Couple finds family they’ve always wanted through Angels Foster Family Network
By Kristina Houck
James Thomas has been the only father 3-year-old James and 4-year-old Aubrey have truly ever known, but Sunday, June 16, was the first Father’s Day he was recognized as their legal father. He and his wife, Kimberley Thomas, officially adopted their son and daughter in November 2012.“They will be with us forever, and we couldn’t be happier,” Thomas said.
Together for 14 years and married since 2008, Thomas and his wife tried to conceive for five years. With the help of Angels Foster Family Network, a San Diego-based nonprofit, licensed foster family agency, the couple finally has the family they have always wanted.
“That was a devastating loss for us [not being able to conceive] … but as we look back on it now, it seems like a beautifully-written novel,” Thomas said. “We wouldn’t change it at all.”
The couple turned to Angels Foster Family Network after working with fertility specialists, and researching adoption and foster parent options.
“We really just couldn’t find a connection with anything,” Thomas said. “It seemed like there was a mix-up with the supply and demand. We knew there were babies out there who needed safe homes, and we had a safe home. It was just really muddled and complicated.”
As a behavioral health educator, Thomas has worked with foster care children and has witnessed what he calls the “broken foster care system.” Angels Foster Family Network is different, he said.
Founded in 1998, Angels Foster Family Network recruits and trains foster parents to provide care to one child or sibling set. The nonprofit has provided foster homes to more than 600 children, newborn to 5 years old. About 50 percent of the children placed have been adopted by their Angels’ families.
“They have a culture of success at Angels and it’s based off of not doing things the way everybody else has done it for years and years,” Thomas said. “Angels is able to be more of a prevention than a cure by getting these babies early when they start into the system and making sure that this is either their second-to-last stop or their last stop.”
After five weeks of training, Thomas and his wife welcomed their first foster child, a 22-month-old whose mother was arrested for heroin possession. The couple quickly became attached to the boy and took him to the beach, park, San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld.
“We were having the time of our lives,” Thomas said. “He was wonderful.”
Three weeks after welcoming the boy into their Pacific Beach home, he was reunited with his grandparents. The couple was devastated, Thomas said.
“All the training that we had done was helpful and reliable, but there’s nothing that can prepare you for when you have your hopes built up that you might have a little boy forever and that dream is broken,” Thomas said.
Rather than having an empty nursery, the couple decided one week later to welcome another infant, who was reunited with his grandmother after a few days.
Later that same day, the couple took home a drug-dependent 14-month-old, who they helped detox. After he was reunited with his mother two months later, Thomas and his wife cared for a severely abused 3-month-old, who had a concussion, fractured skull, broken jaw and three broken ribs. Four months later, the boy, who was born while his mother was incarcerated, was reunited with his grandmother and older sister.
“We had become really attached and thought that he might be with us forever, but we were happy he was going to be reunited with his sister and his grandma,” Thomas said. “It was another heartbreak, packing up his stuff and taking him there.”
Devastated, the couple decided to take a break from fostering. Thomas planned a weekend trip with friends while his wife visited her family in Oklahoma. Just as he was about to leave, however, Thomas received a call from the couple’s Angels social worker. A 17-month-old girl needed a home.
“It was the first time we kind of hesitated because my wife was out of town and I was on my way out of town,” Thomas said.
After an hour-long phone conversation, the couple decided to provide a home to the girl. A half-hour later, Aubrey arrived in a dirty onesie with a San Diego County social worker.
“It was just me and this little girl,” Thomas said. “I called my friends and said, ‘I won’t be playing any golf this weekend. On your way out of town, if you could drop off some size three diapers and a gallon of whole milk, that would be great because my weekend just changed.’”
Aubrey had been raised in a violent home. She had a bloated stomach due to malnutrition and had never slept in a crib.
“She was a very, very scared and angry little girl,” Thomas said.
When his wife returned that Monday, the couple met with Aubrey’s biological parents and were surprised to discover the mother was eight-and-a-half months pregnant. When the baby boy was born three weeks later, Thomas and his wife were asked to take him home from the hospital.
Today, the Thomas family lives in Bonita. Aubrey is almost 5 years old and is starting kindergarten next month.
“We have our forever family and they are absolutely amazing,” Thomas said. “We just feel forever blessed to be part of the Angels’ family. It’s been a miracle for us.”
There are more than 3,500 children in San Diego County’s foster care system. Thomas encourages potential foster parents to contact Angels Foster Family Network to learn how they can provide love and care to a child who needs a home.
“Keep an open mind and an open heart,” Thomas said. “It’s important that you understand what your role is. You need to let go and know that you can’t control it. Your job is just to love the baby.”
For more information about Angels Foster Family Network, visit www.angelsfoster.org.
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