Foster care. There are a LOT of mixed feelings from all sorts of people when those two words are brought up. The system is assuredly broken in many ways and there is probably some serious change that needs to happen societally, let alone systemically, for that to change. What is ALSO true is the reality of thousands and thousands of incredible people who willingly open their homes to love on kids who don’t have parents.
Jessica Benzakein was a kid who made it through the foster care system.Benzakein was 12-years-old when she was officially deemed a “warden of the state”. Her mother one day decided to relinquish her parental rights, making her the responsibility of the state. Her caseworker was honest.
“He said, ‘If adoption is your plan A, you are too old,’” Benzakein recalled. “And he wasn’t saying it to be mean. I got it. His point was, if your plan A is to be adopted, you don’t fit what people are looking for. By 12, they figure you are deeply damaged and horribly troubled and there’s no reversing it. Between the ages of 2 and 5, your chances of adoption drop substantially.” – TODAY
The next 6 years would have Benzakein going through and finally leaving foster care for college when she was 18.
Christmas was always a tough one for her. They were usually spent alone and in her dorm room with nowhere to go. Years later, however, Benzakein doesn’t plan on spending any more Christmases by herself, ever again.
A few days ago, Benzakein decided to reach back and do something amazing.
Already having two biological kids with her ex-husband, Benzakein has been fostering six other boys for a few years! Now, making things official, she decided to adopt her foster boys and add them to her family forever!
She has a special place in her heart for sibling sets.
Besides her two biological kids, Eli (14) and Brenna (9), she now has Will (18), Carter (14), Sidney (13), and Markell (8) as one sibling group, and Kendrich (6) and TJ (4) as another. Of the eight kids she has in her house, there are three separate sibling groups!
She originally wanted to help older siblings because of what she experienced when she was a kid.
Benzakein has a brother who was separated from her when she was younger. With such a formative experience hurting her, she knew that if she had the opportunity to do it differently in the future, she would.
People are congratulating her and calling her a hero, but she didn’t do it for that.
“Everybody tells me how lucky these kids are and what a good thing I did,” Benzakein told TODAY Parents. “But … I’m going to cry … they grounded me. I went through my 20s thinking I didn’t really need a family. But I did. They give me purpose.”
Now, decades later, she gets to live in and provide a home that she would have dreamed of when she was a kid. It’s full circle and a real dream come true.
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