Willie and Teresa Smith’s fostering journey began in 2003, and hit an emotional peak on July 22, 2020, when the couple adopted two special boys: Kristopher and Lucas.
In a stroke of serendipity, their adoption date was also Teresa’s birthday, and the boys happened to be their “awesome gift” that made their family complete, reported AL.com.
Teresa and Willie, the founder and pastor of New Covenant Church, have fostered over 30 children through Alabama MENTOR, a home and community-based services provider specialized in therapeutic foster care.
The Gadsden-based couple discovered they had an aptitude for taking care of children with profound special needs after fostering a boy post-kidney transplant.
Kristopher was 6 years old when he first arrived at the Smiths’ home in 2015. He has cerebral palsy, is quadriplegic, blind, and uses a G-tube to take his food. He also had hydrocephaly and a seizure disorder and needed round-the-clock care, the Alabama-based news outlet reported.
The Smiths were overwhelmed, but it took mere hours for the couple to fall in love with Kristopher.
Two years later, Lucas arrived. Then 14, Lucas also had cerebral palsy and persistent muscle spasms.
“They wanted us to keep him for a weekend,” Teresa told the AL.com. “We picked him up Friday, and by Monday I was begging to keep him.”
Both boys underwent an extraordinary transformation under the Smiths’ roof.
Lucas weighed just 38 pounds (approx. 17 kg) when he arrived. Over the course of three months, he almost doubled his body weight. At 17, the gregarious teen was crowned “prom prince” by his peers at Gadsden High School. Kristopher, now 12, is loving and affectionate and no longer has seizures. He has also developed a particularly close relationship with his adoptive father.
“Their bond is incredible,” Teresa said.
Taking care of Kristopher and Lucas is no easy task, but the Smiths hail routine and teamwork as the magic formula. They rise at 5:30 a.m., deliver thrice-daily medication, four feedings for Kristopher and six for Lucas, plus baths and regular diaper changes.
“I asked my husband one day, ‘What did we do before the boys?’” Teresa said. “They are a joy, a blessing to our family.”
The Smiths moved into a bigger home in spring 2019 to accommodate Kristopher and Lucas’s needs, the AL report said. Their extended family, including 22 grandchildren, fully supported Willie and Teresa’s decision to adopt.
Teresa said that the boys’ adoptive siblings “absolutely love their little brothers.”
One of the couple’s daughters is a nurse at Kristopher’s school; one of their sons is a coach at Lucas’s. While occasional stares or cruel comments from strangers still occur, the Smiths rally round their boys to ensure they feel loved and protected at all times.
“We love these boys,” Teresa said. “When people see us, they say, ‘They have to be your kids.’ They literally look like they belong to us.”
Alabama MENTOR State Director DeAnna Hand praised the Smiths for being “an exceptional family.”
“Their dedication and committed care is inspiring to many,” Hand said in a statement. “I’ve witnessed the boys light up with smiles and coos as Teresa talks with them. It warms your heart immediately!”
Willie and Teresa have had such a rewarding experience as foster parents that Teresa now co-leads training classes for the Alabama MENTOR program, inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.
Teresa told AL.com that Kristopher and Lucas have enriched their lives. “They’re helping us realize how blessed and fortunate we are,” she said.