Deacon John and Theresa Krepps share their adoption testimony
By Gabrielle Nolan
Theresa Krepps tells her children that even though they did not grow in her belly, they grew in her heart.
Mrs. Krepps and her husband of 39 years, Deacon John Krepps, are the parents of five adopted children, who range in age from 12 to 33 years old. The multiracial family is a mix of Caucasian, African American, and Korean.
The Krepps, who moved to Tennessee in 2017, attend St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Lenoir City, where Deacon Krepps serves.
Starting a family
Deacon Krepps met his wife when he was a senior in college coming home for Christmas break.
“It was actually God-ordained,” he said, noting that he jokingly asked his father to fix him up on a date.
“Interestingly enough, my dad and Theresa’s mother grew up next door to each other, lived next to each other their entire lives,” Deacon Krepps said. “My grandmother actually converted her grandmother, brought her back to the Catholic Church. So, the families were very close. We actually played together when we were younger… but we never really knew each other growing up, never interacted.”
After what Deacon Krepps describes as a whirlwind romance, they were married six months later, following his college graduation.
“We knew we had very similar family values,” Deacon Krepps said. “Our families were so close.”
“We both wanted a nice-sized family,” Mrs. Krepps said.
However, her doctor made the observation that she may not be able to have children.
“We have five babies that are in heaven that we miscarried with, never went to full-term with,” Mrs. Krepps shared.
The reality of being unable to have biological children led the Krepps on a different path: foster care and adoption.
‘They’re our children’
“We still wanted to have children, so we looked at doing foster care because there’s a lot of kids out there that need good foster parents that can spend time with them and help them and get them back on track,” Mrs. Krepps explained.
Over the years while fostering, the Krepps were able to assist the lives of approximately 80 children.
“We were also foster parents to children that were up for adoption, and I just thought that would be the sweetest thing to be able to do, that I was able to hand somebody their child that they were adopting,” Mrs. Krepps said. “At the same time, we still desired our own. So, we ended up letting everybody under the sun know that we would like to adopt.”
Their first adoption, daughter Megan, happened in April 1989.
“We were blessed by a foster child who we really didn’t know, but she knew of us because we would do the Christmas Santa and Mrs. Claus at Christmas time and things like that,” Deacon Krepps explained. “She had heard through the grapevine that we were wanting to adopt a child, and she was pregnant. So, she went to her foster mother and asked if we could possibly be considered to adopt. We went through a private adoption through the attorney, and then God just opened a door after that.”
At the time, some family and friends were skeptical that the Krepps were open to multiracial adoptions.
“I think people were maybe well-meaning in saying that you know what kind of issues you’re going to have to deal with and so on and so forth, and they’ll never really feel like they’re part of your family,” Deacon Krepps said. “And I would say, for a period of time, I was even starting to question that in my own mind, is this what God wants us to do?”
“After we made the decision with the first child, knowing that she would be biracial because we were notified before she was born, we said yes. I think from that point on, I didn’t worry about that anymore, and when she came into our house and just beginning to raise her, it’s like that thought didn’t even cross my mind,” Deacon Krepps explained.
The door opened again a few years later with the second adoption, welcoming son Joshua into the family in October 1992.
Now that the couple was blessed with two children, they decided there were many other families out there wanting to adopt and so they would take a step back.
But in December 1995, as they were celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Theresa opened up to her husband again about adopting.
“I looked at John and I said, now I know we made this agreement, but for the past couple months I really feel that God is still telling us we need to be open,” she remarked. “So, we prayed, and I prayed specifically that a child that was in danger would literally just be dropped on the steps. On Dec. 26 we got a phone call.”
“It happened to be a nurse friend that we knew, and they needed to know right away,” Mrs. Krepps said. “Turns out the birth mother told no one about her being pregnant. … On the 25th, Christmas Day, the water broke of the birth mother, she didn’t tell anyone. She was 17 years old, and it wasn’t until the next day still nothing had happened, that she finally told her parents.”
“We felt that this was truly of God because it was a miracle he even survived. … Today he’s 6‑foot‑ 1 and very healthy, and he’s doing very well,” she said of son Jordan, the third adoption.
Deacon Krepps noted that after the first two adoptions, he felt God laid on his heart to make room for another daughter. When they received the call from the hospital about the third adoption, Deacon Krepps was expecting a baby girl.
“I thought for sure, well this is the girl that the Lord had planned for us. And when we got the call on Dec. 28, and I asked if it was a boy or a girl, they said it was a boy. And I was like, oh, Lord, what are you doing to me?” he said.
The fourth adoption was, indeed, a baby girl.
“My first cousin had become pregnant, and her mother, my aunt—nobody was in the position where they could raise a child,” Deacon Krepps explained. “My aunt was grief-stricken that she may not be able to see her granddaughter grow up, and she was afraid to ask us, thinking we had already raised a family. … My mom got talking to my aunt, and they said, [we] would be open to it, and so the rest is history so to speak.”
Their daughter, Emily, joined the family in January 2000.
For the fifth and final adoption, the Krepps adopted their grandson, Jaiden, in September 2016.
“Our oldest son had some issues and the biological mother, as well, such that they were not in a position where they could raise their child,” Deacon Krepps explained. “We ended up adopting our grandson, as well, so we’re raising him now.”
“I consider them as my sons and my daughters, and I don’t feel any differently than if they would have been biological children,” he continued. “So, I would say that, to me, was probably the most spiritual aspect of going through is that full acceptance and being able to accept somebody as just exactly who they were and love them unconditionally. They’re our children.”
The Krepps have words of wisdom to share from their own experiences with adoption.
“For those into the journey already, I think it’s very important to be open to everything,” Mrs. Krepps said. “Be open to pray and hear what God is calling them to do because there are God’s children everywhere that truly need to be adopted and have a forever home.”
She noted that the road to adopting a child is not always easy, noting that once they lost a child they thought they were going to adopt.
“John was in the service at the time; they just felt the child needed to stay in that state. That was very hard because we had that baby for what, two weeks, before they told us that was going to happen,” Mrs. Krepps recalled.
Another possibility is the birth mother may change her mind at the last moment.
“I’ve heard of cases like that, and that’s very hard,” Mrs. Krepps said. “But again, being open to knowing that anything can happen I think is the most important thing when you’re in the midst of it.”
She also advises to open up to family and friends about being “pregnant.”
“It might take a year, but you’re expecting—and not to be afraid to feel that way,” Mrs. Krepps said. “Many people are afraid to open up and share because somebody might fall through… but as long as you keep it under the Lord… it will come together, and God will bless that.”
Deacon Krepps noted that “a lot of doors were opened because a lot of our family and friends knew we wanted to adopt,” and he encourages anyone thinking about adopting to inform any lawyers, case workers, or nurses that they know.
Deacon Krepps remembered many people telling him the average time to wait for your first adoption was three to five years.
“Many people shared this with us while we were still waiting for our first child,” he said. “They emphatically said don’t get discouraged, and then they said what’s going to happen after your first adoption, the floodgates will open and seems like a lot more opportunities will avail themselves.”
“And that’s exactly what happened to us, as well,” he continued. “So, spend that three to five years doing what you can… helping out other families with their children.”
Deacon Krepps noted that with their adoptions the lawyer fee to enact the paperwork was the biggest expense.
“As adoptions are concerned, you don’t need to have a lot of money, and I don’t think a lot of people realize that, especially if you don’t go through an agency,” he said. “All of our adoptions were private adoptions except one.”
“We didn’t have the opportunity to consider Catholic adoption agencies at that time. So, I’m very excited that that’s opening up here in the Knoxville area,” Mrs. Krepps added, referring to Catholic Charities’ Adoption Services program.
Catholic Charities of East Tennessee now offers adoption through its Adoption Services program, which went into full operation in 2022.
“I’m very excited about that because more people have an opportunity to adopt that have not been able to in the past,” she said. “I believe that it is a calling from the Lord, and it’s a vocation.”