Today is a special day for Niki Bolton. Not only is it Mother’s Day, but today Bolton and her husband, Brian, are going to stand up at Fellowship Bible Church in Cabot to dedicate their daughter, Paisley, to God.
Traditionally, these services where parents make a promise before their church to raise their child in a godly way are called baby dedications, but Paisley is not an infant — she is 8 years old. The Boltons brought her into their home on her 7th birthday and in October of last year were able to formally adopt her.
“We are beyond excited to finally get to dedicate her at church on Sunday,” Bolton said earlier in the week. “We are honored to do so.”
Bolton grew up between Cabot and Jacksonville, living at a Cabot address and attending Jacksonville schools. After graduating from Jacksonville High School, she attended Arkansas State University-Beebe, then went on to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to earn a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with the goal of being a teacher.
“We had to do our student teaching because secondary education was part of my major,” she said. “I just didn’t think I was ready to have my own classroom, so I ended up looking for another job and ended up at American Truck and Rail Audits, and I love it there.”
Bolton said she originally applied for a data-entry position at American Truck and Rail Audits, but her bosses soon saw she was capable of more, and now she is a manager and auditor for the company.
It was important for Bolton to find a job soon after graduation because she was getting married the next month. When asked how she and her husband met, Bolton laughed: They met through the social-media site MySpace.
“You say it now, and most of the kids are like, ‘What was MySpace?’” she said. “Brian had contacted me on there because he found out that I worked with his cousin at the time [at Shorty Small’s in Little Rock].”
Bolton said she has known her whole life that she wanted to adopt a child someday, and this was something Brian was on board with from the beginning. Still, even when two people share the same vision for how to grow their family, circumstances can change that plan. For the Boltons, faith in God helped them accept changes to their plan.
“Brian and I were on the same page about adoption. That should be something you talk about before you even get married,” Bolton said. “We had what we called ‘The Bolton Plan,’ which was we wanted to have a baby and then adopt a child. After a while, it was more clear that The Bolton Plan was not God’s plan. The more control we gave up in our plans, we saw that God had a plan for us.”
The couple decided to go ahead and look into adoption, and Bolton said they were particular about the kind of child for which they were looking. In the meantime, the Boltons agreed to do respite care for foster parents, giving parents a break by taking care of the children for a few hours at a time. Plans changed once again when Delyce Palik, a friend from church who is also the Lonoke County Court Appointed Special Advocates executive director, asked the Boltons to meet with a 6-year-old girl who needed a home.
“After the first time meeting her, we were so excited,” Bolton said of their daughter. “Our plan went from adoption of a small child to becoming a foster home so we could have her in our home. After that, they just kept calling, and we just kept praying and saying, ‘Yes.’”
Paisley was the first child to come into the Bolton home, and the couple made sure she came in style. It was her 7th birthday, and they had a party for her, including a bounce house, cake and pizza.
“She got to come to the house before everyone showed up,” Bolton said. “We just invited family and our friends from church. We probably had at least 60 people. It was so awesome. She really got to feel loved and act crazy. It was beautiful.”
The Boltons knew they wanted to adopt Paisley, but there were other children who needed foster homes. Within two weeks of Paisley moving in, the Boltons got a call about an infant who needed placement.
“I always call Brian because we function as a team,” Bolton said. “I call us Team Bolton all the time. We usually pray about it, but rarely is it a ‘no.’ We just have not stopped since then.”
Bolton said it is important to her to make sure all of the foster children who come through her home feel loved and know they are a part of the family, even after they leave. In some cases, she has even met and gotten to know the children’s biological parents, and she makes sure to keep a life book full of memories to give to the biological parents once they are reunited with their children.
“A lot of times, people tell me that they couldn’t do what we are doing, that it would be too hard to let go when it’s time to send the children home,” she said. “To be honest, for a long time that fear held me back as well. However, it’s by God’s grace that we can do it. Nowhere does it ever say that doing God’s work would be easy and without trials. Nowhere does it say that being in the mission field — and as a foster family, that is in your home — would be easy, but they are worth it. To love them without hesitation and without reservation, they are worth it.”
Bolton is now an advisory-board member for The CALL in Lonoke and Prairie Counties, an organization that works to encourage and help the Christian community to open homes for Arkansas’ foster children. Bolton said The CALL has been a blessing to her — providing supplies when a new child arrives, arranging meals to help out those first few days and making training available — and she has taken a lot of time to volunteer with the organization to help encourage and advise other foster parents.
“Not everyone is meant to be a foster or adoptive parent. However, everyone can do something to help,” she said. “Find a foster family in your community or church, and partner with them. Sometimes just helping them with everyday chores or activities could make a huge impact. Volunteer with The CALL. There are so many great things that are happening and could be happening through this organization.”
CASA is another avenue to help children, Bolton said, and CASA has been another great resource for foster parents because the CASA advocates know the child and his or her needs.
In addition to her work with The CALL and foster children, Bolton is active in her church. Both she and her husband work in the tech booth at Fellowship Bible Church in Cabot, and they also both lead small groups of the church’s youths. Aside from these responsibilities, the Boltons lead a group through their church for people who are interested or involved with foster care or adoption.
In everything she does, Bolton said, she has support from multiple sources. Her husband takes care of the children and encourages her when she works with The CALL, and her other family members and friends have offered their support whenever possible.
“We could not do this without our family and friends, our church support at Fellowship Bible Church-Cabot and, most importantly, God and his infinite love and grace,” she said. “He loved us first so that we may love these children the same.”
Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.