Preschooler Darren and his elementary-school-aged sister became wards of the state after being left unattended in the family’s New York City apartment, which caught fire.
Darren remembers life subsequently becoming a succession of foster and group homes, his anger manifesting in bad behavior. Then Jim Allan Morris, whom he knew from church, told the then-9-year-old boy he wanted to adopt him. In the Morris household, Darren would have six new brothers who, like Darren, had expressed rage in misbehavior, resulting in failed placements in foster and group homes.
While helping street kids in Bogotá, Colombia, in the mid-1980s, God burdened social worker Jim to minister to traumatized children, to love them unconditionally, and someday provide them with a forever family. Darren joined adolescent boys permanently removed from their biological families because of abuse, neglect, or both.
It’s not surprising that Jim, the supervisor of a group home, chose to adopt. His mother and a brother are both adopted and another brother adopted five children. But in 1991, Jim, then single and 31, says the Lord spoke to him about pursuing custody of 11-year-old Herman, a process that didn’t come to fruition until the boy turned 13.
From there he became legally licensed as a foster parent in New York, which opened the way for Herman’s brother Adam, and then John and Andrew and others.
“I never intended before getting married to start adopting kids and go this route,” Jim says. “God put these kids in my path one by one. It wasn’t a plan I had. When you start to trust the Lord, you let Him call the shots.”
Soon after becoming a Morris, Darren and his new family found themselves invited to the White House in 2003, when President George W. Bush recognized the family as he signed the Adoption Promotion Act.
That year, Jim met Araceli.
“She had the same heart,” Jim says. “It didn’t take long to realize God had called us together, and we fell in love pretty quickly.” They married in 2004. Not only did Araceli adopt Jim’s seven, but together they adopted 10 more in New York and, later, Texas. Additionally, they have raised eight others as children in foster care, both formally placed and de facto. The children are Black, Hispanic, white, and biracial. Jim is white and Araceli is Hispanic. The couple have no biological children.
At most, nine children lived in their home at once, either in New York or metro Dallas, where they attend First Assembly Lavon. Two children live with them today. Araceli is a stay-at-home mom.
Jim is program director of North Fork Educational Center, a residential treatment center for troubled youth ages 5 to 17, children and youth deemed too difficult to live in foster homes because of emotional, behavioral, and cognitive issues.
Some of his own children had a dozen failed foster placements prior to arriving at the Morris home.
“Before they moved in, we said, ‘We want to adopt you. We’re not going to give up on you. We’re going to work through this stuff together,’” Jim says. “It’s a small way of being able to mirror how God adopts us into His family.”
Among the Morris family’s guiding Scriptures is Proverbs 22:6, which promises, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
“When you’re going through the storms in the teen years, it’s so hard to believe,” Jim says, adding that God’s Word proves itself true as the family has received supernatural provision. Some have received government stipends as adoptees or foster children. Each child has defied the odds. “We took kids who were messing up.”
When Darren was in middle school, his principal told him he would be dead or in jail by age 21. In contrast, at a youth retreat Darren surrendered his life to Christ. The Holy Spirit began to heal his anger. Now 29, he’s an ordained minister who, with his wife, Ariel, has two biological children and leads worship in a nondenominational church in New York. They are setting up a foster care ministry in Atlanta. He traces his positive outcome to his adopted father’s unconditional love.
“I got a firsthand visual of what the love of the Father looks like,” Darren says. “I’ve always had a hard time believing I was worthy of love and accepting love.”
All but two of the children adopted by Morris are male. Most have been adopted between the ages of 10 and 16.
“You can imagine a houseful of boys dealing with trauma and hurt,” Darren says. “My dad really worked hard to break the barrier we’ve all had. I wouldn’t trade my family for the world.”
Jim points to 2 Corinthians 5:7.
“Humans want to be able to see in order to believe,” Jim says. “God tells us believe and you will see. Step out of the boat and keep your eyes on Jesus. Then you’ll see the power of God unleashed in your life.”
Jim admits to times of massive anxiety.
“Those trials and tribulations produce the faith and the ability to see God’s hand on our lives,” he says. “When things look impossible, God provides.”
Jim says that while not all the adopted children have become Christians, all have turned out well. He and Araceli don’t take credit for the outcomes. That they’re all moving in a good direction is clearly testament to what God can do with children whose hearts are open, he says.
It’s important for prospective adoptive parents who provide foster care to be willing vessels showing unconditional love, according to Morris. Threatening to not adopt a child who misbehaves sends the wrong message, he says. Morris believes the Church must step up for children languishing in the foster care system.
“Without Christ, there’s not going to be full healing and restoration,” he says. “Think of kids who would experience restoration and salvation. Imagine the impact on the lives of these children.”