Local mother in Island Pond celebrated as foster, adoptive and biological mom.
By Associated Press, Wire Service Content
ISLAND POND, Vt. (AP) — The home where Rebekah and Neal Perry welcome foster children is a feast for the senses.
They have horses just outside the front door, a friendly dog, eggs for sale, and signs indicating their strong faith as you enter: "Bless this home and all who enter."
Neal is the pastor of the Green Mountain Bible Church, just next door.
The couple, a blended family, have four biological children — they each brought two to the marriage. They also have an adopted daughter, and two little boys who are brothers (ages 1 and 2), who arrived the day after Christmas.
The family had to take the Christmas tree down almost immediately and quickly set the stage to welcome the toddlers, who a state social worker needed to place quickly - hopefully together - right after the holiday, said Rebekah.
"Life is crazy," Rebekah, 47, said.
The couple have had their foster parent license for 4½ years. During that time they have opened their home to 11 foster children, including babies; one with a serious health condition, and several times long-time placements like the little boys now in their care. The toddlers call Rebekah and Neal mommy and daddy.
"Our desire has always been to provide a safe, loving home for children who need a place to be while their parents regroup, gain skills and/or focus on getting their lives in order so they can parent their children," Rebekah said.
With the kids home-schooling at the kitchen table one morning this week, and the family bird, Olive, perched on Rebekah's shoulder during part of the visit, she said it is hard to let them go when they are reunited with their families.
The family informed the State they want to focus on young children in need of foster care — the birth to age five category.
"I felt like little kids, I could just sweep them into my life," she said, since she is home full-time teaching and homesteading for the family and helping her husband at the church. She doesn't need day care for them since she works at home.
The Vermont Department of Children and Families (DCF) social worker called on December 26 and asked, "Can you take a 1- and 2-year-old?"
It was 2 p.m., and the boys arrived at 6 p.m., Rebekah said, as one of the toddlers happily chatted nearby, sitting in a highchair, as his little brother, behind a safety gate, held up different toys, announcing "car!" over and over as he showed off his toys.
She said staff at the Vermont DCF is "not often thought about unless there is a problem, but they are such incredible work horses, they work so hard for so little, they don't get to play with the kids . I get to play with the kids! They don't get the up-sides that I do. Just a little shout out to the folks at DCF and how incredibly hard they work on behalf of these kids."
Luckily, the family had two portable cribs on hand; and their church has a free clothing shop next door, open on Thursdays, with lots of baby and children's clothes available.
As a child, Rebekah said hers was a family of big readers, and she always adored author Louisa May Alcott's books, especially Little Men, in which several of the main characters are young orphaned boys.
Rebekah and Neal adopted Dawn, 7, who came to them as a little girl, and now has that classic, missing front tooth smile at age 7.
Rebekah says, "A child deserves to be with their parents if the parents can get it together," but that's not always possible.
On Mother's Day tomorrow, the family will have a cake to honor Rebekah, which will say: HMD — Happy Mother's Day and HBD, Happy Birthday, to celebrate Neal's 52nd birthday.
Six of the couple's seven kids including their two foster children will be home for the double holiday on Sunday.
Of his wife, Neal said, "I think she is a remarkable mother."
He said she welcomes with open arms the foster children the couple have cared for, and tends to their every need, loving them, preparing healthy meals for them, and teaching them, meeting all their needs.
Rebekah said her husband is the kind of man who provides fathering to many children, young adults and teens, and through his ministry tries to help everyone who comes along, "He is an incredible dad to anyone and everyone."
The couple met through their love of horse training.
Rebekah urged more families to become foster parents, and to take the class offered to become licensed. She said there are many ways to help, and the training can enable someone to help supervise visits, offer respite care and more, if taking a child for an extended time is not something someone can do.
"Taking children into your home full time may or may not be something you can do, but if you have a heart to help, then get trained and figure out what you CAN do to support foster families," she said. "There are so many aspects, from emergency care lasting just a few days, to offering respite care to give foster families a break. There are infants and young children who need care as well as teens and all ages in between. There are single children, sibling groups and children with all manner of physical, mental or emotional handicaps who need care."
Chelsea Bianchi, Recruitment and Retention Specialist with the Agency of Human services, Department for Children and Families, Family Service Division Newport District Office, said of her choice of Rebekah Perry to be featured as a foster mother for Mother's Day in the newspaper, "She is an incredible mother to (her biological), adoptive, and foster children. She is an active member of our foster parent association and is an incredible support to other foster families in our community. Bekah is a strong, selfless, and gracious woman who deserves recognition for all that she does."
Information from: The Caledonian-Record, http://www.caledonianrecord.com