Pate family grows: ‘It just feels like a family’
Jeremy and Mary Beth Pate prayed diligently to grow their family even while serving as foster parents in Escambia County. Nearly two years in the making, the family prayers were answered when the adoption of Lesley and Chelsey became final — just in time to celebrate a family holiday.
The Pates have been a part of the Escambia County Foster Parent program for several years — but it was on a break from the program that gave them the chance to get an answer to their prayers.
“We were actually taking a break from fostering and had been praying for a baby,” Mary Beth said. “We were also praying for the mother of the baby, too. We just felt lead by God to have a child on our hearts.”
When the couple was asked to give baby Chelsey a home, the meeting with the child’s mother led them to further pray about the situation.
“I was adopted as a child and I have always wanted to give back to the system,” Jeremy said. “That was why we got into foster care in the first place. When all of this happened, it just seemed like the right thing to do, especially since we were wanting our family to grow.”
Lesley said she had never really had a family of her own, and becoming a Pate has given her a sense of family and belonging.
“A family is something I’ve never had,” Lesley said. “God has been so good to give me a family — especially them. God had his hand in this for me. They have accepted me for who I am and don’t even think about my past. I know I’ve made the right decision to become a part of the family. This just feels like a family to me.”
With the Pates completing the first adult adoption in Escambia County, the couple said they believe it was a process they were meant to complete.
“Back in the late spring, we actually started talking about adoption with our social worker as we cared for Chelsey,” Mary Beth said. “The social worker just brought it up in passing that we could adopt Chelsey’s mother, too. We really thought about that, and decided it would be a wonderful addition to have both of the girls join our family.”
Lesley said it was a welcome idea when she was first approached about the possibility of becoming a legal member of the Pate family.
“They made me feel welcome right from the start,” Lesley said. “This has been a 21-month process, but I felt like I was a part of the family the whole time.”
The family began a relationship with Lesley when Chelsey was brought into their home — a relationship that has given the two other children of the Pates’ new siblings.
“We have two of our own children, Brianna and Nathan,” Jeremy said. “Brianna is the oldest and Nathan is the youngest, but with this adoption she became a little sister and Nathan became a big brother. It changed their roles a little.”
Jeremy said he would do it all again and encourages others to consider service through the foster parent program.
“We want to encourage more people to become foster and adopt parents,” Jeremy said. “With the love and joy we’ve experienced through this, we hope that more people will see that and open up their hearts to be willing to extending a helping hand to those children — and adults — who are in need of that family love.”