Because we could—and because we should
Justin and Marcie Cholewinski live in the same Virginia town where they were born, where they met on their school bus, and where they were married. Justin is a machinist and Marcie is a public school teacher. Both have always worked full-time.
We talked with Marcie about adopting siblings from foster care—and their plans to adopt again.
What attracted you to adoption from foster care?
When Justin and I decided to adopt, we had three young daughters and no desire to have more children by birth. My experience as a school teacher and foster parent had shown me how easy it is to love other people’s children. Also, we believed that adopting would help us teach valuable lessons to our birth children.
That’s the long answer. The short one is that we were drawn to adoption from foster care because we knew we could do it and because we believed that we should do it.
Your family searched on AdoptUSKids for several months before being matched with a sibling group. Can you describe that process?
We registered on AdoptUSKids in January 2016. We focused our search on siblings because we knew there was a demand for families who would keep siblings together, and we had seen how the children benefitted.
We had made several inquiries before I spotted a group of three kids from our home state of Virginia on the site—two girls and a boy. They were the cutest redheaded, blue-eyed children I had ever seen. I could hear them giggle through the photograph!
We inquired on them immediately, and by the end of that day their worker requested our home study. I wanted our family to stand out, so I asked our worker to reach out and send our family video and scrapbook. I was happy to hear that the children’s worker was very interested in seeing all of it!
After two months, your family was selected to adopt the siblings. How did it feel?
I will never forget the day our worker forwarded me the email saying, “We are interested in the Cholewinski family.” I was cleaning our master bathroom and had to shut the door to cry over my happiness.
The sad news was that only the two older two children were available. Their sister was in the process of being placed in another adoptive home. That was news we weren’t prepared for, because we were so motivated to help siblings stay together. But we did not hesitate to move forward.
We had a great first meeting and series of visits. Ten months later, we made the adoption official!
How did you celebrate?
We had a big surprise party. We invited family, friends, teachers, and workers.
The party theme was “O-fish-ally Cholewinski”—a play on the word “official.” We had tackle boxes filled with candy, fish bowls full of snacks, and decorated cakes. I framed and decorated some of their adoption paperwork and had it out for everyone to see.
Were you able to keep the two children you adopted in touch with their sister?
Yes! Their little sister was adopted by a teacher who lives about three hours away. Our families have not only gotten to know each other but have become friends. We talk all the time and try to meet up a few times a year. It’s a very special connection to have two families who are living apart parenting biological siblings.
You are still fostering and planning to adopt more children. What keeps you doing it?
There are hard days and everyone in our family sacrifices. Foster care involves so many people and emails and meetings and appointments. That’s where the sacrifice often comes into play.
But we have never considered ending this journey—not once. It gets back to what made us first want to adopt over two years ago: the need is great, and we have to keep doing what we can.
Of course, there are also many rewards, and they far outweigh the challenges! Things like seeing a boy who could barely write his first name one year make straight As the next, or a child go from having an IEP to being in a gifted program. Most rewarding of all is seeing children who came to us with so many attachment issues break through those boundaries and finally feel family.
What do you think are the most important things for other families who are thinking about adoption to know?
You can do it. If your heart is tugging at you to learn more about foster care, go for it! Yes, there will be hard days. You will have to sacrifice. Life will become more complicated. But helping a child in need is worth every second it takes to overcome any obstacle.