- Associated Press - Sunday, November 11, 2018

ODESSA, Texas (AP) - Adopting or foster parenting a child is an enormous responsibility, but it’s one some Permian Basin couples find more rewarding than demanding.

And the Rev. Aaron Zapata, Dr. Richard Bartlett and the Rev. Darrell Trout say multiple children just amplify the returns.

The Odessa American reports that Zapata, children’s pastor at Grace Christian Fellowship, and his wife Julie began as foster parents working with Buckner Family Place and then adopted two 5-year-old boys and an 18-month-old boy.

“It’s one of those things you feel called to and it’s hard not to follow through,” said Zapata, former youth pastor at Antioch Christian Church. “We’ve had 17 kids in our home. We both have fertility issues and knew from an early age, before we were married, that we wanted to adopt.

“It’s clear from the Gospels that we have been adopted ourselves by Jesus.”

However, Zapata said the scenario is not without problems. “A lot of these kids are from rough places, so you have to break the cycle of abuse and poverty,” he said, noting that all of his boys are Hispanic but that he and his wife have also foster parented African-American and Caucasian children.

“Those experiences create behaviors that have to be worked through like impulse control and learning challenges at school.”

Zapata said the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services pays parents $27.07 per day per child for a basic level of care, $47.37 for moderate LOC and $57.86 for specialized LOC till the child turns 18 and that the state will pay the child’s tuition at a state college or university. He said 48 kids were eligible for adoption Oct. 8 in Ector County.

Zapata said Buckner Family Place, at 421 W. Pecan Ave. in Midland, will have informational meetings for prospective foster and adoptive parents at 6 p.m. Nov. 14 and Dec. 12.

Bartlett, an Odessa family practitioner, and his wife “both had it in our hearts to adopt before we ever met each other,” he said.

“We had been married for a year when we were visiting family in Houston and Dawn nearly died from a ruptured appendix,” Bartlett said. “We thought it would be medically impossible to have a birth child.”

And it wasn’t till the couple had been married for 20 years and adopted six kids from the U.S., Latvia, China and the Republic of Georgia in the former Soviet Union that they conceived and had a son. “Our son from Latvia had a cleft lip and palate and my father (plastic surgeon Sylvan) did his repairs when he was a baby,” Bartlett said.

“Now Ben is in dental school in San Antonio. Our daughter from China was so malnourished that she was bowlegged from rickets and broke her arm doing cartwheels. Then Morgan became a cheerleader when we were in Crane.

“There are so many couples who have a passion and calling to be parents that there is no such thing as an unwanted child. There is no greater gathering of people than a family.”

Trout and his wife haven’t adopted any kids but have foster parented 13 during the past five years through High Sky Children’s Ranch, near Midland, and the Tampa, Florida-based national organization Family First.

“We have them through a vulnerable time till their parents get their lives together or they become cleared for adoption,” said Trout, pastor of Harvest Time Church. “They need a home and family. The benefits are just knowing you’re part of making a difference.”

He said he and his wife Rhonda responded to a regional call from the Rev. Daniel Stephens, senior pastor of Mid-Cities Community Church. “Pastor Daniel sent a letter out, so I preached it,” Trout said.

“Then we felt like if we were going to challenge others, we needed to be doing it ourselves. There is a real sense of fulfillment that we’re doing something God wants us to do. A 9-month-old boy had an acid reflux problem in our living room, but mentioning the difficulties cheapens the fact that you’re taking care of a beautiful life. He’s a soul that needs to be cared for.

“I wish I could invent a different word than ‘foster’ or ‘orphan’ because that labels these children forever like they are outcasts or a different class. There are 30,000 in Texas and fewer than 2 percent take advantage of the free tuition.”


Information from: Odessa American, http://www.oaoa.com

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