'Walk in a Manner Worthy': Colo man writes book on fostering and adoption, welcomes new daughter-in-law

Ronna Faaborg
Ames Tribune
Kim Combes of Colo officiates the wedding of Matt, his adoptive son, and Whitney, the daughter of his former foster client.

Kim Combes of Colo describes a recent event in his family as “The Wedding from Heaven.” It was his opportunity to officiate the marriage ceremony of his oldest adoptive son, Matt, and Whitney, the daughter of Combes’ former foster client, James Beach.

Combes started fostering in 1990 it and has long been his career to support it and promote it. In October, he published a book, “Walk In A Manner Worthy: A Voice In The Foster & Adoptive Care Wilderness,” which shares Combes’ decades of wisdom about fostering.

The wedding from heaven is a topic for another chapter for Combes.

James Beach was 12 years old and in foster care when Combes met him.

“Little did I know in December of 1984 that my five-year stint at the Story County Iowa Department of Human Services would make such an impact in my life in April 2021,” Combes wrote in a statement to the Tribune.

Combes said God gave him “a heart of compassion” for Beach. By the time Combes left DHS in 1989, he and Beach had “many shared experiences, much of which was a roller coaster ride for both of us."

But through the tumultuousness of Beach's adolescence, Combes stuck with him. 

“There was for me a unique mentor bond formed that was not going to be terminated just because I was no longer employed by the state,” he said.

After Beach turned 18, the two men kept in touch. Beach moved to Texas, married and had four children, the oldest of whom is Whitney, Combes’ new daughter-in-law.

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Kim Combes of Colo poses with his adoptive son Matt.

Walking the path he's preached

The close connection with a former foster client seems apropos for Combes, whose life’s work has revolved around the foster system as a social worker, speaker and author.

But Combes has also walked the path he’s preached about.

When he was a graduate student at Iowa State in 1990, he was also an interim worker for Lutheran Services of Iowa. His colleagues at DHS, where he had worked for five years prior to starting his master’s degree, asked him to become a licensed foster parent.

“I was single at the time, but I said, ‘Why not?’ and then I met Eddie at Rosedale shelter, where I did my practicum for my master’s degree,” Combes said in a phone interview. “I met this kid that didn't have a place to go. He was 15 years old. His adoption had been disrupted because of behaviors in the home. He couldn't go back to the home of the person who adopted him.

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“I had the heart for him. It was like God said to me, ‘Kim, I want this person to be in your home.’ Through Youth and Shelter Services, Eddie was my first placement in May of 1990.”

It was the start of something. Over the years, Combes has been a foster parent to about 35 young men. In April of 1999, he married his wife, Diane, and fostered a baby.

“Six months after we were married, we adopted him,” Combes said. “Five years later, we adopted a sibling group of four. So we’re done now. We’re empty nesters.”

It wasn’t always an easy path, but “God gave us grace and strength to make it through,” Combes said.

Kim Combes of Colo poses with his son Matt, new daughter-in-law Whitney and wife Diane on Matt and Whitney's wedding day in Colorado.

COVID-19 caused Matt and Whitney to redefine their relationship

Kim and Diane acted as “uncle and aunt” to Beach’s kids in Texas. The Combes’ oldest adoptive son, Matt, enjoyed spending time with the Beach family. Challenging life events led Whitney to move to the Combes home in Colo in November of 2019 to start a new chapter of her life.

“Then Covid hit. Life changed. Families rallied. It was during this rallying period that we spent more time together,” Combes wrote. “Emotions could run high. Perspectives transformed. We saw things in new light. Relationships grew and thus Matt and Whitney redefined their connection to each other after spending more time together.

“It was in February this year that they came to us asking if I would officiate their destination wedding at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado. On April 24, our 22nd wedding anniversary, James and (his wife) Becky drove north from Houston to accompany Diane, Matt’s 10-year-old son, Justin, and I to join our two loved ones together in holy matrimony.”

If someone years ago had predicted this happening, Combes would have laughed in sheer disbelief, he said.

“Who would have ever thought that my life in human services would have given me a daughter-in-law that, to some degree, I helped raise?” Combes wrote. “And if that wasn’t incredulous enough, top it off with now being in-laws with a former 12-year-old client, sharing his and Becky’s offspring together as ‘daughter.’”

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Whitney and Matt Combes and Matt's son, Justin, pose for a photo on the couple's wedding day.

Combes hopes others will open their homes

As Combes looks back over the last four decades of his career, he knows he’s made a difference in myriad lives, he said.

“It isn’t because I am any more special than anyone else. I grew up in the 70s carrying consequential burdens of choices I made as well as those things that impacted me over which I had no control,” he wrote. “I determined as a young adolescent that I could not make people trust me, but I could do my best to manifest the types of behaviors that I would have needed to perceive in others that could invite me to trust them.

“As I consciously developed the skills to do this, more and more people came to me for wisdom, advice, support and encouragement.”

Combes is hopeful that some readers “will be challenged to open up their homes to young people who need a stable home life to reach full potential.”

Combes looks up to Dr. Bruce Perry, an expert in the human services field whose research shows that “trauma changes the biology of the brain, but just one secure, nurturing and loving relationship can also change the biology of the brain.”

“In my son’s case, it led to him gaining a bride with whom to share life until death do them part,” Combes said.