‘She was a homeless, single teen mom who aged out of foster care. She had 6 kids and was the same age as me! My heart broke.’: Single woman fosters 36 kids, adopts 2 children into ‘forever family’

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“For as long as I can remember, it has been my passion to love and fight for children in need. I found ways to befriend others who were different from me such as the boy with Down syndrome who I loved to sit by on the school bus every morning, and the girl who came from another country and didn’t speak the same language as me.

As I got older, I began to love culture and adventure and found that all of my passions aligned in mission trips, child welfare, and fostering and adoption. I had always said I wanted a ‘rainbow family’ from all different cultures, and so far, I have parented 37 children of different races and backgrounds. I have done so as a single 20-something now turned 30!

When I was younger and dreamed of this future big family, it would normally include a wonderful husband who had all of the same passions as me. I have dated a little off and on through the last several years. The men always love the idea of what I’m doing but don’t actually want to live it out themselves.

I have found an incredible community of local and national single foster and adoptive moms through social media, the ways we support each other are so unique, and sometimes my saving grace to make it through the difficult days. We have a group text message with 16 single foster mamas in 12 different states that reach 500+ messages daily. I am fully content in my singleness for now, and I make sure that any man knows what he is getting himself into right away before I waste any time! There is certainly no time to waste with 5 children under 6 in my home right now.

My current children are JJ who is almost 7, Lucah who is 4.5, L (foster son) who is 4, J (foster/soon to be adopted son) who is almost 3, and E (foster son) who is 2.5. The two 4-year-old boys and the two 2-year-old boys are each only 3 months apart, so I basically have two sets of twin boys! Our days typically include court hearings, visits with biological parents, meetings with caseworkers, therapy appointments, sports, and activities. We have to schedule in some fun!

As soon as I was old enough, I convinced my mom to let me work in the church nursery just so I could go in with her and hold a baby! As a teenager, I was a nanny for several families who adopted children internationally. I was very close with one child and I began buying her books about adoption, reading adoption journey blogs, and researching websites all about the adoption process. I went on my first mission trip overseas to a children’s home in Guatemala when I was 17, spending my senior year spring break loving on babies from hard places instead of partying at the beach with the rest of my friends. I have never regretted that decision one bit! The trip was life changing.

The moment I stepped foot off the plane, I felt at home. We entered the gates of Casa Aleluya and I will never forget the way I felt when those children surrounded our van and helped unload our suitcases. There are around 500 children who live there, and I was blown away after hearing their stories and seeing the way the staff loves and supports them all.

The campus has 9 different dorm buildings separated by age and gender, a cafeteria, and a multipurpose building where they have a church, a fully staffed school from PreK through 12th grade, and the most beautiful playgrounds and soccer fields surrounded by avocado trees in the shadows of a volcano. The children are so full of life and joy, and I could not get enough of spending time with them and giving them the love they so desperately desire. I was ready to drop out of school and never return home! I decided I should go to college first. I chose to major in early childhood education and take more Spanish classes because I knew I could use it anywhere I ended up.

After college, I went on a year-long trip called The World Race. I lived out of a backpack and slept on floors in villages of 11 different countries in Central America, Africa, and Asia while partnering with local ministries and working alongside them each day. We worked in orphanages, churches, prisons, sex trafficking rescues, and restaurants turned ministries. I found out my calling was not only to Guatemala, where I have now returned to 25 times, but to every person in the trenches who needs someone willing to jump in there with them.

I returned to my hometown of Memphis and was immediately introduced to a homeless single mom of 6 who had aged out of foster care and was the same age as me! Hearing her story broke my heart. She moved foster homes frequently until she was a teenager and pregnant. This broke my heart and opened my eyes.

Her youngest child was 6 weeks old when I met them, and her only girl. I now have full custody of her, and she will be 7 next month! That’s my girl JJ. We have a great relationship with her birth mom and 5 brothers who we see and support regularly. Through investing in this family, I saw a whole other side of Memphis I had never known and found where all of my passions and experience could be put to use. I began getting involved in local inner-city ministries and chose to begin my journey of foster care!

Courtesy of MK Hill

I began training and preparing my home to welcome children in need. I learned a lot about trauma and things going on around me during those months. The classes take about 8 weeks and cover topics such as cultural awareness, the impact of trauma, connecting with the birth families, and CPR and medication administration. After those classes, a home study was done to get a thorough look at my home, my background, and my motivations to become a foster parent.

Once I was approved, I was so ready to get a call! While I never would hope for a child to be removed from their first family, I knew it was happening daily and I was ready to be available when the need arose. I made sure the caseworkers knew I spoke Spanish because it’s another passion of mine. I can’t stand to think of children being removed and placed in a home that is unfamiliar with their culture or language.

I got my first call in October of 2016. ‘We have a baby boy at the hospital who is 6 months old and ready to be discharged today. He is Hispanic. Are you willing to take him?’ Yes. This was the moment these 25 years had prepared me for. I walked into the children’s hospital nervous, pushing an empty stroller, and came out with a beautiful 6-month-old Guatemalan baby boy.

Courtesy of MK Hill

When I got to his hospital room, he was lying in the bed and nobody else was around. I picked him up and was shocked that I was going to be taking him home with me. I sat down holding him, and as I looked into his eyes, I said ‘Hi Lucah!’ I didn’t know his name at that point, what nationality he was, or anything else about him.

I kept looking at him and had a feeling that he was Guatemalan. I also had a feeling he was going to be my son forever. A few minutes later, a nurse came in and went over his history and follow up treatment with me. Still in shock, I just nodded and listened. She handed me a bunch of paperwork where I read that he was Guatemalan. Only God could write this story!

Courtesy of MK Hill

International adoption from Guatemala closed in 2008 due to corruption; the first year I visited the children’s home there. I would have loved to adopt from there, and my family sponsors two children who are now 16. We have sponsored them for 12 years; got them Christmas presents; visited for birthdays, graduations, and a Quinceanera; and even paid for them to get braces on their teeth.

Lucah’s birth parents moved to Memphis from Guatemala just a few years ago, and he was born here in Memphis. After almost 3 years of uncertainty in court hearings, meetings, and visitations, Lucah is my forever son. He was adopted on May 20th of last year and we have a beautiful open relationship with his birth family who we see regularly.

Courtesy of MK Hill

Lucah and JJ got to join me on a trip to Guatemala this year and they can’t wait to go again! JJ sold hair scrunchies and paid for both of their flights. We celebrated Lucah’s 4th birthday in the dorm of the orphanage with all of the children his age. We had cake and piñatas and they sang to him in English and Spanish.

Courtesy of MK Hill

We were able to go to a rural village and host a feeding center for the people who have very little access to food and resources. Lucah talks about Guatemala daily, would eat avocados every meal if I let him, and gets excited to learn new words in Spanish. I pray all of my children continue to embrace and celebrate their cultures. Right now, they attend a bilingual school where they learn in English and Spanish in every subject and they are really thriving there.

Since Lucah was placed in my arms, we have welcomed 36 other children in and out of our home who come from all different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences. Many of them have endured the hardest things that you can imagine: physical abuse, human trafficking, homelessness, abandonment, and witnessing many terrible things. The youngest child I’ve picked up was 9 weeks old. The oldest was 2 weeks shy of turning 18 and had a 2 year old son.

Our home and nonprofit are named ‘Arrows Nest.’ The name comes from the verse in the Bible Psalm 127:3-5 which says, ‘Children are like arrows in the hands of a warrior, blessed is the man whose quiver is full,’ and my nest is certainly full! Each time a child leaves our home to return to family or move on to another place, we sit down, and I let them paint a wooden arrow while we discuss their transition. I tell them I can confidently send them out into the world knowing that God has big plans for them wherever they end up and remind them they always have a family here in the Nest no matter what.

Courtesy of MK Hill

Through our nonprofit, we also welcome around 60 neighborhood children and their families to participate in block parties, school supply drives, bible club, Christmas gifts, grocery delivery, field trips, and many other activities. It is not unusual for me to pull in the driveway to a front porch full of children waiting to see us and ask if we are having any activities that day. Our 5-bedroom home was donated to us the same week Lucah came home. God has used our home in amazing ways to bring hundreds, maybe thousands, through our doors as children in foster care, caseworkers, attorneys, birth families, volunteers, friends, and neighbors. It really does take a village to raise our children. I am so thankful that Arrows Nest can be a hub for amazing transformation in these children’s lives.

Courtesy of MK Hill
Courtesy of MK Hill

In the next few weeks, I will be adopting my other son who is Puerto Rican. I have had him for almost 3 years as well. There are times that things seem to be going smoothly, but you can get a call at any moment that completely changes the course of a child’s future. Foster care is often described as a roller coaster, and with several children in my home, I am always riding 3 to 4 roller coasters at once!

Every time a child joins our family, we grow in so many ways. I am looking forward to the continued relationships that come from each new child who arrives at our door. Almost all of the children who returned to biological families still visit and their families know we are always here if they need us. Some of the families teach me so much about life and grace. If we truly focus on the child and their best interest, we can all get along and realize there is enough love for all involved. A child can never have too many people who love them.

It is my greatest hope that Arrows Nest continues to fill with little arrows. One of the biggest things I have learned through my journey of foster care and adoption is that you need only to be willing and available. There will never be a perfect time to add these children to your family, but if you’re willing to get out of your comfort zone and fight for someone else’s best interest, you’ll be a great foster parent. You won’t be perfect, none of us ever are, but no child is asking you to be. The need is great and the purpose I believe is more fulfilling than any other.”

Courtesy of MK Hill

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by MK Hill. You can follow their journey on Instagram and website. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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‘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

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