By Sandy Carpenter, Executive Director, Avamere Living at Berry Park
In honor of Mother’s Day, Sandy Carpenter shares her story of foster care and adoption.

Hello. My name is Sandy Carpenter, and I’m the Executive Director for Avamere Living at Berry Park in Oregon City. Since this is the parent’s corner, I wanted to share with you my story of parenthood and how it differs from most.

The biggest life lesson I’ve learned and love to impart to others, is that biology doesn’t always make you a parent. Think about those we are close to, a best friend whom we’d much rather spend Thanksgiving with than that one weird uncle. You chose them to be your family and no DNA had to be involved for it to happen. They say blood is thicker than water, but the connection of human souls in need is the real bond between us. Whether that’s as small as offering a smile to someone who’s had a bad day, handing some bills to a person on the corner, or as big as giving your last name to children whose future looks pretty uncertain. That’s my, or rather our, story.

I was the kid who played with baby dolls and wished them to become real. I was the first to cuddle a baby or to teach the little ones in church. The thing I wanted most in life as a young lady was to be a mother. I got married fairly young, at 24, and by that time had already learned from my doctors that having children the usual way was going to be a challenge. We struggled down that route for 9 years, a road that to me seemed to end in heartache, frustration, and a seeming lack of hope. But what really had happened is that I had reached the point of letting go of the reins of my plans and finally giving in to what my husband and I were meant to do.

Long story short(er), in the beginning of 2012, we started taking classes to become foster parents. We jumped through many hoops to be qualified, such as learning about attachment issues, how children in the foster care system can be affected by it, making sure every square inch of our home met state regulations and having a social worker come to do a home study to ensure Rob and I were “up to snuff”. It was at that point, that things started to fall into place. We were finally licensed, and the timing worked out perfectly for our home study to end up on the desk of a social worker who was looking for a long-term placement of two sisters, ages 5 & 6. We got the call in June of that year that they would be moving back to Washington from living out of state with grandparents at the end of the summer. What follows is an excerpt from a story I wrote on our experience for Adoptive Parent’s magazine.

“Hi, I’m Kendra. Where’s my room?”

These were the famous first words my husband heard from our younger daughter the day we met her and her sister. She had just jumped out of her grandparent’s truck, brown ponytail swinging. Her sister looked equally adorable in a matching blonde ponytail and Hello Kitty dress. That bright August morning was the culmination of years of heartache… But now, on this sunny morning full of promise, and in those first few days after, we only heard words that thrilled us and cracked us up:

“If I’m feeling shy, I’ll call you Sandy. If not, I’ll call you Mommy.”

“Can we paint our nails?”

“Can we go jump on the bounce-aline?” said Kendra, referring to her invented word for the neighbor’s trampoline.