A couple’s plans change—and a family grows
Amber and Travis Thompson had a daughter Maggie, age 6, and a son Will, age 7, when they first discussed becoming foster parents.
“My husband said he’d been thinking we should do something more to help other children and families and I said, ‘That’s crazy, I’ve been thinking the same thing.’”
The couple attended an interest meeting about foster care at their local Department of Social Services.
“Both of us left knowing that we wanted to foster children,” says Amber.
The Thompsons set about deciding on their foster plan. What they didn’t know was that their well-considered plans would quickly change.
A fast-growing family
One of their plans was that they would foster only children ages 2–7—younger than Will, but old enough that everyone could sleep through the night.
“We were serious about that,” laughs Amber. “And it’s hilarious because we really ended up only taking babies and teenagers and one child the same age as our son.”
The Thompson’s first foster placement, Willow (now 6), “was this beautiful, brown-eyed, brown-haired girl,” says Amber. She was also 5 weeks old.
“The plan went right out the door,” says Amber. “Willow stole our hearts immediately.”
They also fostered a boy the same age as Will, who was reunified with his parents after 14 months, but who remains connected with their family.
Then Amber’s job as a health science teacher at the high school connected her with a young man who needed a home.
Two more boys
Amber’s student Dylan was a tall, polite teenager with “sad, weary eyes,” says Amber.
“He had such a kind spirit—just a real humble, kind spirit that was very warm.”
Dylan seemed to be having trouble at home and soon approached Amber for help.
“Dylan asked me to pack him a lunch for field trip, he needed clothes for a project, and he was often unsure of how he was getting home in the afternoons or where to ride the bus to,” says Amber.
When she learned that social services was involved with his situation, she offered Dylan a place to go if he ever needed one. Soon after, social services helped connect him to their family.
“We didn’t have a bed or room and weren’t licensed for additional children, but we made all of that happen within 24 hours,” says Amber.
Months later, the family received a call about a baby boy, Christopher, who was in the hospital. A few days later, they brought home the 4 lbs 2oz boy.
The Thompsons were able to finalize the adoptions of Dylan, Christopher, and Willow in 2015.
Raising a teen
Raising children and youth of varying ages offers plenty of challenges—just like any parenting does. As a registered nurse and health teacher, Amber has some unique skills.
“I told someone once that in one day I had changed diapers, had a talk about puberty, and another talk about safe sex.”
She and Travis needed to learn how to raise a teenager, since Dylan was their first. They sometimes worried that they didn’t know what they were doing.
“Were we being too lenient, or too strict?” they wondered.
They learned that it was okay to talk honestly about their struggles with their son.
“If we messed up, I would say to Dylan, ‘Look, we’ve never done this before. I need you to give me grace because I have no idea what I’m doing.’” Dylan is now in college.
Learning as you go
“These children have taught us the value of time, caring, giving, persistence, patience, love, and strength, and the power of overcoming obstacles,” says Amber.
When she talks to other families about fostering and adoption, she often hears parents worrying that they need to “have it all together first.”
“That is so not true. If you have love and you’re open to anything, you figure it out.”
Just like the Thompsons did.