TROY — For Troy resident Amy Fraley, being a mother was something she’d always dreamt of. Currently a mother of 10 children — two biological, six adopted, and two foster — Fraley has taken her love for children and turned it into so much more.
“I wanted to be the mom of a large family my whole life,” Fraley said. “I loved children, I was a school teacher, loved working with kids, and I just thought we would have lots and lots of children.”
But after the birth of their second child, she and her husband, Guy, were faced with the realization that growing their family would not go as planned. Amy had suffered a placental abruption and was told she would not be able to have any more children.
“I was devastated and thought, ‘This just can’t be right,’” she said. “This was not the plan. I even questioned God and thought, ‘Lord, why?’ It didn’t hit me at the time that there are lots of children out there who need a solid, stable home and parents who will love them. So, when I realized we could be a large family without having them biologically, I was super excited.”
Early on in their marriage, before having kids of their own, Amy said she and Guy had fostered a teenage boy, whom they are still in touch with today. So, for Amy, the idea of adopting seemed a natural option, however, Guy, content with being a father of two, was not so convinced at first.
“He was not on board,” Amy said. “I was like, ‘What do I do now?’ So, I prayed about it for a year, just by myself; I prayed and prayed and prayed.”
Until one day, Amy said, Guy turned to her and asked if she was still interested in the idea of fostering and adoption.
“I played it really cool, but in my mind I was doing back flips and cartwheels,” she said. “I think God worked in his heart, and he eventually realized that this was something we need to do. I knew it was going to be a go from there.”
The couple’s biological children, Laura Beth, 21, and Jason, 20, were nine and seven, respectively, when the family began fostering.
“They were very much on board at first,” Amy said. “Our first little guy, Austin, was a baby when we got him, so it was kind of a new adventure for all of us.”
However, challenges were inevitable, Amy said, especially since the family often took in special needs/medically fragile children with conditions such as sickle cell anemia, Turner syndrome, severe brain damage, cerebral palsy, autism and fetal alcohol syndrome, among others.
“It took a lot of time and attention from us, which took away some from our biological children,” Amy said. “They even went through periods of time where they thought we had made a mistake or they were angry, but as they’ve gotten into college, both of them have come back to me and said, ‘Mom, I’m glad we did what we did.’”
Along with these struggles and emotions, the Fraley family’s foster journey has also come with heartbreak. Just last year, they lost their 6-year-old adopted son, Xander.
“It was very unexpected,” Amy said. “He was a child who had been severally abused; he’d had a skull fracture, shaken baby syndrome, and his brain just kind of shut down on him. It was the hardest thing we’ve been through.”
In total, the family has homed 21 children throughout 12 years, six of whom have stayed permanently through adoption, with the most recent being 3-year-old Ella Rose, whose adoption was finalized earlier this month.
For the entirety of those 12 years, the family has worked with SAFY, which has a mission of “preserving families and securing futures,” through therapeutic foster care, behavioral health, and older youth services.
“I love SAFY,” Amy said. “I’m constantly encouraging people when they say something like, ‘I think about foster care sometimes; I might be interested in that.’ I encourage them to give SAFY a call. We stay with them because of the unimaginable support that they give us. Having SAFY in your corner is like having an extra helping hand in the life of your foster child.”
According to SAFY foster parent recruiter Sylvia Roop, there are several misconceptions about foster care and adoption, including the idea that you have to be of a certain status to participate.
“People have assumed that single people, those who work full time, or people within the LGBTQ+ community can’t foster, and that’s not true,” Roop said. “SAFY works with everyone who is willing to open their home and their heart for children in the community.”
According to the state of Ohio, Roop said, more than 3,000 children in Ohio are waiting to be adopted from foster care, with more than 1,200 of them being teenagers.
“We really believe that every youth deserves to have a forever family who will be there as a support and help navigating all of their life milestones,” Roop said. “It’s really about mentoring these kids in the right direction and having them learn those life skills they need to be independent and successful.”
Amy said that while her dream of becoming a mom of a big family has come true, she has also been fulfilled in many other ways, and she and Guy plan to continue helping children in need for as long as possible.
“I would say the best part about foster care is the ability to make a difference in that child’s life when they’re going through a really hard time,” she said. “For me to be able to be a soft, warm, loving place for that child to land in the midst of trauma is the best thing for me in foster care … There are still children out there who need us, so until that need goes away, we won’t stop.”
In the effort to educate families or individuals interested in learning more about foster care and adoption opportunities, SAFY of Sidney is offering an information session, open to the public, on Monday, Dec. 2, at 6 p.m., at the SAFY office, located at 1065 Fairington Drive.
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