Mother’s Day and Father’s Day held extra significance for Bob and Ina Hostetler this year. Just a few months earlier, the couple completed the adoption of a 2-year-old son they call Papi. For a couple in their 60s who have already reared four children, one would think deciding to adopt would be a big decision. But for the Hostetlers it really wasn’t.
“I grew up where adoptions were very normal,” Ina explained. “In my family there are 16 adopted individuals. About 40 years ago, one of my sisters adopted four biracial siblings, which was very unusual in the conservative Mennonite community where we lived. It was a very difficult environment, but there was a lot of love and acceptance within our family.”
Several years ago, a couple in their congregation, Bethel Mennonite Church in Sarasota, Fla., became foster parents. With the encouragement of their pastor, who is an adoptive parent, more families decided to become foster parents as well.
“We learned about the great need for foster parents, due in part to the opioid epidemic in the area,” Bob said. “. . . We were told that if every church in Florida took just one child, the need would be met. We felt God nudging us to take seriously the command to take care of the widows and orphans.”
The Hostetlers became foster parents in 2016 to the newborn, whose mother’s addiction left her incapable of caring for him. She left the hospital without providing contact information. The birth certificate did not name a father.
“I knew from the beginning we were going to adopt Papi if that were ever an option,” Ina said. “And he’s been such a gift to us.”
When the adoption was finalized, all of the family were in attendance. At little more than 2 years old, Papi is on his way to being bilingual. Their daughter Jenna is fluent in Spanish and only speaks Spanish to him.
While both Ina and Bob have full-time jobs, they’re able to balance parenting and careers thanks to a strong network of support. There are at least five other families in the congregation who are foster parents and form a support network. At the community level, the Bridge a Life organization provides a wide variety of services to foster and adoptive parents, including home repairs, meals for new parents and babysitting services for parents’ nights out.
“We’ve had tremendous support from state case workers as well,” Ina said. “They’ve been extremely helpful.”
The state of Florida provides free dental and medical services for foster children who’ve been adopted, as well as free university tuition.
Most people have been supportive of their decision to adopt, but some make comments or ask probing questions. “Why would a couple who is ready to retire adopt a baby?” a person asked. Another commented to Ina that she’ll be 70 years old when Papi is 20.
“I had to correct him and say, ‘No, I’ll be 80’ ” Ina laughed. “None of us have assurances of another day, and we know that if something happens to us, Papi will be loved and taken care of. We feel so fortunate.”
Seeing the joy that emanates from the Hostetlers, it’s obvious they are generous and caring people. But they don’t feel what they’re doing is anything extraordinary.
“Please don’t put us on a pedestal. We’re just following what God called us to do,” Bob said, “and we challenge people to answer the question: What is God calling you to do?”
It’s an apt question for any of us.
JB Miller lives in Sarasota, Fla., and attends Covenant Mennonite Fellowship.