By Cindy Adams
Parenting does not come with an instruction manual, nor does infertility. When Theresa and Andy came to terms with the latter, they took a deep breath and asked themselves a single question —What can we do — for ourselves and for our community? In time, the answer took shape, sparked by a burdened heart for siblings separated from one another through fostering. "We knew we had love in our hearts and space in our home," Theresa explained. "What we began to realize was that we had an opportunity and the means to keep a family together."
Their current family – Theresa, Andy, Ares (a gentle and snuggly chocolate Lab), Chloe (a loving Lab mix) and Keeva (an energetic Great Dane) loved camping, fishing, hiking, boating, gardening, barbequing or simply walking in the neighborhood. Still, they knew they had space for more.
Their first step was to provide respite care for other foster parents. This is where they tested their resolve. Some of the kids stayed a few days and others stayed a few weeks. All were teenagers.
"We believe our role is to help raise good adults, not good kids," Theresa explained. "So, in our time together we would talk with them about their long-term goals (would they choose a four-year college or trade school?), the steps they could take now to get there (how would they use their time and attention) and, hopefully, get them thinking in a forward, positive direction."
As Theresa and Andy provided respite for other foster parents, their initial desire to keep a sibling group together was affirmed and the hope for their own foster placement grew stronger. Last November it happened. While visiting relatives in Wisconsin, they got a call about three boys, ages three, seven and nine, who needed placement. They were ecstatic and announced their news at the Thanksgiving table. They cut their trip short, headed back to Virginia and prepared their home for these boys who now call Theresa and Andy "Mom" and "Dad."
"They are amazing little kiddos, absolutely divine," Theresa said. "I never imagined that it would be so natural, but we instantly bonded. They have not been here long, but they just fit."
Ares, Chloe and Keeva appear to agree. Keeva, the Great Dane, sleeps with the oldest boy every night. Playing fetch and snuggling are their favorite activities!
Theresa and Andy strive to have individual experiences with each boy. As they get to know each one, the boys are also getting to know themselves.
"The middle one is finding independence and developing his leadership skills," Theresa said. "The oldest one is learning that he does not have to be responsible for everyone’s safety. We want them to be able to let loose, have fun and be a kid."
With the help of the boys’ former foster parents, the transition was priceless. Theresa described it this way:
"The day we met the boys, we were at the park and our middle boy called out, 'Dad! Dad!' Andy wasn’t used to being called Dad, so he wasn’t connecting with that young voice. Finally, he yelled 'Andy!' When Andy turned around and responded, our middle boy grinned and said, 'Dad, did you not hear me?'"
A heart deposit.