Never Hurts To Ask
One question leads to forever family
Being a Benton native and teacher at Benton Junior High School for seven years, Jordan Hiblong was anxious about starting a new career in the Lakeside School District. Now she feels
God sent her to the job for a more important reason — to give one of her students a home and for her to become a mother.
Hiblong comes from a large family with several siblings who were adopted from foster care. She is also a diabetic, which affects her ability to have biological children.
Because of these factors, she and and her husband, Paul, always knew that they would adopt a child even before they were married.
They originally thought they could begin looking into the adoption process once they hit two years of marriage, but the newlywed’s plans change approximately a month and half after exchanging their vows.
Giovanni, who is known as
“Gio,” was one of Jordan’s students that pulled at her heart strings from the very beginning of the semester.
“I had been burdened for Gio from the first week,” Jordan said.
Both of them recalled the
assignment that connected them. The class was completing an assignment about their families.
“I thought it was safe,” Jordan said. “We were good until the very last line.”
As she was helping him with the assignment, Gio’s response took her back.
“I don’t have anything. I’m in foster care and I’ve been in foster care for most of my life,” he told her in response to a question about family mementos.
“It was his blunt delivery that completely hurt,” she said. “It made me so cautious of him and of kids who come from all different backgrounds and really made me check my privilege.”
One day, Gio stayed after class and asked Jordan to be his mother.
“I saw how much she loved the kids and wanted them to pass … I loved that about her. That’s what made me ask her,” Gio said.
Of course, she was shocked, but knew she had to do something.
“I never had a kid who truly needed a home … and said I want a home with you,” Hiblong said. “It’s just the greatest privilege ever. It was just very stunning”
Through his wife, Paul had heard stories of Gio, but had never met him.
“God kept calling him to my heart like I was supposed to be connected to this kid or help this kid or just pray for this kid,” Paul said.
Gio had been in foster care for more than seven years and had lived in more than 20 homes. At the last group home he lived at in Hot Springs, Gio said he was a “peace keeper.”
The couple decided to become a host family for
“We tried to contact multiple people in multiple different ways — no answer,” Hiblong said. “We had been dismissed pretty much and we have a home that we can offer a child … it fueled our fire.”
Eventually, they got in touch with a person who had the right connections and the couple realized they had another option.
“It’s not working because he’s supposed to be my son,” Paul said.
On Feb. 19, 2018, the Hiblongs were awarded fictive kinship status and Gio would move into their home days later.
Throughout the entire process, the Hiblongs never told Gio what was going on until it was time for him to move into their home.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” Hiblong said, explaining they were trying to protect him. “If you were to tell a kid (that they will come to your home) and then something happens … there are so many moving parts to fostering.”
Even on his adoption date, things did not go as planned. The adoption had already been rescheduled and was planned to be moved again until Hiblong stood her ground.
“This is coming from the most nonconfrontational person in the world,” Paul said. “She was momma and she was protecting her boy from the beginning.”
“You never want to be that person that is going to let a kid down — especially when it is something that is valuable,” Hiblong said.
Gio became a Hiblong on Sept. 17, 2018.
Even though the family loves each other very much, the Hiblongs said that the experience can be difficult.
They had to learn how to combat the trauma that Gio had faced in his life.
“You have layers of trauma, abuse and neglect and a teenage opinion,” Jordan said.
“He came with an opinion of the world he had lived in which is not our world,” Paul added. “There is a lot of disfunction in the world that he came from.”
Gio’s past has affected how he connects or doesn’t connect with things and how he builds trust with others.
The family even had to “rebrand” surprises to be a good thing.
“His surprises had always been bad,” Jordan said.
The couple had to teach Gio how a family operates and what it means to be a family.
The Hiblongs have good and bad times, but every day they are still a family.
The parents also had to drop their pride.
“If you’re married, you have to be strong and be able to laugh at some of the things that happen,” Hoblong said. “You really have to meet a kid where they’re at.”
The family lives in Benton and are members of First Baptist Church of Benton.
At church, Gio became a member of the choir. His involvement in the church choir would later lead to him become active in the Young Players at the Royal Theatre. Gio received a leading role in his first play, “Little Princess.”
“I like the thrill,” Gio said. Prior to being adopted
Gio did not have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities.
“We think (being adopted) it’s a home, it’s parents, but it’s also finding your niche,” Hiblong said.
“It’s a future,” Paul added. The couple also wants to “give him experiences” which have included a trip to Ireland, North Ireland, Scotland and England, along with a trip to New York where he saw the Empire State Building and watched “Wicked” on Broadway. The couple took Gio to see the ocean for the first time as well.
Earlier this month, Gio celebrated his 15th birthday.
The celebration included lots of Oreos and even a new puppy, Gertie Mae.
Gio and his family feel that by sharing their story they can make a difference.
The couple gives some advice to those considering adoption of older children in foster care.
“It’s not a fairy tale. It’s not a picnic,” Hiblong said, adding that it’s not always “warm and fuzzy.”
They suggest people really consider the situation before expressing interest in a child.
“It’s hard, but it’s good,” Paul said.
Every child in foster care is different, Hiblong added.
“It’s just like any parenting, just maybe jumping off the deep end,” she said.
Even though adopting a foster child can be difficult, Hiblong said she found parts of herself that she never knew existed.
Gio shared his own message to those thinking about adopting an older child.
“For the parents out there that are wanting to adopt older kids and or thinking about younger kids, the older kids don’t have a success rate for adoption because they are older and like mom said, they live their own way. Some of them have problems … people like that need homes. They need to be able to believe and trust in somebody, not just themselves and other children. They need a home and people to love on them because other children don’t fill their heart enough,” Gio said.
For those wanting to help but cannot adopt a child, the Hiblongs suggest donating to The Call of Saline County.
The organization helped the family to get settled when they were new.
“That was such a big thing for our family,” Paul said while telling of shopping using gift cards from the organization.
Paul and Jordan Hiblong share a moment with their son, Gio Hiblong, 15. The Hiblong family shares its story in hopes of “making a difference.”