Families can come in all shapes and sizes, but for Army veteran Stacy McKinney her household grew in new and surprising ways as an adoptive and foster parent.
“I knew that I could provide a stable and safe environment for children regardless of whether they were going to stay or not,” McKinney said.
When McKinney was 29, she learned she was unable to have children. But after returning home from a deployment in Afghanistan in 2009, she realized she wanted to build a family even if she had to do it on her own.
At first, McKinney started looking at international adoption agencies. After thousands of dollars and hours of research, she decided to take a different route.
“My heart had changed a bit on being so adamant about adopting through the foster care system,” she said. “I just thought ‘I can do this, I can help, it doesn’t matter if they could stay or not.’ I just knew I wanted children in my home.”
In 2012, McKinney started doing respite foster care for two young boys. Respite foster care is when one foster family cares for another foster family’s children to give the foster parents a break.
That experience helped prepare McKinney for her soon-to-be son.
“There’s multiple ways to become a parent,” she said. “There’s the natural way or you can do a parent-to-parent adoption, which is just you and me and attorneys and legal fees.”
That’s how McKinney was connected with her son, who is now 6 years old.
But adopting and fostering children isn’t always simple and McKinney warned that the process can be an emotional roller coaster ride. A ride Mckinney soon experienced the following year when adopting her daughter.
When she was first asked if she would be interested in adopting a baby girl that was due in December 2014, McKinney was more than excited to welcome a new family member. She prepared a room, bought toys and waited patiently for a new little girl to love.
But then she got a crushing phone call saying her services were no longer needed because the baby was taken to a biological relative.
“It was the worst weekend of my life,” she said. “It was one of those things you don’t expect and sometimes things happen so fast.”
But three days later, McKinney got another phone call asking if she would still be available to take the new baby after there was an issue with the kinship home.
And five years later, McKinney gets to hear her daughter’s laugh every morning.
As the two children get older, McKinney doesn’t want them to forget about their past and their biological family. She tries to introduce them to where they come from by explaining their biological mothers are their “Tummy Mommies” but that she is also their mother. This has created a balancing act which might prove to become more complicated as the children get older.
“I think (they) probably understands who they are but they don’t really know who they are entirely,” she said. “We try to teach them don’t ever talk bad about their families because it’s still their family. It’s all they know, regardless of how terrible they were treated—that’s still your mom.”
Handling tough topics like this is of the many subjects covered in James City County Social Services’ five-week training seminar, which will have an orientation on Wednesday at 5249 Olde Town Road from 6-7:30 p.m.