PARK CITY, Ky. (KT) — Frank and Whitney Stratton are among many who are grateful beyond words for Sunrise Children’s Services and its help in providing them a forever family.
When the Strattons were on staff at Oneida Baptist Institute (OBI), they were unable to have children. As that door shut, they began to explore adoption — only to quickly learn that it was not financially feasible for them. It was at that point they looked at their environment and decided to be foster parents with the goal of adopting.
“We looked at Oneida, and realized there were kids there 24-7, and we were parenting them as the students spent time there,” recalls Frank, pastor of Park City Baptist Church in Barren County. “That’s when we began to consider foster parenting that would lead to adopting. God gave us clarity that this is what He intended for us to do.”
As the “son of a Baptist preacher, being an OBI graduate and then on staff, I was fairly familiar with Sunrise, so we contacted them and began the process of fostering,” he noted. In less than three weeks, the Strattons received a placement for three kids — then a fourth child who was born to the same mother that they were able to add to their family.
Sunrise more than met the hopes and expectations of the couple desiring to be parents.
“I don’t believe there is any way possible we would have made it through the foster process without Sunrise’s help,” Stratton said. “The workers were unbelievable. They shielded us from having to deal with the worst aspects of the system. Their work allowed us to pour into and raise and love our forever children. Because of Sunrise, our dealings with the state were very minimal. Sunrise made a grueling process absolutely almost smooth.”
After completing foster care training, Sunrise placed the three siblings with the Strattons in June 2015. The fourth sibling was placed with them when only 18 days old, and the adoption process was finalized January 22, 2018.
“When the adoption was finalized — when we knew the hoop-jumping and appointments and visits were done — the judge used the term, 'These children are yours as though they were born to you,'” Frank recalled. “That was a powerful moment for us.”
Paige, now 13, was “old enough to know something was different,” Frank said. “When she started using the terms Mom and Dad (to refer) to us, it was definitely a seminal moment in our lives.”
Paige will be an eighth-grader at Barren County Middle School in August. Kayden, the only boy among the four, turned 9 earlier this month. Libby, 6, just graduated kindergarten and the youngest, Allison, just graduated preschool. “She was born with a cleft palate and had reconstructive surgery,” Frank said. “She’s the spitfire of the bunch.”
“We were meant to be foster parents,” said Whitney Stratton, librarian at Caverna Middle and High School. “Fostering is something that is always on our heart. We’ve got four children and that is quite a bit, but once it (foster parenting) gets in your system, it never goes away. Once you do it, you are forever a foster mom. It never goes away.
“Fostering is truly the gospel lived out in real life,” Whitney added. “Fostering was hard in and of itself, having to face the birth mom regularly and know what a flawed person she was, and still show forgiveness to her. It’s a very humbling experience. Jesus died for her, too.”
Benita Decker, who serves on the Sunrise board and as chairman of the Agencies and Institutions Committee of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said Sunrise’s mission has always been to help hurting children. She said the story of Frank and Whitney Stratton is one of hundreds that tell of Sunrise’s assistance to families.
“Their story is wonderful but it is not unique to the work of Sunrise,” Decker said. “Sunrise connects healthy families with hurting children. It keeps them supplied with the resources they need to continue the relationships that are developed.
“For Frank and Whitney, it was a natural progression for them to look to Sunrise since they worked for a Baptist institution and grew up in KBC life. Frank has said it was a great fit working with Sunrise because it eliminated so many obstacles that they would have faced going through the state. Sunrise came alongside them and helped them to achieve their goal of having a family.
“Sunrise has always been a catalyst to help families connect with hurting children. Sunrise does it efficiently, but it also provides guidance and serves as the resource families need to be the best possible foster parents. Sunrise helps families who are willing to take on the problems, struggles and challenges that children have, no matter what they are.”