It has been a few months since two siblings in Illinois foster care arrived home to their new parents Melissa and Tee. Frustrated by infertility, the Barrington area couple attended an Adoption & Foster Care Information Fair hosted by nonprofit child welfare agency, Let It Be Us. Soon after becoming licensed foster parents, they were elated to give two young children the family they deserve.
Melissa describes the birth of their “instant” family in Part 1 & Part 2 of this series. In Part 3 below Melissa embraces the role her extended family and routines play in creating a nurturing environment for the kids. She also shares some of her fears and hopes for the future. Here’s what she told me about where they are now as a family.
The Family they Deserve
Told by Melissa Khamkhounnavong to writer Mary Klest
Family gatherings have become even more special now that the kids are with us. We hope and pray that we will be together for a lifetime of milestones, celebrations and special occasions. Until the adoption is legally final, I get nervous that something might happen to disrupt the process. I’ve heard stories. I get scared. However, I’m learning to keep my focus on now. I have to trust the process and myself. Everyone involved wants it to be the right fit. My husband Tee and I thought through our parameters before beginning the process. We knew what our limits and resources were. It’s important to be on the same page as a couple. We talked it all through before the kids came to our home and we remain a team.
Illinois law requires you to be foster parents to a child before adoption. We’re working on the paperwork now so when that day comes, we’re ready. There’s an online class we need to take, similar to the ones we completed before becoming foster parents. It’s very convenient to take the classes online.
We’re creating some wonderful family memories. Last week on the way to church our daughter was talking on her play phone. She said, “I have to go now. I’m going to meet God.” During church service I often find myself crying tears of gratitude. These precious children are in our care.
Our favorite outing so far has been an overnight trip to Milwaukee to visit the Discovery Museum. Its lakefront location is beautiful. The kids really liked the aquarium. However, they loved staying in a hotel! We ordered room service and had a great night together.
Our caseworker advised us to start a routine right away. We did. The kids wake at 7:00 a.m. like clockwork. My daughter and I lay out her clothes the night before. She dresses herself for school, brushes her teeth and takes a vitamin before I drive her five minutes away to preschool.
She had never used a computer before so there are some things she has to catch up on. The first day of school, leaving her brother was rough but they both got used to it and she now loves going to school. She returns at 3:45 p.m. There were no school openings for our son so he will start in the summer program.
We’re learning as we go how to balance work and family life. One of us is home with our son during the day. I work at the office a few days a week. My husband Tee works from home on the days I’m away. Afternoons are playtime. Dinner is around 6:00 p.m. followed by bath time and then bed time at 7:00 p.m. We all like the structure, most of the time. We can easily get wrapped up in just the kids, but we still have a life too. My sister Rachael steps in as a wonderful babysitter. My mom is moving ten-minutes away, Tee’s family is close and my grandparents live on a farm nearby.
What we didn’t know about adopting through foster care is that resources continue after the children are legally adopted. Their school tuition, even college if attending a state school, is covered. A monthly stipend and a medical card are offered for each child until they are adults. We intend to save that money to provide them with extra opportunities when they are older – maybe a car, a wedding, or a house. It’s my husband’s dream to help his children build or buy a house.
There’s so much for us to look forward to. School dances, cheering them on in school and during sports events, holidays with family, vacations at the beach. As parents we will always protect them and advocate for them. They won’t ever be neglected again. They will never stay in a respite home again. They won’t be separated from each other again. They will have the family they deserve.
Like us, there are lots of kids and parents who are finding each other with help from Let It Be Us and the Illinois foster care system. You need a team for this and there are so many resources. Join groups, talk with friends and family. Reach out and you will be amazed at the community of people willing to help. It’s been great for us and our kids to have all these people who already love them. Trust yourself. Know what you can handle and what you can’t. Then just wait and they will come.
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 LetitBeUs.org.
Let It Be Us also hosts a series of “Fireside Chats” on Foster Care & Adoption at Barrington’s White House. Click here for their latest schedule of upcoming sessions. If you’d like to help Let It Be Us unite more foster children with loving families, click here to donate today.