On her and her now-husband's first date, Sara told Stuart that if she ever were to have kids, it would be because she was fostering them. Fast forward a few years, and a now-26-year-old Sara has been a foster mom for three years, and she and Stuart just recently finalized the adoptions of 6-year-old Michael and his brother, 13-year-old Dayshawn. Despite being hesitant about fostering teens, Sara is sharing the boys' adoption story to shed light on fostering in general, but also fostering teens and kids who come from tough backgrounds and have a harder time getting placed than other kids.
"We planned on only welcoming babies and toddlers into our home. Older kids and teens didn't even seem like an option. I was only 23 years old and the idea of raising a child so close in age didn't even seem possible," Sara told POPSUGAR. "The day we were licensed, we got our first call. It was for a baby who needed a home for a week. We accepted, and it went great. Directly after that baby left, we got a call for a 3-year-old who needed a placement for the weekend. That weekend stretched into a week, and then into months. And then into years. That weekend placement is now our adopted son, Michael."
"There are so many stereotypes of teenagers in foster care that make prospective foster parents nervous. I wish people could take a peek into our home and see how full of love it is."
Not long after the toddler was placed with them, Sara and Stuart found out that Michael had an older brother who also needed a long-term placement. "Stuart and I were still feeling a little hesitant about taking in an older kid. There's only a 13-year age difference between me and Dayshawn. The second we met him, though, all our fears went out the window. He is the world's sweetest teenager. He is helpful, compassionate, and so funny. He makes friends wherever he goes, and it has been such a privilege being able to be his parent. I don't believe that any child should have to feel thankful about being adopted, although Dayshawn does and he's extremely vocal about it."
In the video above of the boys' adoption day, you can hear Dayshawn express his gratitude to Sara and Stuart in the courtroom — and you'll cry just as hard as Sara did when you hear all the things he had to say. However, despite this happy ending for Michael and Dayshawn, there are so many kids in the foster care system, so Sara and Stuart aren't finished with their fostering journey — and taking in teens is definitely not off the table.
"Time and time again in my foster parent trainings, I hear people say that they don't feel capable of fostering teens," Sara said. "There are so many stereotypes of teenagers in foster care that make prospective foster parents nervous. I wish people could take a peek into our home and see how full of love it is. I love fostering teens. And I've loved all 14 kids who we've been lucky enough to care for. And I wish that people who are considering fostering understood that the nightmare scenarios you often hear of are SO far and few between. In no way am I saying that it's easy, but I can guarantee it will be one of the most worthwhile things you will ever do."
"I love this life. I love being a mom. I love caring for the children in our community — whether it's for a night or a lifetime."
Not only is Sara no longer hesitant about caring for teens, but the family's house is "slowly becoming a specialized home for LGBTQ+ youth, teen moms, and/or sex trafficked teens . . . because it's not uncommon for kids who fit into these categories to sit in a social worker's office or a shelter for weeks (or even months!) since there are so few homes available to them." But Sara wants anyone considering fostering to know that it doesn't take being an "extraordinary person" to become a foster parent who can love and provide stability to the kids in their care.
"I'm totally fine with rocking the #worldsokayestmom title. I'm not perfect. In fact I screw up all the time. But I've learned that showing up every day and trying your best for these kids is the key to being successful. Every kid just wants to know that someone cares about them and their well-being. Every kid deserves to know deep, unconditional love," she said.
"Foster care is never boring. The highs are incredibly high, and the lows can be so, so low. But I love this life. I love being a mom. I love caring for the children in our community — whether it's for a night or a lifetime. I can't imagine ever not living this life."
Check out the gorgeous photos of Michael and Dayshawn's adoption day ahead, and follow the family's adventures in fostering on Instagram.