Christina and Jennie Hedges always wanted to open their home to children. But adopting a teenager wasn't initially in their plans.
"Jennie always wanted to foster and potentially adopt an older child and I was like no way," Christina laughed.
Jennie said Christina was nervous about taking on the responsibility of an older child.
And when they took in their foster daughter Jasmine, she initially didn't want to be adopted. But at 15 years old, she lost her grandmother who was her caregiver.
"About two weeks after she moved in, her caseworker came over for a visit and she told her caseworker that she wanted to be adopted," Christina said.
Jasmine joined the family of four last year. The Hedges already had two little boys, both fostered as babies then eventually adopted by the couple. The process has been a roller coaster of emotions, both highs, and lows. Part of parenting is helping the kids navigate those lows.
"We also recognize that it comes with significant loss and as they grow up, we recognize there are a lot of feelings they will probably experience including grief and loss," Jennie Hedges.
November is Adoption Awareness Month. According to the Department of Child Safety, the number of Arizona children in out-of-home care rose to nearly 14,000 this year. Last year at the same time, the number was just more than 13,000. Meanwhile, the number of licensed foster homes dropped 7.5%.
The couple says, just like for any family, it's a balancing act. Between working and getting the kids to daycare and school, they lean on their friends and family for support. And it's also important to them to keep in touch with their kids' biological families.
"It's not about us, it's about them. They're not lucky to be with us, they're loved by us, and they're also loved by the people that share their blood, in a different way," said Jennie Hedges.
To learn more about fostering or adopting in Arizona and to get to know the kids who need homes, click here.