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Spreadsheets, brainwashing, and other strategies for successful parenting

The Olds family

When Sofia and DaShoan Olds adopted seven siblings from foster care in September 2017, their family made national news with stories announcing that Christmas had come early for this Florida family.

More than two years later, Sofia reports that their family is doing great! She shared some of her keys to success with us.

You’ve told your story a lot. Why?

Because some people think adoption is a scary thing—or that children in foster care have done something wrong. I want to show people that adoption is a wonderful thing, and that there are many cases like ours where it turns out to be as perfect as possible.

How did you and your husband prepare to become parents?

It turns out that we had been preparing for our whole life, we just didn’t know it.

My husband is a teacher, a coach, and a pastor. I’ve been working in the military for 16 years, organizing large groups of people and managing logistics. I even have a degree in social work!

But when we decided to pursue adoption from foster care, we got intentional. We started working toward that goal every day. We revised our budget. We talked with our employers, colleagues, friends, and family. We started to build the supportive community we knew we would need.

You’ve been a family for more than two years now. What have been the biggest rewards?

Seeing the growth in every aspect of our kids’ lives. They went from being behind in school to not only being at the correct grade levels but being in advanced classes and an honors group. They went from being full of self-doubt and lacking in self-esteem to being confident, amazing children!

How did you nurture that growth in your children?

When they came to our house, our kids thought they weren’t smart or good at school, they didn’t think they were capable because that was what they’d been told. So I did the opposite. I talked them up so high! I told them success stories—what I did, their dad did, how they could do it too. I basically brainwashed them! And they soaked it up and ran with it.

You took two years off after the children moved in, but now you and your husband both work. How do you manage?

I am extremely organized by nature and by training, and our support system is out of this world. They not only surround the children with love, they actively participate in their lives.

Because I work as a military instructor and am in the reserves, I have to travel. Before I leave, I post a spreadsheet on our fridge that show who’s getting them on the bus, off the bus, to practice, and the date I am coming back. I call them and Facetime them every day. It puts my mind at ease—and theirs too.

How has being a parent of seven kids changed you?

Having children has made me more compassionate and understanding. It has taught me to relax and enjoy and play. That it’s OK to let go and just be goofy sometimes!

Of course, I still have structure and discipline. I have seven kids, after all! But having them has made me a more well-rounded person. And it’s taught me that children are incredibly resilient and accepting and fundamentally just want to be loved.

Final thoughts?

If you can’t adopt, then foster, volunteer with kids, support another family. Do something to help children. They didn’t ask to come into this world, and they certainly didn’t ask to be put into the foster care system.

Children are our future. They will be here when we are not, and it’s our responsibility to help them.