Hey I’m Kelly, I’m Crystal, and we’re from Pflugerville, Texas. We have four children from foster care and we’re very proud of all of them.
Deciding to Form a Family
Kelly: We both have always had a love for children. I was in the school system while Crystal worked with children all of the time through serving as a nanny or taking care of a child who had special needs – and I knew it and we would talk about it [having children]. It was kind of like I’ve always wanted this number [of children] and Crystal would be like, I’ve always wanted this number. I was like I just want two, because that’s how I grew up.
Crystal: I wanted seven.
Kelly: Crystal wanted seven, and I was like you’re crazy. But then somewhere around the five year mark we just decided it was just time to go.
Crystal: We had just bought a house together.
Kelly: Yea we had just bought our house. There were certain things that we wanted in place before bringing children in just to make their lives the best we possibly could.
Crystal: She was established more in her job. I was working for a technology company as a coordinator and she was in her second year of being an Assistant Principal. So we just felt like it was a good idea. We had a little home in Hutto and it was kind of empty so we literally had one summer without children, but we filled it up pretty quickly. We had to move to a bigger house in two years.
Forming a Family: Choosing Foster Care
Crystal: We really didn’t know about how to get started so I Googled, “Where to go for foster care meetings,” I don’t even remember exactly what I Googled, and it popped up some Austin library. We’re super early to everything, so we show up an hour early for this meeting and we’re sitting there waiting with these other families…
Kelly: Pad and paper…
Crystal: Oh yea, pad and paper, we’re front row Joe’s waiting there. Then all these families file in behind us and as we’re sitting there learning more about the foster care system and how to get started, and they pass out sheets with different placement agencies on them. Well, that night a speaker came from a placement agency, her name is Janey, and at the time she was the Director of Texas Mentor.
Kelly: The South Austin Branch.
Crystal: We fell in love with her. We knew right then, we were like, we love this lady – she’s precious. She had an amazing personality, super bubbly and then immediately we went up to talk to her. She was like actually we have classes starting this week if you want to start them. That was all she wrote. That next week we got involved in classes.
Kelly: Yea, we got enrolled. We did our FBI fingerprints, you know background check, next we did our state [background check]…it was pretty extensive
Crystal: Home inspection…
Kelly: Yea, home inspections, health inspections, fire marshal…Lord I don’t know who else we didn’t have in our home.
Crystal: We had to make sure all of our pets were up to date on shots.
Kelly: Yea and they were because our pets used to have health insurance.
Crystal: We have too many children for that now so we had to drop that, but they’re still up to date on shots (laughs).
Kelly: Yep they’re up to date on shots.
Crystal: But the inspections ended late October.
Kelly: Yea, the home study.
Crystal: Through that, we knew that Alex was going to potentially start the process of moving in. He came for a week stay, well he was just going to stay with us on Thanksgiving, but things at his foster home weren’t working out too well, so he just immediately moved in with us. During that time, we also got the call about another placement, and that’s when we got B. We got the call about him being in the hospital and they needed a home for him to be released to. We jumped on that because we didn’t want him to spend Thanksgiving alone. So we drove to San Antonio and picked him up and brought him back.
After living with Crystal and Kelly for eight months, they were informed that B.’s family wanted custody. Crystal and Kelly still miss him dearly, but are excited that he’s growing up with his birth family.
B is Reunited with Family
Kelly: So I get this email while I was at this Superintendent Leadership Retreat. I was kind of in a state of shock. I don’t remember if I called Crystal, but I know I immediately got up, I told my boss, I did not give an explanation, “I’ve gotta go.” I told my friend though, hey this is what’s going on and she said “Get the heck out of here, just go.” She was another assistant principal with me, and I think I called you when I got in the car. My sister also knew, you were at home with him though for something. Crystal must’ve worked from home that day because she was home already. So I come home and he’s there and she’s there and I just kind of look. I remember thinking, “I can’t pack his stuff.” And thank God Crystal did that, because (she tears up a bit) and I said Crystal would cry more. But I remember thinking “how am I going to pack his stuff,” because I didn’t have the strength. I just wanted it to go away.
After B. left, Crystal and Kelly felt the loss but had to keep moving forward. There were three other kids in their home and they had to go on living for them. Crystal and Kelly have provided a forever home for 4 children, Alex (20), Weston (7), Lexi (5) and Jace (3). They think back to receiving all of their “forever family” calls.
The “Forever Family” Call for Weston
Kelly: You describe how you feel with your first calls, like when you receive those calls.
Crystal: Well I always cry because I’m just a big baby. I know with Weston she stayed in the room with B at the emergency room and they called and said, “We just want to let you know that you were chosen for Weston’s forever family.” You know, you’re so excited because we thought we weren’t going to get picked because we knew who we were going up against. We were super ecstatic and I started crying and as soon as I walked in the room she was like, “We got picked didn’t we,” and I was like “Yeah we did.” So then of course you start calling everyone to let them know that you have a real son, like he’s real. He’s like Pinocchio he’s a real boy now. And it just keeps getting closer [to the day] that he’s coming. It was like three months that we talked this child into our lives. We would say, “I wonder what Weston’s doing today, I wonder if he’s playing with his trucks and cars.” We didn’t even know what Weston did on a daily basis.
The “Forever Family” Call for Lexi
Kelly: It was very…
Crystal: It was exciting. I mean we kind of saw it coming. We would always check in and ask “is she available?” and they’d say “no she’s not,” but we were just hoping that she would be available. So I got the call, I didn’t check in with Kelly, I was like “Of course we want to adopt her.” So immediately I called Texas Mentor and they put in our paperwork on her. We actually got to adopt her here in Austin and it was a smaller adoption but it was just as special.
The “Forever Family” Call for Jace
The caseworker that placed B. with Crystal and Kelly remembered how great they were as parents. The same caseworker also called them about Jace.
Kelly: Jace’s call was a feeling of some mixed emotions for me because I was thinking, “Oh why is she calling me,” and that’s another thing I can wrap up with. Had B not have been in our lives, we wouldn’t have Jace today, because that caseworker would have never known us. So everything happens for a reason. With Jace it was very exciting, I was thinking that, now I’ve got my little baseball player or soccer player or whatever player he wants to be.
Kelly: You know, I feel like it’s ups, downs, ups, downs. You never know what to expect. I’ve learned that being a parent, it’s like, I’m going to tell you I might be there, I’m not going to make promises anymore. Especially with Weston, because we never know with him medically, like last night we were in the hospital with Weston because of a long seizure. We’re constantly having every test, everything done for him. It can be very stressful at the same time it’s the most rewarding with these little people in my home, and even the big one, it actually even changed the way I interacted with children at school. When I was doing a referral you know now I’m like if that were Jace sitting there, how would I want that person to talk to Jace, you know. So it’s really put a whole new perspective on the way I do business at work. I think it’s made me better at my profession.
We took a little break because Weston needed some help with one of his electronics…and then Jace and Lexi joined us.
Kelly: This is life now. We don’t own our time but that’s ok, we’re ok with that. It’s the ultimate sacrifice. I used to get my hair done on a certain schedule, now that doesn’t matter anymore, but my kids’ hair will always look good. They’ll always have the good clothes. I’m like they need this so I’m not going to get me this, you know, they come first. That’s the bottom line. Their safety, well-being and education is our number one priority.
There are more than 400,000 youth in the foster care system. 100,000 of them are available for adoption today. Learn more about how you can help open more homes for youth in foster care. Urge your Members of Congress to support The Every Child Deserves a Family Act and let’s help youth in care find their forever home.