Dawn Deuter has come through a rewarding — and at times, challenging — journey with her four children.
Fostering and adoption have woven themselves throughout her life. With one biological child and three through adoption, Deuter said she knew early on she felt a call on her heart to help kids. She and her husband, Kyle, worked as a team fostering nearly 30 children starting in 2006.
Now she hopes to launch a support group in Richmond Hill.
After giving birth to her first son, Kristian, now 13, she felt a nudge to adopt. Being a foster parent had not been at the front of her mind. But after a chance encounter with a foster mother in New Jersey, where she lived at the time, she decided to give it a try.
"We were going to adopt through China. We had an application filled out," Deuter said. "It was 2007. I met this woman and her foster children and at that moment, I felt like we should try this. We were nervous because we wanted to adopt."
This step of becoming a foster parent ultimately led to three adoptions.
The process has not been easy, Deuter said.
Fostering is filled with the good, the bad and, oftentimes, heartbreak. At times, the process has been nothing short of a Lifetime movie unfolding right before their eyes. Despite the challenges, the Deuters pushed forward and took in children through what could be considered a regular fostering process as well as several children through emergency placements. Whether it was a few days or a few months, these children have each made an imprint in their lives.
John, 12, came into the Deuters’ lives when he was 4. His home life was rocky, and he grew up in the inner city of Atlantic City, New Jersey.
After he went back to live with his biological parents, "We continued to keep him on weekends so the boys could see each other," Dawn Deuter said. "He and Kristian had already bonded. After his parents lost the rights to have him, they knew they wanted him to be with us. The relationship was already there."
He was officially adopted into the family Oct. 28, 2011.
Lexi, 8, had a much different journey. Children come through the foster system with their own individual stories. Many are impacted by the memories and realities they face with their biological parents.
When Lexi came into the Deuters’ lives at 13 months old, she was already facing an uphill battle. At a young age, her behavior began to negatively shift and, through a series of unexpected events, she came in and quickly went out of the Deuter home.
"The miracle is God was working and allowing all things to happen so she could be brought back to us," Dawn Deuter said.
It was anything but pretty, and the process took a toll on Lexi’s mental capacity. Deuter knew she wanted Lexi despite the battery of testing that declared her unfit to be placed with a family. She was officially adopted July 11, 2014.
The baby of the family, 4-year-old Zoe, came into the Deuters’ lives at 3 months old. Deuter’s sister, Melanie, who is the mother of four adopted children, has Zoe’s biological sister. The connection that Dawn and Melanie share through adoption allows the two little girls to stay connected.
One of the greatest reservations people have when considering becoming a foster parent or adopting a child is financial resources. Deuter said that should never be a reason for someone to hold back. She said all who desire to help should know they will get resources to help raise the child. Whether it be medical insurance, therapy, braces or any other need the child may have, assistance is given up to age 18.
The Deuter family has continued to step forward in faith, as do many who choose this route. While it has often filled with trials and unknowns, the journey has led to a beautiful blended family with its own unique story.
Now the Deuters’ vision is to see people who have experienced fostering or adopting children come together to support one another.
"Having support and feeling like you can express yourself without judgment is incredible," said Dawn Deuter, who was part of such a group in New Jersey.
A local therapist suggested to Deuter that a group like this is needed in Richmond Hill. This sparked a desire for Deuter to do something to help make this happen.
For more information on the group, Support for Adoptive and Foster Families, or to contact Deuter, go to http://www.facebook.com/SAFFRHGAor email SAFFRHGA@gmail.com.