“Sometimes Plan B is better than Plan A”

Parents who hadn't considered adoption step up when their son's friend needs a family.

February 01, 2018

Karlik family
"Adoption changed our family's life for the better."

Jennifer and Greg Karlik thought that their life was complete. They had two children and successful careers and lived in the Alaska community where Jennifer grew up, close to her family.

The Karliks had no intentions of becoming foster parents or adopting. But their well-laid plans quickly changed when they learned that their 13-year-old son’s best friend was going into foster care.

“I am a planner,” Greg said. “For our life plan to change in this way was interesting. But making the decision take Chris in was a no-brainer. We were capable of doing it, and it was the right thing to do.”

Jennifer echoes the sentiment: “Greg and I work in helping professions. I am a teacher, he is an EMT. When we saw a need, it was natural for us to respond.”

Establishing relationships

Jennifer and Greg got licensed to become Chris’s foster parents and Chris moved into their house.

While some parents might fear that adding a teenager to their family mix would bring drama or disruption, Jennifer and Greg say that really what it brought were opportunities for each member of the family to learn and grow.

“I had to figure out how to be a mom to a kid who had a whole different set of experiences than my kids, Joey and Debi, had,” Jennifer said. “I consider myself a person who can read people, but I realized that I had to learn a lot about relationships. It’s been good for me.”

Greg agrees, saying that the last four years with Chris have enriched their family.  
“Chris has opened all of our eyes to new experiences and other ways of thinking. And we’ve done the same for him. As a simple example, before he came to our house, he had never carved a pumpkin or dyed an Easter egg. Now I think he enjoys these traditions more than we do!” Greg said.

Making it official

When Jennifer and Greg stepped up and became foster parents to Chris, they knew they wanted to help, but they didn’t know where it would lead. Two years ago, when Chris became legally free for adoption, his caseworker asked the Karliks if they were ready to adopt Chris—or if the state should be looking for another path to permanency.

“It came down to a time where we had to make a decision of adopting Chris or potentially have him leave our family. Again, it was an obvious choice for us: Chris is an amazing kid, and things were going great. We couldn’t imagine our family without him in it,” Greg said. “Luckily, Chris felt that way too. Because ultimately, the decision was his.”

Looking ahead

The Karliks agree that every step of their adoption journey has been challenging—and gratifying. For Jennifer, who teaches high school math, one highlight has been helping Chris succeed in school. He’ll graduate next spring and plans to go to college.

Greg says that for him, the biggest rewards are yet to come.

“Watching Chris graduate high school and go on to college—seeing him get married and find the right job. Knowing that I am helping him go in the right direction and become somebody who will make our society better. These will be my biggest rewards,” Greg said.

“Adoption was never in my life plan. But it changed my life—our family’s life—for the better. It just goes to show that sometimes Plan B is better than Plan A.”


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