This Christmas is going to be like no other for 19-year-old Briana. First, she is celebrating the holidays in West Virginia. Next, she will be helping decorate her new home. Accustomed to small gatherings at Christmas, this holiday she will be taking part in multiple family gatherings where large amounts of food will be served –– “the likes of which she has never seen.”
This Christmas,Briana is beginning a new life with herformer houseparents Tina and Doug Scarberry.
Briana lived at Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) Truett Home in Hayesville for the last six years. She has never known her birth father and her mother’s special needs prevented the two from living together.
“When Briana first came into care, she needed help doing everything,” Doug says. “Her needs were severe. But as time went on she was able to do more to take care of herself and eventually was able to help the other children with simple chores like folding the clean towels.”
Briana thrived, attended school and mastered more living skills. She is creative and loves to draw. She chuckles under her breath when she thinks something is funny and finds enjoyment from picking on Doug.
In October, the Scarberrys became Briana’s guardians. A guardianship is attained through a legal action granting a person or persons the right to care for a special needs adult.
For Tina and Doug, becoming Briana’s guardians means that they have opened their arms and extended their lives to include Briana. Becoming Briana’s guardians is for the rest of her life, the rest of their lives –– it is forever.
“I feel that we have adopted her,” Tina says. “We are now her ‘forever family.’”
Tina and Doug were married in 2003, just shy of seven months after they met. Family members thought they would be a perfect match and Doug’s sister prompted him to call Tina. Shortly after that first call, the couple were going out January 10 on their first date.
Tina says that it “was love at first sight” when she met Doug. Searching her heart about a life with Doug, Tina says she was outside looking into the heavens and praying. “I remember saying, ‘Lord, if this is the man for me, let it snow.’ A few flakes began to fall and then snow began to pour from the sky.”
April came around and Doug popped the question. On August 2,the wedding party, all dressed in crisp white cotton and blue denim, lined up for the wedding party photo.
Doug and Tina learned that they could not have children. So, they determined to be a part of children’s lives as houseparents.
After a short stint at a residential home in Tennessee, the couple came to serve at BCH.
“We came to western North Carolina in 2007 and became childcare workers at BCH’s Haywood Mountain Home in Waynesville and then Drake Cottage in Franklin,” Doug recalls. “We spent the last eight years at Truett Home.”
The couple is ready to return to West Virginia and be close to family again. They have maintained a home there while they served here. Doug has also kept a carpet cleaning business going over the years.
Doug surrendered to the ministry when he was 17 years old and pastored several churches as a younger man. He is planning to return to the pulpit. “Our goal is to plant a new church about 15 miles from our home. God has begun to open doors for a new ministry.”
Moving back to West Virginia and becoming Briana’s guardian was not an impulsive move. The couple spent a year praying about their decision. Tina says that she believed she was supposed to have Briana: “It was what I felt in my heart.”
The couple kept their intentions “just between us and God” for more than a year. They agreed to ask the tough questions. The toughest was: “Are we ready to change our whole lives to do this?”
“Our hearts were being pulled to care for Briana,” Doug confesses. “Briana had health concerns that needed our attention. We needed to decide. We knew we faced some challenges, but we were able to move in faith. We knew everything would be okay. God has a plan. We are trusting Him every step of the way.”
As part of their new life, Briana, Tina and Doug have become a licensed foster care family. Only days after returning to West Virginia, they were given their first foster child. Now, there are four foster children living with the Scarberry family –– ages 1, 7, 9, and 10.
“Briana loves the children,” Tina says. “She gets in there and plays with them. The younger the children, the happier Briana is.”
Briana is a senior in high school and will graduate in May. She works at a grocery store through a special school program. She is loving her new life and her new family. Her future is more certain because of her new “forever family.”
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