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'Just normal people' who want to help

Cedar Rapids family takes part in national adoption program

Jackson Lear, 1, grabs a block he was playing with at their house in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. The Lear family adopted Jackson in November. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Jackson Lear, 1, grabs a block he was playing with at their house in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. The Lear family adopted Jackson in November. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — The Lear family insists they aren’t anything special.

They grew by one last month when they adopted Jackson, a busy one-year-old boy, from foster care.

“We’re just normal, boring people,” said Julie Lear, who is now a mom to five children, “who wanted to do something to help.”

The Lears were one of nine families who adopted a total of 13 foster children in Cedar Rapids on National Adoption Day, Nov. 16.

Fostering had never been in the Lears’ plans, Julie said. She and her husband, Erich, only became certified to foster in hopes of adopting a little girl they knew through church.

They became certified though Four Oaks, which, in the Cedar Rapids region, is contracted by the Iowa Department of Human Services to train and certify foster and adoptive parents. Certified families then are trusted to take in the thousands of Iowa children in foster care.

Nationwide, some 123,000 children were waiting to be adopted on a given day in the 2017’s fiscal year, the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The little girl the Lears had hoped to take in was adopted by a different set of foster parents, but Julie and Erich and their four children decided to begin respite care for foster families — taking in foster children for as little as a weekend.

“It wasn’t even done, at that point, out of a sense of — there could be something in the future here,” Erich recalled. “There was a need and we could help out.”

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A few years later, they were asked to take home a newborn, Jackson, as a longer-term foster placement. He joined their three daughters and one son.

“A certain little boy in our family was very excited to have another boy in the house,” Erich said one recent morning at the family’s home, eyeing Colton, 9.

Colton, who was sitting on the floor against the couch, grinned as Jackson sat in one of his sister’s laps, his tiny feet resting on top of Colton’s head.

The Lear children were quick to fall in love with Jackson, said the family’s oldest, 16-year-old Brooklyn — though their parents’ cautioned that the baby could be reunited with his birthparents.

“I knew that in my mind and in my heart, I really wanted him to stay because I was so attached to him,” Brooklyn said. “But I knew that probably may not happen.”

“And if it does happen,” her mother added, “that means there are parents who lost their child, too.”

The family sends photos of Jackson to his birthparents, Julie said.

While adding him to their family was in some ways bittersweet, the family said they leaned on their faith as they navigated the foster-care system.

“It’s trusting God instead of a system because ultimately the system, regardless of what it is, will fail us — and that’s anybody,” Julie said. “We all fail each other because we’re just simple people, but God is the foundation we have.”

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For her, Jackson’s journey felt finished when his birth certificate — officially giving him the last name Lear — arrived in the mail in mid-December.

In the family’s northeast Cedar Rapids home, the rambunctious toddler sleeps upstairs with his three sisters and the family hedgehog, Spike. When Jackson is older, his parents plan to move him into Colton’s room downstairs.

“We have space for one more,” Julie said. “Will we do that? I don’t know.

“Right now, we’re just taking a breath and enjoying that we’re at the end of the foster-care road for him. That feels great.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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