Ennis family prepares to spend Christmas with adopted daughter they’d always prayed for

Illustration by Lightner Creative

Brent and Michelle Bratcher love their two sons, but they also wanted a daughter … or two. 

So the Bratchers turned to the foster system, seeing God grow their family through a whole lot of prayer and the assistance of the Texas Baptist Home for Children. 

Michelle and Brent’s journey to faith is as inspiring as their willingness to help children. Both grew up in Ennis, although Michelle moved there from Duncanville before sixth grade. 

“I was not allowed to attend church as a child,” Michelle said. Friends kept inviting her to church, which finally led to her salvation at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Ennis as a high school senior. Shortly after, Brent rededicated his life to Christ. 

The pair began dating as high school sophomores and married in June 2001. They were blessed with two sons: Andrew, now 15, and Nathan, 13. Life was good. They longed for more children, yet Michelle’s health precluded this. 

“Coming from a big family myself, I knew I wanted four kids,” Michelle said, explaining that she had undergone five hip surgeries. The couple considered adoption, but a financial crisis hit.

“We were scammed by a builder and lost over $100,000 [trying to build] a home in Ennis,” Michelle said. “We knew we’d never have the funds to adopt.” 

Discouraged, they learned from friends about fostering to adopt, which can often be a lower-cost alternative to traditional adoption.

“We gave all glory to God, that even in the tenuous waiting, insane stress, constant prayers, He still came through like our knight in shining armor! It wasn’t in our timing; it was in His.”

A battle to adopt

The Bratchers became certified to foster in 2021 and had their first placements—including Isabel, the daughter they would eventually adopt—in July of that year. For a short time, they also fostered Isabel’s biological sister.

Counselors warned the family the sisters would fare better if they were split up and that separation might help with healing, but because the Bratchers were “adoption-minded,” both sisters were allowed to stay with the family. For a variety of reasons, Isabel’s biological sister eventually went to live with another family.

Meanwhile, the Bratchers started the process of adopting Isabel—who is lovingly also called Izzy. “This began our fight,” Michelle said. The process stalled in court. The couple’s attorneys eventually sought a trial, hoping a jury might see the “common sense” behind allowing the adoption of a girl who was already so loved.

“The system refused to listen to what was best for Izzy, until one month prior to trial,” when the district attorney intervened and allowed the adoption petition to proceed, Michelle said.

“We gave all glory to God, that even in the tenuous waiting, insane stress, constant prayers, He still came through like our knight in shining armor! It wasn’t in our timing; it was in His,” Michelle said. 

“TBHC was right there with us the entire time, holding our hands, and staying steadfast in prayer. We waited over two years to adopt Izzy,” Michelle said. The adoption was formalized in September 2023.

The Bratchers finally formally adopted their former foster child Isabel on Sept. 29, 2023. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Love of a family

The Bratchers also currently foster another girl, age 11. 

“We adore [our foster daughter] and will adopt her if … it’s God’s will. Our human nature thought we would adopt sisters, but the love of a family, no matter what it looks like, will always win,” Michelle said.

Isabel’s biological sisters—the older one fostered by the Bratchers and a baby sister—have fared well, adopted by other families in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Michelle said the families will keep in contact and the girls will see one another regularly.

Challenges remain. The stresses of regular family life and too little time are to be expected. But Isabel and her foster sister have suffered past trauma and need plenty of rest. The family frequently declines invitations and curtails plans because Izzy, in particular, must be in bed by 7:30 p.m.

Andrew and Nathan also have made adjustments to the changes in their family dynamic. The Bratchers seek help when needed and keep the doors open for honest conversation.

A family friend recently presented Isabel and the Bratchers with a Christmas ornament commemorating her adoption.

They have run into criticism from some people advising them to quit fostering, as many families do, after a year. “We have to remind ourselves that we aren’t living for those people, even though we love them dearly,” Michelle said. “We are living for God. He has called us to this, and He calls all His children to spread the gospel to the world.” To date, they have fostered four children, including Isabel. They have seen two trust Christ as Savior.

Tabernacle Baptist and fellow parents have been a great source of comfort and help, Michelle said. Likewise, she credits TBHC as an integral part of their successful adoption.

 “They never judged,” Michelle said. “They provided support with books, groups, and training to help us. Our case manager checked on us all the time. If it weren’t for TBHC, we most likely would have quit.”

This Christmas promises to be “amazing,” Michelle said. “We have an official daughter to celebrate His birth with. Izzy is so thankful to be a Bratcher at last. She doesn’t have to fear moving anymore. We get to spoil and love on our foster daughter this year, too. We will help her see her family as she wishes for the holidays and support her in any way we can.

“Life is so full,” she added. “We are so thankful for God’s love and His expanding His kingdom. Our house is full, our hearts are full.”

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