Today we are sharing a story that has gone viral because it addresses two important topics: singles adopting and the needs of sibling sets in foster care. There are many myths surrounding both of these topics. If we had a dollar for every time we heard someone say they would love to adopt but they can't because they are single (not true), we would be a fully funded organization! According to statistics from Adopt US Kids, more than 2/3rds of children in foster care are a part of a sibling set. Enjoy the blog and help us share the Dunkin Family video...
I am Lacey Dunkin, a single mom of six happy, healthy, caring, funny, and beautiful little girls, that just so happen to be adopted from Foster Care. In many ways our story is quite unique but it's also not very different from many other foster-to-adopt stories I know. First of all, I did not set out to adopt six little girls. In fact when I started the certification process, I imagined myself as a mother of little boys, but of course, God had other plans.
When I got the call for a foster placement of four little girls at close to 10pm towards the end of September 2011, I immediately said "yes". It was nothing that I had originally wanted, a strictly foster placement, and four kids, yes four! (Am I insane???) But all I heard was "a 5-year-old, 2-year-old twins and a 1-year-old baby," and I agreed. Initially, I only planned on taking in one or two children who were available for adoption but when I got this call I was compelled to say yes, I still can't quite tell you why.
The next few days were crazy to say the least. I learned that the four girls also had a newborn baby sister who was born the day before I got them, she went to stay with another foster family with more experience than I, and was reunified with their biological mother on Christmas Day 2011. Throughout the nine months that I originally had the girls, I fell in love instantly. I worked hand and hand with their biological parents, often times talking on the phone for hours after a visit to help them navigate this parenting thing and deal with some difficult behaviors the girls were exhibiting. It was hard, these two had not made safe decisions for the girls and a lot of me wanted to be angry at them, wanted to tell them where to go and just shake them! But sometimes you have to put your own pride aside to do what's right for the children. They needed both of us, so we united in order for the girls to get the best of both worlds.
I often joke that the girls were a "package deal", because I couldn't imagine adopting any of them without their sisters. And when baby number six came along, I immediately knew where she belonged. It was a tough decision, especially for my dad, but I know that we ultimately made the right decision for our family. If any one of these girls were missing, we'd have a huge gaping hole in our family and our hearts.
For me, I tried to imagine how it would be had I not grown up with my brother. How would I feel if I knew I had a sibling out there? What worries for him would I have had? How would our lives differ from each other, how would that effect our relationship, would we even have a relationship? When I got the call about baby number six, my family and I had to have a serious discussion whether we were able and/or willing to take on another baby, I knew in my heart she belonged with her sisters, but it was a difficult decision nonetheless. Sophia, who was 7 years old at the time, told my dad, "Papa, she deserves to be able to have a good house and sisters too", and that was it, it was decided that we would "just make it work."
Since sharing our story I've been contacted by so many people, of all ages, sharing with me their stories. I've heard over and over again of children being separated from their siblings, not being able to keep contact with their siblings, and/or knowing they have siblings they've never met. They've told me how hard it was to connect as adults, how it affected them growing up, and how it haunted them their whole lives. It breaks my heart to know that this is still happening daily in our current Foster Care system.
I understand that not everyone is able to take on six children, I agree, I'm a little nuts, but there is such a need for foster and foster-to-adopt homes willing to welcome a sibling group, as they are some of the hardest placements. And as I've said, it wasn't my plan, but I am so glad that I had the inclination to just say "yes" to four little sweethearts that fateful night 5 years ago. It's changed my world for the better in more ways than I can ever express and brought more happiness than I could have ever imagined when I first started this journey.
I have to tell you, it's been such a pleasure to watch my girls re-establish their relationships with each other. Sadly, out of necessity, they were often split up and stayed with various relatives for the early parts of their lives, but they have been able to build such a beautiful bond since coming into my care. Of course, they bicker, and tattle, and complain about each other daily, but they also have such an immense love for each other, it amazes me. They genuinely care about each other and it does my heart so much good when I hear them tell their sister, "I love you!" It is truly a blessing to see them grow, to watch them look after each other. Being able to witness their happiness and hear their laughter as the play together, is EVERYTHING.
If you're already a parent, you know that it's not an easy job. It's not something to jump into blindly, but it also grants the greatest rewards of any other job, hands down. As they say, it takes a village, and I'm so thankful for my village of family and friends who are always ready and willing to jump in when needed. If you're thinking about fostering or adopting more than one child, I suggest you get your village ready too! I honestly couldn't do it without these people, mainly my parents, who "parent" with me daily.
Above all, I want people to know that I didn't "save" my daughters, they saved me. They've opened up a whole new world of possibilities and love. I have so many hopes for them but mainly I want to instill a love for one another and humanity. I pray they grow up to be happy. If they become happy, healthy, and loving adults, I will have done my job.