A Chance to Be Seen

How God gave one little girl the chance to flourish in a family.

Starr remembers the day the cops broke down the door of the apartment she rarely left. She was five years old. Guns drawn, the officers took her birth mother’s current boyfriend away in handcuffs. Then, she too was put into the back of a car and driven away from the volatile yet familiar life she’d always known. Family had meant very little to her up to that point, but she’d soon discover the value of what she was missing.

Men had passed through Starr’s home. They’d stay for varying periods of time, but they always left sooner or later. She didn’t miss them. None of the strangers who kept her birth mother company over the years treated the little girl with any kindness or affection, much less like a daughter.

She rarely went outside and never played with friends. Instead, she passed her days in isolation, pacified by endless hours of television and sustained by whatever junk food she could find. By the time the police removed her from her home, the child was nearly 40 pounds overweight and too timid to ask for the most basic necessities.

But God had plans to help her blossom into the young woman He created her to be, and He handpicked the family He would use to do so.

Cindy was made with a heart for justice and a voice emboldened to speak out when others won’t. This was the woman who opened her door to find a quiet little Starr standing on her porch. This was the woman God chose to be her mother. Recent empty nesters, Cindy and her husband, John, had been looking forward to life slowing down. As an elementary school principal, John had been forced to call Child and Family Services many times as a witness to child abuse or neglect. But with one phone call, he and Cindy were suddenly faced with the opportunity to be more than bystanders — they could be the solution for one little girl.

The couple first welcomed Starr believing the placement would be temporary. They encouraged her to try new things, poured into her education and health and prayed that this sweet, humble child would find her way in a hard world that had already wounded her so deeply.

But then Starr’s path changed. Suddenly she needed a permanent home. Adoption had not been the plan, but Cindy and John couldn’t deny the conviction to step up.

“What happens to her if we say no?” Cindy recalls wondering. “We knew what God was asking us to do and we needed to be obedient.”

The transition was not easy. Starr had grown so accustomed to fending for herself, even at such a young age, that she struggled to express her needs or ask for help from her family. It had never been safe to rely on others to care for her, so she had learned not to make waves and to figure life out alone.

But her mild temperament met its counterpart in the lionheart of her new mother. Fearless and bold in her approach to life, Cindy wondered if God had chosen the right woman to raise such a timid child. In time, however, the confidence with which she encouraged and fought for her family began to shine through her daughter.

She began to explore the opportunities her new life offered. John and her new older brother taught her to fish, a family pastime that developed into a cherished hobby. Starr also discovered a love of art and the freedom to express herself through a variety of mediums, from painting to string art and more.

Still, Starr’s wounds ran deep and poked through her newfound confidence in surprising ways at times. Cindy recalled emptying her daughter’s school backpack to find dozens of snack wrappers. Marshmallows would go missing from the cupboards. Years of struggling to feed herself and a pervasive fear of hunger prompted Starr to hide and hoard food. But as the years of plenty grew to outnumber the years of need, her brain and body began to recognize the truth — Starr was safe and she could rely on her family to meet her needs.

“Now I don’t have to worry about moving, the police coming to my house, my parents doing drugs or having enough money for food or rent,” Starr said. “I learned family means having parents that are there for you and support you. Family looks out for one another, and you can talk to them about what is upsetting you.”

Now a sophomore in high school, Starr has found her own voice and uses it to share her story in hopes of convincing more families to foster children like herself.

“We’re not in foster care because of something we did, and we all deserve the chance to have a safe, loving family,” she said.

Her parents claim they can take little credit for the incredible young woman Starr has grown up to be, often joking that she’s “a great kid in spite of them.”

“We just did the simple thing of giving her the chance to be seen,” Cindy said. “I’ve thought a lot about what her life would’ve been like if no one had stepped in to give her the chance to explore and find herself — to do the things the rest of us do with our kids every day. How sad it would’ve been not to get to watch this little girl just bloom. I’m excited to see all the lives and all the people her story is going to touch.”

In addition to speaking out on behalf of children who’ve suffered abuse and neglect, Cindy suspects Starr will go on to adopt many children herself when she grows up.

No items found.
Want to help kids like Starr?

Join us at one of our Foster Care Info Meetings for a casual, no pressure opportunity to learn more and ask questions – virtually!