The Langsdorfs: A Family Formed by Fate
By Erin Reilly, Regional Technical Assistant
One summer morning at the Renzie Park Farmers Market in McKeesport, Heather and David Langsdorf noticed an information booth for Auberle, a faith-based social services agency that was recruiting foster parents. Heather always wanted to be a foster parent, so they immediately went over to the booth to learn more. Without hesitating, Heather and David decided to apply to be foster parents and were certified in Fall 2018. They chose to provide strictly foster care for children up to five years of age, but they were open to adopting if needed.
Heather and David’s first foster care placement involved two young children around two years of age. Unfortunately, the placement was incredibly challenging, and both children had a difficult time adjusting. “I cried for two whole days,” Heather recalled. At that time, both Heather and David felt that maybe being foster parents wasn’t for them and considered closing their home to any future placements.
Not too long after that experience, a single, serendipitous phone call relit Heather and David’s pathway to parenthood. Auberle asked the Langsdorfs if a teenaged youth from their residential program could spend Thanksgiving Day with them, as she had nowhere to go. The Langsdorfs agreed, happy just to give the teen an opportunity to have a holiday meal with their family. On Thanksgiving, Natalee walked into the Langsdorf’s home, appearing to be “quiet and terrified.” The Langsdorfs did not receive a lot of information about Natalee prior to the visit aside from her name and age, but that didn’t matter as their connection was instantaneous. David reminisced about that day and said, “Once Natalee started talking, she just fit and clicked with our family.”
The next day, Heather and David went on a Black Friday shopping trip, and they recalled walking around feeling like Natalee should be with them; something just didn’t feel right without her. Heather called the Auberle caseworker to ask if Natalee could come shopping with them that day. Natalee happily agreed, and from that moment on, she never left their family. Natalee visited with the Langsdorfs week after week until she was officially placed into their home. After several delays resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Natalee was given a forever seat at the Langsdorf’s Thanksgiving table when her adoption was finalized in May of 2020.
The Langsdorf’s journey to permanency was not without struggles; Natalee experienced a lot of emotional trauma and feelings of abandonment. Heather and David shared that creating a “contract,” similar to a Permanency Pact, helped Natalee feel more secure. The family also benefitted from SWAN Units of Service, particularly Child Preparation and Post-permanency. Heather stated, “All of the providers were amazing, especially Auberle and Pressley Ridge,” and shared that creating a lifebook through Child Preparation was a great experience on which Natalee will always be able to look back. Post-permanency services, specifically Respite, encouraged family bonding through fun activities like axe throwing and a glass art class. The family also received supplies to help them start a garden and grow their own vegetables together. Heather noted that their participation in these activities was especially important during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Heather and David Langsdorf received the Permanent Family Recognition Award at the 2021 Pennsylvania Permanency Conference in June 2021. The family reflected on their permanency journey with Natalee, and they are so thankful for the call that changed all three of their lives for the better. Heather and David set out on their foster care journey with certain expectations and a vision of what the process would look like, but they could not be happier that their vision was challenged. Heather and David’s advice to any family that is considering foster care or adoption is to “just do it,” adding that, “You have so much more to offer than you think you do.”
Erin Reilly is a SWAN regional technical assistant in the northeast. Previously, Erin worked as a SWAN LSI paralegal in Bucks County and as a case manager for two SWAN affiliate agencies. After nine years of working in child welfare, Erin has developed a passion for foster family recruitment to increase permanency outcomes for older youth. She is inspired by the resiliency and adaptability of foster families and youth and was humbled to conduct this interview and see firsthand the impact of this family’s love and dedication.