Ladysmith family builds on family through fostering and adoptions

Published: Jan. 28, 2023 at 9:13 PM CST
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LADYSMITH, Wis. (WEAU) - A married couple in Ladysmith created their family in an unexpected way.

Sarah and James McCarter have been married for almost 30 years now, but over a decade ago when they had four children of their own... two more would be entering their lives.

“I was a youth pastor at the time. A young lady who got pregnant, she was in her teens and needed some help,” said James. He and his wife met in Eau Claire through the church as youth pastors. Around that time they met the teen a few times before she took the brave step to their home.

“I showed up at their door. I knew them from church that they were these caring, amazing people,” said Jessica McCarter. She realized the circumstances made it clear it was not her time to be a mom just yet. “I knew that I needed to do what was best for this child.”

The McCarters adopted her baby boy, Joel.

“It wasn’t long after that, being a youth pastor, that someone presented the idea of being a foster parent,” said James.

In the past 12 years, the McCarters have fostered several kids, even adopting six of them. Even though Jessica turned 18 a little after giving birth, James and Sarah found out adult adoptions are possible in the state of Wisconsin. Jessica became a McCarter in 2015 when she was 23-years-old.

The McCarters also realized one thing, and wanted to let those who are considering adopting or fostering to know, having the kids re-establish contact with their birth families can re-open some wounds they may have. There is resprite that can help with the healing process afterwards by having the kids spend a couple of days away to readjust before coming back home. Still, James and Sarah believe it is the right thing to do for the child.

“Wisconsin is not an open adoption state, but we always try to reunite the children with their families one way or another because it’s important for them to hold on to their culture and hold on to those family ties.” said James. “I just can’t stress how important it is to have... to look back and say this is my past, this is my family... and we are all going to go to the future together.”

In the long run, Sarah said that while it is hard, it is something that extends the family even more.

“So, we’re a part of their story, but you can’t remove that biological chunk from their life. Because they’ll end up hating you,” said Sarah. “Our family has grown not just with the kids we’ve adopted or fostered but our family has grown because we have all these other outside people that are now a part of our family.”

Sarah said at the end of the day, it is about providing a safe space for a child looking for a home.

“That’s all they need, they just need to know they are loved, they need to know they will be okay. Adoption, foster care, doesn’t matter which direction you go. It’s all so important. There’s not enough foster families out there,” said Sarah.

For their daughter Jessica, who is now 32-years-old and going to UW-Stout for Human Development and Family Studies with a minor in Social Work, she is beyond grateful to the McCarters for embracing her and the son she knew needed a parent.

“We joke that, I was meant to carry him but he was meant to be theirs. They changed my life, I wouldn’t... none of us would be where we are without them,” said Jessica.

James and Sarah said they recognize that fostering and/or adopting can be daunting but said there are resources available.

They were provided help with fostering through Lutheran Social Services. There is also state assistance for adoptions.