Jay Paul photo
Brian and Dorothy Bayford married in 2000, making a family with Dorothy's two sons and Brian's three daughters. The couple became foster parents late in 2001, bringing a pair of sisters, Janáe and Jazzmine, into their home. The Bayfords, who live in Gloucester, Va., decided to adopt them in 2005. Another daughter, Cirrenety, was adopted in September 2008.
Dorothy: I grew up in a very dysfunctional environment, around a lot of drugs and criminal activity. Even as a child, I remember looking at this little boy who had a really dirty face sitting on the front steps of an apartment and thinking, "One day I am going to go by and help you." I always felt like [that] was my calling.
Janáe: My sister, Jazzmine, and I had stayed in nine homes; we hadn't stayed in one foster home for over a year. We came to Gloucester when I was 11 and Jazzmine was 10, and it was the first white family we had been in.
Dorothy: One of my first questions I said to the girls was: "It is no secret that we're white and you're not — are you going to have a problem with that?"
Janáe: At first, we were not really sure if this was going to work. But in elementary school, I had a lot of white friends, and I was never taught to dislike girls of other colors. Race is not something my sister and I struggle with.
Brian: About a week and a half after we told the [private Gloucester] foster agency that we wanted to adopt Janáe and Jazzmine, their response was that they wanted to take them out of our home. They wouldn't ever give us a reason. One of the workers said race was a consideration. Right away we were thinking, "This is not about skin pigment — it is about family love!" The Children's Home Society [a nonprofit Virginia adoption agency] staff directed us to an attorney.
Janáe: When we first came here, it was hard to accept them as a family because I thought I was hurting my biological family, who were unable to take care of us. I was really feeling torn. After the whole situation where the agency was trying to take us away, our relationships became stronger.
Dorothy: At the beginning, I am certain it was hard for them to believe somebody loved them enough. It does not matter what color you are or whether you are my biological kid or not — they are our kids.
Janáe: Dorothy is now mom, mother and [Brian], dad, father. We did get in touch with our biological family. I thought my biological mom would be disappointed, but she really isn't. It's wonderful to see God's blessings, because my sister and I are more a testimony to my biological family. We are the first ones to go to college. I am grateful to be here at the Bayfords. I don't think I could have asked for a better home. —As told to Bethany Emerson