If we had to make a list of the most challenging jobs in the world, being a parent would surely make it to our top 10. Raising children, maintaining a household, and holding down a job to pay the bills and put food on the table is no easy task for anyone.
But no matter how difficult it is, some people voluntarily assume this role – even if they didn’t have to. We know them as “foster parents.”
Katie Holstein is one such example. In 2017, she decided she was ready to become a mother. So, she applied to become a licensed foster parent in January of that year.
“I wanted to be a mom, and I was tired of waiting around for Mr. Right to make it happen. I figured I would foster for several years, help reunite some families, and maybe eventually get to say yes to forever,” she said in a piece she wrote for Love What Matters.
And after eight months of waiting, her application was finally approved.
She didn’t have to wait long to receive her first assignment. The same day she was approved, she found out there were two siblings—a one-year-old and a two-year-old—that needed foster care.
Overnight, Katie became a first-time mom to two babies. It was “terrifying,” but it was also everything she “imagined it would be and more.”
Over the next three years, this mighty mom fostered 16 children. Katie admitted she was hesitant about taking teenagers because she’s heard a lot of horror stories, but her perspective changed when she met a teenage girl named Akyra.
“I got the call on March 9, 2019, from my favorite social worker. She said, ‘I know you don’t do teens, but I have this girl. She’s great, her and her current foster family just need a break. What about just for the weekend?’” Katie recalled.
She was fostering several children all under five years old at the time, including a baby who spent a little time in the NICU named Thomas, whom she fondly calls “Tiny.”
Katie wasn’t ready to take on another full-time foster child, but she wanted to help, so she agreed.
Turns out, she made the right decision.
The little kids adored Akyra and called her “big friend.” She and Katie also bonded over shared interests such as the movie Twilight and sleeping in late. Over the next few months, Akyra would stay with her for a week here and there as she bounced around different foster homes.
After almost a year of knowing Akyra, Katie decided it was time to foster her for real. She was 16 at this point and had planned to live with Katie until she aged out of the system at 18 years old.
“The plan became for her to stay with me until she graduated in about a year and then go into independent living, which is an amazing program our state runs,” Katie said.
“It allows teens who are going to age out to choose to recommit themselves to the cabinet until they’re 22. They get set up with housing, a stipend, mentors, help with jobs, school, etc. Basically, it allows them to have a slow, guided transition into adulthood instead of being expected to fend for themselves at 18.”
But as time went on, the pair grew closer. Then, one day, Akyra asked her if she ever considered adopting a teen. Katie knew then what she had to do.
Three days before Akyra turned 17, she became an official Holstein. Not only that, but Katie also adopted Thomas on the same day, at the request of Akyra!
The joyous ceremony was held via Zoom. Their family, friends, and Akyra’s caseworker were all present to witness the momentous event.
The trio celebrated with a photoshoot, alongside a board indicating how long each had been in foster care.
Now that their story is out there, Katie hopes that it will inspire other people to open their homes to foster kids. She assured that having it all together wasn’t a requirement.
“If I had waited for the ‘right time,’ I would have missed my kiddos. I promise you, there are children in your community right now who need a safe place to land, and they’re not going to care you’re on a budget, have a small house, aren’t married, or are still trying to figure this whole parenting thing out. They need willing families, not perfect ones,” she explained.
What a wonderful message of compassion and selflessness! This story just proves that being a real family doesn’t always mean being related by blood; sometimes, it just means being connected by the heart.
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