Their day in court had ultimately arrived. After almost a year and a half working hard to prove themselves as worthy parents, Mandi and Tyler would now find out the fate of their family. It was a moment full of emotions for the Palmers, and the tension only broke once the judge announced his final verdict. However, before anyone could process what had just happened, an unexpected word yelled by a toddler brought the entire courtroom in silence.
Long before that court date, Tyler Palmer joined the 101st airborne division of the U.S. Army in 2010. Less than three weeks after finishing basic training, he was sent to Afghanistan for his first tour. He was lucky enough to return home safe and sound, but the stressful war experience had taken a toll on his emotional and mental well-being. Fortunately, love was about to knock on his door.
Tyler was smitten with Mandi the first time he met her in 2013, right before his second deployment to the Middle East. They came out as kindred souls as Mandi also had health issues – Crohn’s disease. However, the illness has never gotten in the way of their pursuit of happiness. “We knew it would be hard, but we also knew it would strengthen our relationship in ways most people could never understand,” Mandi said.
The long deployment was extremely hard on the two, but it also made Tyler understand what really matters in life. “He was deployed for nine months, and one month after he got home, he proposed, and we got married a few weeks later,” Mandi recalled. It was when Tyler decided to quit the army and start a new life with his wife.
The couple wanted to expand their own family so much, but they were frustrated again and again. “We tried for years to get pregnant but soon came to realize that it wasn’t going to happen, nor would it be safe for my body to sustain the miracle of pregnancy due to my illness,” Mandi said. The pair were heartbroken, but they wouldn’t give up on parenthood easily.
Instead of natural conception, the Palmers started to consider other options and ultimately figured out that adoption was the best choice. And it was right about that time they noticed that their local authority was calling out for foster parents, given a lot of children and babies out there needed a home of their own.
The young couple took all of these things as a kind of God’s sign that they were destined to be foster parents. So, they signed up for the licensing program right away. But they didn’t know how hard it would be to get approved as suitable parents. They spent months doing paperwork and jumping through various hoops to complete it. However, the payoff was incredibly worthwhile.
After months of rigorous training, the two were licensed as foster-to-adopt parents. “The same week that we were licensed, we also received our first phone call to pick up our baby boy, Hunter,” Mandi said. Little Hunter was only a week old and in need of a loving home. Mandi and Tyler were overjoyed, and they couldn’t wait to take the infant in as it seemed too good to be true.
“Talk about a whirlwind of emotions!” Mandi said. “We quickly ran to Target and purchased the necessities (baby clothes, car seat, baby blankets, diapers, food, etc.) we needed to bring our baby home. We arrived at children’s services and there was Hunter, all bundled up in a receiving blanket, and he was being held by our caseworker. He was eight days old and absolutely perfect. We fell in love with him instantly.” However, trouble was waiting around the corner.
Being adoptive parents can be extremely stressful as there are circumstances in which the biological parents, or even other adoptive families, could come out of the woodwork trying to get the child back from you. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened to Tyler and Mandi a few months later as their adoption was not quite official just yet. So, the couple had to fight to keep Hunter in their family for good.
“Over the next 16 months we went through the crazy roller coaster ride of fostering,” Mandi said. Over that time, many hearings and meetings took place. “Our prayers were finally being answered! Our adoption worker worked so hard to get the paperwork finalized so that Christmas of 2017 would be our best yet.” Their court date was set for December 18, 2017 – just a week before Christmas. The family were bursting with anticipation.
By the time the court date approached, they had been living with Hunter for 17 months. Every day was a challenge too, due to their Crohn’s disease and PTSD. This little boy was more than a foster child to them. “He was our ‘medicine’ and both of our reasons to fight the health battles that we have been given,” Mandi said. “He truly became our ‘why’ in life.” Through all those months with Hunter, they had evolved into a secure family that nothing could tear apart. Now they just needed the judge to approve everything.
On their court day, the family dressed up for the big occasion, with little Hunter being the star in his fancy outfit. The parents were ready to make their parenthood official. “It was very emotional, in a good way. We had all of our family and friends there,” Mandi said. The big moment that would change their lives was about to arrive, and the scene was all set.
“At the end of the court process, the judge announced Hunter’s new legal name.” The new officially parents were overwhelmed with emotion, and that’s when Hunter himself chimed in. “Hunter looked at my husband and he said, ‘Dad!’ and clapped,” Mandi said. “Everybody just started crying. It was so emotional.” If the judge had doubted whether they were suitable parents for the little boy, this unexpected word answered all of his questions.
“It’s definitely rewarding. It’s nice to look in his eyes now and not have to worry that he’s ever gonna have to leave us again,” Mandi said. “He is our world and our reason to keep fighting these battles. My husband said that there is no medication to help his PTSD quite like having his son take our last name,” Mandi added. “We’ve learned that there’s a rainbow at the end of every storm and we’re so thankful we kept the fight.”
“Our hearts are forever changed because we now know a true and genuine love. We know that he will forever be safe with us and most importantly will always know what love is. We have learned that family isn’t about DNA. It’s about love!”
Following the success with Hunter, the Palmers have become fierce advocates of adoption and fostering. They have shared their story to shed a light on children who need a home. “Being a foster parent isn’t easy by any means, but it’s SOOOO worth it when you see the joy in the children’s eyes when they actually feel safety, validations, comfort, and love,” Mandi wrote on Facebook. “These children are worth not giving up on. They are innocent and deserve all of us to help put their broken pieces back together.”