Being a mom was something Michelle Garrison always knew she wanted, more than anything. After the heartache of several miscarriages, she and her husband, Dave, started exploring other options to start a family. Michelle’s aunt, who worked for Caritas Family Solutions, suggested they consider foster parenting. At first they were skeptical; the idea of saying goodbye after caring for foster children for a period of time wasn’t something Michelle thought she could handle. But they were inspired to help children and they remained open to the possibilities. “Not being able to have children of our own, we went into this hoping to be able to adopt. But knowing even if we didn’t, at least we would be able to give children a stable loving home for as long as they needed it,” described Michelle.
Working with several Caritas caseworkers and adoption specialist, Selena Owens, Michelle and Dave have opened their hearts and their door to many children over their four years as licensed foster parents. Some children remained with them a few months. Some a few years. Some forever. The Garrison family now includes four adopted children and one foster child. “Selena has always gone above and beyond to make sure the kids are taken care of. She always made our kids feel important and that their thoughts and opinions mattered,” explained Dave.
Growing their family hasn’t been without its challenges. Two of the children have special needs and require extra time, care, and patience. There are medication schedules to keep track of and many extra appointments. “Just when we finally think we have things figured out, everything changes. Some days are hard,” admitted Michelle.
Team Garrison is a nickname they like to call their family. “It has to be a team effort. It’s the only way to get it all done,” explained Michelle. She and Dave both work-full time jobs. The older children are involved in many activities from track and softball to tumbling, dance and soccer. Getting all the kids where they need to be for activities is no small task.
The Garrisons know how to work hard and handle challenges. They know how to love children—and they know how to have fun. They try to do something as a family every weekend such as a going to the zoo, Science Center, or a park. This summer they plan to take a vacation cruise to the Bahamas.
One of the most surprising things for the Garrisons about fostering and adopting children of a wide age range was to see how the children have all faced trauma and loss in their lives and the different ways in which they deal with it.
“I feel like this experience has changed me. I have tried to build a relationship with as many of the birth families as possible because those relationships show the kids that everyone works together and is a team for them,” added Michelle.
Going into their journey, they had hoped to adopt two kids from birth to age five. “Once we started, my heart slowly started bleeding for these children and I wanted to just bring them all into my home and keep them safe,” recalled Michelle. “We believe God has a plan for everyone, and ours was to take care of His children.”
When asked what they would say to someone considering fostering/adoption, Dave and Michelle responded: “We would tell them that it will be tough. There will be happy times, sad times, and crazy times. And times where you ask ‘What am I doing?’ But in the end, every minute is worth it because of the smiles you help put in these kids’ hearts.”
Michelle encourages others to become foster parents. She says it’s worth every minute, every tear, and every heartbreak. “If you ask anyone that knows me, they would tell you if Caritas would give me six more kids, I would take them all. It’s been a rough four years, but I wouldn’t change a minute of it and Caritas was there to help us every step of the way,” explained Michelle.
“Going into something new is always a scary feeling, but everyone at Caritas is there to support you and help you as much as they can. Caritas has impacted our life by bringing the biggest joys into it,” described Dave.
Story by Sandy Budde, contributing writer.