Through Adoption and Kinship Care, the Reeds stand out: The 2022 Kinship Family of the Year shares their struggles, joys
June 2022 · Forward in Hope, Foster Family Features
Melissa and Michael Reed’s foster parenting story began more than 20 years ago, and it’s through foster care that they’ve built their family. It’s also led them to the path they now travel – one which they never could have predicted or planned. After adopting their daughter in 2002 when she was just four years old, they proceeded to adopt four more children who now range in ages from 13 to 24.
“It’s been a blessing to have had our family created that way,” said Melissa. “When we decided to adopt through foster care, I wondered how much they would feel like my own. But I love them all so much. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we wouldn’t trade it.”
They’re dealing with some of those ups and downs now.
About two and a half years ago, their eldest son, who is developmentally challenged, had a daughter. His parents had advised him against having a child, but he wanted a family of his own. Born at 24 weeks, Diane now has her own developmental issues. Her parents tried to care for her but ultimately were unable to provide the specialized care she needs. Eventually, the Department for Children and Families placed her in the custody of Mike and Melissa.
“Taking care of Diane has proved to be a big challenge for us, and it’s really made us feel our age,” said Mike. “Our case workers and kinship workers have been great, but there are lots of things we’ve run into that we haven’t encountered before. The learning curve is big. The good part is we are seeing her progress, and that’s the thing that makes the most difference.”
The couple certainly never expected to be parents to their granddaughter, but it’s not an uncommon situation. Many kinship foster parents are grandparents who have put off retirement to care for their biological grandchildren. What is rare is caring for a grandchild with needs such as Diane’s. Fortunately, Melissa is able to stay home so she can care for her and take her to all her appointments.
“Caring for Diane is not difficult, but it has shifted our situation dramatically,” said Melissa. “We weren’t really on the same page when she first came to stay with us, but we’ve since gotten there, and it’s brought us closer together and given us a whole new meaning in life.”
The same can be said for their entire foster and adoption experience.
“I would say it’s definitely made us less self-centered,” added Mike. “We were able to focus all our energy toward our children instead of ourselves. It also helped us build a relationship in which we both feel we’re in this together. And that’s helped us through a lot of tough times.”
Still they wonder how long they can keep up caring for Diane. As Mike says, they’re not getting any younger. They suspect Diane would benefit from adoption by people with more energy, a family capable of sustained commitment.
“We want to be grandparents; we were meant to be grandparents,” said Melissa. “But Diane loves children, and we’re not having any more children. She thrives around children her age, and she would benefit greatly from an environment with other kids.”
They’re grateful for the ways adoption has enriched their own lives as well as the lives – and futures – of their own children, and they believe it could do the same for Diane and an adoptive family. Whomever that is, they would have to be special people, the kind of people that, as Melissa puts it, who are willing to open their hearts and put first the children in their care. Until that happens, though, they remain committed to caring for their granddaughter.
“This whole experience has shown me that there’s more to this than just loving children and having what we would call a family,” said Melissa. “How do you advocate for someone? We’re all different. We all have different capabilities or disabilities – whatever you call them. Parenting isn’t just loving someone and providing them a place to live and food to eat. It’s about helping them become the person God meant for them to be.”
To protect privacy, we changed the name of the child in this story.