Evie and Bill McLarty were “sweethearts” in their church youth group and have now been married over 27 years. Bill is a freelance graphic designer and drives a school bus for Ocean Springs School District. Evie is a Program Director for Feeding the Gulf Coast in Gulfport. Together, they’ve raised four biological children ages 26, 23, 22 and 17 years old. From early on, both Bill and Evie were interested in fostering therapeutic children but originally felt they were too young and inexperienced as parents to foster. Bill states, “This is something we both felt led to do. We found it very challenging and knew therapeutic children would have behavioral problems more than typical children.”
Six years ago, after Evie completed Americorp Vista service, they decided to move to Ocean Springs, Mississippi. This is where they first met Tana Walker, Senior Recruitment Specialist with Southern Christian Services for Children and Youth, Inc. and began seriously considering fostering therapeutic children.
Within six months from meeting Tana, Evie and Bill completed the SCSCY foster care training program. On the day Bill turned in the last document to complete their foster care licensing, Tana showed him a file for a little girl named Carmen. The McLarty’s looked over Carmen’s information that night, prayed about it, and decided to take a leap of faith. A few weeks later they and their two youngest children drove to Jackson to meet Carmen. She looked directly into their eyes and said, “Are y'all going to adopt me or what?” Bill responded, “I guess we are!” A few weeks later Carmen came to Ocean Springs for Thanksgiving break and was introduced to the rest of the family. Shortly after the Thanksgiving visit, she moved into the McLarty’s home and was adopted on October 20, 2016.
A few months later, Bill and Evie were told about two brothers, Chris and Michael that needed an adoptive home. Chris was an immediate placement, but Michael could not be placed until he finished a treatment program in north Mississippi. Bill and Evie only knew how to raise girls. They were nervous and not sure how two boys would fit into their lifestyle. After much prayer and discernment, Bill and Evie decided to proceed. Chris moved into the McLarty’s home the following weekend (November 21, 2018) and was the most polite and charismatic child they had ever met. He was very nurturing, kindhearted and had an undeniable bond with his brother, Michael. Even though Michael was in treatment in north Mississippi, Chris was always eager to talk to him either on the phone or by Facetime. Bill states, “We were able to set up a day visit with Michael on December 8, 2018 and I’ve never seen such joy on a kid’s face.”
Unlike Chris, Michael (9 years old) needed therapeutic attention. Bill and Evie met with Michael’s therapist and had daily conversations about his care. Together with Michael’s treatment team, they decided to have him visit for a long weekend. After spending the entire Christmas break together, the McLarty’s knew Michael was the right fit for their family. Michael moved into their home on March 5, 2019 and both boys were adopted on February 19, 2020.
Since the adoption was finalized, life has changed a lot, especially with COVID-19 quarantine. The first few weeks were challenging for the McLarty family. Covid-19 made the transition very hard, juggling both school and work. Bill states, “Getting into a routine was the most challenging but we know that takes time for any family. We still have good days and bad days, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s the hardest and most beautiful thing we’ve ever done.”