Six-year-old Lilly made her Christmas wish list and checked it twice. But she'll get more than toys this Christmas, she'll get a family of her own.
Lily has spent half of her life at Sunrise Children's Services, a faith-based adoption agency in Kentucky that specializes in ministering to abused and neglected children.
Her birth mother had a raging drug addiction and often left Lily starving.
Last week, Judge Derwin L. Webb officially made the smiling six-year-old the adoptive daughter of Paul and Michelle Chitwood.
"When we first got Lilly, we could tell that this three-year-old had been in a very difficult situation," Paul told Kentucky Today. "She had headlice and bedbug bites. The first night she was with us, when Michelle tucked her into bed, she asked a question: 'Will we have food tomorrow?' She continued to ask that question for several nights until she realized that she would never go hungry in our home."
"After about a week of trying to reassure her she would have food the next day, I placed a bowl of Cheerios beside her bed, and that was the fix," Michelle explained. "She never worried about food after that."
Lily was only supposed to stay will the Chitwoods temporarily until her birth mother won her battle with drugs.
"She bonded with us very quickly, as we did with her," Paul said. "I knew that we would be giving her up very soon to be reunited with her mother, at least that was the state's initial plan, but also knew that it would break our hearts."
The Chitwoods realized they would get the opportunity to be more than Lily's foster parents when the state realized her mother was not handling her drug problem.
"As it turned out, the state had to terminate the parental rights of Lilly's birth parents," Paul said. "When we learned she would not be able to go back to her mother, the decision to adopt her was one of the easiest decisions we've ever made."
While the Chitwoods see raising foster children as their ministry, they are no stranger to the church. Paul was a pastor for nearly two decades and he serves as president of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Missions Board.
Michelle urges other Christians to get involved in foster care
"If every church in Kentucky got involved with foster care, the very landscape of our state would change," Michelle told Kentucky Today. "I'm not just talking about giving money or buying a Christmas present; I'm talking boots on the ground, making relationships with kids in residential care or even giving a child a place in your home. We all have tons of excuses to not get involved but we live in a state where kids are in crisis. This crisis has an easy fix."