A Life-Changing Call

The Shackelford family (L-R) Chris, Gavin, Lylah, Maryann, Lilly, Maryann’s mother and Kylie. Their foster children’s faces have been blurred for privacy.

When Maryann Shackelford answered a phone call from her cousin, she had no idea that her life—and her family— were about to change forever.

Maryann’s cousin said a little girl had been dropped off at her house and wanted to know if she could stay with Maryann and her husband, Chris. The little girl’s biological dad had left her there so he could go party. The couple readily agreed to care for the child, a one-year-old named Lilly. CPS got involved after Lilly’s birth father left her at the Shackelford’s again and didn’t come back for almost two weeks. They then connected with PCHAS to begin the licensing process to become foster parents.

Because Maryann was adopted, she and Chris had always talked about the possibility of becoming adoptive parents; they simply had no idea it would happen so soon. “We just knew from the beginning that we wanted to keep her,” says Maryann.

After about a year, Lilly’s birth parents decided they wanted her back. It was tough for Maryann and Chris to know there was a possibility that Lilly could return to her birth parents. The final court date arrived, but Lilly’s birth parents didn’t show up. Custody was ultimately granted to Chris and Maryann, who still want Lilly to have a relationship with her birth parents. In December 2016, Lilly officially became part of the family. On her adoption day, when Chris and Maryann explained that she was now a Shackelford, Lilly replied, “Haven’t I always been?” Lilly, 4, fit right in with big sister Kylie, 8, brother Gavin, 4, and baby sister Lylah, 1. “Kylie loved having another girl in the house and Gavin acted like she had been there forever,” said Maryann.

Being a foster parent was tough, and Maryann and Chris attest to the importance of a support system. “Fostering is amazing, but it’s also heart-wrenching and, emotionally, the hardest thing you’ll ever do,” said Maryann. “You have to be emotionally ready.” According to Maryann, PCHAS provided the support they needed. Melynn Conway, foster care program director in Wichita Falls, was an unwavering support to the Shackelfords. “I could pick up the phone right now and say ‘I need you’ and she would be here,” says Maryann, who considers Melynn and Carolyn Grace, PCHAS case manager supervisor in Wichita Falls, to be two of her best friends.

Today, despite the fact that they became licensed foster parents to provide a home for Lilly, Chris and Maryann continue to open their home to children in need. With training and care from dedicated PCHAS staff, their family is ready to make a difference.

In honor of National Adoption Month, PCHAS is sharing the stories of just a few of our amazing adoptive families. PCHAS is proud to provide Christ-centered foster care and adoption services. Learn more about fostering-to-adopt.