Inspiring connections: How type 1 diabetes brought two families together
When I was little, I knocked over my cup of milk. As it hit the floor, shards of glass scattered everywhere. My parents mopped up the spill and picked up every single shard of glass. They couldn’t rebuild the broken cup, but they kept me safe from stepping on the glass.
As Christians we know our world is broken by sin. Shards of addiction, loss, and suffering are scattered throughout every community. We know that we will never be able to restore the world to the way it was. But when we use our gifts for God’s glory we can usher in His goodness, love, and healing.
Foster parents Kelly and Rob Peterson do this by offering their home in Appleton as a safe place where foster children can recover. With the help of their foster support volunteers, they have created a space where hurting kids can experience the healing power of God’s love and acceptance.
One of those children is ten-year-old Adalicia. As a baby, Adalicia was in and out of the Peterson home. “We were on call for Adalicia,” Kelly explained. Then, when Adalicia was just 4 years old, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. That’s when adoption became a possibility. “That was kind of the deciding factor,” Kelly shared, “that her birth mom wouldn’t be able to care for her any longer.” In 2016, the Peterson family adopted Adalicia, but she wasn’t the only foster child they adopted.
"Our joy comes from knowing that fostering was our calling and that we get to serve God in this way."
“We actually got into fostering to adopt,” Kelly told me. In the ten years since Kelly and Rob first started fostering, they’ve adopted Adalicia and sisters Hope and Ivory. At the time we met in late January they were also fostering two young boys and had accepted guardianship of their nephew.
“No matter how crazy it gets, we never regret having these kids with us,” Rob said with a smile. Kelly expanded, “Our joy comes from knowing that fostering was our calling and that we get to serve God in this way.”
But there are challenges. “We take it day by day,” Kelly shared, “It’s not been easy.” A year ago, Kelly and Rob realized they could use additional support. While Hope and Ivory had the ability to spend time with other people, Adalicia often had to stay home. Kelly explained why, “Adalicia needs insulin shots every time she eats. If her blood sugar gets too low that’s an emergency and you need to do something right away. Few people feel comfortable taking care of a child with type 1 diabetes.”
I saw this happen. During our conversation, Adalicia said she felt funny. Kelly stopped everything to help Adalicia check her blood sugar. They pulled out her kit and inserted a test strip into her blood sugar monitor. Adalicia pricked her finger and then squeezed blood onto the strip. Her numbers were low, something that could become dangerous. Kelly quickly had Adalicia drink two sugar-filled juice boxes and eat part of a banana to bring her numbers back up.
Looking for additional help, the Petersons reached out to Kara Witthuhn, Foster Support Coordinator at Kingdom Workers, for help. Kara had two people in mind—Samantha and her mom, Tara.
Samantha grew up with type 1 diabetes. Now, as a Foster Support Volunteer, she's using her experience to help ten-year-old Adalicia learn to live with type 1 diabetes.
“My name is Samantha. I’m a junior nursing student at Wisconsin Lutheran College, I’m an RA on campus, and I run a yoga club.” Samantha also has been living with type 1 diabetes since she was 6.
Type 1 diabetes isn’t something Samantha hides, instead she welcomes questions because she knows, “A lot of people don’t understand that it affects my entire life and how I function. For example, you can just eat a piece of cake. I see a piece of cake and think, ‘Ok that’s about 50 grams. My blood sugar is already high right now, but I really want it. But if I eat it then my blood sugar is going to get higher and I’m going to feel sick. Now everyone’s looking at me wondering why I’m not eating it. Guess I can just give myself insulin, wait 10 minutes and hope everything’s ok.’”
Since Samantha is in school in Milwaukee, volunteering hours away in Appleton isn’t always easy. But during breaks she enjoys getting together with Adalicia. “It’s a neat opportunity,” Samantha said excitedly, “It’s so fun to connect with this creative, spunky girl. I remember growing up I was limited in where I could go without my parents until I hit a certain age. For me, something like this would have been nice.”
When Samantha and Adalicia get to spend time together, their conversations don’t center around living with type 1, but they do help to normalize it. Samantha shared, “Instead of just asking for her number and moving on we can compare our numbers. It makes it feel like living with type 1 is a normal experience.”
In between those visits, Tara takes Adalicia on hikes to nature centers, to coffee shops for hot chocolate, and more. Tara told me, “It’s just really nice for Adalicia to be able to go out and do things.” Adalicia added, “I like it when we go to Bay Beach.”
While Samantha is away for college, her mother Tara has been spending time caring for Adalicia. Together they go to coffee shops and play games.
Kelly and Rob are grateful for Tara and Samantha, “We feel so loved that someone would do this for us. I think that’s so cool that there are people who want to do that. It’s really the little things that make a big difference.”
Faith is a big help for the Peterson family as well. “One verse we always look at is Romans 12:2,” Kelly shared, “I think a lot of people look at our life and think we are crazy. But when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and what God’s plan is it gives you a new way of thinking.” Kelly and Rob know they can’t fix everything. Rob told me, “We wish people weren’t always trying to fix everything. We just need people to support us.”
And that’s what our Foster Support program is all about. Samantha knows she can’t remove the pain of type 1 diabetes from Adalicia’s life, but she can help normalize it for her. Kelly and Rob know there’s not enough time in the day to give each child perfect, individualized attention. Yet they know that providing a warm, loving, God-centered home is exactly what the kids need.
Instead of trying to fix everything, these foster parents and volunteers are giving what they have to make a difference at that moment. In doing so, they create connections to God’s goodness in this broken world.
Kimberly Joerres is the Content Specialist for Kingdom Workers. She believes that everyone has a story worth sharing. For the past few years she has been listening to stories from all over the world and she enjoys getting to share those stories with you.