Imagine being scared everyday of your life as you wonder which one of the kids would get a beating. Would it be me this time? Would I have to hide in my room while dad beats up mom, as I worry whether she would live through this one? Did I clean the house well enough? Was dinner good? Are the kids behaving or would I have to take a beating for one of them? Will mom and/or dad even make it home from the bar tonight?
I lived my life like this from as far back as I can remember, until one day, at the age of eleven, I decided I could not bear it any longer. On that day, I remember that my dad beat my mother so badly, I thought for sure she would die. I packed up some of my belongings in a trash bag, gathered my siblings, and asked my mother if she was coming with us or staying.
Taking this brave stand, I embarked on a whole new life path. I spent the next year, bouncing around from hotel to hotel, while our mother worked and spent most of her time in a bar. Then mom disappeared for over a week with her boyfriend, and I found myself taking care of my siblings, as well as a twelve-year-old could. Someone finally called social services and I spent the next three years bouncing around to 14 different homes and shelters, within the foster care system.
When I was fifteen and pregnant, I finally found that special foster family who set my life on another path. I knew that I wanted a better life for my son and myself. I knew that, at fifteen, I wanted to be a foster parent. I wanted to provide a better path for children in the foster care system than the one I had experienced. I wanted to let them know that they too, could find that special family. At the age of twenty-one, I became the youngest foster parent in the state of Colorado.
My husband and I have three wonderful children: Jon is now eighteen years old. He’s in the Army National Guard and is also working on getting his real estate license just like Mom! Lauryn is almost eleven and is the most loving and independent child you will ever meet. Austin is my nephew, whom we adopted into our family this year. He is a bundle of energy at the age of five. We also have three wonderful teenage foster daughters who keep us on the go! Providing foster care enables me to stay home with my children.
Over the past 14 years, Mike and I have provided care for over 212 foster children. We have been a receiving home, a group home, and now a family foster home. There are many wonderful stories to share. Being a foster parent, just as parenting our own, is a roller coaster ride of emotions I would not trade for anything in the world! For the past eight years, we have provided care for teenage girls, ages 13 to 18. People think I am crazy for taking on the older kids; however, that is where my passion is. It is what I am called to do. I tried to retire from foster parenting once, but it only lasted for three months. Before I knew it, I had four girls and I am happy to be back on that roller coaster again.
There are so many children who need us, and so many children who need and want a family to provide love, stability, and understanding. Former foster children, who are now young women, will come back to our home with great pride to share their families, their successes and their dreams with us. To know that we had a part in guiding, teaching and loving them, is the greatest reward in life. When they come back and say, “thank you for everything you have done,” well, that is what life is all about.
Where would I be today if it weren’t for my foster family? It was they who went to court on behalf of a fifteen-year-old mother and said they would take care of me, and my new baby. They fought to keep us together. It was my foster family who taught me how to be a parent, how to love and be loved, and most importantly how to love myself.
If I can help one child overcome his fears, and feel loved like he has never felt loved before, then I have accomplished my mission. Imagine!
—Tina Kulp, Colorado
This story is an excerpt from the book, Adoption Means Love: Triumph of the Heart, which was named a “Top 5 Inspirational Book” by Dolce Vita Magazine. Real and raw, the book explores the many experiences and emotions of adoptees, adoptive parents, birthparents, foster youth, and foster parents. Buy Now