By Elizabeth Sias
Darlene Lindahl wraps her hands around the ankles of her 9-year-old daughter Daphne, who places her hands on the floor, waiting at the ready.
Her husband Brian grabs little 4-year-old Alexis’s ankles and a wheelbarrow race quickly ensues, with 6-year-old Hope watching and keeping score.
Just seven months earlier, the pitter-patter of the girls’ footsteps was absent from the Lindahls’ home.
The Isanti couple adopted the sisters in April, and with November being National Adoption Month, they’re hoping to share their success story and inspire others to consider adoption.
“We knew that these were our girls,” Darlene said. “We were meant to be together—it just feels natural.”
With many nieces and nephews, children have always been a large part of the Lindahls’ lives. Before they were married, Brian asked Darlene if she was interested in adoption, and they discovered they had both considered it.
Part of their reason for choosing adoption is their ages— Darlene is 48 and Brian is 40. In the end, though, they wanted to provide a nurturing home to children in need of a forever family.
They chose Bethany Christian Services because it’s a Christian organization and faith plays an important role in their lives. Starting the application process around March 2010, the Lindahls soon moved forward with a home study, several interviews, background checks and home visits.
Once approved, explained Bethany Christian Services social worker Allie Goodmanson, they moved into what they call the matching phase, when they’re connected with county workers of the children who are in foster care.
Families are matched based on children’s needs and the type of home they’d do best in. As was the case with the Lindahls, a family with no children is ideal, so they were matched rather quickly.
They were always interested in a sibling group, Darlene said. One of the first groups they learned of was sisters Daphne, Hope and Alexis. The girls first came to stay at the end of March, and from there, pieces quickly fell into place. The date of the official placement was April 21, Alexis’s fourth birthday.
“It’s so rewarding just having them here,” Darlene said. “They’re always singing and laughing.”
Because they chose to adopt through the foster care system, the state paid for the home study because of the high need of children to be adopted. In 2010, Bethany Christian Services placed 765 infants nationally and 567 children from foster care.
“The state program across all agencies is seeing fewer and fewer families coming through. Getting word out there that there’s still a great need for adoption of preteens and teenagers, and to see faces of who’s out there to be adopted, is important,” Goodmanson said. “You hear so many horror stories of people adopting from foster care, but this family can shed a positive light on that it can be successful.”
The Lindahls definitely call their journey a success. They took a road trip to Yellowstone National Park this past summer and used the family vacation as the perfect opportunity to get to know one another better.
Darlene said the girls started calling them ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ after the first day together. They understood this was their forever family and were excited to jump in feet first.
“There’s lots of love!” Hope said of her favorite part about being part of a family.
The biggest challenge, Brian said, is not only being new at parenting, but learning specifically what works for Daphne, Hope and Alexis.
“We’re trying to figure out what’s normal for a 4-, 6- and 9-year-old, let alone what’s normal for them,” Darlene said.
And they aren’t used to thinking like kids, Brian explained. One change Darlene said she had to get used to was tasks taking longer, such as leaving the house in the morning.
“They have their established personalities and we have ours, so it’s about them trying to understand us and us trying to understand them,” Brian said.
All three girls are outgoing and friendly, Brian said. Daphne, as the oldest in fourth grade, tends to be quieter, watching and hanging back in crowds. She’s also a gymnast and very creative. For Halloween, the girls were cheerleaders, and Daphne took a liking to coming up with cheers immediately.
Hope is in first grade and Darlene described her as the helper. She loves teaching her sisters and parents, especially karate moves in their back yard.
Alexis is in preschool, and Darlene said she’s the most outgoing and likes to be the center of attention. All three girls love singing, and can often be heard singing in the bathroom.
With thousands of children like Daphne, Hope and Alexis waiting for a family in the foster care system, both the Lindahls and Goodmanson of Bethany Christian Services understand the need for couples or families to consider adoption.
“There’s a lot of children in our foster care system who will go from home to home and never have that permanency or home, and the thought of them getting married or graduating without having someone in the audience or someone to walk them down the aisle is disheartening,” Goodmanson said.
The Lindahls have no regrets about their decision to adopt. They understand the commitment and responsibilities, but have soaked in every aspect of parenting and couldn’t be happier.
“After we signed the papers, I woke up the next morning and looked at Brian, and I said, ‘We’re a family,’” Darlene said. “There are times when something happens and it just brings tears to my eyes. I look at them and I think, ‘they’re our girls.’”