How it Came To be: The Neal Story
Young Jason, a wayward Christian in the height of his rebellious streak meets Jessica the sassy Jewish girl fresh out of boot camp. Marriage followed a short courtship. Plans for children however were thought to be halted when we were given the news that we were unable to have them. Our hearts ached to be parents and we struggled through some rough times as a newly married couple after receiving this news. Two years had passed when we found out that we were pregnant with a precious little girl, a blessing we never expected or dreamed could be. We were going to be parents! My dear mother-in-law often says “never say never,” so it was no surprise to her when we were blessed with yet another miracle baby¾a boy! For medical reasons we were unable to have any more of the babies my body was not supposed to be able to have in the first place. We didn’t feel that we were done ‘having’ children, so we prayed. For what? We weren’t sure.
Jason took his first youth ministry job in Ohio where we became foster parents to a little boy, and mentored another. This was the beginning of our foster care journey. Moving back to Minnesota two years later we were licensed as foster care providers with the county. We had calls for children before the ink was dry on our paperwork. Unbeknownst to us this was the beginning of one of the most heart-wrenching and life-changing periods we had yet experienced. A decade of unimaginable joys and pains were ahead of us.
We spent a few years doing foster care for the county. One of our last children was a little girl that we were seeking to adopt. Her mother was losing her parental rights; no family was stepping forward or found to take her so we were asked if we would adopt her. At this point we had been parenting her for nine months. We loved her as one of our own children, we couldn’t wait to welcome her as a permanent addition to our family. Two days after the request for us to adopt her, the social worker called and told us that they found a family member to take her. Our hearts were broken; how could this happen?! Within two days she was gone.
Jason said, “Jessica, I don’t know if I can do that again. No more babies”. Shortly thereafter we switched to a therapeutic foster care agency where we planned to take in more teenagers thinking it may be easier on our hearts. What were we thinking??? Those teens were just as easy to love and just as hard to let go of.
One day Jason was at the church working when I received a call asking if we would take medically-fragile infant twins. The little boy came first (now our Malachi) and his twin sister (now our Miriam) three days later due to her being hospitalized. They had been separated because no foster home would take them together. After Miriam came we put them in the same crib and they snuggled into each other. They both had severe asthma and very poor immune systems. They had been exposed to many harmfully chemicals while inutero and the degree of damage would take time to see. The day came when, once again, a social worker asked us to adopt. We cautiously said yes and waited to see if the birth parents would work their plan and get their children back or if they would lose their parental rights and we would be able to adopt them. As we waited we got another call asking if we would consider adopting the twins’ 2 1/2 year older brother. They (the county) were going to go to termination and wanted the siblings to be adopted together. Oh and by the way their was another baby on the way! Whew!
We spent many hours in prayer and had many family meetings (as adoption is a family affair). We gave our final yes.
Our sweet Titus came home when he was 2 ½ and we were already his 11th move. He came to us with diagnoses a mile long and a file two inches thick . He had faced abuse, neglect, drug exposure, and the list goes on. So much pain for such a little boy! Although we loved him just the way he was, baggage and all we knew we may have a rough road ahead.
Not being sure if they would be taking the baby away at birth we waited. As well not knowing the challenges this little one would face in her development with all the drug exposure she had. At two days old and a whopping six pounds little Ruthie came home. A year and a half later we finalized her adoption. Wow, we were now a family of 8!
A few years and several wonderful foster children later we got a call that a 12 year old boy needed a forever home. His dad was dying and didn’t have family to care for him so he called the county and asked for help. We met with Cory and his father and his father chose our family to parent his child from that moment forward. This man did the most selfless act that can be done. He gave his child a family. Cory’s dad was there on the adoption day, he came for holidays, and had Jason do his funeral.
We continued to do foster care and came to a place that we thought we were done “having” children and as well were planning to stop doing foster care as our children’s special needs were increasing. Malachi had been diagnosed with a vascular malformation and autism. Miriam was diagnosed with fetal cocaine effect and was constantly sick, we now know that she has an auto immune disease. Titus with his reactive attachment disorder and PTSD and much more. Ruthie having Fetal Alcohol effect and anxiety disorder. Cory had so much grief to deal with and pain he didn’t know what to do with. So we gave up our foster care license. A few days after that we got a call from a woman asking if we would adopt her baby. She was in a tough place in life and knew it would be the best for her baby. I grew to know this woman and saw the love she had for our little one. She may possibly be the best birth mom in the world.
The night that she went into labor she called and asked me to come to the hospital. I remember my nerves being that of a first time mom. I was so excited! Birth mom not only allowed but asked me to be there the entire time. I was even able to cut the cord. Our little Josie (a name we all chose together) was seven weeks early and stayed in the NICU for 19 days before being brought to her new home by her birth mom and birth grandma. We were all able to pray over Josie and bless her and her birth family.
So that is it. That is our family, the Neal clan and how we came to be.