Hoyleton Ministries Celebrates Couple’s Journey from Foster Care to Adoption

After 18-month-old Lamarrion was hospitalized due to physical abuse, he and his older brother Damond, 3, were given protection by the Division of Child and Family Services in Illinois, where the case was assigned to United Church of Christ-related Hoyleton Ministries. The case worker knew how important it would be to keep the brothers together and find the right foster home that would nurture and provide a stable environment.

Lenny Johnson and Ryan Hilderbrand, who married in 2006, were eager to start their family. Since Ryan, as a child, had been adopted, the couple wanted to explore adopting but quickly learned it’s a costly and long endeavor, so they agreed to become foster parents. Both being ordained ministers, they sought to find a Christian foster care agency who would help them foster in hopes of one day adopting. The organization that met all their criteria was Hoyleton Ministries, which guided them through the licensing procedures and supported them to overcome all of the challenges, including overcoming lingering stigmas by some against same-sex couples wanting to foster and/or adopt. In no time, thanks to Hoyleton, Lenny and Ryan were ready to welcome foster children.

Lamarrion and Damond were introduced to the home of Lenny and Ryan as fosters. It was very clear to Lenny and Ryan that they made the right choices to work with Hoyleton and to open their home to foster care. The first several months were very challenging but a caring bond was being created as Lenny and Ryan became advocates for the boys’ health and education.

Lenny and Ryan realized these two boys could easily become part of their family and, at the same time, it was becoming clear that their mother was not following through on her plan to provide a stable home and to reunite. Adoption was becoming possible as Hoyleton began working behind the scenes to make this forever-home story happen.

It took a total of six years from the time the boys first arrived till the adoption was complete, but it was clearly worth the wait for Lenny and Ryan.

Once the adoption was finalized, the boys elected to change their first and last names and are officially now called Kameron and Kieran Hildebrand-Johnson.

“The happiness I witnessed that day cannot be put into words as it was priceless to see the feelings expressed that day,” said Hoyleton caseworker Allison Nance, who assisted in the adoption process. “To work with them to build their family was an amazing experience. They have loved Kameron and Kieran for the past five and a half years, and on the day of the adoption, it was a reality of their dream to be their fathers, come true.”

“We are so blessed and happy we were able to adopt the boys and have them be a permanent part of our family,” stated Lenny. “It was a long process but definitely worth it. We appreciate all that Hoyleton has done for us and for the support given us over the years.”

“Fostering can be stressful at times and a lot of work but it is such a rewarding experience,” stated Ryan. “You’ll never forget the smile on your child’s face the day they are adopted and know that they now have a forever family.”

Since the boys arrived, Lenny and Ryan’s family has continued to grow significantly, both in love and in number. They have fostered a teenager, provide respite care for another teenager and, two years ago, had the opportunity to bring two more children, Andre and Armond, into their home and gained permanent guardianship.

All are excelling at school. Andre was even nominated for student of the year and was told by his teacher that he was the most caring teenager she has ever met.

Eight months ago, Ryan and Lenny began fostering a six-year-old girl and her younger brother. Although they did buy a 15-passenger van, Lenny and Ryan believe their hearts and home are now full.

If you are interested in adoption through foster care, contact Hoyleton Ministries at 618-688-4727.

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