A single mom from Wisconsin who grew up in foster care officially became a mother of eight last week when she legally adopted six boys.
When Jessica Benzakein was just 12 years old, her life took a major turn.
“My caseworker, his name was Ron, sat me and down and said, ‘Your mother has terminated her parental rights. What’s your plan B?’” Jessica, 46, told TODAY Parents.
Young Jessica had no idea what he was talking about. Before she could come up with an answer, Ron decided to be straightforward with her.
“He said, ‘If adoption is your plan A, you are too old,’” she 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.”
It was a painful truth that Jessica had no choice but to accept. She spent the next six years of her life in foster care until she went off to college at the age of 18.
During these years, Jessica felt the ever-present burden of not having a family. But the time when she felt it most was one year during the holidays. While everybody left campus to be with their families, Jessica celebrated Christmas alone.
“You’re expected to leave, but I didn’t have anywhere to go,” Jessica revealed. “So, I paid to stay in a room the size of a guest closet.”
Separated from her own brother, Jessica understood the struggles experienced by children – specifically older sibling sets – who are in foster care.
“In Wisconsin alone, we have over 7,000 foster kids,” she said. “The number of sibling sets is crazy high, and they’re often broken up.”
This prompted the single mom to take in six boys – siblings Will, 17, Carter, 14, Sidney, 13, and Buddy, 8, and brothers Kendrich, 6, and T.J., 4.
Fortunately, the boys instantly formed a great dynamic with Jessica’s biological children, Eli, 14, and Brenna, 9, whom she shares with her ex-husband. And last week, things became official when she legally adopted them!
“Everybody tells me how lucky these kids are and what a good thing I did,” Jessica said. “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, the single mom is living in the kind of life that she could only dream of back when she was being transferred from home to home. There is a basketball hoop in the living room and the whole family enjoys frequent dance parties. Every Friday night, they bond by watching a movie while snacking on Papa John’s pizza.
“We have fun here. It’s total chaos in a good way,” Jessica said. “They have a safe place where they can screw up and make mistakes and laugh and joke and poke fun of each other.”
The family’s bond is as strong as ever. “We’ve been living like a family for a long time,” she said. “But now, no one can tell us we’re not.”
Watch the video below to learn more about this inspiring story.
Congratulations, Jessica and family!