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One Mom, Six Kids and a Forever Family Full of Love

Angi and her six boys (Back row) Austin, Angi, baby Zee and Matthew; (front row) Edison, Isaiah and Keymoni

For eight and a half hours a day, Monday through Friday, Angi Hastings works as a pediatric nurse, caring for young patients at Hasbro Children's Hospital.

For the rest of her life, she is a "Supermom," loving and raising six boys she adopted as a Boys Town New England Foster Parent.

This is her story, in her own words.

I am currently 39 years old. We live in our own five-bedroom home in Cumberland, Rhode Island.  I became a foster parent when I was 27 years old. I always knew I wanted to help children and was just waiting for the right time. I finished college, bought my first starter home and jumped right in! People ask me why I did it, what made me become a foster parent. I can honestly say I really am not sure. I always wanted to help kids and the BOYS TOWN foster parent ad in the paper kept drawing my attention. So one day I just called. Before you know it, I was enrolled in the classes to become a foster parent, and within a year I had my first placement! 

The support I receive from my family is incredible; they have always accepted my "foster" kids as if they were my own. While they are all employed and have families of their own, they help whenever they can. I use the boys' stipend money to pay for an at-home sitter, which I think is a necessity to provide them consistency and structure.  I can honestly say parenting is the hardest job I have ever had but I wouldn't change it for the world!

The children:

Austin is 17 years old. He moved in with me when he was 5 years old after living in a shelter for about three months waiting for someone to take him. He was removed from his mother due to her drug addiction, and domestic abuse and neglect. When Austin first moved in, he was extremely guarded. It took him a bit of time to realize I was there for him and had no intention of leaving him. At the time, I worked overnights and he was watched by my cousin at my house. Austin would run up the road after me and cry. I would constantly reinforce that I had to go to work but that I would be back! It took a good two months but he finally stopped chasing me up the street. Every day, our relationship grew stronger and his mother slowly faded out of the picture; she wouldn't show for visits or they were frequently cancelled due to her continued positive drug screens. After about a year, Mom voluntarily gave up custody of him to me. Austin has had some depression issues and he does attend counseling to teach him to talk about what is bothering him and better ways to handle it. He still needs a lot of guidance but attends school full time and has two part-time jobs.  Overall, he is a terrific kid!  He will be a senior this fall and with my help and support, he will hopefully become a strong, independent adult.

Matthew is 14 years old. He moved in when he was 3 after living in a children's group home for nearly two years. He was removed from his home because of severe neglect and malnourishment. When he first moved in with me, I was amazed at how far behind he was in all aspects. Matthew could barely walk. He was very clumsy and looked like a toddler falling down with just about every step he took. He also had a language all his own and pretty much said three words you could actually decipher. He was still in diapers. When Matthew moved in with me, he began excelling immediately! He learned to balance himself, and before you know it, was running around like a maniac. He potty-trained almost immediately; his speech took a bit of time but now he is a very articulate speaker. Matthew does continue to have some fine motor problems due to the fact that he missed opportunities to improve these skills because of neglect during a time of development. Matthew's story was a roller coaster; it was six years after his arrival that I was finally able to adopt him. Now he's finishing eighth grade and is doing great! Matthew does have severe ADHD and continued fine motor delays but is able to figure out ways to handle these delays on his own. He loves to read and play video games. Matthew is very smart and I am hoping with proper direction and reinforcement, he will become a successful adult.

Edison, who is now 5, was my next little tyke. He moved in when he was a year and a half old. He was removed from his mom and dad due to neglect. I was initially told he had questionable autistic behavior. When he arrived, he was a quiet, timid little boy who immediately picked up a toy hammer I had and began banging on everything, including the glass picture frames! However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that he took immediately to my parenting, and when I told him, "No, that's dangerous," he stopped. While he is energetic, I never saw any of the "autistic qualities" I was told about. After about a year and a half with me, at age 3, his mom agreed to an open adoption and he officially became mine forever! He is full of love, very smart and definitely keeps me on my toes. He attends preschool full time and is a successful student.

Brothers Isaiah and Keymoni were my next two kids. They were removed from their mom and dad due to homelessness and severe abuse and neglect. I got a phone call from Boys Town about five o'clock in the afternoon one day asking if I would take two brothers. I went back and forth in my head. But knew I wanted to help and had the space and definitely the love. So in they came. They arrived at 11 that night, and both looked scared to death. Isaiah was 6 and Keymoni was just 3. They were very cautious at first, but were over the top when I showed them their room and their beds. Isaiah said, "These are our beds, only our beds." That night, they ate like they had never seen food before. We immediately hit it off! They are just really sweet, cute boys who have obviously been through a lot in their young lives. To this day, they say things about their previous life that takes my breath away. But I just explain that "we" don't live like that anymore. After a year, their parents voluntarily agreed to an open adoption.  Isaiah is now 7, a successful first-grader who does great in school, loves to read and is VERY energetic. Keymoni is the sweetest boy, although he does have some behavioral concerns in school involving getting mad, tearing things from walls, pushing things over, etc. I have to constantly reinforce to him on the way to school that if he gets frustrated, he needs to ask for some quiet time to himself.  Today, I am happy to report that he has had great school days for two weeks running! Keymoni also has some learning disabilities due to lead exposure. Over time, I am hoping that his self-esteem grows and he finds himself deserving of everything he can dream of!

What can I say about Zee? SURPRISE! Zee is the little brother of Isaiah and Keymoni who moved in to our house when he was just six days old. He became an official member of our family at the same time as his brothers. Nothing beats having a baby in our home! 

A typical day:

Our day starts at 5:30 a.m. All the little ones up, wipe the sleepies out of your eyes and eat your breakfast! Wash your face, brush your teeth, do your hair and get dressed… times four. In the meantime, I wake up the older ones and make sure they are doing the same. I have to remind myself I need to shower, too! Then I pack the lunches, and it's off to work for me and off to school for the kids! At this point, I am trying to avoid looking at the tornado that has just hit my house. My work time is actually my down time... lol. I have eight hours of work chaos, and then I rush out at 4:30 p.m. to get to the preschool before it closes! We get home about 5:30 to make supper; my oldest will often help me and even help cook. Everybody eats, then we have some free time. The kids run around like little whirlwinds and I try to tidy up the house, a feat that is virtually impossible! After a bit, it's showers all around for the little ones ("No, you are not done. You need to use soap.") and everyone gets their PJs on. A little TV time, snacks and chocolate milk for everyone! Then quiet time and off to bed. Everybody gets a book, then lights out! Mommy goes downstairs and spends some time with the big kids (if they want to, that is). While watching a TV show with them, I am usually ironing clothes for the next day. By 9 o'clock, I am hopefully climbing into my bed to watch my own show. Who am I kidding? I am sound asleep before the first commercial.

Weekends are wonderful! We take full advantage of not having to go anywhere quickly. We "sleep in" til about 6:30. Then we do whatever suits our fancy for the day. Sometimes we take a day trip; sometimes we stay in our PJs all day. Sometimes we just hang around outside. You know, usual family stuff. No rush, no worry!

The rewards and challenges of being a foster parent (and an adoptive parent):    

I think the most rewarding thing about being a foster parent is watching the kids grow, seeing how much they have changed since coming into a normal, consistent environment. When the children go from saying, "When you see a cop, you should run," to saying, "That is a police officer and they are there to help you." To hear them say, "I am going to do it, I am going to try my hardest." Thriving. Knowing they will always have a safe place to live and food in their bellies, and that they are loved unconditionally, "no matter what."

Foster care isn't for the faint of heart. There are many obstacles that come with it. The most challenging thing is dealing with "the system" itself. There's also the challenge of taking kids in, learning their ways and trying to understand how they lived. Then trying to figure out, with them, the best ways to erase all the inappropriate behavior that has always been "normal" to them.

Another challenge is dealing with having to give kids back! Believe it or not, in the past 12 years, I have had the privilege and honor of caring for 12 different children. I only hope and pray that their stay with me had a positive impact, whether their stay was long or short. I wish them all the best! They will never be forgotten. Becoming a foster parent has changed my life forever! I wouldn't change a thing!!!

For information on becoming a Boys Town New England Foster Parent, call 401-845-2250 (800-847-2025 for Massachusetts residents).