We were DFS kids.

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I jumped on a train, I wondered if you were doing the same. I’ve slept on the streets, not sure if you’d even know my name. I’ve been hungry and I prayed you’d find a feast. I’ve been tired, I prayed you’d find peace.”

In the early summer days of 2015, when 80 degrees already felt oppressive, everything changed. Scrolling through random social media posts about who was eating Taco Bell and who had recently mowed their yard, I came across an image of a woman with a sign. Just before scrolling on, I caught a few lines.

“His birth name was Casey Joe Collins.”

Odd. That was my birth name.

“His birthday was 04-27-1987.”

Very odd. That’s my birthday.

“Monett Missouri.”

Well hell, that’s where my foster home was.

That’s when it hit me. For the first time in 28 years I was looking at the woman who brought me into this world. It’s been a very strange life and few things shake me, but my heart stopped and I had to consciously remind myself to inhale and exhale.

I have always known I was adopted. It never bothered me, even when kids made fun of me in school. “You were adopted! Nobody wanted you!” Kids sure can be mean, but a thick skin has always served me well. Somewhere around third grade I realized I had more ammunition than any of them. “I. Got. Picked. Someone walked into a house of kids, in a system with untold options for adoption prospects, and picked ME. I bet you were an accident.” That shut them up.

After seeing mom’s post, I sat on it for a few weeks. I wasn’t aware of the circumstances that led to my time in foster care, and after 28 years of not having a relationship I wasn’t sure I wanted to open that door. Eventually, I respond because I wanted her to know I was okay.

“Hello, my name is Jake Turner, I’m who you’re looking for. I was adopted at three by a very loving man who has made sure I had every opportunity in this world. I hope you’re well and just wanted to let you know I’m making it just fine.”

Enter my brother Shane. He responded in the best way possible.”I’m your brother Shane. I’ve been looking for you since the day you were adopted. I know this is all very strange, and I’m leaving the ball in your court as far as contact and a relationship.”

I always wanted siblings. Growing up in the middle of nowhere can be lonesome. We decided to meet and immediately I understood what all the hoopla about blood relations was. It only took 28 years. Since then I’ve been able to experience the most incredible things that many take for granted. In my late twenties I got to jump on a trampoline with my brother. We’ve played video games for hours together. I’ll never forget the first time I shot fireworks with my big brother on the Fourth of July.

The most common question I get when folks hear my story is: “what’s it like to be adopted?”

Normal. I understand the question, but it’s a little silly. What’s it like to live with your biological family? Normal. Normal is relative.

I have a few take aways from this part of my strange life:

Family is a choice. I have a really big family. From the Turners to the Collins and hundreds of folks I’ve met along the way. We’ve all DECIDED that we are family and that’s not something you’re born into. I have family that I see a few times a year when they pass through on tour, or when I tour to their towns. If I call you friend, that means you’re family.

Be more than you should be. On paper, I shouldn’t be much. Shane and I have spent hours talking about how going through foster care, and having the ups and downs that we’ve had, don’t generally translate into successful humans. I think we’re doing alright, for being wards of the state.

-Jake Bradley Turner