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A Tale of Two Children

A couple smiling smiling

The goal of foster care is to provide safety and security for children until they can be reunited with their families. Sometimes, reunification is not possible and adoption becomes the best choice. This is a story of two families whose foster children had different but equally beautiful outcomes.

On a warm fall evening, Brady and Natalei Shafer hosted a get-together with their friend Sarah and her 14-month-old daughter, Zoey. They laughed as they chatted about the challenges of child-rearing as they ate together. This scene would be unremarkable but for one thing: Brady and Natalei provided foster care for the toddler for 13 months. During that time, they established an extraordinary bond of trust and friendship with Sarah while Zoey was in their home. That relationship of mutual respect turned out to be a blessing for all of them.

Brady and Natalei met in 2015 through a mutual friend. They married in 2017 with plans to have a child of their own and to foster and possibly adopt another. “I worked with children in foster care throughout college and Brady’s grandfather spent some of his youth in an orphanage, so we always had a heart for children in need,” Natalei explained.

Having a child of their own didn’t go as planned, so they began exploring foster care options. The couple researched several county and private child placement agencies before choosing Mount Saint Vincent. Support while navigating through the foster care and court systems was a priority and for them, Mount Saint Vincent fit that bill.

Mount Saint Vincent’s foster care program provides a dedicated staff member to each specific case, monthly support group meetings where participants can share information and resources, a foster parent Facebook page that facilitates the free exchange of questions and answers, and ongoing support for all caregivers. Brady and Natalei signed on and became certified foster parents through their program in June of 2020. Four-week-old Zoey was placed in their care the following month. From the outset, the Shafers maintained very open channels of communication with the young mom. “Our job was to care for her child and support her in parenting Zoey, so we made sure she had a voice in decisions and received regular updates,” said Brady. Natalei would even call Sarah during pediatric doctor visits so Sarah could listen in on what the doctor was saying. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, Zoom was used in lieu of in-person visits. Sarah would sometimes ask if she could “visit” outside of the mandated amount of time required and again, Brady and Natalei would always accommodate her requests. It was during one of those visits that Sarah witnessed Zoey rolling over for the first time. “It was a beautiful moment,” Natalei said.

Ten months in, the couple realized that they were moving toward reunification. Zoey gradually began spending nights at Sarah’s home. In September of 2021, Sarah took Zoey home for good. Brady and Natalei’s friends would often say they could never foster a child because they would get too attached. “But that’s the point,” Brady said. “Our job is to love and care for these kids as if they were our own. That’s what sets these children up to have happy and healthy lives.” “For us, it has been the best of both worlds, because we were a part of this beautiful reunification where a family was made whole again,” Natalei said. “I would take the heartache a million times over to see that happen.”

Room for One More

A group of people posing for a photo in a field

Before they even met one another, Mike and Kyle both knew that fostering and adoption would be a part of their lives. Kyle’s parents began fostering children when she was six years old. It was an act of kindness that left a lasting impression on her. And when Mike was growing up, family friends fostered a child who they eventually adopted. Mike watched as the boy grew and flourished over the years. These childhood experiences instilled within them the desire to help children in need.

After marrying in 2003 and settling in Kansas, the Boeglins waited for the right time to pursue fostering. That moment took place shortly after the birth of their fourth child. “We were done having biological children, but our family just didn’t quite feel complete,” Kyle said. So, after taking the requisite classes and obtaining licensure, they welcomed their first placement in October of 2013.

Then, an unexpected job opportunity in Colorado presented itself. “Kyle’s family lived in Colorado and we always wanted to move there, so we knew it was the right thing to do,” said Mike. The couple was able to transition the baby to a loving family before they left.

Even though their time fostering was short, Mike and Kyle thought that perhaps that was the end of their fostering career. But life had other plans. Just a year after moving to Colorado, they met a family that happened to be foster parents. “Mike and I wondered, is life giving us a nudge?” Kyle laughed. Taking the hint, they obtained their Colorado foster care license and accepted the placement of a newborn girl in September of 2016. The placement agency was not expecting to locate any next of kin, so the couple were mentally prepared to adopt little Kelli. But 17 months later, a biological family was found that was willing to take both Kelli and her older siblings. “As heart-wrenching as it was, we knew that it was the best thing for her,” Kyle said.

It was extremely difficult for the family to give up the baby they had grown to love. Mike and Kyle decided that the next child they fostered would be on a fairly certain track for adoption. A few months later, they received a call in May of 2018 about Tessa, a four-year-old in need of an adoptive family. After a weekend respite visit, the Boeglins decided to welcome her into their home. It soon became apparent that this was the child they would adopt.

An expedited adoption expectation turned into a two-year wait. After numerous delayed court dates and a lengthy parental appeal, the adoption date was finally set for April 20, 2020. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, the court procedure was conducted over the phone. Dozens of family members and friends listened in on the call as Tessa was formally adopted. Shortly after, 30 friends surprised the family with a car parade outside the Boeglin’s home, where they waved and cheered, held welcome signs, and honked their horns enthusiastically as they drove by. “The look on Tessa’s face was priceless,” Kyle said.

At first blush, one might think of Tessa as the sole beneficiary in this scenario, but Mike and Kyle would disagree. The entire fostering and adoption experience had a profound impact on the family. “We are better parents for having been foster parents,” Mike said, “and the children we cared for enriched the lives of every single member of our family.” And in the end, the Boeglin family was finally complete.

Ninety-four Children and One Sister of Charity

Child giving woman a flower

“Children are in foster care through no fault of their own. Whether it was abuse or neglect, something was done to those children, and as a society we have the responsibility to care for these kids.”

Sister Michael Delores Allegri adores children. It’s no wonder, then, that she has surrounded herself with children of all ages her entire adult life.

Sister Michael’s career began in 1964 when she first taught high school in Topeka, Kansas. It was a position she would hold for the next 23 years. She retired from teaching but felt too young to quit working altogether. Fortunately, a new and exciting opportunity presented itself at Mount Saint Vincent.

Mount Saint Vincent provides clinical treatment for children with severe emotional and behavioral challenges due to trauma, mental illness, abuse or neglect. Sister Michael was asked to help out with the K–8 school’s summer program in 1985. “I absolutely loved it,” she said. She ultimately was called back to Kansas, but eight years later, she found her way back to Denver. This time, she would stay for good.

Sister Michael always had an interest in providing foster care. So in March of 1999, after taking the required training, two little girls came to live with her and another foster mom. Sister Michael was 57 years old at the time. Twenty-two years and 94 children later, the 79-year-old sister is still going strong. When asked what she thinks is the biggest misperception people have about foster care, she says it’s the belief that children in the foster care system are someone else’s problem. “They don’t understand that children are in foster care through no fault of their own,” she states. “Whether it was abuse or neglect, something was done to those children, and as a society, we have the responsibility to care for and raise these kids.” According to the Colorado Department of Human Services, there were 8,500 children in out-of-home placements in 2020. There were foster homes available for only 2,500 of them.

Sister Michael believes that foster parenting is a calling, and although not everyone is able to be a foster parent, there are other ways to help. “Anyone can help support foster families in their community; there are many options that are easy to do,” she said. Ideas include donating diapers, baby formula or gift cards. “Just the other day, we had a three-year-old who arrived with the clothes on his back and shoes that were a size too small,” she said, “New children’s clothing is always needed.” Even small tasks like offering to make a meal or run an errand are greatly appreciated.

The best predictor of foster parenting success is a family’s capacity to love and care for a child. To illustrate, Sister Michael recounted a situation that took place years ago. Just after Thanksgiving of that year, a foster family was involved in a terrible car accident; the mother suffered fatal injuries and the father was paralyzed. Sister Michael knew she couldn’t let a frightened five-year-old spend Christmas in a crisis center. So she sat her four foster children down and ran through the logistics — there was one more seat in the van, there was enough room in one of the bedrooms for another bed, and there was enough space at the dining room table. Then Sister Michael’s four-year-old foster son piped up, “And we have enough love!” Sister Michael smiled. Because she knew that in the end, that’s really what it’s all about.

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