting on appeals by the biological family to run the lengthy adoption process through the court system.
“I don’t think the boys really knew what to expect for a long time, and that was really difficult for them,” said Ashley.
Those early days were difficult and overwhelming. The Waldings say DePaul kept them going. They say workers were there every step of the way, to answer questions and offer encouragement and support. DePaul believed in the Waldings and the Waldings believed in their boys. After about two years of ups and downs and too many life lessons to count, the Waldings officially adopted Jayden and Devon.
“There’s no heroism to it. We’re just being parents to two great kids,” said Jared.
While they are hesitant to sing their own praises, the Waldings still sing the praises of DePaul.
“DePaul really feels like part of our family. We wouldn’t be here with these boys without DePaul,” said Jared.
Jayden is now 12 years old. His brother, Devon, is 11. Their future used to be uncertain, filled with fear and obstacles. Now it is filled with hope and opportunity because two caring and generous people made a commitment to unconditional love.