20 Oct, 2021 The Leading Role Award: Best Friends Become Brothers
by Bethany Dumbleton
The Leading Role Award
Best Friends Become Brothers
A sweet adoption story that brought these best friends into the same family.
“When we first met Nate he was like any typical 7-year-old boy with a HUGE smile that lit up the world. The first year he played we didn’t notice anything different from the other boys on the team. However, as the years went on we learned that his family faced some struggles.“
Rita Marlow and her husband Seth Lechtner are the proud parents of their adopted son, Nate.
They took Nate in after he and their son, Zach, played soccer together over the course of several years. The family struggles that Nate was dealing with became apparent as time went by. Rita and Seth did everything they could to keep Nate involved with the soccer team, which included sleepovers so that he was able to make it to all of the events. In 2016 a caseworker informed them that Nate had been placed in foster care and that he was wanting to stay involved with his soccer team. Nate told her she considered his team his family.
The biggest request yet.
After some short time, Nate simply requested if he could be placed with them instead of the home he was currently in. He wanted them to become his foster parents! Rita had a good idea that her son Zach would be overjoyed to change the title of their relationship from best friends to brothers so she was not surprised that when they asked him he replied,
“YES! We have to help Nate!“
They were able to foster Nate through kinship care. Rita expresses that she was very nervous to take on another child because their finances weren’t exactly in abundance.
“However once our VILLAGE of family, soccer family, friends, Bensalem School District, community members, employers, and church heard this news of us fostering Nate they immediately stepped into action. We had financial support, clothing, a bunk bed, and snacks for our new growing boy as well as my two boys. It was amazing and humbling to see how many people were touched by Nate.”
The first year of fostering was rough.
Rita told me,
“The constant back and forth that he may be returned to his mother who at the time was unable to show that she could provide a safe, stable home for Nate. Nate being just 11 years old just wanted nothing more than to be back with his Mom and his 5 siblings, we also wanted that for him, but just couldn’t see it happening based on past history.”
However, after a year and a half Nate decided he wanted to be adopted into their family. There was a lot of back and forth with the judge, despite the team of caseworkers, social workers, lawyers, therapists, etc. who were advocating for him.
“Nate tried to speak up for himself once he was given the opportunity to do so in court.”
When you ask Nate about this he says,
“I felt disrespected by the judge because he never listened to me.”
There were many times of feeling defeated as the judge would overrule their case time and again. However, when Nate was in 8th grade our judge PROMISED Nate he would be adopted. He said to expect it as his 8th-grade graduation present!
Best friends become brothers!
Despite covid restrictions – the courtroom was allowed to permit more people inside on adoption days. The family showed up with 52 people waiting inside (there would have been more if they could have fit in!) The judge was so overjoyed to allow this that he had tears in his eyes! Who wouldn’t be crying at the opportunity to watch two best friends become brothers?
“There was not a dry eye in the courtroom. Nate was overwhelmed with emotion and couldn’t speak. The judge asked Nate questions and he could only shake his head. My son Zach eventually placed his hand on Nate’s shoulder and spoke for him.”
Adoption created a brighter future.
I asked Rita what she would like to tell others about their adoption experience, despite all of the back and forth in the courtroom and this is what she said:
DO IT! There were definitely many ups and downs but it is totally worth it on the end. To be able to see Nate succeed with his academics, social skills and create a support system was amazing. It helped not only our family but our entire community to be part of something so very special.”
I asked her if they saw God move during this entire process and I am sure you won’t be surprised when I tell you her response. She tells me how the members of their community and church immediately stepped up to give and help provide for Nate. She ultimately gave all of the glory for the financial provision as well as Nate’s stability and comfort to God as He faithfully answered their prayers.
Nate has talked about a career in finance, business, engineering, and most recently he has talked with Rita about possibly becoming a speech teacher. Nate has personally struggled with a stutter and has made HUGE strides this past year overcoming his anxiety which tends to exacerbate it. Rita brags on Nate’s ability to play soccer and says he hopes to be able to continue that in college.
“He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.”
Bethany Dumbleton is the Chief Operations Officer for Counter Culture mom. She is first and foremost a devoted follower of Jesus Christ.
Her husband and two children are her main ministry which overflows into her life ministry. She knows that our children follow our example. She strives to help parents grow in Christ, so they may shepherd their children biblically.
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