Be perfect? No, just be loving and kind
Jen Keller responded to our call for adoption stories with this simple note:
“I was adopted out of foster care as a baby—when I was seven months old. Today, I’m 50, and the proud parent of eight children—including six that we adopted from foster care. It’s a long, crazy story. Sometimes I don’t believe it myself.”
The Keller’s story began as many families do. They were recently married and struggling to conceive. Jen had come to the marriage with a nine-year-old daughter, who Nick adopted, and but they wanted more children. Jen and Nick considered in vitro fertilization, but Jen thought back on her own life and convinced Nick to consider adopting from foster care.
“My parents were basically June and Ward Cleaver. They were amazing people, and they always made me feel special, like I was destined to be their child. When they talked about adopting me, I pictured a row of bassinets, and my parents walking right over to mine,” Jen said. “I knew we could make other children feel special and loved like that.”
Jen and Nick started the process of getting licensed—which included driving two hours each way from their rural community to attend classes. Their goal was to adopt younger children—a goal they were told would be difficult to achieve.
But ultimately, Jen and Nick adopted six children under five years old from foster care. Most of their children were born drug endangered, to mothers who struggled with addiction. Two infants arrived at their home after unexpected calls from social workers. One baby joined the Keller family at her mother’s request, because Jen and Nick had already adopted her brother and sister.
Five years after those long drives to attend foster care training, Jen and Nick were the parents of eight children.
Putting life lessons to work
Jen says that while adopting younger children was their dream, the reality of having a house full of little kids—some of whom were struggling with challenges of being born drug endangered—was often chaotic.
“Were we perfect parents? No way! But we were dedicated to showing these children love and breaking the cycle of addiction so that our children, their children, and their children’s children would thrive,” Jen said.
For guidance, Jen drew on her faith and her own adoption experience.
“I also know knowing you are adopted can make you feel rejected. So over the years, I’ve talked with our kids about those feelings a lot. I kind of pry, always trying to figure out how they are feeling and how much I can tell them about their past,” Jen said.
Valuing what matters
Today, the children the Kellers adopted are between 10 and 21 years old. While their strengths and accomplishments vary, all of their children, Jen says, are good people who are thriving. She hopes that some of them will pay it forward and adopt one day.
“I tell my children: ‘I don’t care if you get straight As. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon. Just be kind, and be known as a loving person. That’s what makes you a Keller.’”