Cara and Eric Taylor are dreaming of the perfect fit for their family.
The couple began the process of adopting a child from the state foster care system late last year, and announced their plans through a moving Christmas card that became a surprise Internet hit.
With the caption, “Whichever one fits,” the Taylors posed before six pairs of children’s shoes of varying sizes, a twist on traditional pregnancy announcements featuring photos of baby booties or the tiniest sneakers alongside the shoes of a mother and father.
“It was a way to say, 'We’re adopting' in a fun, unique and almost baby-announcement way,” said Cara, a bank teller and photographer.
Their holiday card reflects their simple desire to become parents. It doesn’t matter if the best match for them turns out to be a boy or a girl, a youngster or a preteen or a child of a different race. “We’re pretty open if it’s the right child,” Cara said.
Cara, 31, and Eric, 27, who live in Daphne, Alabama, decided about a year into their five-year marriage that they would seek to adopt.
“We’ve always had adoption on our hearts,” Cara said. “When we researched the foster care system, we found such a great need right here in our backyard that we decided to go through the foster care system here in Alabama and grow our family that way.”
Alabama has about 5,000 children in foster care, according to a state spokesperson. While most children are reunited with their parents or other relatives, about 500 a year are adopted.
“We want to give them the love that maybe they haven’t had, a chance for them to grow up in a family that supports them,” Cara added. “All kids deserve to grow up feeling love, and we want to do our part in providing that for a child.”
Eric, an Army sergeant and recruiter, said they have much love to give.
“I want to give a kid a loving and deserving family,” he said, adding: “We’re very loving people and just want to be able to share that love with a child.”
The couple’s close relatives knew of their adoption plans, but rather than calling and emailing everyone else, the Taylors spread the news in their Christmas card. They borrowed the shoes from friends, and Cara used her tripod and camera timer to take the photo.
Eric made a point of wearing his fatigues to dispel a belief he had encountered that military families have a harder time adopting because they move often.
Cara shared the photo with Together We Rise, a nonprofit group that helps children in foster care. The group posted it on Facebook, where it has racked up more than 33,000 likes and was reposted on other adoption-related sites including the Dave Thomas Foundation For Adoption.
The Taylors received heaps of support — and in an Internet rarity, no negative comments.
“People have asked, ‘What’s the process? How do you get started?’” Eric said. “People are starting to think about what adoption is and what it’s all about.”
The couple hope their photo will encourage others to “take another look at the foster care system and give these kids that need good homes a shot,” Cara said, adding that people may be wary of taking in an older child or one who has moved around a lot.
“People are afraid,” she said. “Maybe they think those kids are going to come damaged. I really feel like they are overlooked.”
While the Taylors are realistic about what life with a child from foster care may be like, they are committed.
“It’s going to be difficult,” Cara said. “Those kids are going to come from tough situations. The biggest thing we’re looking forward to is showing them that they are loved, that they deserved to be loved.”
Lisa A. Flam is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York. Follow her on Twitter.