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“As a teenager, I knew that I wanted to be a foster mother when I grew up,” says Zanita, “and that’s what I did!”

Zanita and her husband, Wilhelm, have been fostering children for 10 years. Both personally and professionally, Zanita encourages others to adopt from foster care, and her focus is on inspiring families to consider accepting older youth into their homes.

“Some people tend to shy away from fostering older children, but we welcomed the experience,” explains Zanita, “Our first foster child was 16. I wanted to foster older youth because older kids are harder to place, plus my motto is ‘You’ve got to roll when I roll!’ and teens can do that!”

During Zanita and Wilhelm’s fostering experience, a sibling group, Samara and Brian, came to stay with them. “It was 11 o’clock at night,” Zanita remembers, “They were scared; they were nervous. I told them they were safe.” Samara agrees: “We were scared because we didn’t know them, but when we got to know them, we felt closer, better, safer.”

Brian remembers that first night vividly. “We got into a gold car. When we got in the door, we took off our shoes and placed them on the doormat. Samara went to shower first and she [Zanita] handed us washrags and towels. My bed wasn’t set up yet, but when I saw my room, it was so big. That night was the best sleep I ever had.”

“We have never regretted that decision,” says Zanita, “We forget that we adopted them because they seem like they have been a part of our lives the whole time! When they came, I didn’t know how long they’d stay.”

Wilhelm concurs, “We each have a mini-me now.”

“I’m glad we stayed!” says Brian.

All four family members use the same words to describe each other: funny, kind, lovable, and sweet. Their foster care and adoption journey was easy to navigate, but they have plenty of advice for prospective parents.

Wilhelm’s advice: “Be patient and give them opportunities to learn. Seeing their faces the first time they do something, seeing them excited about something new – that’s the best.”

Zanita agrees and adds, “Make sure you have support. Take lots and lots of classes. Give older kids a chance. You can make a difference. Make sure it’s a forever thing. Some people might think ‘love can fix them,’ but it’s not true—you have to love them where they are.”

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