Up at bat for his select baseball team, Halen Fletcher, 17, called a time out.
Through the noise of the crowd, he’d heard his 4-year-old sister, Bella, call his name. For Halen, the oldest of seven siblings, Bella, the youngest, will always be in charge.
“I said, ‘time out,’ and I walked over there, gave her a kiss through the fence and went back to bat,” he said. “They didn’t say anything about it. The umpire asks, ‘is that your little sister?’ and I said, ‘yeah.'”
But Bella hasn’t aways been Halen’s sister. She and her two biological brothers, Kameron and Kolton, joined the family of four boys on a temporary basis nearly four years ago while in the custody of their aunt. The three had been placed with her after being removed from a home environment deemed unacceptable by the state.
Parents Eric and Brandy Fletcher knew about the situation and offered to help care for Bella, then just months old.
“We kind of gradually started babysitting them,” Eric said. “It grew where Kameron and Kolton would come stay after school, too. Before you know it, they were all staying overnight.”
As the three gradually became part of the already-large Fletcher family, Eric and Brandy prayed about the children, asking God how they could help care for three more kids.
“We decided that maybe we could step in,” Brandy said. “They were having a hard time caring for an additional three.”
In 2013, knowing the children’s aunt wasn’t going to be able to keep caring for them, the Fletchers petitioned Child Protective Services for designation as emergency placement for the children.
It was too late.
“I remember the day,” Eric said. “I took the boys to a football game in Alvarado because I knew CPS was coming to get [Kameron, Kolton and Bella] and I didn’t want them to be here for it. I had to explain it on the drive home.”
Eric said the family’s petition wasn’t pushed through in time. Since they weren’t immediate family, the three were placed in foster care.
For Halen and his brothers, it was devastating.
“They took them away. It was really different because we had already adjusted to them being here,” he said. “It was hard. I mean, it wasn’t ever normal around the house after that.”
Although they checked with CPS regularly, the family didn’t hear news about Kolton, Kameron or Bella for six months. They didn’t know where the three had been taken.
“You sit here and you pray, ‘Lord, use us how you need us,’ whether that’s in missions or jumping out of this to go be a missionary,” Eric said. “This was our purpose. God led us to this. We weren’t going to close the door. And we weren’t not going to fight for them. They needed a home. They needed love.”
In February 2014, the couple finally heard back.
“A caseworker called and said, ‘are y’all still interested?’ Brandy said. “We practically screamed, ‘yes.'”
The three came home, this time for good. But Halen said things didn’t pick up where they left off.
“I remember the day getting Bella back because she didn’t remember who we were,” Halen said. “Kolton and Kameron remembered, but they were still shy.”
While Eric and Brandy were working with CPS to create a suitable home for the kids, Halen, Zhakry, Bralyn and Jaxsyn were teaching their new siblings how to play baseball. Together, the family almost has enough members to form its own team.
“They picked that up really well, actually,” Halen said. “I didn’t expect that. The four of us used to play games, and it’d be two on two. Now we have more players. There’s basketball, too.
“Now they’re dang good little soccer players. They can school me, and they’re getting stronger, I can tell you that.”
Moving forward, the family faced a lengthy court battle with the kids’ biological father, who Eric said would regularly and abruptly try to re-enter his children’s lives. After a year of communication issues, the fight came to a head at the kid’s school.
“He showed up at the school unannounced and gave a fake name,” Eric said. “The school called me at work. I’m in the middle of this big audit, but I said, ‘guys, I’ve got to go.’ I called the police department, and they met me there. He just thought he could show up because I wasn’t allowing him to have visits. After that, we stopped hearing from him.”
Eric and Brandy won a court fight for sole custody in January. Since then, they’ve pushed for legal adoption of Kolton, Kameron and Bella. It’s a move Eric said the whole family is ready for. He’s expecting the process to be finished before the end of the school year.
“When we told them we were going to adopt them, they were so excited,” he said. “They went to school and said ‘we finally get to have our last name Fletcher.”
In watching his sons transform into leaders, who help get the family ready for school in the morning, Eric said he’s also seen himself change into the father of a daughter. “Bella is a daddy’s girl,” he said. “And I never really understood that having boys all these years. I’ll tell you, there’s something about a daddy’s girl. They’ll make you weep. They’ve all made us closer as a family and made us learn to love better.”
A raffle is being held to help offset the cost associated with adopting Bella, Kolton and Kameron. Prizes include $300 cash and a Savage rifle with a 3-9X40 Nikon scope.
Tickets for the cash are one for $5 or five for $20. Tickets for the rifle are one for $10 or three for $25. The rifle winner can choose between .243, .270, or 25-06 models.
Call 940-389-1442 or 940-389-3400 for details or mail cash to Courtney Fletcher, P.O. Box 184, Slidell, TX 76267. Include the number of raffle tickets you would like for each item. The drawing is scheduled for early March.