I began my journey into parenthood thirteen years ago when fourteen year old Jennifer came to my home. Although I was unable to adopt Jennifer, I have remained an active part of Jennifer’s life as a mentor and mother figure.
Soon after Jennifer’s arrival, I was caring for many more girls in a very short time. I was eventually able to adopt two of the girls, Anni and Aileen, who were both seventeen when they moved into my home. I ultimately adopted the two girls when they were in their early twenties.
I did not initially know that Alieen had seven brothers and sisters. I ultimately adopted four of them, while the youngest three were adopted by others. One of the four was my first son. Although I had planned on taking only girls, his sisters convinced me that I had to adopt him, too. After this adoption, both boys and girls came into my home, some through the foster care system and others through my work with “You Gotta Believe!” an older child placement agency in New York City.
Inspired by several public media campaigns and a long-term yearning to adopt, I have provided a legal, permanent home to thirteen youth and young adults. I have legally adopted six children and have plans to finalize five more adoptions in 2014. In addition, I have cared for many more on a foster care basis, continuing my commitment to these youth after their official foster care relationship ended.
The challenges I have faced are pretty normal for dealing with kids with a history of trauma. They pulled back a lot out of fear and tested my commitment. In addition, they had to deal with loss and hurt from having been abandoned. I made a lot of mistakes during the course of the last thirteen plus years, and the children have forgiven me for all of them. I had to learn as I went along. Luckily, my children were excellent teachers. They taught me what I needed to know to help them heal. All the training I received was not nearly as valuable as the lessons I learned from them.
I urge Congress to pass the Every Child Deserves a Family Act. As long as we have children in America waiting without permanent families, we should not have a single policy that is a barrier to any prospective parent.
Support our National Foster Care Month Campaign! Help knock down barriers to adoption by LGBTQ people and help every child find a family.
Thank you to Voice of Adoption for the story contribution. The Keane family story was originally published in Voice of Adoption’s 2013 Adoptive Family Portrait Project.