My name is MK Hill. I’m a 29 year old single foster and adoptive mom living in Memphis, TN. I began my foster care journey 4 years ago after returning home from a year of living and working abroad in 11 different countries. Before that trip I had traveled to Guatemala over 20 times and even thought I would move there one day to work in a children’s home long term. I have always longed to open my home to vulnerable children and after encountering one woman in Memphis, my life was forever changed.
And the children who leave our home? They deal with the inevitable loss of losing family yet again. This whole thing is–at its core–broken. But, along with their loss, they carry with them the gift of attachment. They take with them the love we poured into them and the picture we’ve given them of what family is and can be. In our getting “too attached,” they get to learn what attachment is.
I had a hard abusive childhood and it was really dark and difficult to navigate by myself. As I grew up, I became committed to not letting others sit in that same kind of darkness by themselves. This is why I started fostering, because I wanted to help families become whole, healthy, and healed. I’m Shea, I am a life coach for people who have been touched by trauma, as well as a foster mom, a biological mom, and I am also a single parent. My biological daughter is thirteen years old and I have long-term placement of a 5 month old baby boy. I received my foster license in January 2018 and have had 10 kids in my home since then.
My name is Tristan and I am 19 years old. When I was 14 I was placed into state custody for getting involved in things I shouldn’t have and after being in custody for 4 years, I was placed into a group foster home.
We’ve fostered 17 kids and adopted our two sons, ages 13 and 7. At this point, my husband and I only foster sex-trafficked teens and LGBTQ+ youth- two demographics of kids in care that are unfairly overrepresented. We just had our 15-year-old foster son reunify after several awesome months with him.
But now I’m a parent - to other people’s children. I LOVE the parenting part; caring for these children is my greatest joy. I’ve got a lot of experience with infants and kids and feel pretty comfortable there. But foster care isn’t regular parenting. It’s parenting on a roller coaster, with lots of other people involved. I’m still processing all that I’ve learned over the last year, but here are a few of my takeaways 18 months into this gig…
There are moments in our lives that define us, set the course of our future and if we’re lucky humble us in a way that keep us grounded in our beliefs. For me, one of these moments was walking through a Thai city dump with a Burmese refugee who has dedicated his life to supporting vulnerable children and families…
When people first hear about sex trafficking, most assume that children are abducted and then sold into the industry, when in fact traffickers are incredibly resourceful, convincing & manipulative when luring their potential victims. A victim’s heightened needs or perceived needs are not being met which causes the vulnerable to look elsewhere. By establishing a superficial relationship and using various techniques, the trafficker will gradually manipulate them into the commercial sex industry. They take time to familiarize themselves with the victim’s individual vulnerabilities such as shelter, food, attention, love, acceptance, friendship, money, etc., in order to convince the victim that those needs will be met by him/her.
In Romania, trafficking mostly stems from poverty, lack of opportunity, and unmet emotional and relational needs. It doesn’t matter if they are from a family or an orphanage, if a child has faced neglect, abuse or a toxic living environment, it’s extremely likely that their most basic human needs of safety, love and belonging have not been met. This makes them very easy to manipulate. An easy example is if the father has left the family, a trafficker will enter the picture and say, “I know your dad left you, but I would never do that to you. I will always be here. It’s you and me forever.”
Throughout my life, I’ve always had a lot of compassion for children, especially for those who have been victims of trauma. As I dug deeper, I kept wondering how could I help these kids. I asked myself, “How can I, as a fly fisherman, move the needle of justice?”
Both of us 23 years old, my head was spinning as Sarah told me how she’d come to Asia after being promised a decent paying job at a restaurant. Because it was difficult to find a job at home, and because (not unlike me) she was excited to travel and see the world, she accepted the job, received all her travel documents, and got on a plane. Once she arrived, she was received by another Ugandan woman who took her passport and told her that she owed $5,000 for everything they’d done for her, but there was no restaurant. The only job was prostitution.
I always imagined that once our home was finally filled with small feet, giggles and spilled milk that I'd feel completely content. As a woman who has wanted to adopt for several years, and as a woman who has walked through the loss of four children, I couldn't imagine being anything other than borderline-obsessed with my kids and my role as a mother some day. Young mothers would post on social media about being sick of their three-year-old's tantrums or the piles of laundry swallowing their beds, and I would roll my eyes and think about how I would be the most grateful mother when the time came.
We encourage you to press for honesty, transparency, and a willingness to engage in the hard questions. Asking these and other important questions can be the start of a partnership toward an ethical adoption process, and one that seeks not only the child’s best interest but that protects both the vulnerable and adoptive family as well.