‘You can’t give up”

South Carolina couple adopts five foster children

When some couples choose to foster, they do so hoping to adopt eventually. Still, there is no guarantee adoption will happen quickly, or even at all. But as Ashton and Taylor Lethco attest, sometimes lives change quickly and dramatically. In 2015, the Lethcos had no children. Today, they have five.

After moving in to their dream house in Summerville, S.C., Ashton, an insurance agent, and her husband, Taylor, an engineer for the Department of Defense who is also pursuing a doctorate in Christian philosophy and apologetics, began to consider becoming licensed therapeutic foster parents. They’d heard about the need for foster parents to care for unaccompanied children coming across the Mexican border, so about four years ago they began the licensing process.

Their first placement, in April of 2015, however, was Kyle, a more traditional foster care placement. As with many children who have experienced trauma, Kyle’s behaviors were challenging, but the Lethcos were committed to giving him a stable home. When they discovered that Kyle had a sister, Cassie, in a group home, they welcomed her into their family four months later.

“We believe that siblings should be together,” Ashton says.

Because the parents of Cassie and Kyle relinquished their parental rights, the Lethcos were able to adopt Kyle, now 10, and Cassie, now 9, in July of 2016.

Not long after that adoption, Ashton told her Lutheran Services Carolinas caseworker that they were ready for another foster placement, and she said they’d consider a sibling group. Although the caseworker worried that it was too soon, the Lethcos felt they could handle another placement.

In November of 2016, they learned of a sibling group of six — three girls and three boys — who needed foster homes. “We got out the diagram of our house, and we started figuring out with Allison (LSC staff member Allison Sandin) where could we put kids in our house, in what configuration. And they ended up placing the three girls with us.”

So Alicia, 14, Jaz, 13,and Eva, 6, joined the growing Lethco family. When their parents relinquished their rights, the Lethcos adopted the three girls in September of 2018. After the sisters joined their family, the dream home was feeling less than spacious — so the family moved to another home, this one with 4.5 bathrooms.

She and Taylor feel fortunate for the support they received from Lutheran Services Carolinas. “When you have an agency like LSC that is working on your behalf and working to get all of the services in place for the children, it just makes your life so much easier,” Ashton said. The family celebrates when things go well. Jaz, for example, recently auditioned and was accepted into a prestigious arts magnet school. “That was a huge accomplishment,” Ashton said. “We have been thrilled for her. It’s a huge blessing that she could accomplish that.”

The Lethcos know that ultimately, the stability and predictability they provide is the most important thing for the children’s healing. They acknowledge that it isn’t easy.

“It’s trying,” Ashton says. “It’s extremely difficult. But we feel like God has called us to this. As long as I know that there are kids out there that don’t have a safe and loving home, I just can’t rest. I think God has sustained us.

“Every day, I think, I want all of us to get through the day. If that is my expectation I can handle all of the chaos and drama that will come.”

The Lethcos get help from family members, and they have someone who helps with meal prep and cleaning. “You need that support system,” Ashton says. “It’s also such a blessing that we can call Sara (LSC staff member Sara Ramsey). She has been so incredibly supportive.” Ramsey has attended doctor appointments with them, Ashton says, and has helped with Individual Education Program (IEP) meetings at school to make sure the children get the services they need.

“You can’t give up,” Ashton says. “At the end of the day, what will help these children is an adult who says, ‘No matter what you do I will not give up on you.’ That is the difference between the kids who can get the help they need and the ones who don’t.”

“It’s a hard reality, and also a beautiful reality. I believe in it. I believe the struggle is worth it.”

Photo credit: Kristin Pace Photography

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ELCA South Carolina Synod
1003 Richland Street
Columbia, SC 29201
Telephone 803-765-0590
Fax 803-252-5558

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