Meet The Murphys - Our First Grant Family
“We weren’t considering adoption at the time - that’s what makes this all so miraculous.” Tiffany Murphy and her husband already had 2 daughters at home. They had tried foster care and decided it wasn’t meant for their family. Even still, her daughter Blaire kept saying that she wanted a baby sister. Tiffany told Blaire to pray about it every time she asked…and we all know how prayer works!
Fast forward 2 weeks to April 2015: Tiffany receives a phone call from Child Protective Services asking if she could take in a baby girl. Her young cousin in El Paso had just given birth, but was in prison awaiting a sentence on a murder charge and could not care for the baby. CPS had tried contacting all other immediate family members and they were unable to find anyone willing to help until that fateful call to the Murphy family. Without hesitating, Tiffany said she would care for the child. “It happened so fast. I asked my kids if they would like a baby sister before I left and my daughter just said “Can we call her Lily?” From the moment we found out about Lily, we knew we would be adopting her.”
Adoption was not on Tiffany’s radar prior to that momentous phone call. In fact, she had a particularly negative view of the subject. In her own troubled childhood, she grew up with a little brother who was adopted at 2 weeks old but was never told about his birth family. As a teenager, he would ask her questions about where he came from and it upset them both when she didn’t know the answers. Tiffany’s grandparents adopted two of her young cousins, including Brittney, Lily’s birth mother. The girls were mistreated and abused during their time with their grandparents, leading Tiffany to believe that not all children taken out of a sad situation are placed in a better one.
In Texas alone, over five thousand children were adopted from foster care in 2015. The process for an adoption is time-consuming and strictly regulated to ensure that children who are adopted are placed with a loving and supportive family. According to a study involving children living with kinship caregivers, evidence suggests that being placed with relatives can help reduce the trauma of being removed from home.
Lily’s circumstances surrounding her birth were quite unusual. Because both of her birth parents were being charged with homicide in El Paso, she was placed into kinship care with the Murphy family until sentencing after trial. “I had an instant connection with her in the hospital. From that moment, I knew it was meant to be.” Lily weighed only 5 pounds when Tiffany brought her home. At the time, she was working for a pregnancy help center and had access to resources while preparing a home for Lily. “I walked in to my boss’s office and said, “I’m going to go to El Paso and pick up a baby!” She said “OK, cool” and that was it. It was the perfect place to be when something like that happens.”
The birth parents didn’t want to voluntarily terminate rights to Lily. “For the first few months I got angry letters from Brittney and a couple of letters from Lily’s father. He understood the severity of what they had done and knew they wouldn’t be getting out. Brittney was under the impression that she would be getting out and coming to get her daughter. There was a lot of uncertainty during that time.” It wasn’t until August of 2017 that Brittney was finally sentenced to 25 years and the birth father was sentenced to 60 years in prison for their crimes. After both parents were sentenced, termination of rights was determined pretty quickly, but Lily’s adoption wasn’t finalized until August of this year.
During the long wait to complete Lily’s adoption, the Murphy family was called upon again to step up as a caregiver for another little girl. Brittney’s half-sister had given birth to a little girl named Gracie in 2016 and was unable to care for a child at the time. Tiffany and her family took Gracie in when she was 10 months old this past March. “When we got her she was only on a bottle; she wasn’t eating any baby food. She couldn’t sit up and had no muscle tone so we had to work on making her stronger. It’s funny how different children are. [At that age] they already have their own personality so it’s been a little more challenging.”
“I couldn’t imagine our lives without Lily and Gracie. They were always meant to be in our family. Both of those babies are such a blessing to us.” Both girls seem to have become accustomed to their home life with Tiffany and her family. “Lily goes nonstop from the time she wakes up at 6 am until she falls asleep at night.” She loves to climb, jump and flip around all day. Gracie is more relaxed, "she follows my 5 year old around – they’re buddies."
With four girls under 6 years old in the house now, Tiffany’s husband has had to adjust to being outnumbered daily. “He’s done so well with all the kiddos running around. I think he wishes he had a boy sometimes, but he adores all four of our girls and stays home to care for them on his days off.” When he isn’t fulfilling his man of the house role, Tiffany’s husband is a firefighter and paramedic. He’s been helping his community for over 10 years as a first responder and feels called to aid others - it’s no wonder the Murphy family didn’t question that fateful call from CPS.
When the day finally came in August for Lily to become an official member of the Murphy family, it was unquestionably an emotional experience for everyone. Lily had lived with the Murphy’s for over 2 years by her adoption day; they were already a family, but this was the best day ever and all the girls wore shirts proclaiming their feelings. “Once the judge said it was complete, I looked at my husband and we both had tears in our eyes. The day was such a long time coming and I think part of us never felt certain it was going to happen.”
The average length of stay in foster care for a child in Texas is 27 months - well over 2 years of their lives can be spent in a temporary home waiting for a family. Research has shown that a child could spend ½ that amount of time in foster care prior to being placed with relatives as kinship caregivers. Even with the possibility of reduced time in foster care, there will always be questions about a child’s past.
For Lily, the discussion will be approached cautiously but without reserve. “She came from such a horrible situation so I don’t even know what we will say yet.” Lily doesn’t look quite like the rest of her family and Tiffany is worried someone will mention that difference to her someday and ask questions. She is keeping a treasure box of letters from her birth mother and details about where she came from and her journey to the Murphy’s. “I think every child deserves to know where they came from. It’s such a huge part of who they are.”
With the less than successful adoption stories Tiffany has seen within her own family, her negative mindset was not a surprise prior to becoming involved in Lily’s situation. This stigma is far too common and in many cases, both fostering and adopting can be a struggle for all parties involved. Children do not always connect instantly with their adoptive family members; it takes time, patience, understanding, and lots of love to help a child integrate into their forever home.
A survey conducted by The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute found that 58% of Americans knows someone who has been adopted or adopted a child. One of the goals of Project 2713 is to bring stories like Lily’s to the light so that the public can see what a difference adoption can make in the life of a child. Tiffany’s daily mantra is “Be the person you needed when you were younger.” By stepping up as a parent to these young girls, she has become a role model for intra-family adoptions. “There’s no rule book on the proper way to do it. We may not do things 100% right 100% of the time, but we’ll do the best we can.”
P.S. Tiffany’s daughter is now praying for a baby brother…