Love is what drives them, sometimes in two cars
November 2019 · Foster Family Features
The view through the Kishpaugh front window rolls clear to the horizon, over ochre Kansas hills lit by autumn sunshine. Chad’s eyes glisten as he recalls another “bright and sunny day,” when he and Amanda lost their son among these hills, in a collision with a truck and trailer at an unmarked rural intersection just a mile from home.
“The other kids and I had been fixing a fence at a pasture a mile east of the house,” says Amanda. “We drove up on the accident before the dust had settled.”
Chad and Ryan suffered severe injuries in the impact. Badly hurt, Chad had extensive trauma, broken bones, and a serious concussion. He would face a long and grueling recovery. Seven-year-old Ryan did not survive the accident.
The pain is still fresh. Yet, Chad says it helps to share the story, and he’s spent much of the six years since the accident reflecting on what it might mean. He says it was his son’s words that ultimately “lit the fire in my heart. We know what it’s like to have a loss, and these kids know what it’s like to have a loss. So, for me, it’s all about giving them unconditional love.”
Back in Oregon, Chad’s parents had fostered children, so he knew all about foster care. He had grown up in house filled with both biological and foster siblings, and he valued the experience.
“He always talked about it,” says Amanda, “but I was afraid. I thought it would be too hard, that we would fall in love with them and then they’d have to leave. But, from the time we got married – even before we had our own kids – we had said we would adopt. Even after we came to Kansas, it was always on the back burner.”
Ryan talked about it, too.
“We’d look at pictures of children on the Adopt Kansas Kids Facebook page and talk about how nice it would be to adopt a child,” says Amanda. “Ryan always wanted these large sibling sets, and we’d say, “That would be awesome, but we already have so many kids. We wouldn’t even be able to travel in the same car.”
One day, Amanda pressed her son, “Would you worry that maybe Mom and Dad didn’t love you as much if we adopted all these kids? Spending time with more kids would take time away from you. Ryan said, ‘They’re just kids that want to be loved. I know you love me. They just need someone to love them, too.’ So, at that point, we decided to pursue adoption.”
Then the bottom dropped out of their world.
“That was a rough year,” says Amanda. “We couldn’t even consider more kids at that point. But then, somewhere along the way, it got really hard for us to see children mistreated. Of course, it’s never easy to see something like that, but after the accident it really began to bother us when children weren’t appreciated. So, that finally opened my heart to fostering – and Chad by then was also onboard.”
So were their other three children. Kate, Luke, and Carter. Aged just 14, 12, and 8 at the time, they unanimously agreed that if they could help kids with broken hearts like their own, they wanted to.
“Before we brought a new child into our home, we talked about it as a family first,” says Amanda. “Each time, the kids said, ‘yes, let’s do it.’ They have made big sacrifices and it certainly hasn’t always been easy. Hurting people aren’t often easy to love. I’m so proud of my big kids and the sacrifices they have made to help that cause. They’ve shared their homes, their rooms, their toys, and their beloved family. Ryan would be so proud.”
It took another year before the family was finally physically and emotionally ready, but they eventually welcomed a 9-year-old girl into their home, a non-relative kinship placement, who will soon be adopted by one of her teachers. They were fostering a second child when their Saint Francis worker called to ask if they could provide respite care for a sibling pair.
“I was hesitant,” says Amanda. “It was just for a couple weeks, but they were both so tiny. One was 2-months-old and the other was 15-months-old. I thought, ‘this is going to be a lot of work just for them to go back to their other foster home.’ But we took them, and I’m so glad we did. They’ve never left.”
The Kishpaugh family – Chad, Amanda, Kate, Luke, and Carter – adopted Joseph, 3, and his sister Zaley, 2, on November 15th at the Ellis County Courthouse in Hays, Kansas.
“They were so easy,” says Amanda. “Joseph and Zaley fit right in, so when we learned they needed a permanent home, we didn’t even need to think about it. They were a perfect fit from the start.”
The family also fosters another sibling set, which means seven kids currently inhabit the Kishpaugh home. They travel often, visiting relatives in Oregon and taking family vacations out west to Wyoming and other natural locales. They always go in two cars, because there’s simply no way for them to squeeze into one. Years ago, Amanda had told Ryan that they couldn’t foster his sibling sets because the family wouldn’t be able to fit in one car. Now, she’s surprised how normal it seems.
The Kishpaughs may never fully understand why Ryan was taken from them, but they have struggled and found meaning in their loss. Because of Ryan’s wise and empathetic heart, his new brother and sister will have a chance at a full and happy life with a family who loves them.
“I don’t know how we would have overcome the loss of a child without the Lord and the love and support of our family and friends,” says Amanda. “We suffered a great loss, but many of these children in foster care have also suffered a loss. I don’t think people recognize that. These kids can’t be with their families because their parents made poor choices, but they still need a family to love and support them. Kids don’t care how nice your house is, or how big it is. I just wish people realized how rewarding fostering is and how capable they really are. Our child is gone, but not by choice. We all have a choice with these kids.”
“Love is what drives me,” says Chad. “Before I lost my son, I was more selfish. Now my vision is to help everyone who’s in need. Ryan motivates me, his words motivate me: “I know I’m loved, but they don’t.”