An estimated 428,000 children will spend time in the U.S. foster care system and each year, and only 135,000 will find their forever families, according to the Adoption Network.
Treka Engleman always knew she wanted to be a foster mother but was hesitant about taking the plunge. Thanks to the support of her family, on Nov. 1 she became the proud mother to three children she adopted from foster care.
The Ohio woman’s family is a unique one, however, and looks different than most. The single mother is African-American and her kids are white.
“Yes I’ve had my fair share of stares while we’re out in public, but we just keep walking by unbothered,” the middle school math teacher wrote on Love What Matters. “I’ve had people ask me, ‘Oh, are you babysitting?’ and my response is no, they are my children. No questions asked. I never say ‘foster children,’ but my children. Because that’s what they are and always will be.”
These days, Engleman has her hands full raising biological sisters Mercedes and Alexis, who are 16 and 13 years old, respectively. The baby boy, 3-year-old Elijah, completes the bunch and has been in Engleman’s care since he was just 5 days old.
“My family does not see color, just kids that needed someone,” she added. “I love these kids and I would not have it any other way. They needed a home and I had more than enough to give them.”
The road to fostering and ultimately adopting her three kids was anything but easy for Engleman. First, she had to become certified to be a foster parent and took two months of classes in partnership with the Cincinnati, Ohio-based St. Joseph Orphanage to learn the ins and outs of the state care system.
Some of stories she heard broke her heart.
“Hearing the stories about some children [that] go through foster care just brought tears to my eyes,” Engleman wrote, recalling how she lost her own mother at a young age. “I couldn’t imagine being without my family. At that point, I wanted to take every kid in that I could.”
In marking her preferences, Engleman said race didn’t matter. What she knew is she wanted a child between 4 and 5 years old, a range she would later expand to include newborns and infants. In December 2016, she would welcome a 5-day-old Elijah into her family.
“My heart just immediately dropped when they brought this tiny little baby into my home,” Engleman recalled.
A year later, Alexis, the younger of the two sisters, was placed at Engleman’s home while Mercedes was staying at a group home. The siblings remained close, and Engleman contacted a caseworker about uniting the two girls. By March 2018, Mercedes was a regular member of their household.
Raising the trio on her own is a challenge, but Engleman is determined to give her kids a life they never dreamed of. She recalled the moment she learned she could finally adopt them. This time, Engleman didn’t hesitate.
“The way they lit up with excitement when they found out it was happening will forever be one of the best memories,” she wrote.
A GoFundMe page has since been launched to help the family cover needs and living expenses.