We are Ryan and Erika Hedge. We have been married since June 2011 and have three biological children Madeleine, age 7, Evelyn, age 5, and Declan, age 2. We have been fostering since November 2016. Ryan and I always felt strongly adoption would be part of our story but didn’t know exactly when or how we’d get there. I had worked as an officer for Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control about 7 years and had a frequent calls of animal abuse where children were also being neglected. And occasionally these calls occurred at foster homes. It was devastating to me to witness children being removed for their safety to then be placed in homes like I saw. After some encouragement and a powerful adoption weekend at our home church, Pathway Community, Ryan and I agreed foster care should be our next step in the journey to help children. God spoke to us the entire journey and we felt his presence in all the twists and turns. He really orchestrated many miracles and we grew closer in our walk with Him.
December 7, 2016 we received our fourth call for a placement. The others had all fallen through at the last minute and we were so excited to get our first kiddo. We had signed up for one child, ages 0-4, to get our feet wet. We had Madeleine and Evelyn at the time, ages 3 and 1. When the removal worker called she said there was a two year old boy that needed a place immediately but he also had a baby brother in the hospital who would likely be there a few months while he recovered. She wanted to know if we could possibly take two instead of one. And of course we said yes!
Warren, the two year old, was a happy chatterbox and just the sweetest kiddo. His biological mother had severely mistreated his baby brother and that is why he was removed. However, he was malnourished as well and had some suspicious wounds and scars.
Gabriel was in the pediatric ICU when we first met him. When he was admitted Gabe was 9 months old and weighed 6.5 pounds. The doctors could not get a temperature or glucose reading because they were too low and he had been seizing for around 3 days. His mother had called 911 because she thought he had died but when EMTs arrived they discovered he was still breathing about twice a minute.
A week after he was admitted he was 7 pounds, and after visiting him for 3 days and learning his medical needs and all the treatments and medications, the hospital released him to us! I could not believe it! DCS had told us it would be a few months before his release! I could not believe they let us take such a fragile baby home. He was skin and bones, literally, when we brought him home and required meds and treatments every 3 hours around the clock for about the first 8 months. He also had doctor and therapy appointments 5 days a week. Ryan and I were both working full time then, him day shift and I night and had four kids in diapers! What an adventure! After that 8 months we decided it was crazy to continue on that way and God was calling me to stay at home full time. My job was my dream I’d had since I was very young and I never thought I’d make the change but somehow God changed my heart and I knew where he was shifting my responsibility.
There are many stories along the journey that are shocking and devastating but also miraculous and heartwarming! Gabe was born at 25 weeks with drugs in his system and then the neglect he experienced should have made it impossible for him to be “normal”. The doctors told us in the hospital he may never walk or talk or be able to attend school and he is now a thriving, 5 year old, attending preschool and is able to keep up with his peers! We don’t know as much about Warren’s past, but did learn from the detective on their case, there were 14, unsubstantiated, calls to DCS before the boys were removed. Warren had frequent nightmares and was very fearful and was later diagnosed with PTSD. It wasn’t until the hospital reported Gabe’s arrival and condition to DCS and that they opened a case. Warren is now a thriving 6 year old and his teacher tells me he’s at the top of his kindergarten class!
Both boys love playing outside, riding their bikes, going to gymnastics, swim class, Boy Scouts and going to Grammy and Grampy’s lake cottage. They love playing with their human and puppy siblings alike! After 4 years and 2 months in foster care we can finally rest in security. They have always been part of our family but now they are legally! We could not imagine life without them and are so grateful God chose us to be their parents! We thought this day would never come! Anyone considering foster care, it is the hardest, yet most rewarding thing we’ve both ever experienced! We learned the long and hard way everything is out of our control but nothing is out of God’s control. This journey has taught us to rely on him wholeheartedly. There were times we thought we couldn’t endure the waiting or the ups and downs but God gave us renewed perseverance and strength and reassurance there was a plan. We recognize that adoption is also devastating for our boys and means the loss of two birth parents and their other extended family. We will never be able to replace them. But we are so grateful that God has allowed us to be the boys’ adoptive parents and we are rejoicing that they are finally Hedges!
Around 3 years ago we recognized that reunification with bio family was not going to be a possibility for the boys and as foster parents you are the only "party" on the case without automatic attorney representation. Decisions were being made that were not in the best interest of our kids so we obtained an attorney. In a case that should have been easy to find permanency, we had obstacles and delays at every turn. Having an attorney for that long, working diligently on your case, leads to quite a large bill. Our entire amount owed is over $20,000 and while we have a few options of support they are altogether not anywhere close to our full amount owed. Thankfully, we have been awarded a $4500 matching grant from Pathway Community Church Adoption Fund, administered by Lifesong for Orphans. We want to make sure we give credit to our faithful private fund partners! God always provides and we are deeply grateful to all those who decide to give to our adoption fund!
STRIPE charges an online processing fee (2.2% +.30 USD per transaction). Your donations will be decreased by this amount. You may also send a check payable to “Lifesong for Orphans”. In the memo line please write “Hedge 09553”, to ensure it is credited to our account. Please mail to Lifesong for Orphans, PO Box 9, Gridley, IL 61744.
Lifesong has been blessed with partners who underwrite all U.S. administrative and fundraising costs (TMG Foundation and other partners). That means 100% of your donation will go directly to the adoption.
- In following IRS guidelines, your donation is to Lifesong for Orphans. This organization retains full discretion over its use, but intends to honor the donor’s suggested use.
- Lifesong is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization. Individual donations of $50 or more and yearly donations totaling $250 or more will receive a tax-deductible receipt. Receipts for donations under $50 will gladly be sent upon request.