Updated: Oct 12
INTRODUCTION: This installment is the second of a three-part series telling the first-person account of 20-year-old foster sister Ashlee Welch. In this story, Ashlee recounts how her family becomes a fully-licensed Baptist Children’s Homes’ foster family, Israel becomes her adopted brother, and her parent’s desire to foster more children.
Israel is now a part of our lives and so my parents decided to take the next step—we would become his foster care family. They began the training in preparation for receiving their foster care license and when that was complete Israel moved in with us full time. It was a little challenging at first as I imagine all foster placements are in the beginning.
It took an adjustment period. Israel was not allowed to call or visit his mother at this point but had an array of court dates in which she was required to attend by phone. Israel was timid and unsure what the future held. For a while, we walked on eggshells around each other while still trying to create that place of family and comfort. Slowly, it began to happen.
After about three years of Israel being with us full time, we all sat down together and discussed legally adopting Israel into our family. He was in the 8th grade. Tanner and I never went to the court dates. Usually, Mom and Dad, Israel, his mom, the case-workers, and judge were the only ones allowed in the courtroom. When we did go, it was the last court date, the day we fought for Israel to be permanently placed in our care and legally become
our brother. His mother would never regain her parental rights and did not even bother to show up that day.
This was hard on Israel. Eshawn, his older brother, had moved
back in with his mother and quickly landed himself in jail. His mother had a part-time job at a hotel, but she quickly lost it due to her issues. When she didn’t show up that day, the judge ruled in our favor. Our family was granted legal guardianship which means he was fully removed from the foster care system and was legally my parents’ child—my parents are his legal guardians and Israel became my brother. He would not age out of our home at 18. He would be a part of the family forever and have loving parents to help him figure out life’s big questions and provide guidance as he grew into adulthood.
After fully moving into our home, he and Tanner adjusted to high school and Israel thrived, making a ton of really good friends. Football became his life. Although he was the smallest lineman on the team, he could tackle and loved it. When things settled back to something that looked like normal, my parents decided they would keep fostering when the opportunity came.
One evening, we got a phone call right as Mom was pulling dinner off the stove. The call was from Israel’s old case worker and she was frantic. She had just taken a call about two little girls, sisters ages three and four, who had been immediately placed into foster care. One of the sisters was in the emergency room and the other needed us as soon as possible.
*Allison and Kimberly, the two little angels who were about to become the little sisters I had been praying for, came from a much different background than Israel. We left the house before we ate and met the caseworker at her office to pick up three-year-old Allison. We would pick up four-year-old Kimberly once she was released from the hospital. We took Allison back to the house and she was scared. She did not eat and would not sleep. When we bathed her, we were asked to check for any further signs of abuse, and let me tell you, not a single eye in our house was dry that night. After her bath, we applied Band-Aids where they were needed and turned on the television with her by my side hoping she would feel comfortable enough to sleep.
Around midnight, Mom got another call from the case worker. We went to meet her and welcome Kimberly. She was feeling better after leaving the hospital and was a bundle of energy. She talked the whole way home, telling us all about her day. You could tell the girls were opposites as soon as we met the older sibling. Mom and I were given a binder of the information gathered about the girls—their trauma and what we needed to do. Each girl had a backpack with some necessities. They had a few clothes and their stuffed animals. Kimberly ate all her food and all Allison’s leftovers as well.
We then followed the same steps we did with her sister. Allison and Kimberly meshed with our family. Our home was soon filled with giggles. The girls were the biggest fans of VeggieTales, stories before bedtime, and building Legos. Allison loved the little kitten we had and carried her around like a rag doll ninety percent of the time. Kimberly loved playing with the dogs. She had these big blue glasses that she managed to lose everywhere we went—only to find them sitting in her car seat when we returned to the car. The sisters captured Dad’s heart and they were the next missing piece to our family puzzle.
But there were challenges as well. They were harder to work with when it came to their time in the foster system. They had supervised visitation rights with their parents, and since they were so young, once they saw them they didn’t want to leave them—which was understandable. They didn’t really remember all the trauma their parents had put them through and when they saw them they didn’t understand why they weren’t going back home with them. Then one day everything changed, Israel woke up in the middle of the night with a massive stomachache.
*NOTE: Allison and Kimberly are not the girl’s names. Their real names were not used to protect them.
Read the rest of the story:
By Ashlee Welch, Foster Sister