Kelley always wanted to be a mom and felt called to foster with an openness to adopting if a need arose. In 2016, she felt ready to start the process and contacted PCHAS. By the spring of 2017, she was prepared to receive kids.
During the first four years, Kelley fostered seven children. She says it is “the best thing I’ve ever done and the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” Kelley adjusted to wrap around each new child who needed her loving, nurturing care. She partnered with case workers, doctors, therapists, attorneys and other professionals to make sure each child was thriving, all while taking them to visits with their birth families and giving them as much of a normal life as possible. And seven times, she said goodbye to children and celebrated with complex emotions as she saw families restored. “It’s heartbreaking when they leave, but I would do it all over again because they left in a better place,” she said.
To manage all the details and navigate the process gracefully, Kelley says parents must “learn to live in the gray,” respecting that each child’s circumstances are unique and foster care is full of ambiguity.
In 2021, Kelley received a call about a pair of sisters who needed a foster family. She welcomed the girls and gave all of herself to ensure they knew they were safe and loved. Looking back, she says, “We felt like family from the beginning.” As she had done seven times before, she collaborated with their team, developed routines, and made the best of the fun and challenging parts of family life.
Over time, the future for these girls seemed different. While Kelley had always wanted to adopt, she knew adoption was not about winning or losing. As she began to catch glimpses of forever with these precious girls, she knew it only happened when others experienced loss, including the children. She shared these words with those in her circle:
Another woman’s children call me mommy. The weight of that responsibility is never lost on me. I’ve been thinking a lot about my girls’ birth mom lately. It’s been one full year since they were entrusted to me and it’s hard not to think about all the things she has missed. My, have these beautiful little babies grown! …I grieve for the girls’ loss (a loss they are too young to even understand) and also remain hopeful that I can become their forever home. There is such a dichotomy of sadness and hope in fostering to adopt. But then again, that’s all part of this work: it's holding space for the beauty and the pain.
One year and almost ten months after they first met, a judge declared the three a family forever. The adoption was monumental, but it only confirmed, legally, the family relationship they had already formed. To Kelley, it was their daily life, enriched by time spent playing and giving the girls a chance to explore things they love, like gymnastics, animals, and swimming, that made them a family. It has helped that her family, co-workers, and close friends have accepted all the children and encouraged her along the way.
For families thinking about adopting or fostering, she shared these words of advice: “It is worth it. The children are worth the time you give and the sacrifices you make when fostering. You can provide stability and love to a child who is in the most vulnerable stage of their life. And if you’re able to sit with them in their darkness, patiently waiting with an outstretched hand, you’ll receive an incredible gift when they feel safe enough to take it. I’ve been blessed to be on the receiving end of that trust and love, and each time, it changed me for the better.”