Her husband’s career in public service is what started their now lifelong journey as foster parents.
Foster mom and author, Keri Vellis, was 40 years old when she and her husband made the decision following a “particularly” hard day at work.
Vellis explained to Dearly, that day is what led to their vow to help children in need:
“My husband is in law enforcement and came home from a particularly disturbing call that resulted in child endangerment. It affected us both deeply, and at that moment we vowed to find a way to help children who were improperly cared for. I had just had my third child, so we waited until he was 5, and then pursued getting licensed for Foster Care.”
Soon after becoming a foster parent, Vellis noticed something crucial.
In addition to already feeling out of place, when it came to children’s books, there weren’t any that related to the life of a child in foster care.
Over the last five years, Vellis, her husband, and their three biological children have welcomed 19 foster children into their home and adopted three others.
And as Vellis told Dearly, her children are overjoyed when someone new comes to live with them:
“We have had 19 children placed in our home over the years. The kids love having new children live in our home. When they have to leave it is hard for our kids because we all treat them as a part of our family.”
It’s their experience with fostering that has led her biological children to want to pursue careers in helping people.
And it’s Vellis’ experience with fostering that led her to write multiple children’s books that are relatable to those in the system.
Over the last five years, Vellis wrote two books called, “Sometimes” and “When I Was Little.” She explained to Dearly her reason behind the push to write them:
“I wrote the first book because I couldn’t find anything comforting or appropriate for the children that came to our home. Watching them experience an unfamiliar setting, I wanted them to feel safe and secure and comfortable. So my experience parenting them became the inspiration.”
“When I read it to the two that we adopted from foster care, they immediately said, ‘That is about me!’ The second book came to be by working with and understanding some of the trauma these kids have endured. Again, there was nothing age appropriate to let them know it is ok to have these feelings, you can share them and feel safe.”
And the books aren’t just helpful for those in the system, they are also perfect learning material for children who don’t know what the foster care system is.
The mom of six and preschool teacher explained:
“I love to read in classrooms and have found that many children are unaware about the foster care system. And then I will hear from foster students in the classroom and they will share their story. The simple story and illustrations become relatable to all readers and promotes kindness. I tell the kids that you never know what your friend may face when they go home, so a simple gesture of sitting next to the child eating lunch alone can make a difference.”
Vellis hopes her books reach the nearly 450,000 children in foster care at any given time in the U.S.:
“I have spoken with adults who were in the system as a child, and they tell me they could have benefitted from the books even when they were teenagers. When they age out of the system their future is often uncertain. If we can help make their experience in foster care better, productive and happy, they have a better chance at a productive and healthy life.”
The mom told Dearly that “there’s nothing greater in life than helping a vulnerable child.” However, becoming a foster parent has not only changed the children who have walked into her home, but she has also learned lessons in empathy and selflessness as well.
“I believe it changes you for the better,” Vellis said, “And teaches you what is really important in life.”