For the love of children

For the love of children
Tanya Hardaker with Zinnia, Drew and Lily behind her; Andy with Rosie, Max and Daisy, far right (Trey’Von not pictured due to privacy laws protecting foster children.)

There’s no doubt Tanya and Andy Hardaker love children. Their hearts are big enough, in fact, to open them to double the size of their biological family (one son and two daughters) with another son and two more daughters – a sibling set of three.

If six youngsters were not enough to love, the Fishweir couple also foster a toddler.

The seven range in age from two to 10. Four attend Fishweir Elementary School, and three are in preschool at DCL Nurse and Learn.

Since Andy currently works out-of-state during the week on a construction project, Tanya is full-time caregiver, dropping children off at two schools; next year it will be three drop-offs when oldest son, Drew, starts middle school, she said.

Adoption wasn’t a foreign concept to the Hardakers, at least not for Tanya, whose mother was adopted as a preteen. “That changed the trajectory of her life, so I grew up with that normalcy,” said Tanya.

“It was always kind of in the back of my mind, and when our bio kids got a little bit older Andy and I took a class at our church, Eleven22, and realized that when there’s an estimated 500,000 kids in foster care in the U.S., and a hundred thousand children available for adoption…sitting, waiting…it wasn’t a ‘Why?’ anymore. As Andy said, it was a ‘Why not? What’s holding us back?’” she said.

Working with Florida Baptist Children’s Home, the Hardakers began the process two years ago to become approved and licensed to foster.

“Trey’Von and his brothers were our first foster placements. All through that process we kept pursuing adoption,” said Tanya. “Since we had older bio children, our hearts were open and we said, ‘Give us whoever you’ve got.’ We learned about this sibling set in Volusia County, and it took a while to get them here.”

The family started to get to know the three siblings in early 2017 and for the next six months “playdates” were held in Volusia County or in Jacksonville.

“These three were raised by a set of foster parents for almost three-and-a-half years, for most of their lives. They were awesome people, a good Christian family, and did an amazing job,” said Andy. “They thought it would be just six months, but they prayed about it and did the right thing when the right opportunity came. It was a unique situation to transition from their end to our end. They came here a lot during the ‘getting-to-know-you’ stage.”

The siblings moved into the Hardaker household August 5 and the adoption was finalized November 17, the day before National Adoption Day 2017, in Volusia County.

“It was really special to stand up together with other families adopting 30 children, and be a part of this so our bio kids could see other families doing this as well,” said Tanya.

It was a prayerful decision to re-name the adopted children, she said. “We thought it best for inclusion and to give them a fresh start,” she said. Max, 7, and his sisters,  Zinnia, 5, and Rosie, 4, joined Drew, 10, Lily, 9, and Daisy, 7, who already had experience welcoming newcomers in the household. Foster child Trey’Von has been with them for 17 months.

It wasn’t just the size of the family that doubled; the Hardakers’ 1948 one-story home required a 400-square-foot addition to create bedrooms for each child.

“Once we got the court order that they would be moving in, we blew out the back wall and built four bedrooms and one bathroom in four weeks last summer. They all got to sign the wood [the studs] and inscribe Bible verses,” said Tanya.

“Everyone has their own space. With the newness and getting to know each other, we didn’t want the older kids to feel pressure, we wanted everyone to be able to have their own space to do homework,” she said.

Daisy, a second-grade student at Fishweir, was excited to have more siblings.

“I’ve always wanted new brothers and sisters. I didn’t always want to wake up and have just one brother and one sister. I wanted more,” she said. “I’m really flexible so I wouldn’t care if I shared a bedroom. Whoever else is in my bedroom I would help them in the morning and if they wanted to sleep, I would let them.”

Andy Hardaker grew up in Ortega Forest and was a member of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church where his grandfather, Robert Clingman, was rector 1962-1971. He met Tanya at Stanton College Preparatory School, after her family moved to Jacksonville from Orlando during a CSX consolidation. The couple didn’t begin dating until they went to the University of Florida, where Andy earned a degree in construction management and Tanya in accounting.

They married in 2001 and have lived in the Riverside/Avondale area ever since. “We love our neighborhood and care about making a difference here, which is why we support our public school and local businesses.  We care about our kids’ future, but also our neighbors kids and future generations,” said Tanya.

“When we were having our third child, I worried about providing,” said Andy. “Tanya’s mother said ‘Everybody still gets a slice of pie, it’s just smaller.’ We’re blessed more for having the children. You don’t have to not have dessert, you just get a smaller piece.”

Tanya said they don’t place a lot of value on acquiring “trappings.”

“We’re striving for something much more meaningful. Running after Jesus isn’t easy. It’s not comfortable, but it’s worth it,” she said.

“We’re not perfect; we’re just trying,” Andy said. “You don’t have to be perfect to be a parent.”

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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