Adoption and foster care both have many challenges and many joys. Some people feel “called” and want the opportunity to help children in the system. This is exactly how the Lane family has chosen to live.
Jeff and Kelley Lane have fostered over 40 children and adopted four of them, starting shortly after their marriage. Kelley stated that there were two primary reasons that motivated her to be so involved in the foster care system. One was spending time with her neighbor and their children in the foster care system. Kelley stated: “When I was 10 years old and held my neighbor’s child in the foster care system, DJ, in my arms, I knew right then and there I would commit my life to caring for kids impacted by foster care. It inspired me to ensure that kids like DJ had a caring adult in their lives.” Additionally, she had a very “chaotic” life; her mother died when Kelley was very young and her father was an unfit parent, which resulted in her being moved around to several different homes throughout her childhood.
In addition to fostering, the Lanes have also adopted four children: Khora, age 14, Ambyr, 9, Ky, 8, and Suzanne, 7.
The need for foster care parents is skyrocketing. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, as of September 30, 2014, there were 653,000 being served, 415,000 in care, and 108,000 waiting for adoption.
“We consider it an honor to get to provide a home to some great kids, some who have come to our home for a season, and some who have stayed forever.”
So what can we do about this need? And what are the stereotypes that need to be addressed to help inform our community on the true facts of foster care and promote more participation? Kelley said that a good first step if interested in fostering or adopting is to talk to people who have already experienced and lived it. Learn firsthand the trials and joys that come along with foster care and adoption. She stated that it is important to know that there will be a huge learning curve and it will be a tough road.
There are many stereotypes, stigmas, and misconceptions that Kelley says to be aware of concerning foster care/adoption. She does not like the word “orphan” because every child has birth parents, whether they are alive, passed away, have no contact or have contact. No matter what, birth parents exist or existed.
Kelley stated that she has been asked if her family was “complete.” She believes in the saying: families for children, not children for families, which is originally from Joyce Maguire Pavao. As for every family, it takes a village to raise a child, and in Kelley’s family, each of the children has an adult mentor, which she said has had a great impact on them.
Another stereotype Kelley often hears is that people choose international adoption because the birth parents are not in this country and therefore they (the adoptive parents) will not have to deal with them. Although they may not have to directly “deal” with them, it will still be important to enforce the love they had for the child and to ensure the child knows the traditions of their culture.
Unfortunately, typically the media only mentions negative stories of fostering. Kelley says, “This is a shame, because there are so many great successes.” She has witnessed this with the children in the foster care system who have left their home.
She has been asked when she is having “real” children.” Her response? “Don’t you see my children standing right there?” She does not have biological children, but does not imagine loving her children from the foster care system any differently. Kelley and Jeff have experienced a learning curve and have also had the opportunity to educate friends and families.
Some of the issues that Kelley mentioned with foster care is that kids in care get labeled and it is very hard for them to get that label removed. Also, it is important to remember that attachment or the adjustment period won’t be instantaneous and often can even be very arduous, something that will take time and effort to form. They probably will not walk in and love the beautiful room you have set up for them. And unfortunately, a bond may never happen.
Not only is Kelley an advocate for adoption and foster care in her personal life, she is also an advocate in her employment as well. Kelley is the executive director for Sibling Connections, a nonprofit agency in Massachusetts. The goal for Sibling Connections is to be a voice for children in MA and help children in care remain connected to siblings, creating opportunities for siblings living in different homes to see each other monthly. Kelley mentioned one story about a child she was driving to see their sibling and for years had no idea they only lived minutes apart.
In an interview with Good Housekeeping, Kelley and Jeff stated, “We consider it an honor to get to provide a home to some great kids, some who have come to our home for a season, and some who have stayed forever.”