“Changing Children’s Lives,” Ensign, June 1998, 71
Over the past 16 years, 25 children have called Rebecca Freebairn “Mom.” She and her husband, Paul, have six biological children and have taken in a total of 19 foster children at various times, two of whom they have adopted.
When Sister Freebairn first met her husband, she was impressed by his desire to adopt children from orphanages in Korea, where he had served his mission. Though that wish never materialized, it was the catalyst that led them many years later to take in children from troubled backgrounds.
When asked why she and her husband have chosen to do this, Sister Freebairn replies, “Everyone is a child of God. Why should anyone not have the opportunity to be loved?”
At one time the Freebairns had a total of 12 children in their home, 9 of whom were teenagers. “Every day there was a major crisis,” says Sister Freebairn. “But I learned that for every incident that comes about, there is a way out. We got through it, and when the time came I just hated to see the foster children go.”
Brother and Sister Freebairn mix firm discipline with large doses of love, and when problems arise they can often be found on their knees, asking for the Lord’s help. “When you raise your own children, Heavenly Father gives you so much to do it with,” Sister Freebairn says. “And when you take on other children, he gives you even more to help you survive—gifts like charity, patience, and long-suffering.”
One of the more difficult situations the Freebairns found themselves in occurred several years ago, when they took in a very disturbed and angry four-year-old girl who had been in three previous foster homes. She had a serious attachment disorder and would often try to bite and hit the Freebairns’ other children, even threatening one with a knife. “Like a lot of kids from difficult backgrounds, she was trying to test us,” says Sister Freebairn. “I think what she needed to learn was that no matter what she did, I really meant it when I told her I loved her and that that would never change.
“When she was good she got a lot of attention,” Sister Freebairn explains. “Eventually she just got better and better.” Though the Freebairns yearned to adopt her, after much prayer they realized that another family was meant to be her “forever family.” It was not by mere coincidence that Sister Freebairn was ledto that family, and the little girl is now doing well in her new home.
Sister Freebairn is quick to emphasize that she is not a “super mom.” But she says she has learned a great deal from her experiences, particularly that the gospel is a powerful source of hope. “I’ve found that Heavenly Father will never put any of us in a situation that we cannot get out of,” she says. “People might say, ‘That child will never change,’ which sounds so final, so hopeless. But because of the gospel I know that every single person can change and become better. I’ve seen it happen.”
Sister Freebairn is a visiting teacher in the Hauula Second Ward, Laie Hawaii Stake.