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“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d have six kids!”

Janet Kerin has a heart for helping children, and especially for keeping siblings together. But she never thought she’d be the mother of six boys.

“My father lost touch with his siblings at an early age, and I saw how it haunted him as an adult. For his whole life, he wondered what had happened to them. It created an underlying anger that tore him up inside,” Janet told us in this 2014 interview.

At the time, Janet was raising three brothers she’d adopted a few years prior. Since then, she’s adopted three more—a boy she was fostering whose birth mother died and two brothers whose family placement had fallen through. She’s also an active foster parent.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d have six kids. But I’m sure glad I do!” Janet said. “For the most part, my boys are happy, healthy, and living a life full of experiences that they never thought possible. Some of them have dreams of going to college and some are embarking on careers.”

When asked what it is like to live in a house full of boys, Janet says, “I grew up with a lot of brothers and no sisters. Having six sons is no different for me, boys will be boys. I was a tomboy so playing football or basketball in the yard is nothing new.”

Motivated by solving the puzzle—and seeing the rewards

In addition to caring for the five boys she still has at home, Janet is currently fostering two boys through a pilot program that matches children who are not ready to be adopted with experienced foster parents. The program offers parents specialized training and support so they can work with children who have more complex histories and challenges.

“Working with these kids is like solving a puzzle. I try to get inside their head—to understand where they’re coming from and why they’re reacting the way that they are. In a lot of cases, the behaviors that helped them survive before coming into care are hurting them now.”

Janet says that most of the time, she’s successful in helping children progress and see that their futures can be different from their pasts.

“I’ve fostered more than 30 children. And many of them have contacted me years later saying, ‘Thank you, you’re the one who helped me turn my life around.’ ”

Sharing lessons learned with other parents

Janet often mentors other parents who are new to fostering and adopting. One of her primary pieces of advice to them is to know what you can handle.

“People who get into this have big hearts—they want to help children. But the biggest mistake people make is to bring children into their home who are not a good fit for their family and that is stressful for the child and the family.”

She also counsels people to take the process of selecting an agency seriously.

“They interview you—and you should be interviewing them, too. Be sure that they will be there to support you throughout the process—including after you adopt. Because that’s not the end of the journey—it’s more like the beginning. And you don’t want to go on that trip alone.”

Want to learn more about the Kerin family? Read about Janet’s experience of adopting her first three children in this 2014 blog post.