Foster Parents To Adoptee Parents
It was over six years ago when Don and Cindy Reilly’s lives changed forever. Tears swelled in their eyes as the credits rolled to the movie, the Blind Side. And, the next thing they knew, they signed up for CPR and first aid classes and began talking about fostering.
Their first set of five kids were African American, two of them were babies. They stayed with the Reilly’s for about 3 ½ weeks, and were followed by two girls and a boy who were with them about 4 ½ months. The next set of kids were teenage brothers, one with cognitive disabilities, who lived with Don and Cindy for over nine months.
Through these relationships, the Reilly’s learned two things: opening your heart up to young vulnerable kids one of life’s most rewarding experiences. The other lesson – it is VERY difficult to say good bye to temporary foster children who you have grown to love.
“We took a deep breath, wrote a letter and met with a social worker to say we wanted to foster to adopt the next time around,” Don told me.
Their next call was about a ‘unique situation’. There were six children and three of them had already been placed. Cindy actually knew the foster parent. Don and Cindy agreed to take the other three girls.
Ariel (8), Marissa (9), and Katelyn (11) met their new parents to be at Ault Park, the site where Don and Cindy were married years back. Two meet and greets, and a weekend stay later, the girls were asked if they wanted to stay. And, 4 ½ years later, Ariel, Marissa, and Katelyn became Reilly girls.
It was about four months after the adoption was finalized that Cindy became pregnant and Adrianna brought the family to six.
Lisa: What have your daughters brought to your life?
Don: Many think they know how to love but they don’t. I was raised by single mom who had many bad things happen to her and so she never really knew how to love. She would pat you on the back and say I love you. I grew up thinking that was what love was. My daughters have taught me how to love, and that you can love someone unconditionally.
Lisa: What do you hope to impart on your daughters?
Don: Cindy’s and my goal is that we want our girls to be good people, grow up, do what they want to do in life, and be people who have their hands out for those who need help. That is how I lead my life. One of the reasons I have started my own business what so that it could be a place where people can come to work and have a boss who cares about them, encourages them, and brings jo to their life. I want my girls to live that way.
The first 20 years of my life were all about me but I look at that as a good thing, and that is how I overcame a lot of my insecurities. Until I met my wife, I always was a worker. I began working when 14 years old. I think I kept busy so I didn’t have to deal with my life. I thought I was different because I didn’t have dad. I always thought it’d be neat to have a dad. Then I met my mentor who talked to me about just looking forward. He drove me to stay focused not on my past but what I want from my life. I try to teach my kids that they too can keep going forward and not look back. You can get caught up too much looking at the past and it can hurt you.