As we navigate the holiday season, we’re bombarded with media that celebrates “family” in the traditional sense of the word — huge gatherings hosted by a mother and father, with their biological children and generations of biological family in tow. But that excludes the experiences of more than 400,000 children in the United States — the hundreds of thousands of children who are part of the U.S. foster care system. Of those kids, over 100,000 of them are waiting (for typically three or more years) to be adopted, their average age eight years old. They are likely to have already lived in at least three different foster homes beforehand, separated from their siblings.
These statistics all come from The New York Foundling, a charity and organization based in New York that helps 27,000 children and families every year. There are 9,000 children in New York City’s foster care system alone — and about 10% of those children get help from The New York Foundling at any given time. The organization has been connecting children and their new families since its founding in 1869, ensuring that kids receive safe, adequate support as they transition into their new homes. Prospective families also receive assistance from the organization as they are guided through the adoption process.
With the organization’s assistance, Mayra Rivera formally adopted four siblings simultaneously on November 16th, 2017. She had already been fostering Shawn, William, Rose, and Na Maya for six years, and her incredible act ensured that the brothers and sisters would be able to stay together.
We spoke to Mayra about this exciting time for her family, and what it was like to transition from being a foster mom to an adoptive mom.
HelloGiggles (HG): Was adopting all four siblings together a difficult process?
Mayra Rivera (MR): It was kind of a difficult process, but it wasn’t anything that we didn’t want to do. It takes a long [time]. It took us seven years to finalize.
HG: What was your adoption ceremony with your four children like?
MR: It was very beautiful. Very heartwarming. There were so many children adopted on that same day [in November] because November is Adoption Month, so they did something in court and it was very nice for the children.
HG: As you said, this guardianship had already been in place for seven years, so you’ve been a foster mom for a while. What changes have you noticed in the transition from foster mom to adoptive mom?
MR: You know, it’s taking a little bit to get the insurance on track, to change their last names. So, document-wise, I think it affected it a little bit. But other than that, everything is simple; everything went smoothly. We’re already used to being all together, so they’re very happy.
HG: You adopted your kids very shortly before Thanksgiving. You’ve had Thanksgivings together before, but what was this year’s Thanksgiving like as this new version of a family?
MR: My first grandchild was also born this year, so that was one thing to celebrate. So we’re very excited about that, and actually to see everybody giving praise for what they were thankful for at the table — they were so happy that it was finalized, that we are [legally] family now.
And I’m happy for that because there were so many people involved and [there’s] really only so much that you can do as a foster mom. But now that they’re actually mine, it’s easier.
HG: What inspired you to first become a foster parent?
MR: Well, I used to work with an optician for many years, and I used to see many foster parents come in with children. I saw the way they treated them differently from the other children, from their [biological] children. I thought, “Wow, that’s not right.” When those situations happened, we used to buy glasses [for the foster children] and give the foster children better glasses so they could be treated the same.
That inspired me a lot, and then after that, when I wasn’t working with the optician anymore, I decided to foster children. That way, I could have children who could be in one home for awhile, so they don’t have to be jumping from home to home.
That’s really the downfall for the kids, when they have to be going from one home to [another] home. And they kind of rebel because of that. I know the children — the ones that I have — they love being home. At least they are all together, and they’re going to be all together raised in one home. And we love each other.
HG: What do you want to say to people who are considering becoming foster parents or considering adoption?
MR: I would say that that’s one of the most precious things you could do for a child. There are many people out there who can’t have children, or they have free time on their hands to provide for these children, and it’s wonderful to give one child a safe home and a stable home, which is what they really need. Every child should have that chance, and it’s a blessing to be able to provide that loving family for a child.