“I am a wife, a health coach, and an adoptive mama. I’m excited to share some of our adoption journey with you. I became a foster mom at age 25. I know that’s not really normal but I grew up in a family who did foster care. Through the years, I have heard people are scared of how fostering is going to affect their biological kids but for me, it awakened something in my heart. At age 6, I told my dad, ‘When I grow up, I’m going to adopt two little kids.’ I have very fond memories of my foster siblings. I knew foster care and adoption would be part of my life when I had a family of my own. I just didn’t know it would look like it does now.
Growing up in the church, I always imagined I would meet a man, fall in love, get married, have babies, and adopt some kids. I met my wonderful husband, David, in high school after a school dance. I actually tried off and on for about 10 years to get him to go out with me but he kept turning me down. One day, the stars aligned and he commented on one of my Facebook photos. We started talking and the rest is history.
When I started dating David, I told him right away I wanted to adopt and foster kids. He agreed it was something he also wanted to do. I don’t think at the time he knew what he was actually saying yes to. We were married July 15, 2017, at a beautiful barn in Richfield, WI. 2 days later, we went to Riviera Maya for our honeymoon and while we were sitting on the beach, we decided to fill out an application for a ‘special needs adoption program’ through Children’s Hospital. This means you can adopt children who are already legal orphans or close to being legal orphans.
We jumped right in headfirst, anxious, excited, naïve. We thought we knew then but we truly had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We found out we were pregnant a few weeks after our honeymoon but that didn’t slow us down with the adoption process.
We were already licensed foster parents in our county, we had fostered two teen boys and while we were fostering them, we had many challenges. One of the foster care advocates, Tammy Rose, reached out to me and we talked on the phone. We hit it off and quickly started hanging out and became best friends. From there, she told our foster care licensing agency we were looking to adopt. Days later, we received a phone call that would change our entire lives and we didn’t even realize it at the time.
I was sitting in Tammy’s car when I received the call. ‘Hi, Ashley. I was just calling to see if you would potentially be interested in meeting three pre-adoptive siblings. They have been in foster care for about 18 months and we are looking to place them in a home together because right now they are placed in separate foster homes.’ I was shaking, I had tears running down my face, I was in such a fragile place and I was longing to be a mom. Without hesitation, I said, ‘Yes!’ She couldn’t give me much information. I asked how old the kids were and Tammy handed me a pen and a yellow post it. On there I wrote, ‘7, 4, 2.’ I didn’t know their names. I only knew their ages and I knew my heart desperately wanted to meet them.
A few days later, we got ready to meet these kids… Dave and I held hands the entire way to the Burger King play place. Before we got out of the car we prayed, cried, and hugged. We were so nervous. We walked in to find a table full of adults and a play place full of kids.
The adults flagged us down and we took a seat at the table. I looked over at the full play place and I saw my daughter. I knew it was her. Our souls connected immediately and I had butterflies before I even said hello. We met all three kids, their foster parents, and their amazing maternal grandparents, who we bonded with instantly. (We have also adopted them as our own and they are bonus parents for us now.)
That night one of the foster moms said, ‘Well, are you ready for another one?’ I didn’t know what she was talking about. It turned out the kids had a baby brother on the way so we would have to commit to not only three kids but four. We didn’t hesitate. We walked out of that play place and David said, ‘They’re our kids.’ I felt it too. We called our agency right away the next morning and said, ‘We will take them all.’
We got their bedrooms ready for them before they came for the weekend. We were so nervous but I was so excited. I cried so much, just sitting on the floor in one of their future bedrooms and realizing, ‘I’m about to be a mom.’
That first weekend was magical. We were all in the honeymoon phase. Before the kids came to us, their grandparents told them, ‘This is the last time you will have to move. They are going to adopt you.’ The first night we were sitting around the dinner table, I made lasagna because I was told it was my daughters favorite. She didn’t touch it, though. She was nervously sitting on her hands, biting her lip, and I could tell she wanted to say something. I asked her what was wrong and she said, ‘So, can we call you mom and dad?’ My heart melted into a puddle and tears instantly streamed down my face. This sweet girl was 7 years old and wanted desperately to have a mom and dad. Dave said, ‘Of course you can. You can call us whatever you are comfortable with.’ She lit up with a big cheesy smile.
We became parents overnight. Just 2 weeks after being placed with these kids, we had an emergency placement who we ended up having for almost 2 years. We went from no kids to four kids in just 2 weeks. We thoroughly enjoyed our first summer together. It was a learning experience and we were all still getting used to each other. I was potty training two kids, running kids to speech therapy, counseling, visitations, and we had home visits, and all kinds of things we weren’t used to.
The trauma was hard. I remember the first time I saw my 2-year-old rocking himself to sleep. I had learned about that in a trauma course but I had never seen it in front of me. I held him, kissed his head, and rocked him to sleep. It was in that moment I realized I would never have any idea the extent of what these kids had gone through and we would have our work cut out for us.
In September of 2018, I was putting a new princess bed together for my daughter when I received a phone call from our social worker letting us know their brother was just born the day before and we could head to the hospital and meet him. We were so nervous. We already had a lot on our plate with the four young kids we were still getting used to. What would we do with a newborn? When we walked into the nursery at the hospital to meet him, time stood still. To say we fell completely in love would be an understatement. I remember watching David hold our sweet boy for the first time and all of my fear washed away. He talked to him, and I could just see the love in Dave’s eyes. I knew then this sweet baby was supposed to be with us. He was supposed to be with his siblings. We were making the right choice.
It was a long road. What was supposed to take 6 months took almost 3 years. I remember wanting to quit so many times. I just didn’t feel capable of doing this. It was an uphill battle and it felt like they were just getting lost in the shuffle. I was constantly hounding the district attorney asking when they were going to file this case. There were so many moving pieces and like many cases, this was a very complicated case. I just remember feeling like this was never going to end. The waiting was the hardest part. There is a lot of unknown in foster care and until the judge declares a parent’s rights are terminated, there is always a chance the kids could leave your home. We had so many sleepless nights. Before court hearings, I would stay up, cry, pray, write things down.
Honestly, being a foster parent were some of the hardest years of my entire life but they were also the most rewarding because they lead us to our kids. We wanted more than anything for all four of our children to be adopted together but because of some of the logistics, that wasn’t the case. Our older two kids, Aria and Ryan were adopted together on November 30, 2020, after 1,511 days in foster care. I don’t think I stopped crying the entire day. My heart felt this weight physically just from my body and I knew, we were half way there. These two were ours forever. We were told it would just be a couple more weeks before their younger two siblings could be adopted but things obviously rarely work out the way they’re planned.
We drove to Milwaukee, Wisconsin one morning before Dave went to work to drop off some paperwork to our awesome adoption worker, Sarrah and she let us know the boys would not be adopted in January. We were devastated. On February 4, we were leaving for what was supposed to be their adoption trip to Disney and it didn’t look like they would be adopted by then. We decided we were still going to go through with the vacation. We all needed it after this crazy season. 6 days before we left, I had a zoom with our adoption worker. She said, ‘Hey, do you want to adopt your babies next Tuesday?’ (The day before we left for Disney World). I cried that entire day as well. I couldn’t believe this was it. I pulled out their adoption outfits that were sitting in the back of our closet for months waiting to be used and it just didn’t feel real.
February 3, 2021, we finalized the adoption of our younger two kids and it meant so much to our older kids. It meant they never had to lose each other. They never had to be without each other again, This was it. This is their family. People tell us often our children are lucky to have us but I feel the opposite. Our kids changed our lives and they were exactly what my heart needed. I’m so thankful I get to be their mom for the rest of my life.
In a perfect world, foster care and adoption wouldn’t have to exist and kids would never have to be taken from their parents. I am a mom to children who another woman gave birth to. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege is not lost on me. This was the hardest thing we have ever done but we would do this over and over and over again if it meant finding our precious kids. I am so grateful for my family and this beautiful life we have. The best part? Now we have forever together.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ashley-Nicole Blanck of Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories like this:
‘At 11, his adoptive parents abandoned him at a hospital, never to return. ‘Mr. Peter, can I call you my Dad?’ I began to cry uncontrollably.’: Single dad adopts 11-year-old boy from foster care after biological, adoptive family abandon him
Are you or someone you know looking to adopt? Please SHARE on Facebook to make them aware there is a community of support available.