November 26, 2022

One big thankful family

One year later, Roger and Becky Van Donselaar have absolutely no regrets for the choice they made to adopt. November is National Adoption Month.

In fact, the Van Donselaars say that “thankful” is even a good word to describe their feelings about adopting their daughter Zoey one year ago.

Roger and Becky were married June 16, 2018 in Harlan. Becky grew up around foster care and has one adopted brother.

The Van Donselaars took foster classes during their first year of marriage.. Becky recommends these for any young married couple, even if they’re not looking to foster or adopt children.

“We finished the class in May, and the phone started ringing the first of June,” Becky said. “The original phone call said we have a sibling pair of 8 and 10-year-olds, a medically fragile 2-year-old or a 4-year-old. We asked if we could meet Zoey. We met at a water park. She was the cutest little girl, had on goggles, and we said we’d take her.”

The Van Donselaars were leaving to go to Europe a short time later, but Zoey, their new foster child, was able to stay with Roger’s parents during that time. Lawyers later said that their vacation could have been a deal-breaker for the foster placement, but they were glad they placed Zoey with the Van Donselaars.

The fostering process is designed to be one that ends in the child being reunified with their biological parents, however sometimes that isn’t feasible.

The Van Donselaars quickly grew to know fostering and adopting are accompanied by a roller coaster feeling. It’s a constant up and down season of court dates and a feeling that at any point, a child can be returned to their biological parents. The Van Donselaars had this process affected by the pandemic, which was at full force during their adoption process.

Zoey’s biological mother’s rights were terminated in July 2021. She officially became a Van Donselaar in November of last year.

A typical 7-year-old, Zoey enjoys playing tag and having snowball fights with her friends on the playground at St. Malachy School, where she’s a second-grader. She’s learning to play the piano. Her favorite school subject is handwriting. She wants to be an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) someday like her mom, who is also a Special Education Specialist with Green Hills AEA. Roger is the 6-12 band and vocal instructor in the CAM Community Schools.

Becky also serves on Greenfield Fire Department. The family is a part of Cornerstone Fellowship Church.

Zoey admits it was “weird and scary” to go through the process of being fostered and adopted, however she’s very happy with her new family. The Van Donselaars still occasionally talk to Zoey’s biological mom on the phone.

The Van Donselaars found themselves doubly blessed with the birth of a son, Trevor, one week after Zoey’s adoption became final.

“It’s very exciting and gives us a unique perspective on family life. We’ve learned a lot. When we first started in foster care, we didn’t know much about Zoey going in. It was figuring it out and getting to know them as you go. We learned what her strengths are and what she needs to work on,” Roger said. “Every family has different values, so we looked at what was important in her family and what’s important to us.”

Becky said a common misconception is that it costs a lot to adopt. She reports that the way she and Roger adopted, it cost them nothing. The state picked up the minimal cost of adopting Zoey.

Along the way, there were several supports they found from other families who adopt, both in person and on social media.

“You need to know what your expectations are going into it. If you don’t want to take a 4-year-old, don’t take a 4-year-old. If you don’t want to take a teenager, don’t take a teenager. Don’t put yourself in a position where you’re going to be unhappy or it’s not going to work for you,” Becky said. “I’m not going to say it’s rainbows, unicorns and butterflies, but it’s very rewarding.”

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson has served as News Editor of the Adair County Free Press and Fontanelle Observer since Oct. 2017. He and his wife Kilee live in Greenfield. In Greenfield and the greater Adair County area, he values the opportunity to tell peoples' stories, enjoys playing guitar, following all levels of sports, and being a part of his local church.