Becoming Foster Parents to Our “Instant Family”

4 mins read
Melissa & Tee Embracing their Instant Family

Thanks to the work of Barrington non-profit Let it Be Us, a version of the movie Instant Family is playing out locally with an adoption story that is unfolding as we speak. After struggling with infertility for years, in March our friends Melissa and her husband, Tee became foster parents to two young siblings who desperately needed a forever family.

We’ve asked Melissa to share their story in three parts, starting with the circumstances that led them to become licensed as foster parents. Follow along this month as Melissa shares how the process began, what life has been like since the children’s arrival and what lies ahead for their “instant family”.

Our Journey to Parenthood

Told by Melissa Khamkhounnavong to writer Mary Klest

My husband Tee and I are happily married, with careers we enjoy and a house that we are restoring. Sounds good, right? There was nothing more I wanted, except to have a child. We just assumed it would happen. But it didn’t.

Melissa & Tee at the home they’re restoring | Photo by Susan McConnell

We started hearing a lot about adoption through foster care. People who had adopted children told us their stories and those who had been adopted did too. We heard stories of adoption at our church. It was on our minds and in our hearts. When we discovered Let it Be Us and how they help walk people through the process, the path to becoming foster parents became more clear. I’m so thankful they opened our eyes to this wonderful gift.

Melissa & Tee’s family of four | Photo by Susan McConnell

We recently welcomed two beautiful children into our lives, a 3-year-old boy and his 4-year-old sister. We are over the moon happy to be parents to these kids. Our pending adoption through foster care happened quickly, yet our journey to parenthood was longer than either of us anticipated. Looking back, I realize this is just the way it should be.

Tee getting his son ready for a trip to the park | Photo by Susan McConnell
Melissa getting to know her new daughter | Photo by Susan McConnell

Tee and I met when he was 27 years old working as a manager at a wireless communications company. He hired me to be a sales rep. After I left that job, Tee called me to see how I was doing. It was a sweet thing for him to do. Our first date was at Durty Nellies in Palatine. He was mature, kind, and supportive. Four years later, we married.

Melissa & Tee on their wedding day

Our marriage has seen some rough patches along the way, especially back when the economy was bad and our careers weren’t stable. Tee decided to leave his job with the wireless company to start a business designing and building properties. Though we were pinching pennies back then, we now buy, restore and sell homes in the Northwest suburbs.

At the time Tee was also in a custody battle for his daughter from a previous relationship. I often felt reminded that I wasn’t her “biological” mother. I longed for more children and wondered why I wasn’t getting pregnant. We saw doctors to explore options, I had surgery and there were just a lot of personal things happening with both of us at the time. Tee and I decided to part for a while. We weren’t angry with each other. We just needed some space to figure things out.

What we realized during that time was that our love for each other is greater than any trials we may face. That discovery kept us together and helped prepare us for parenthood. With our marriage stronger than ever, we decided to try to get pregnant through Invitro Fertilization.

Melissa & Tee together

We got four embryos and transferred two of them, but the cycle failed. It was devastating. We found support through family, friends, our church and an online group of people going through a similar situation. When the IVF didn’t work, we decided to take a break.

Through my work as a Realtor in Barrington I became acquainted with Susan McConnell, the founder and executive director of Let It Be Us. I was curious to learn more about her organization. Susan was wonderful and told us about the foster parent application process. She connected us with an agency that manages adoptions through foster care. We decided to go for it.

Melissa at home with the children | Photo by Susan McConnell

Along the way I realized that my desire to be a mom is stronger than my DNA. The longing to have biological children subsides when you discover there’s another way.

We began the application process just before Thanksgiving. We didn’t care about the child’s age. All we requested was a child whose parental rights had been terminated. We never want to go through a child custody battle again. We were licensed just before Valentine’s Day.

Melissa holds her daughter close | Photo by Susan McConnell

During our journey we learned how many people struggle with infertility. We also discovered how many children are living without families. It baffles us how our society can let kids go without a family. Our new perspective made us feel ready to welcome these children as our own. Even if you’ve gone through tough times. Even if your home is under construction or your career is changing. Anyone can do this.

We are now 31 and 41 years old proudly and joyously parenting two young children. Through this journey I’ve learned how strong I am. No matter what happens in our lives, Tee and I will always have each other. Just six months ago we were living as a couple in our garage while restoring our new house. Now we are a family making a home.

Melissa & Tee’s new family | Photo by Susan McConnell

Coming up in Part 2 Melissa shares what it felt like on the day the children arrived at their home and how their lives have changed.

We hope you enjoy learning about foster care in Illinois through these stories of love, generosity and kindness. If you or someone you know is curious about how to get licensed as a foster parent in Illinois, please call 847-764-LIBU or visit

All are also welcome to attend an upcoming Let It Be Us open house where you can meet the staff and learn about opportunities to foster and adopt children in need from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Wednesday, April 10th, at Barrington’s White House, 145 West Main Street in Barrington, Illinois. 

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