The Saturday morning call was unexpected. On the other end of the line was a young woman who introduced herself as a producer for the “Anderson Show,” the new talk show that featured Anderson Cooper highlighting topics of interest, stating that she had found our family story interesting and was wondering if we would like to share it. It was that call that created a whirlwind of activity that found our entire family, all 17 of us, travelling to New York City on Monday afternoon for a Tuesday taping of the show, which airs on October 14th. It was there we had the opportunity to share our story of fostering 30 children, adopting 10 children, encouraging our community to adopt more than 60 children and impacting our area to become leaders in foster/adoption.
And to think that it all started with a ticket.
Approximately 14 years ago, I was a physical education teacher in the Redlands Unified
School District. One of the methods that I used to encourage positive behaviors in sports competition was to give “Good Sport” coupons that included free pass to a local skating rink. These coupons became prized by the students and to earn one was highly esteemed. One of my students, Billy, who was a great young man, had worked very hard that day and received the coupon during the course of the P.E. period. As the children were assembling to return to class, he approached me and asked if he could return the coupon and the skating pass. I was curious and asked why he felt he needed to return it. “I can’t use it and maybe someone else can,” he said. “I’m a foster kid. I live in a group home, and I have no one to take me so it will just go to waste,” he continued. I was shocked. How could it be that we live in t he greatest country in the world, yet there was no one to talk a 10-year old boy skating because he did a great job at school?
I went home and talked with my husband about Billy and what I had learned that day. I was convicted that this wasn’t right and that there is something that we could do as a family. We had talked about the possibility of adopting a little girl and, after much prayer and counsel; we decided that we would become foster parents.
In April of 1998, we received our first placement of three, two girls and their half- brother, which was an overnight doubling of our family. Of that placement, the oldest sister was removed to another placement in July of 2000, the only placement that we terminated, the little boy returned to his biological father in May of 2000, and Cheyenne became the first child we adopted.
As more children came into our home, our commitment became that we would be their home forever or until they reunified with their biological family. We have watched our family grow over the years to include Luke, Jonah, Rosie, Gabby, Joshua, Levi, Isaac, Gabe, and Elle. All of them, including our biological children, Stevie, Joel and Krista, Derrick, the adult foster brother to Elle, and Ashley, Stevie’s wife, have become our family. Each one adds a different chorus to the song that our family sings. It is a song that, we pray, others can join as it resounds through the ages as children celebrate the finding of their forever family.