Single Mom Who Grew Up in Foster Care Adopts 6 Boys: 'They Give Me Purpose'

Growing up in foster care can be a traumatic experience that often leaves children feeling insecure and unloved. Jessica Benzakein from Wisconsin is one woman who knows exactly how difficult it can be after she was left in foster care at the age of 12 for six years when her mother lost custody. Being in the system at any point in time is difficult enough, but at 12, Benzakein was told that her chances of being adopted were close to zero. Speaking to TODAY in January 2016, she said,

"My caseworker, his name was Ron, sat me and down and said, 'Your mother has terminated her parental rights. What’s your plan B?'" She was told point-blank that "By 12, they figure you are deeply damaged and horribly troubled and there’s no reversing it. Between the ages of 2 and 5, your chances of adoption drop substantially."

For the next six years, Benzakein spent her time in foster care and left the system as soon as she turned 18 years old. Rather than becoming bitter due to her experiences, Benzakein decided to use her experience to help others and adopt more children of her own. By the time she had decided on who she wanted to adopt, she already had two biological children of her own.

Benzakein showed the world and her family that she has a big heart when she chose to adopt 6 siblings together so that they would never need to be separated. Her request was approved in January 2020 and her story has warmed the hearts of millions of people.

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Benzakein spoke to TODAY and said that she spent her first Christmas away from foster care alone on the campus of her college. "You’re expected to leave, but I didn’t have anywhere to go," Benzakein revealed. "So, I paid to stay in a room the size of a guest closet." However, she can be sure that she won't have to spend another Christmas along again thanks to her generous heart and suddenly big family.

Benzakein was 46 years old when she was determined that she will do her part to ensure that at least some children are saved the pain of growing up in the system. She took in six brothers that range in ages from 4 to 17 years old. Benzakein already had two sons of her own, Eli, 14, and Brenna, 9, and added to her family: as are Kendrich, 6, and Terrell “T.J.,” 4, who are related by blood, as are Will, 18, Carter, 14, Sidney, 13, and Markell “Buddy,” 8.

Banzakein wanted to do something for older children who are in foster homes because of her own experiences. Moreover, Benzakein was separated from her older brother when she was in the system herself, so she did not want any more children to go through what she went through. "In Wisconsin alone, we have over 7,000 foster kids," Benzakein told TODAY. "The number of sibling sets is crazy high, and they’re often broken up." This can often be terribly painful for siblings, and a lot of older kids who do not get adopted continue to live in foster homes until they are adults according to MPR News.
While Jessica is making a huge difference in the lives of these children, she explained to TODAY that they are the ones who are helping her as well. She credited her children with keeping her "grounded." She said, "Everybody tells me how lucky these kids are and what a good thing I did. But ... I’m going to cry ... they grounded me. I went through my 20s thinking I didn’t really need a family. But I did. They give me purpose."

Benzakein's family now are just like any other family, and everyone at home enjoys basketball games at their home, and pizza and a movie on Friday nights. "We have fun here. It’s total chaos in a good way," Benzakein added. "They have a safe place where they can screw up and make mistakes and laugh and joke and poke fun of each other."

Opening one’s home to become foster or adoptive parents is an amazing way to make a difference in the life of a child. According to the Adoption Network, there are 428,000 children that are currently in foster care, and a large number of them are set to age out of foster care without a family to call their own. Banzakein has not looked back since she adopted her boys, and continues to provide love and support to all her kids.

"We’ve been living like a family for a long time," Benzakein said. "But now, no one can tell us we’re not." Stories like this show us that there are always good people out there who go the extra mile to change people's lives.

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