Meet The Mama: Kelli

Tell us a little about yourself.

Hey y’all!! I’m Kelli and I was born and raised in FL. I married my high school hunny, and my best friend. I love all things creative, but rarely get anything done, and photography has a special place in my heart. My hubby and I are the proud owners of a pop up camper and hope to spend our weekends going to new places and unplugging. We have three children, one cat and two totally different personalities. I’m outgoing, a little bossy, always late and love to be the center of attention. My better half is calm cool and collected, early and rarely shows off. I think we make a pretty good team and I’m pretty lucky I found such a great husband and daddy.

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How long have you been a foster parent and how many kiddos have you fostered?

We were licensed in February of 2013. Our first placement came in March 2013. A beautiful 10.5 week old baby boy who never left. His adoption was finalized October 2013. We had 5 other short term placements then our baby girl arrived in April 2014. She was all of 4 pounds 6 ounces of sweet sugar. After 363 days in foster care she is now our forever girl! A big move and a few more short term placements later we got an email about another two year old girl who needed a home short term while she waited for ICPC paperwork to be processed for a move out of state to a relative. Fast forward just five short months later, a change of plans and a whole lot of love… she is now our daughter. We adopted her in October 2016, exactly 3 years to the day of our first adoption. So three adoptions in three years AND three littles four and under. In 2017 we added to our family again when we opened our home to a young adult through extended foster care.

60Carpenter portrait

What made you want to become a foster mom?

I don’t really remember a time where foster care wasn’t a part of the plan. I vividly remember sitting in my first apartment researching foster parenting at barely 18. Thankfully my husband was on board and though we didn’t know when, we both agreed it was something we would do. 12 years later we were knee deep in wanting to start a family when foster care came back up. Within days, we were signed up for classes and filling out mountains of paperwork. I look back and I am amazed how perfectly that dream played out. I know those desires were put on my heart so long ago to bring me right to this moment.

View More: http://caseyhollyphotography.pass.us/carpenter-family

What’s the biggest challenge you face as a mama of fosters?

Foster Care has taught me so much. I have been challenged in ways I never imagined. I have seen and heard things I don’t wish on anyone and witnessed real life miracles that have been life changing. But the one thing I still really struggle with is the lack of control I actually have. It’s a scary thing to hand over your heart and home to a system that needs a lot of work. Sometimes everything seems very out of control and when I want and need answers they are not always right there. I feel like I have come a long way in my need to control everything, but it’s something I’m working on daily. I’m grateful that this daily lessons come with an amazing gift of these kids to share it with.

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What’s the most rewarding part of being a foster mama?

Foster care has changed my life. It’s brought me closer to my family, I have made incredible new friends, it made me a Mommy. I think what’s been most rewarding for me is being a witness to the beautiful things that do come from so much that is broken.

Kendal

What’s your best piece of advice for new foster parents?

Connect! Connect! Connect! Foster Care in general is hard enough… Don’t do it alone. Find others who are walking the same path as you and reach out, grab their hands, and ride together. It’s very easy to feel very alone in this journey. You will find yourself in situations and facing things that a lot of people in your life just won’t understand. Don’t get me wrong, those relationships are important too, but someone who gets it without explanation at 3 am when a child arrives whose world just fell apart… Trust me… You don’t want to have to explain. You just need someone who says I get it, I’m sorry, how can I help?

On the rough days when you don’t feel like you have anything left… Remember that He doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

kelli

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Post Placement Depression 

Sharing a small part of my foster story with a friend recently, I was reminded of my bout with post-placement depression. Several conversations with foster and adoptive mamas and a quick google search showed me I wasn’t alone in the struggle. Like postpartum, depression after the arrival of a new little one can happen to anyone, come out of nowhere, and feel utterly alienating.

When one of my boys came to us, my depression was a fog that I couldn’t wade through to figure out my thoughts and feelings. I couldn’t understand what was truth, what was the pure exhaustion that comes from the whirlwind of a new child in the home, and what was, well, anything else. I was scared and overwhelmed and I felt so incredibly alone.


Asking for help was a huge step toward healing for me. I began counseling, talked vulnerably with several friends, and prayed and read my Bible like my life depended on it. My life DID depend on it. In our Dropping Anchors crew alone, about half of us discussed that we have felt the weight of depression following a new placement.

I asked some friends to share their experience with post-placement depression because I think the solidarity is important, and knowing you’re not alone to carry the burden is huge. One friend said of her experience with post-placement depression:

“Our first placement was my first encounter with ‘post placement depression’. A big part of this was a very bad experience with a difficult case and our own naive thinking.”

“I had never heard of it before, and a few weeks in to this new experience I was scouring the internet for any sign of familiarity with other fostering families. I found out that it might not just be the stress, or the turmoil, or newness, or sense of isolation that I was feeling- but perhaps a culmination of those things that added up to PPD.”

“For me, knowing that I wasn’t alone and that I wasn’t imagining this fog that surrounded me was a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. Yes, there were dark days- I still get a bit panicky thinking about that time. But for us, it was a season that we were able to get past.”

“I didn’t handle it with grace, but we persevered and we learned to do better. We know how to connect with others who are experiencing or have experienced. We know how others are supposed to treat us, and how we should treat others in this life of foster care.”

So if you’re reading this today and thinking that any of this hits home, suspect that you may be struggling with post placement depression, or realize that you have experienced this in the past, please know you are not alone! Feel free to comment below if you’d like prayer or solidarity-support. This foster road we walk can be really difficult, friend, and sometimes reaching out for help is the best thing we can do.

steph

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How to tick off a Mama Bear with 5 little words

“Did you have them tested?” she asked.

“Tested for WHAT?!” I replied while secretly hoping she wouldn’t say what I thought she would say. But alas, she did.

“You know… to make sure they aren’t… (whispers) ‘crazy‘ before you decided to keep them.”

SCREEEECH!!! HOLD UP! *Cue Mama Bear*

“What did you just ask me about my children??? Did I test them before deciding to keep them?? Did you test your bio kids before you decided to keep them? No? Why not?? What if they try to kill you in your sleep one night?!”

Okay, so maybe that wasn’t the most grace filled response, but seriously this random lady person I just met decided that should be one of her first questions to me? At least she stopped talking at that point and backed away slowly. *Mama Bear:1, Random Person:0*

Let me tell you a few things about children in foster care and children that are adopted:

  1. They are children. That’s right. Children. Wild to think about, eh?
  2. They need love and they give love. Just the same as all other children.
  3. They have experienced things that most children have not. This can lead to different behaviors and thought processes. But, still… they are children.
  4. Their background is none of your business. They are children and still deserve privacy.
  5. If no one would ever ask you the question you are about to ask me about your bio children, then don’t ask it about my foster or adoptive children. Once again, they are all children.
  6. Do not make assumptions about children in foster care or children that are adopted being “bad”, “evil”, “crazy”, or any other super inappropriate and derogatory term you might muster up. They are children. Assume about them the same as you assume about any other child.
  7. Don’t ask ridiculously ignorant and judgemental questions- it’s rude, it makes you look rude, and makes Mama Bear angry. You don’t want an angry Mama Bear on your tail.

Listen, I know there are a LOT of misconceptions regarding foster children and much of that comes from the media where movies show crazed foster children that kill their parents, torment siblings, and more, but seriously, it’s 2017… can we please get over this dramatic show of evil foster children and start casting them as they are: children. Can you maybe access the internet and research on how to help these children, or ask a meaningful and helpful question to the foster parent, adoptive parent, or… wait for it… the actual CHILD??

Mama Bear

Here are a few step by step ways to not sound ignorant and rude about foster care and adoption and not tick off a Mama Bear:

Step 1) Stop with the misconceptions and prejudgements on foster and adoptive children based on things they have no control over

Step 2) Remember they are children

Step 3) Treat them with the respect that all children deserve

 

Alisha Signature

 

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Did I do good, Mama?!

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This was the question my daughter asked me on report card day. She was so proud to have gotten her report card and couldn’t wait to show it to me.

I glanced down at the stack of papers. I am reading “P” and “M” on so many lines. There are color graphs and grids. I flip the papers back and forth trying to figure out what everything means. “P” is progressing, “M” is meets expectations, “L” means limited progress. Good to know… good… to… know. Now, to go back through each page and decipher it all…ugh…

I see a lot of “P’s.” Not very many “M’s” though…Hmm… Realization hits me: she is behind. She’s behind in a LOT of areas.

I am sad that she is behind others in her grade level. This breaks my mama heart. I mean, don’t we all want our kids to succeed at the highest level possible? I want her to be able to conquer the world!

Well, it broke my heart for a second—and I mean only one second. That’s when the biggest smile in the world looked up at me with her gorgeous brown eyes and said with excitement:

“Did I do good, Mama?!”

I quickly responded.

“Yes, baby. You did good. So, so good!”

She skipped away with such pride.

“Man, I love that little bundle of joy,” I thought to myself.

In that split second I realized that she was far exceeding expectations in life. She was conquering the world. She might not be on grade level but there are numerous reasons that could be; none of which anyone can change now, and none of which I would want to change. But more than not being on grade level, her character outshines everyone around her. Her teachers comments are always about her “constant smile and positivity,” how “even when faced with a major injury she kept smiling and enjoying school,” how “she never lets anyone bring her down” and how “she is always full of joy.” Who was I to take away her pride and her joy because she isn’t meeting a standardized test? What good would it have done either of us for me to say “Not really. You are behind in a lot of places.”? None. It wouldn’t have helped one bit. But you know what it would have done? It would have taken away her pride. It would have taken away her smile. It wouldn’t have helped her grade.

So many children in today’s society have seen and been through things that effect them forever. Biological makeup, neglect, abuse, trauma, substance abuse exposure, environment, and so much more contribute to how they learn and grow. There are the children who try their hardest but will never reach grade level and then there are children who can easily obtain the grade desired but maybe they aren’t reaching it because of a reason unrelated to academics. Let’s take a deeper look at their entire being, not just their grade. Many children, especially foster and adopted children, face anxiety and depression, and some also experienced past trauma and neglect that has effected brain growth and development. Each individual piece drastically effects one’s ability to learn and test, but coupled with numerous pieces can lead to academic struggles. As a society we need to stop focusing on the grade and get back to the person.We should test them on loving their neighbor, being a great helper, and extending grace. Do we extend grace like our kids do? I know I fall short more than I meet expectations.

I will always love my children and their character way more than I care about their academic letter grades. Children are all different and we all parent differently. It doesn’t make us good or bad, just perfect for each other.

So I said it once and I’ll continue to say it:

“Yes, baby. You did good. So, so good.”

I encourage you to say the same.

Alisha Signature

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One Little Word 2017

For the past 2 years, the Dropping Anchors ladies have shared some of our “One Little Word” thoughts for the new year. So now that it’s 2017 we’re ready for a new set of words.

Each year that I have chosen a word, the Lord has used that word monumentally in my life. In 2015 my word was “light” because I had had so much darkness in my life with depression in 2014 and I needed to cling to the hope that the light was overcoming the darkness. And in 2015, God miraculously healed me from depression! In 2016 my words were “peace and joy” because I couldn’t chose just one. And this year was anything but peace from the outside. So much so, that it seemed like chaos was the theme of the year. But internally I’ve found immense amounts of peace from the Lord and joy in the journey of it. I’ve truly come out of this past year with more joy and peace than I knew possible.


This year, I felt the Lord giving me the word abundance. I don’t know what that looks like for me yet, but I’m excited to find out! I’ve looked up verses about abundance and will study them through the year, I will pray and meditate on the Lord’s abundance, and I’m ready to soak it all up.

Here are the words chosen by some of the other Dropping Anchors girls this year. Are you choosing a “One Little Word” for 2017? Share it with us!


Happy New Year, friends! Praying you receive the goodness of God this year!

steph

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Adoption Stories: Post 2

Read post 1 here. Enjoy. ❤


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Leslie Crosby:

“After finalizing our son’s adoption in 2012, we provided short term foster placements for five sweet babes. A second adoption was very clearly placed on our hearts, and we were placed with our daughter early in 2014. We celebrated each new first with our sweet girl, and were overjoyed when we were able to finalize her adoption on May 6, 2016. ”

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Kristen Slattery:

“We finalized our adoption of a 16-year-old girl from foster care just last week. We already had 3 young bio kids when we felt the call to adoption. We were struck by the great number of kids awaiting adoption in the U.S. and knew that our child was out there amidst all the smiling faces on the AdoptUSkids website. We were matched in March of 2015 and finalized in October 2016.

You can see more about our family and adoption journey on my instagram @kristelaine or my blog Engineering Motherhood.

Thanks,
Kristen Wolfe & John Slattery”

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Jamie:

“We always knew foster care was going to be a part of our life. We just didn’t expect it to be the only way we would grow our family.
I consider every child who has walked through our door as a part of our family forever. Each of the 11 children have left an indelible mark on our hearts.
Our most recent adoption was our youngest sons in April of this year. We brought him home at 14 days old and it was on day 882 that he became a forever part of our family.
I now can’t imagine having build our family in any other way.
Every little person who has come through our home has been such a blessing to our family, no matter how long they’ve stayed. Some for just a couple weeks and some forever.”

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Kelli Nichole:

“After two foster turned adoption placements, I felt my heart being pulled towards fostering again and being part of a reunification story. Quite honestly though, I had been dragging my feet a bit knowing the challenge and heartbreak that would entail. Then I got an email asking us to foster a little girl who was already in the process of ICPC to be moved to a family member in another state. It seemed like a perfect way to help a child who needed us during transition and play a small role in bringing a family back together. Even though our children were 3 and 2, I thought we could certainly make having 3 toddlers work for a short amount of time. Right?
Well, just like any true foster care journey a few months in things changed and we were chosen to be her forever. I call her my surprise middle child and we could not be more thrilled. She has not only blessed us by being our daughter, but we are proud to call her biological family ours too! We celebrated her adoption on 10-11-2016, exactly three years since our first childs adoption.”

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Tiffani Elizabeth

“We adopted our blessings from God on July 22nd. Our plan was to adopt one infant girl. We have 4 bio kids , one girl and then three boys. So we desperately wanted another girl in the family. My daughter has always asked for a sister. Well she got two! Our first placement was a little girl 23mos and she was a twin! So we took both girls and 4 months into our journey we also took baby brother. So god’s plan was that I would be a momma to 7 beautiful children. ”


casey

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Adoption Stories: Post 1

During the month of November, we collected several adoption stories to celebrate National Adoption Month. Over the next few days, we will share them broken into several different posts. We hope you enjoy reading these as much as we have!


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Roxie Swank:

“Our family story starts with the heartbreak of infertility. Foster care was always my later life plan, something I wanted to do once my kids were grown and I thought we would foster teenagers. But in his true fashion God had other plans, in November 2015 we finalized Mya and Kalum’s adoptions. Fast forward 10 months later and we finalized Alex’s adoption on September 3, 2016. Foster care made us a family and adoption made it forever ❤️ and all of the people in this picture, they are our family. Some by blood, and many by choice. They all love our kids fiercely, they supported us through the ups and downs of foster care and stood here with us to celebrate that we were officially and forever a family of 5.”

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Tabitha Lafferty:

“Todd and I met in jr high at church . We grew up together as friends and didn’t date until our 20’s . When we decided to get married we immediately talked about making a family . Adoption was one of those dreams . Fast forward 7 years and we didn’t have any children . I was a manager at bath and body works and one day a friend called me while I was At work. She asked if we wanted a baby ! A friend of hers had a baby and CPS would be removing it , would we like him ? I initially said no . We hadn’t even discussed this ! A week went by and the friend said we could still have the baby if we wanted , all we needed to do was become foster parents . So we found an agency . We received pictures of the baby as we quickly got licensed . We were a week or so shy of finishing up and we got devastating news. The baby wasn’t his so he wouldn’t be able to have us as a kinship placement . We were confused . We rushed through all this to be let down ? We decided to finish our licensing and see where this led us . Not even a week from finishing our last class we got a call . Two boys , ages 2&1 did we want them ? We said yes !! They came within 45 min . After that it was a roller coaster . For 15 months we fostered them with the wish of adopting . The bio mom was involved and wanted her sons back . We were advised by CPS to hire a lawyer and seek termination of her rights . We did not get it . Instead we got PMC . Permanent managing Conservators. Or legal guardians . We would keep them in our home but they would still have visits with bio mom supervised by us every 1st , 3rd and 5th Saturday . CPS closed the case and we were left to deal with bio mom on our own . We felt abandoned and scared . God didn’t answer our prayers. And we were so lost . We started this new journey . As we did we lost friends , family members, a church . It’s hard to explain the loneliness we felt as we were one of the only families to do this that wasn’t a kinship (family ) placement. We were still an open foster home as well . So we got another call for respite for 2 more boys ages 3&1 . We said yes and they came to us that afternoon . After 2 weeks we were told their bio parents already had their rights terminated and so these boys were adoption ready . We initially said no . 4 boys under 4 was a lot and we were dealing with so much from the 1st 2’s bio mom . We continued to care for them and after about a month we felt God leading us and telling us to adopt these 2 new boys. So we did ! We had them a little over 9 months when they became our forever kids . After that our oldest (one of the original 2) started to have a lot of anxiety and fears. He begged us to adopt him. We tried to reassure him that he was ours but he kept saying “the judge didn’t say so .” He knew . So last year we started to pray and save money . And at the beginning of this year we met with a lawyer . I met bio mom and explained our desires and our sons desires . After much , MUCH deliberation she signed her rights away . We adopted them on June 16, 2016 . 1289 after they came into our home . So thats our story . Still in the middle of it ,not sure how it will end but I do know it will end with us as a family . Although I don’t know why we journeyed this road I do know that God guided and protected us every step of the way . Even on days I couldn’t see any light.”

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Stephanie Daniels:

“We entered in to the world of foster care intending to adopt- but along the way we fell in love with fostering. We continued to pursue adoption, but it wasn’t fast, and it wasn’t easy. But then there she was! We are hers forever and all the waiting was worth it.
The Daniels family”

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Casey Zaruba:

“I wish I could say I was one of those people who always wanted to adopt, but truth be told that wasn’t me. I always just thought I would be pregnant. After donating eggs to another couple in 2011 who couldn’t get pregnant, my husband and I began trying to conceive. After almost 2 years, randomly (it felt like) God laid Uganda, Africa on my heart. He spoke it to me so clearly. At this point Adoption was something that was now on my mind, but not my husbands. Like not even a little. He got on board with Africa (God is sneaky, right?) and we served in an orphanage for a month. Met the sweetest boy named Kamoga to this day I swear made my husband a dad. Came home changed, began fighting for Kamoga to be ours, started a concurrent adoption in the Czech Republic. ***Fast Forward*** Ultimately we found out Kamoga DID in fact have a family in Uganda so we immediately stopped the adoption process for him (nearly killed me), and after a year of being the Czech program, about 452 friends becoming pregnant (doesn’t this always happen when you want a baby) one Tuesday night in September 2014 I cried the whole way home telling God I felt forgotten. Like BAWLED my eye out. That night at around 6pm I received a phone call from an agency in Florida ( I skipped the part where I mentioned I became an adoption consultant with Christian Adoption Consultants through all of this) that we worked with and on the other line I heard, “Casey, we have a 4 day old baby boy in the NICU and he needs a family. His mom asked us to choose and we think it should be you and Tyler.” And then that’s when I blacked out. (kidding, but really) the next few hours were INTENSE as we took out a ginormous loan, said yes, packed our car and got on the road. 48 hours later we walked into a room and met our first son, Foster. 10 months later we started our second adoption and 7 weeks after that our second baby boy, Murphy was born and we finalized his adoption earlier this year. We have 2 open adoptions, 2 beautiful boys and a God that was so faithful to us. If you are waiting and feel like time is standing still, I would encourage you to seek God in those moments and cling to the fact that there is Purpose in the Pain. He is so good, friends. ❤”

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Hillary Massey:

“April 22, 2016. Our first official day as a family of 3. As big as this day was for our family, it also wasn’t. We became a family long before. We become a new family every time new children come into our home. Foster, respite, adoption day, they are all just different versions of us. They are all ours forever, whether they end up with our last name or not.
We didn’t tell anyone of our plans to foster. We completed our training a month after our info meeting and told 2 family members and a friend what we were doing because we needed them to be our personal references. We were approved days after our final home study and days later received our first placement of two little boys. Our families were shocked. It was hard adjusting to life as four. But we did adjust and loved them fiercely. After 6 months we knew they would most likely be reunifying. Our consultant approached us to consider accepting an additional placement that would overlap our current one. A 6 month old girl that had been with another family in our church from 3 weeks old. I knew the baby as I happened to have been at the court house the day she was removed from her biological mother. We started doing respite for her and accepted placement of this dark haired roly-poly girl days before she turned 8 months. Life was crazy with 3 foster kids 3 and under, not to mention visitations, home visits, case workers, and therapies that come with foster care. We grew close to the other foster family. What a gift they have been to us! Our boys reunified 2 months later and we settled into life with only one child. Termination and surrender happened quickly. It was heart wrenching and relieving at the same time. We were impatient to have the studies completed and to have a finalization date. But we got our date in record time and became official!
Adoption has certainly built our family, but adoption just makes official what you already know as a family. We have been forced to trust our God through every unknown and heartbreak. And I thank God for the hard! Without these hard places, adoption of our girl would not even be in our story. Our toddler girl that waves to everyone she sees, who will grow knowing her middle family that loves her profoundly. We could not even be a glimpse of the family we are after foster care and adoption.
I attended a retreat this year just before finalization. An adoptee speaker there shared with an adoptive mama and it was said that not only our adopted children come from a hard place but so do adoptive mamas. It was a lightbulb moment for me because it put into words what was in my heart. God designed our hard places to fit together. God uses our obedience to heal us if we will just trust him.
I don’t think God ever designed children to lose their biological families but used the broken pieces of sinfulness to heal. Only God can do that, make something unexplainably beautiful out of sorrow and loss. To be a part of that is such an honor.”


casey

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