A Place to Call Home
November 2018 · Uncategorized
Landon was the only child to walk through the Beltz door with a suitcase in his hand. He arrived at their Wichita home with his little red suitcase, packed and ready to leave again at a moment’s notice. That had, after all, been the pattern up to now.
“He was very shy and reserved,” said Melanie Beltz. “He didn’t say much at first, but he was polite and helpful. I remember that he had a slip of paper with his grandmother’s phone number on it. He kept in his shoe, and that just about broke my heart.”
Foster parents for more than three years, Melanie and her husband Kody have seen much that could break a heart. They initially began foster care with the sole intention of fostering to adopt, but soon discovered that there were lots of kids in need of their immediate help. Besides, they’d just moved into a big house, and they had the room. So, they started taking in children in need of police protective custody (PPC). Some nights, six to eight kids might fill their house, ranging from infants to teens. Their best guess is that they’ve cared for around 300 children so far.
All the while, they waited and hoped for the opportunity to adopt. Like many, Melanie and Kody began wanting to adopt an infant. Then, they began meeting the kids.
“In foster parent training, they told us that after age seven, most kids’ chances of adoption are slim,” said Kody. “That was hard to understand. Even at 18, most of us have more time ahead of us than behind us, and the idea that someone might be too old to belong to a family or be loved just doesn’t make sense. So, we decided we wouldn’t limit ourselves to infants. And then, through PPC fostering, we met some really great kids, so we just kept bumping up the age.”
Still, they waited.
“They told us in training that when you meet your (adoptive) kids, you’ll know it,” said Kody. “They said it was like falling in love with somebody, and I didn’t understand that at the time. I mean, there were kids along the way that we liked a lot and that we felt close to, but for one reason or another, it didn’t work out. But when I met Landon, I knew what they were talking about. I felt like I’d known him forever.”
Landon, 11, had been at the Beltz home for three days when Kody invited him to stay long-term. Landon hesitated, then said he felt he needed to move on.
“I told him that we understood,” said Kody. “I said he deserved a home, and if it wasn’t here that was fine.”
That evening, the family prayed together that Landon would find a place to call home, a place where he could belong. Then they went to bed, fully expecting their Saint Francis worker to pick up Landon the next day and take him elsewhere. But, as Kody prepared to leave for work in the morning, Landon waited outside their bedroom door and asked to speak with Kody.
“Last night,” he said, “you prayed that I would find a place to call home … I think I already have.”
Kody said he’s never dialed a number so fast in his life as he called Saint Francis to tell their worker that Landon was staying put.
Three months later, the Beltzes fell in love with their other child.
“There was a lot in Bella’s file that didn’t sound good at all, a whole laundry list,” said Melanie. “But I picked up this little blond girl who had her face painted up like a cat, and she just looked up at me and said, ‘Hi!’, and it was the sweetest thing ever. I thought, ‘This can’t be the girl they’ve described.’ Anyway, we were only supposed to keep her for three days, and I figured we could handle that. But then, she and Landon got along so well that we asked her to stay. It turned out, she was an easy sell.
“Actually, she was adamant about it. She said she loved her big brother, us, and everything about the house. She’s a very loving girl, always has been.”
“Bella’s story is a good reason why we should never judge a book by its cover,” said Kody. “Just because a piece of paper says something about a child, doesn’t necessarily make it so. Have these kids had experiences that other kids their age haven’t? Yes, absolutely. But they also have a lot to share and a lot of love to give. I’m here to tell you that it’s worth the time and energy to get to know them. You’ll be rewarded for it.”
Today, in Wichita, the entire Beltz family will be rewarded as the adoptions of Landon, now 13, and Bella, 10, are finalized at Saint Francis Ministries’ National Adoption Day celebration at Exploration Place.
It’s a big day for them, and they plan to follow it up with a trip to the trampoline park, something the kids have been looking forward to for a while. Just like they’ve been looking forward to finally finding their forever family. That’s why this day is especially important to Landon and Bella. “It means that I’ll get to be with somebody who loves me and cares about me,” said Bella. “And that cares about Landon, too.”