The Girl in the Purple Hat

My husband and I talked about adoption before we were married. We knew it was a path we wanted to take.

We began the process of becoming “bridge resource” (foster) parents in April of 2012. The next six months were filled with various classes, paperwork, interviews, home studies, house assessments, and meetings with our case worker. In November, we were nearing the end of the process when our case-worker, Kelly, remarked how “quickly” we had moved through the process. I suppose six months is not long when you’re talking about the process for bringing a child into your life—after all, a pregnancy is nearly 10 months.

Finally, on Monday, November 26th—just after Thanksgiving—Kelly called with good news.

“Your final paperwork came through. You are officially approved to become foster parents,” she said.

“Great!” I replied. I was on my way to drop off our oldest daughter, Ruth Ann, at parents’-day-out.

Kelly had more news. “And there’s a five-day-old infant in the hospital we need you to pick up immediately. Okhaveagreatdaybyebye.” Click.

The next few hours were a whirlwind of activity. I arranged for a family friend to pick up Ruthie from PDO. I crawled into the attic to track down the car seat, and threw every baby item I could find in the washer. My husband, a United Methodist Minister, was going before the Board of Ordained Ministry for his final “grilling” before being made a full-elder—a process that takes many years in our denomination. It was difficult to reach him, as the meeting was taking place at one of our camps located in Red Rock Canyon near Hinton.

The crib was not set up.

We’d given away or sold all of Ruthie’s baby clothes.

I went to the wrong hospital first.

But finally…I arrived at the Norman Healthplex and was admitted to the nursery.

And there she was. The girl in the purple hat.

That purple hat is all she had to her name. She came home in the plain white hospital shirt they put on all newborns because they had no clothes to send with us. Not that they would have fit her, anyway. She weighed barely 5 pounds. The nurses helped me roll up washcloths to put under her so she would fit in the carseat. They gave me some diapers and a case of formula and waved goodbye.

I dropped her off at my mom’s house while I ran frantically to the consignment shop down the street. They had exactly TWO outfits for preemies, and I snatched them both up. I was elated to find a Moses basket on my way to check out—I had loaned ours to my sister, whose daughter was only 2 months old at the time.

The next few days are a blur. We were blessed with an outpouring of help from friends and family. Childshare, part of the United Methodist Circle of Care, showed up at our door that very night with a large box filled with diapers, blankets, and preemie outfits. Our neighbors brought us gifts. Our friends stopped by to meet her.

Then reality set in.

We had our first meetings with case-workers. We were filled in on the circumstances surrounding her immediate removal from her biological parents in the hospital. If you know anything about child welfare, you know there are very few reasons for that to occur. We set up her visitation, checked in with her doctors, and established her benefits through DHS.

I finally broke down and cried a few nights later, bemoaning the possibility we would lose her one day. But I was reminded that we weren’t in this for us.

This was about what was best for her. And I began to pray for just that: Lord, let what is best for her come to fruition.

For months, I continued to pray those very words. It was difficult at times, especially when well-meaning friends and neighbors would say things like:

“I hope you get to keep her.” You realize you’re simultaneously hoping her biological parents stay screwed up, right?

“I could never do what you guys are doing. I would just get too attached.” Yep. And we’re a couple of stone-cold, emotionless robots.

“She’s so lucky to have you.” We’re the lucky ones.

Children deserve to be loved regardless of whether or not their love comes with conditions.


The next several months passed somewhat uneventfully. I won’t go into detail about the circumstances surrounding her birth parents. They dropped off the radar for a while. At the subsequent hearing, the baby’s caseworker was ready to make a case for termination of parental rights and change the permanency plan to adoption. This is not a brief or tidy process.

The Friday before Mother’s Day weekend, her biological parents voluntarily relinquished their rights.

Adoptive parents know what a big deal this is.

It means no termination trial. It means no long, drawn-out process in the courts of determining the best interest of the child. It means DHS does not have to make their case for termination, which inevitably brings more hurt to everybody involved.

It is not a decision made easily, nor is it accepted with ease by the courts. My husband watched, in tears, as the judge examined the mother’s motives and reiterated over and over again the consequence of her decision. To this day, my husband describes it as the most excruciating thing he has ever watched. Because he knew what it meant for her…and what it meant for us.

Our adoption proceeded with no trouble and little fanfare. It was completed on September 30th, less than 2 months before her first birthday. I was 7 months pregnant with our son. It became “legal” what had been “official” in our hearts for months: McKenna Jean Dennison.

Every year on Mother’s Day, we give thanks for the awesome moms and “mom-like” ladies in our lives. But for my husband and me, there is another mother we celebrate, and quietly mourn, on behalf of our daughter, McKenna. We get to tell her someday that, ultimately, her birth-mother loved her so much she did what was best for her. She was willing to sacrifice her own happiness and fulfillment to ensure her daughter’s.

I find it fitting that yesterday, the Friday before Mothers Day, our paperwork from DHS arrived so we can re-open our home for adoption. We don’t have a big house. We just bought a vehicle that can seat more than 5. We don’t make a lot of money. But the 10,000+ kids in our state currently residing in foster care aren’t waiting for big houses, designer vehicles, or wealthy families. They are waiting for people who are willing to give unconditional love, while accepting uncertainty.


2 thoughts on “The Girl in the Purple Hat

  1. I have read with such joy all the amusing stories Daniel has posted on Facebook about all three of your kids. When I began to read this I didn’t realize who the girl in the purple hat was. What an eloquent story you have shared. May God bless you both as you raise your family and McKenna is so blessed to have found you.

    Liked by 1 person

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