The Kemper Family
Our adoption story began when our 3 bio children were young. Hank and I always knew we wanted to adopt “someday” and started taking the DHS foundations classes even before we were to a place in our lives where we could actually proceed with an adoption. We found the classes informative and a good resource for learning about children from “hard places” as well as connecting with other foster/adopt families.
In 2004, the time was finally right to move forward with our plan to adopt when an infant relative was born in California and placed straight into foster care. We got to experience 6 months of grueling ICPC protocol before we were finally able to pick her up and bring her home to Oregon. During the time we waited for her and for a couple years after she joined our family, we were foster parents to several children. Unbeknownst to us, each of these experiences was helping prepare us for an even bigger adoption adventure.
Fast forward about 4 years to when I met a couple with several children and began a friendship with them. We didn’t live very close together so contact was infrequent, but I was enjoying getting to know them until one night when the oldest child called to tell me they’d been taken into state custody and his parents arrested. When the dust settled, the parents ended up in prison and their large family of children was split into several different homes. At that point, it became clear to Hank and I that we would pursue the adoption of a large sibling group in order to prevent them from being split up. As disappointing as it was, we were too late to be a resource for my friend’s children since we’d stopped fostering the year before and were unable to recertify quickly enough to be considered.
In 2012, with 2 of our children married and the 3rd in college and looking at marriage, our youngest, age 8 then, realized that the nest was getting pretty empty so we started talking about adoption again. We discovered AFFEC through the Heart Gallery displays and website so we talked to the DHS adoption agent who’d helped us with our first adoption about using them to recertify us. She encouraged us to contact AFFEC, saying they’d probably be faster than the state because at the time she was the only adoption certifier for 2 counties and was having to help certify foster homes because of a sudden influx of children.
We took her advice and contacted AFFEC. They were offering partial scholarships to families interested in adopting sibling groups of 3 or more so the time seemed right. Before we could finish our homestudy, my mom had a stroke and we were delayed another 6 months. When she was sufficiently recovered to move home, we completed our homestudy and by the first week of Oct. 2013 we were officially certified to start looking for kids.
We had specific goals in mind when we started looking and submitted on the ones that looked like they might be a good fit. We tried to keep our options open by considering special needs each group might have and not being too selective. We actually went to committee on 2 different groups (and were runners-up on a 3rd) but each time the committee decision was split with the final decision sending the children to other families. Although it was disappointing, we took satisfaction in knowing that because we’d submitted on them and gone to committee, we’d played a part in helping them find forever families. Another couple groups we found out had greater needs than we could manage or were smaller than we were wanting so we declined going to committee on them.
Each night I’d spend an hour or so perusing websites of waiting children and bookmarking favorites. I tried to keep my submissions between 5 and 10 and as groups would get placed I’d submit on others. In late Nov. I was doing my nightly research actually looking for a group I’d bookmarked and not finding them when I found another couple groups of 5. I submitted on both after getting the thumbs up from my hubby and our daughter and heard just before Christmas that we would be included in the selection committee being held for one of the groups in Jan. 2014. We continued to submit on a couple other groups while we waited knowing that it was still “anybody’s ball game”. We were confident in our qualifications and knew we’d find the right match. While we waited I researched the health and behavior issues the children had been diagnosed with and options for treatment and management.
February 4, 2014 I got a call from our caseworker saying, “Congratulations! It’s 2 boys and 3 girls!” We were contacted by the adoption worker from the children’s state within a few days and plans were made to go meet them over Valentine’s weekend. We sent email albums of our family to the caseworker so she could present them to the children who’d been living in separate foster homes about a year and ½ and tell them the news that their new family had been found. When the worker told the oldest 2 girls who had been in foster care 3 years, they cautiously inquired if the adoption would include all 5 of them. When told that we wanted all 5 of them, arms shot up in the air and shouts of, "Yes! This is what we’ve been waiting for!” mingled with tears.
The children, who ranged in age from almost 2 to almost 10, were very ready to meet us and seemed to take to us very quickly. Our daughter still at home had helped me make “promise” blankets for them while we were waiting and as I wrapped blankets around the 2 oldest I told them that those blankets would remind them of our promise to return for them as soon as the ICPC was finished. Those blankets are still some of their most treasured possessions. We returned home after a whirlwind trip and got busy setting up bedrooms and moving things out and around to make room for our new family in our 1400 sq ft house. On April 2nd we drove across the country to pick our kids up. The road trip was quick for the amount of miles and states we needed to cover but it went a long way toward starting that bonding process for all of us.
Beth 10, Jo-Ellen 9, Jeremy 6, Trinity 3, and Henry 2 have now been part of our family for almost 7 months and it feels like they’ve always been there. Many of the “problems” the children were exhibiting in foster care disappeared and/or lessened once they realized they were all safely settled in their forever family and that they could trust Mom and Dad to take care of them and be fair with them. I told them when they first arrived that we don’t choose favorites. A couple weeks ago I asked them if they believed that statement was true. They were quiet a minute thinking about it and then Jo-Ellen said, “No, you do have a favorite!” I cringed wondering what they’d noticed that I’d unintentionally done to give them that idea, perhaps something with our first adoptee? I got brave enough to ask who they thought was my favorite and the 4 oldest all said simultaneously, “It’s ME!” Then looked with astonishment at each other, for they all truly believed it. I guess it is ok to have favorites!
A couple of the most touching comments include one of the girls telling me that she didn’t feel adopted, she feels like family. The other was when I overheard our new adoptees talking to our original adoptee and they were eagerly discussing their futures, all of which include adopting, “Like Mom and Dad,” they said. They want to know when we can adopt again!
We chose adoption in part, not because our family was incomplete but because theirs was and we could change that.
The Shipley Family
We are the Shipley family. We are a happy family who love to spend time together. We have not always been as big a family as we are now. When my husband and I started planning our family we thought we would have two biological children and then adopt two children. After having two beautiful daughters we decided we would like to adopt two little boys to round out the family.
We started the process to adopt through DHS. We took weeks worth of classes and filled out stacks of paper. When we finally had a home study completed and we were ready to start looking at bulletins, we were told we would most likely not get a younger boy unless we did foster care. We were scared to do foster care and have our hearts broken in the process so we prayed about what to do next. We felt like maybe looking into adopting an older child was where we were being led. We talked to our adoption worker and she said that adopting an older child could cause all sorts of problems for our little family, she also stated again that the best children get picked out through foster care and that we should switch our home study over to a foster file. We did switch over to being foster parents and then waited and waited to get a phone call.
As the weeks drew on we still felt very drawn to the idea of adopting an older child. At that time I had a friend who was doing long term foster care for a 12 year old girl. She had been connected with this placement through the heart gallery. My friend gave me Christy's phone number and said "Just give her a call, she is great!" so I did. After I explained my situation to Christy, she said there were many great older children waiting to be part of a forever home. She asked if I had seen the profile for Shirell. My husband and I looked over Shirell's bio and felt an instant connection. We switched our file back over to adoption and asked our adoption worker to summit our home study.
It took a long time for our adoption worker to submit the home study. She was concerned that we didn't have enough information and that we might be making a big mistake. We had done a lot of praying and we were sure this was the right move for our family, even when we at times doubted, we were continually guided back to Shirell. Then we got a phone call. Shirell's case worker had to move Shirell as her current foster placement wanted her moved.
We were asked if we wanted to take Shirell in as a foster child with the intention to adopt. We said "yes!" and changed our file back over to foster care. Shirell moved in two days later and was officially adopted a little less than a year after that date. We have had another family member join the group within this last year and are thinking we still need to go back and adopt a couple of boys at some point. We have worked hard to become the family we are and feel joyful for all the happy memories we have created thus far. We have had lots of emotional ups and downs over this journey of adoption but we wouldn't change a thing. We are so blessed to have Shirell as our daughter and so thankful to the Heart gallery for all their support along the way.
A Place to Call Home
Bob and Matt met through the work of several of our other programs. Matt was featured in the Heart Gallery and on our website and that is exactly where Bob saw him. Bob has adopted before and was ready for his next family addition. From viewing Matt on the website, to talking to our staff, and ultimately connecting to our Heart Gallery Adoption Agency, Bob was able to get a home study and bring Matt home. Heart Gallery Adoption Agency focuses on older and harder to place kids. We consider Bob and Matt to be one of our proudest moments/successes.
Al & Jan
Our adoption story began about two years ago. I am a retired child psychotherapist and my husband is a retired Nationally Certified Substance Abuse Counselor. In our respective former marriages, we raised a total of 8 daughters to adulthood. We thought we might be considered "too old" to adopt, but we were encouraged to apply. After interviews, home-studies, fingerprints, FBI clearances, phone calls, questions, and tons of paperwork, we were approved and began our search. Using Adoptuskids, various state sites, and A Family For Every Child, we had expressed interest in children from all over the country. There always seemed to be a catch that made a match seem less and less likely as time wore on. We knew as an older couple we didn't have what it takes to follow an energetic toddler around or stay up nights with an infant. We would finally find an older child whose limited bio seemed a good match for our family, only to face the
Although we were ready to accept there might not be a child that would match our family, Christy convinced us to hang in there. We are so glad we did. We found our daughter in October 2009 and the adoption was finalized last month. She is a funny, lovable gem. She adds sparkle and purpose to our lives that no other type of retirement could. We would rather pay for her orthodontic braces, listen to her whine about her homework, and give her the love and stability she never had, but always deserved. Trust, love, and respect takes time, but is very, very worth it. We had a wonderful party to celebrate "It's a Girl" and "It's a Mom and a Dad" . Our daughter had made D ' s and F ' s on her report cards prior to moving into our home and into our hearts. We are proud to report she made all A's and B's this grading period.
"Thank you for your encouragement Christy! Perhaps our precious daughter expressed our feelings best when in court for finalization, as the judge pronounced us officially and legally a family, she shouted BOOO YAH!!!"
One morning, in November of 2006, we opened the Register Guard and noticed a picture of a little boy under the heading of Child of the Month for the Heart Gallery of Lane County. A cute little boy named "Austin" who was looking for a Forever Family. Thus began our journey down the road to adoption. We already had 4 kids of our own from the ages of 9 to19, but only two were still living at home and, after a family discussion with our two boys, we decided to try and adopt a little boy in the 8 year old range.
January of 2007, we began the process. We came to find out we had to take 8 parenting classes, get a background check, and then have a home study done. What we didn't know was that it would take nearly five months to get all of those things accomplished. Unfortunately, while we were going through this process, Austin, the boy we saw in the register guard, had already had his committee set and we weren't able to be considered.
Austin had his forever family so we started reviewing bulletins looking for another little boy who we could open our home to. Our DHS worker sent new bulletins whenever they came out and she thought they might fit into our home. We found another little boy who we were ready to open our home to that we were selected again for committee if it came to that. Unfortunately for us but great for him, his grandparents found him in the Heart Gallery and were able to be his adoptive resource. A few months later, we again found a child we thought would fit well into our home. Our home study was sent and we were selected for committee, but, for whatever reason, we weren't selected. This was the point when we really had to ask ourselves if riding this roller coaster of emotion was worth staying on. After talking with Christy Obie-Barrett over and over again and constantly talking with our worker, we decided it was definitely worth it.
On March 11, 2008 we were selected at committee for Michael. Later that afternoon, we were notified we had been selected, but the joy was short lived because we were also told the decision of the committee was going to be reviewed. We then spent the next two months waiting for DHS to decide if we were going to be Michael's adoptive resource. During this time, we asked ourselves many times if this was worth it and there were many occasions we were going to tell DHS to withdraw our name and give up. We didn't give up and Michael has been with us for thirty days now and we're happy he's joined our family. Everyone is adjusting to having a 6 year old in the house again. The boys are behaving like brothers, playing together one minute and arguing the next, so hopefully that's a good sign. It's been 19 months since this journey began and now that Michaels in our home we're glad we didn't give up because he deserved to have a forever family and he needed someone to not give up on him. We are very happy to have Michael as our son and hope that someday he comes to love us as we do him. This is really just the beginning of our journey and now the hard part begins.
Dee & Austin
Dee met Austin through the Heart Gallery Mentor Program at the end of June 2008. She was interested in giving back to the community through helping the youth in Eugene as she had similar help through a family when she was a teenager and having difficulties. She was matched up with a young man named Austin who was 11 years old and living at the Safe Center in Springfield.
They started going out a couple times a week doing things such as hikes, taking in several Em's games, parades, or just going out for a movie and popcorn.
At this time, they were looking for options for Austin. Dee who is 54 and had no children started thinking about taking Austin in and what that would entail. She went from "Can I do this?" to "Why not try to do this?" They started with overnights and moved to 3 night weekends by Sept.
On Sept 26th, Austin moved in with Dee and all is going well. Austin is a joy to be around: bright, enthusiastic about life, and has a great sense of humor. It was a great match!!
We truly give thanks to Christy and the Heart Gallery Program!!!
Frank, Tracey & Kyara
We had discussed the possibility of adopting a child since 2003 but never filled out the paperwork. In December of 2006, we decided that we were finished discussing the topic & actually signed up for the classes that started shortly thereafter. We had no children but had hopes of adopting a little girl & in August, 2008 our dreams came true – in the form of our daughter, Kyara.
We had learned of Kyara through the Heart Gallery & have been ever so thankful for the continuing support. When we met Kyara & got to know her, we could almost hear the clicking of the last piece of a puzzle as she was the perfect fit to make our family complete. The three of us all have a similar sense of humor & laugh a lot, we love animals, & spending quality “family-time” together. We’ve also found that Kyara shares our love for travel!! We were fortunate enough to introduce Kyara to her large east coast family & enjoyed the excitement of New York City during the trip!!
We are genuinely grateful to the foster family who assisted us with such a smooth transition & who took wonderful care of Kyara. We were truly blessed to be chosen for Kyara & love & respect her more each & every day. It’s a wonderful life!!
"I’m happy for my new family, and I love them very much. My family is my mom, Tracey, my dad, Frank, and my kittens – Nicole, Tessa and Kaylee.
My dad is nice, handsome, he’s willing to do stuff with me, He treats me with respect and cares about me.
We go get coffee in the morning, because mom is a vegetarian we go eat meat together, and we have fun!!
My mom is sweet, kind, pretty, awesome, excited, and adventurous, She cooks a lot and makes me healthy food that is delicious.
I have a grandma on the east coast and a grandma and grandpa here in Eugene, and a lot of aunts, uncles, and cousins.
My aunts, uncles, and cousins are very nice and they accept me for who I am. My family has shown me many things and takes me fun places, like the coast, The Gilbert House, on a paddle boat ride, skating, The Science Factory, and we just got back from New York a few days ago where I saw the Little Mermaid on Broadway!! These people make me happy and joyful and I am thankful to be blessed with my amazing family."
Jessica & Family
Kevin and I had adoption placed on our hearts in August of 2006 and we indicated our interest in Jessica in September of 2007 after the needed classes, paperwork, and home study were completed. When the phone call came from her social worker in March 2008 - we were frankly a bit stunned.
Then we received her file and became a bit overwhelmed at all of the names, titles, and conditions that were associated with this girl. We had our doubts and concerns about our abilities and if this was a good match for us.
The Heart Gallery video is what changed all of that: we were able to see the real girl. She was talking, laughing, playing, and just being silly. The power of seeing her after so much time spent reading about her was amazing. Doubts were cast aside, titles became meaningless, and the scary was not as scary as before. We were now looking at a real girl and seeing her touched our hearts!
Jessica has been home with us for 4 months and is now starting to enjoy just being a kid. Kevin and I are happy, tired, and thankful for the work that the Heart Gallery does. We would have missed out on our girl without them.
The Kurtz Family
Helley Kurtz shares a Heart Gallery success story: three children on their way to a new home in Tennessee.
Cory and I knew we wanted to be parents even before we got married. We bought our house because of how kid-friendly it was, we chose our SUV for the same reason, and our conversations were often filled with comments like 'when we have kids' and 'when we're parents' . Our family and friends passed down toys and baby furniture, and I bought things on sale to put back for when our baby came. We were very proud of ourselves for being so prepared. We had everything we needed - except the baby. So we waited, and waited, and then waited a few more years.
By this point, we decided we should try something new if we ever wanted to be woken up early on Christmas morning by a whispered 'Did Santa come yet?' We looked into domestic and international adoption, but couldn't ever make a decision we agreed on. Then one day, I stumbled upon an article about waiting child adoption. After a lot of discussion and even more prayer, we felt this was our chance. Within a few months, we completed our home study and were ready to find our children. We decided that we wanted to adopt a sibling group, to have an instant family. I found the Lane County Heart Gallery by chance, and contacted them about a couple of children we were interested in. While I was talking to Christy Obie-Barrett, she recommended that I look at a group I had not noticed before. When I showed the video of the three children to Cory, he told me to get busy applying for them! We sent our home study to their social worker, and she sent us more information on them. We were excited when we found out that we were one of the top families being considered, and ecstatic to find out that we were chosen to be their parents!
Within a month, we were flying to Oregon to meet our children and bring them home. Every day, we look at our beautiful children and are amazed at our good fortune of becoming a forever family. Each one has a unique personality and we are enjoying getting to know them as individuals. Even though it's only been a month, we can't imagine our lives without them. Christmas will be great this year - our dreams have come true!
Traci & Richard
Traci and Richard began their fostering commitment after they adopted their daughter, Hannah, who is now 5 ½ years old. Hannah came into their lives when she was 18 months old. They totally understand the needs of children who are separated from siblings. Hannah has two biological siblings who are being raised by their maternal grandparents. They wanted their daughter to have the familial relationship with birth relatives so they created a situation that they describe as, "now we are all family."
Hannah knows her birth siblings and spends time with them. The two families share holidays and a variety of family activities to keep these critical relationships alive and meaningful. "Our daughter should not have to lose the significant people in her life," said Tracy.
The importance to then foster children came on the heels of their adoption. Tracy and Richard thought, "If we can make a difference for one child, perhaps we can make a difference for other children in the system." They became certified to do fostercare and have fostered children between the ages of 6 months and 7 years of age. The also provide respite care, which is a short break for other foster parents, for foster children of all ages.
Respite care is a wonderful way to help if your time limitations only allow you a few hours a week or a weekend of time to devote to children.
As we discussed their foster care journey, Tracy cried recalling some of the sweet moments of their first placement. They helped transition a baby boy to his adoptive placement when he was 11 months old. They fostered him from the time he was 5 months old. The parting was difficult without a doubt. There is no way to love these kids fully and completely without the sense of loss when they leave," Tracy recalls. She also recognizes how they played a part in completing his life. The family that adopted this little guy also adopted his twin siblings and then, a year later, the fourth child born to their biological mother. He and his siblings are united in the same adoptive home! They continue to have contact with the adoptive family and play an important part in this child's life.
"It is a gift to us when we see a child who is afraid of everything begin to understand that they are safe in our home," Tracy said. "They are afraid to take a bath, they are afraid to change their clothes, they are anxious and uncertain. In a short time, you watch them blossom. They become more comfortable and confident. Most importantly, they get to be kids again! There are adults who do what adults need to do to meet their needs and give them some of the childhood they lost," the family reflected. When a child gets to be a child and is not responsible for the well being of their parents or younger siblings, they will then have the opportunity to develop the skills they did not develop earlier in their lives. We want to give children that chance!
They have two sons, Brent, age 14, and Kyle, age 11. Bringing children into their home has been an opportunity to grow and stretch emotionally. Kyle's take on this decision to create a home for foster children is, "It hurts my heart when they have to go." Tracy noted that both boys have been completely involved. They change diapers, entertain the kids, share a sandwich! The family is just committed to giving children a place to experience unconditional love!
Timothy showed a clear understanding of what children need when he described the following, "I went into this with nothing but love for my kids, giving my whole heart and holding nothing back."
He chronicles the lives of his four adopted children and their move from Guatemala with moving tenderness. Timothy adopted through PLAN adoption agency in McMinnville. He informed me that with international adoptions, there are actually two adoptions that occur. The children are adopted in their country of origin and then are adopted again within a year of arrival in the United States.
Gabriela, was adopted at age 4 and is now 12. She and her birth sister Angela, now 9, were separated at Angela's birth and reunited through adoption. They came to the Justice home in 1997. He proudly describes Gabriela as, "a warm, happy, creative, and artistic child." Angela has had some challenges. At age 1, she had no muscle tone, a language delay, ADHD, and Sensory Integration problems. Timothy sought services to address these challenges and she has made some excellent strides in her overall development. Some of the unknowns when committing to be a child's "forever" parent, require an unconditional acceptance of what children bring with them. Timothy discovered that the language problem Angela experienced was the result of being profoundly deaf. She is bilingual in American Sign Language and English. "Sweet, playful, and a heart full of affection" is Timothy's description of his daughter.
Miguel came at age 7 months and is now 6 years old. Timothy recalls, "In every picture, my mother noticed that there was a steady gaze between us, as I first held my son." Miguel today is the budding musical artist! His dramatic play involves conducting a "pretend" orchestra in the family room. "He would challenge the knowledge of most adults in his ability to link composers and their musical compositions," says Timothy.
Sebastian, almost 2 years old at his arrival, is now 4 years old and attends preschool full time! He arrived at Portland International Airport with his escort. He was peacefully sleeping throughout the entire transition. Finally, he opened his little eyes in his new bedroom, transported thousands of miles from the place of his birth. Timothy shared that his little mouth quivered and for a moment he looked tearful. Then he noticed Gabriela, Angela, and Miguel. Instantly, he appeared calm and even smiled! Today he is the family comedian. He loves acting silly and creating the joys that come from childhood innocence.
Not without challenges and difficulties when one makes the commitment to parent 4 children alone, Timothy speaks with pride and tenderness about his children.
Marlene & Bre
Marlene was a single, gay, middle aged lawyer who decided to become a foster parent after the events of 9/11. Bre's birth parents lost custody of her to DHS because of their methamphetamine addiction and their inability to provide a safe secure home for Bre. Bre was 3 when she came into Marlene's life and she couldn't sit still for a meal, didn't know what a book was for, and threw tantrums regularly and loudly. But Bre and Marlene both liked outdoor activities, bike riding, swimming, and camping, and Marlene was committed to not shuffling Bre in the foster care system. Bre loved Marlene's dog Becky, loved the stories Marlene read to her at night, and made a lot of new friends at pre-school, the Rainbow Rascals playgroup, adored her cousins, and helped her Grandma find her teeth and her glasses when they visited. After three years together and lots of shared ups and downs, DHS asked Marlene to adopt Bre. Bre had been calling Marlene "Momma" for most of that time, and said she wanted to be part of Marlene's family. And Marlene was so happy to have Bre as her own daughter! While Bre was exposed to meth in utero and had a rough beginning in life, she does well at school and at Sunday School, and is popular with other kids. Bre plays basketball and loves to swim and bike ride, and Marlene and Bre have a rich social circle of friends and family.
Bre and Marlene celebrated Bre's adoption just before Bre turned 7 years old, and just before Marlene turned 55. Marlene retired from the practice of law in order to parent Bre, who is her greatest joy.
Sharon & Dan
"All these kids were meant for our family. They are perfect for us," Sharon stated. "It is hard to think about the fact that their biological parents have missed the joy they have brought to our lives," she continued. Sharon and Dan have adopted four special needs children. Nick, age 25, is their first adoptive son. He was three days old when they brought him home from Mexico. He works in the food service industry. Nine months and one day later, they had their only biological child Brianna, who is 24. Dakota, now 11, is the second adopted son and their first foster child. He is diagnosed with high functioning autism. What Sharon and Dan describe is a boy who is "magnetic, endearing, warm and wonderful!" They stressed the value of looking at the heart of a child, as opposed to a diagnostic label. At age 10, David, their third son has transcended every description in his adoptive profile. The profile stated that due to global disabilities, David would never function beyond the capacity of a nine month old baby and would never be able to feed orally. Sharon read about David in an adoptive resource monthly newsletter, Family Matters. The only thing she knew was, "I could be David's mother." She mentioned this desire to her husband Dan and his only remark was, "Let's see if he is still available." Sharon proudly shares that David can walk up to an hour a day with assistance; he eats 3 meals a day and has an adaptive bike that he is currently making strides on." With David's adoption they were done. Of course, another monthly issue of Family Matters came in the mail! Sharon saw Corwin. Again the nine months of pondering before she talked to Dan. The couple decided to adopt Corwin, age 2, who has Down Syndrome, ADHD, and prenatal drug exposure. In her heart, Sharon knew their family was now complete.
Sharon and Dan created a family of children who have full and wonderful lives. Their daughter Brianna has kept the adoption legacy alive. She recently adopted 2 year old Javon and now Sharon and Dan are grandparents!
Tammy & Joe
Tammy and Joe have been foster parents for DHS-Child Welfare for 2 ½ years and have fostered 17 children in that period. Prior to that, they fostered children in the state of California for almost the same amount of time.
Currently, the household includes 4 biological daughters and 6 foster children, boys ranging from 9 years to 3 months old. A family of 12 is rare, but Tammy claims they go many places together and often draw compliments for how well behaved the children are. The question "why" would be a natural one, when you think about the extra time, energy, effort, and expense. Tammy put it this way. They always have had a heart for children and often were instrumental in youth ministry in their church. In that setting, she saw so much need. She further stated, "I just wanted to be part of their healing. Turning anger into love and turning fear into trust." Joe's eyes shined when he talked about how wonderful it is to just hold their 3 month old foster son, who definitely has a real attachment to his foster Dad.
They manage a household that is calm, safe, and happy. They strive to give the foster children in their care an environment to be kids again without the anxiety and chaos that accompanies unsafe homes. Their 9 year old foster son reported how much he liked having clean sheets and clean clothes. With time, he told Tammy and Joe about a favorite lesson he learned since living with them. He commented, "My favorite thing I learned in your house is how to be respectful. When I am respectful, other people are respectful of me." There are life long lessons that create a new value system for children who did not have the opportunity to learn these life changing messages. A 13 year old girl who no longer lives with the family, still calls twice a month from Alaska where she is currently living with her biological siblings. This child referred to Tammy as "My angel who gave me another chance! "
The four girls are more empathic towards the hardships that people endure. "They will never not know how hard circumstances can be in the world nor will they be able to ignore them," said Joe and Tammy.
In the meantime, with 6 foster boys at home, Joe and Tammy and their 4 girls have changed children's experiences, providing structure, safety, respect, and love until permanent decisions are made about the future of these children. The bottom line, "We want to be good examples of what they can be." Joe and Tammy were selected as Foster Parents of the Year in 2006 for their extraordinary service to foster children.
Angie, Gabriel & Ani
Four year old Gabriel had been in and out of foster care most of his life. He and his baby sister Ani had just spent 6 months together in a foster home when they were returned to their mother Shawna who had been battling a drug addiction. At the time of their return home, Angie was assigned as the children's CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate). After thoroughly investigating the facts of the case, monitoring their mother's recovery, getting to know Gabriel and Ani, and interviewing countless people involved in their case, Angie recommended that the children be returned home permanently to their mother who had successfully completed all of her treatment services. In June of 2006, Gabriel and Ani's case was closed and they are permanently reunited with their mother.
Jessica & Dan
Imagine for a minute a home in Eugene with children ages 7, 6, 5, 4, 1, and 6 months! Jessica, 24, and Dan, 25, have been married for two years; they have a biological son who is the 6 month old. The five other children are foster children but, to them, there is no difference in the love and care for either the foster children or their biological son. Their dream is to start a home for children, until then they will do family foster care. Their motivation to care for children in state custody is based on their faith in action. It is a calling to "bless other children, who have experienced a difficult time in their short lives," says Jessica. In the year and a half that they have been certified by the state to do foster care, the family has fostered 14 children. 9 of those children are no longer in their care and 5 remain.
There is a special wonderment that these children bring to ordinary situations. "Having a hot dog at a high school football game is a new experience. Going to the family farm and seeing a tractor or sheep is a special experience." They recognize that what other children take for granted is a new and spectacular experience for these children. "It is truly heartwarming to see their excitement and joy over the simplest things in life," they claim. The transformation that occurs is the reward for these foster parents. First, you see the physical changes manifested in healthier and well nourished bodies. Then, in 30 days or so, you begin to see the beginning of trust and attachment. The initial testing is often a huge challenge! These kids are asking if you will be there no matter what - the test of your commitment to them. "If you hang in there, that is when they begin to open up emotionally and you see the true vulnerable nature that was hidden away," says Jessica.
Understanding that children who have been hurt and traumatized need time to feel the full range of their emotions is a necessary part of healing. In a foster home, such as the one Jessica and Dan provide, this need is honored and respected. The moments of snuggling and feeling loved, the times when someone gets a new hair cut and learns the word "stud muffin" are the building blocks for a secure sense of self. They have taken on the challenge and only laugh when they are looked upon as extraordinary. In their minds, they are simply living their faith through their ministry with children.
Bob & Sons
I began foster parenting in 1987 and haven't stopped since. My early years were struggles with many challenges in my family and my young adulthood. Wonderful people reached out to me during those times and I promised myself that I would someday grow to be a man who helped kids who needed a special someone. I came to Oregon in 1985 to begin a new life that would take me in the directions that I dreamed about in my youth. I attended college where I dabbled in every major that was conceivable. Writing was my passion so I wrote about the kids who suffering seemed to remain hidden from most people's consciousness. I frequently complained that "someone needed to do something to help those kids." My mentor Clint, a seventy something senior citizen with great wisdom, told me to "go home and look in the mirror. Someone will be there....get him to do something to help those kids!"
He encouraged me to be a foster parent....I was afraid. I wondered if I could really make that kind of difference in a child's life. Before I knew it, my family size went from one person who couldn't decide what to do if he ever grew up to a family of four with three teenagers looking to me for safety, nurturing, and hope for a better life. I suddenly realized that I had more wisdom than I could have hoped for.......that I had found a meaningful way to live my life with passion and joy.
I'm far from perfect. I've perfected my apologies and I've learned how to accept that I don't know everything.
At the end of the day when my eight boys are in bed, I walk through the house quietly and look in on my boys. I thank the universe for allowing me the privilege to keep them safe and to help them discover the strength and the courage and the joys that live inside them. They are the people who helped me to discover them within myself.