Michele Sweeney and her husband didn’t know foster care would be the path to their ‘Miracle.’ They found it along the way of their unexpected journey. Today, they are grateful to have adopted a baby girl from foster care, who they aptly named Miracle.
After getting married in 2000, Michele and her husband were excited to grow their family. After a heartbreaking miscarriage with her first pregnancy, the couple became pregnant with twins. Sadly, another miscarriage took this chance at parenthood too. “We tried to get pregnant again,” Michele says. “We tried for years and then we finally went to a fertility doctor to see what was going on. He tried everything he could do and we still couldn’t get pregnant.”
Finally, after years of waiting and countless tests, Michele and her husband were told they fell into the “unknown” group. Doctors simply couldn’t determine the cause of infertility.
“We prayed about it and my sister asked why I don’t foster,” Michele relates. “I thought I couldn’t foster. That having a baby taken away from me would kill me just like a miscarriage. I can’t do that.”
Considering Foster Care
Michele’s sister was a foster parent herself, who had been a caregiver to a number of children over the years from West Virginia and Virginia. Well-acquainted with the in’s and out’s of foster care, she helped Michele put the opportunity into perspective.
“She said, just think of the love you are giving the children. They will remember this for a lifetime,” Michele says.
With this encouragement, as well as a heartfelt realization from the movie The Blind Side, Michele knew she wanted to open her home and heart to children who needed a safe, nurturing place to grow. Michele reached out to the Department of Health and Human Resources and discovered that foster care works through a third party organization. After struggling to find foster parent training classes that fit with her work schedule, Michele and her husband started classes with KVC on Saturdays.
When they arrived at their first class, the couple found they were the only participants signed up. “I told the instructor, ‘I don’t want you to come over here just for us.’ But he looked at us and said, ‘If you’re the only couple that comes for fostering I will drive all the way back down here every Saturday for you guys to do that,’” said Michele.
Michele was relieved to find classes she could take on Saturdays and appreciated that she could even complete some classes after work, at home on her iPad. With KVC West Virginia, Michele found the connection and opportunity she needed to begin her family’s foster parenting journey.
Holding Their Miracle
On December 28, 2018, Michele and her husband got a call from KVC. There was a baby girl in the hospital who needed a safe, loving environment. “I always wanted a Christmas baby,” Michele shares. “I’ve been through so much, I thought it’d be the best Christmas gift I could actually ever have in my hands.”
Michele’s answer to the call was yes and she found her miracle in a beautiful baby girl.
Later that evening, the hospital called and asked if Michele and her husband wanted to meet the baby the next day. “I’ll never forget that day,” Michele says. “She was so small and had all this hair. She looked over at my husband and gave him the biggest smile. Then, she turned to me and gave me the biggest smile.”
This “love at first sight” didn’t come without its challenges. Miracle was born addicted to drugs and with clubfoot, among other health issues. For Michele and her husband, these challenges changed nothing. They went home from the hospital on December 31 and started helping Miracle heal.
“She would cry almost 24 hours a day,” Michele says, remembering those tough first days. “I asked God to give me strength because we had to be there for her.” By taking shifts with her husband, consulting doctors and collaborating with KVC team members, Michele and her husband cared for Miracle through this challenging time. Then came occupational therapy, 18 casts, and a number of surgeries for clubfoot. But through it all, the family persisted and enjoyed the time they had together.
Working Toward Adoption
After navigating several court cases to determine custody of Miracle with the help of their lawyer, Michele and her husband officially adopted Miracle from foster care in June 2020. “We were fostering our first child so we didn’t know what to expect,” Michele shares about her experiences in court. What Michele focused on throughout the tumultuous process was how overjoyed she was to have Miracle. “All I could think was, ‘She’s mine. She is my daughter.’”
Today, Miracle is three years old and the Sweeneys enjoy plenty of family fun. “We go to the park every weekend. It’s really huge for her,” Michele says, smiling. “She runs constantly. She loves jumping on the trampoline.” Through her health journey, Miracle’s abilities have grown and she’s flourished as a lively and bright child. “The newest thing she’s doing now is gymnastics! With everything she’s been through, we wanted to give her the best,” says Michele.
While the experience hasn’t been easy, Michele has changed through her foster care journey. “Miracle is inspiring,” she shares. “She’s inspired me because she went through that much pain. Now, I think we can go through anything.”
Becoming a Foster Parent with KVC West Virginia
What does it take to become a foster parent? Michele has words of encouragement for those considering this life-changing role. “It’s a risk to take,” Michele shares. “Just have to be willing. You might be scared just like me when I started. You just gotta remember you’re showing that child or children love and they will remember that love.”
For those who struggle with infertility, Michele emphasizes how fostering makes your life so much better. “Don’t give up,” she advises. “There’s always a child that needs your love. I would encourage anyone to foster.”
Start Your Foster Parent Journey
Like Michele says, there are always children who need a loving home. KVC typically serves sibling groups and teens. There are thousands of siblings and older children in West Virginia who still need to be fostered or adopted by loving families. That love and care could come from you. You can change a life and they can change yours. Learn more about becoming a foster parent with KVC West Virginia now.