Grow the Love
Dec 10, 2017 12:00AM
Keri Vellis, 44, became a foster mom in Sonoma County in 2013. Since then, she and her husband have taken care of 13 children, from infants to teens. She spoke with us about what it is like to be a foster parent, and about her picture book, Sometimes..., which is based on her experiences helping foster kids cope.
Family Life: Why did you decide to become a foster parent?
My husband and I had three biological children, and we really felt like our kids were so lucky and fortunate. We had a great life to offer more children, and we wanted to open our home and help.
FL: You’ve been a foster parent now for five years. What do you get out of the experience?
I absolutely love giving children a little piece of our family. They take that with them, and I hope that they will never forget it.
FL: Is it hard for you to let go of children when it’s time to?
Oh, it’s awful. It’s heartbreaking. We had a little one leave the other day, and I was bawling. But it is beautiful—she left with her adopted parents. It’s just an amazing experience to help children heal and then let them go. It’s very hard but also very rewarding. And I absolutely love it.
FL: Have you adopted any of the children you have fostered?
Yes, three. So we have six kids. We didn’t go in hoping to adopt. We just wanted to help kids. And our journey also brought us to adoption, which is amazing.
FL: How old were your biological kids when you decided to become a foster parent?
11, 10, and 5
FL: How did they handle it? Were they OK with it?
Oh, they were thrilled. They love it. Every time a new child comes into our home, it’s like Christmas to them. They are so loving and welcoming to all the kids who come to us.
FL: What do you think they have learned from the process?
I think they have learned basic forgiveness, not to judge others, to have an open heart, to be selfless—some really critical things that not a lot of kids learn.
FL: The foster kids you parent usually come from difficult circumstances, true?
Yes. We’ve experienced a lot of different things with the kids. We try and provide whatever tools they need to work through whatever they are experiencing.
FL: And that is part of why you wrote your book, Sometimes… .
Exactly. I just found that there wasn’t anything out there that kids could relate to.
FL: Can you give us a synopsis of the book?
I collaborated with an illustrator who is a former foster child. The book shows a child in a new home, meeting with a new family. The child starts off scared but by the end of the story is playing on a grassy knoll, and there are butterflies around. [The key message is] “You might feel scared but know you are always safe.” I wanted all children to be able to relate [to the book], not only foster children. Sometimes kids have to go live with a grandma or an aunt or an uncle, or whomever. No matter what the living situation is, they are being removed from their security and going into a whole new environment.
FL: Can you tell us a little bit about how you created the book?
I was waiting in line to pick up my kids from school, and I just started writing it. I wrote it in a half hour. And I was like, “Oh my God, I’ve got it.”
FL: Where can readers purchase it?
My website, kerivellis.com, and Amazon.com. It’s also in all the Copperfield’s Books in Sonoma County. Through my website, you can donate it to a child in care. I give [donated books] to the Redwood Empire Foster Parent Association. They place them in “blue bags,” which are given to foster parents. The bags contain toiletries, about three days worth of clothes, and then my book. I have actually watched kids in my care open the blue bag, page through the book, and smile.
For more information about foster parenting, call 565-4274 or go to sonomafostercare.org.