Parents often try to model their children’s lives after the best parts of their upbringing, but for Jessica Benzakein of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the opposite is true.
After going through foster care and becoming a ward of the state at just 12 years old, Jessica was determined to give her kids far more than what she had growing up, and she’s succeeded! Today, her home is filled with love and laughter for the best of reasons.
When Jessica’s mother relinquished her parental rights, Jessica was separated from her brother and left alone in the world. Worse, her caseworker didn’t have much hope that she would be adopted.
He said, ‘If adoption is your plan A, you are too old.’ And he wasn’t saying it to be mean. I got it. His point was, if your plan A is to be adopted, you don’t fit what people are looking for. 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.
That’s why it was so important to Jessica to welcome foster children into her life as an adult. After having two biological children, Eli (14) and Brenna (9), with her ex-husband, she started opening her home to kids in need, focusing on keeping siblings together.
For several years, she’s watched over two sets of siblings. Will (18), Carter (14), Sidney (13), and Markell (8) have been thriving under her care alongside Kendrich (6) and Terrell (4), so she decided it was about time to make their family official.
In January 2020, they went to court to finalize the adoptions, and Jessica is thrilled to have six more children to call her own!
“Everybody tells me how lucky these kids are and what a good thing I did,” she said. “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.”
The Benzakeins are doing great! They’ve had years to establish routines like weekly pizza parties and kitchen dance-offs. It makes for a home that’s rarely quiet, which is just how Jessica likes it.
“It’s total chaos in a good way,” she said. “They have a safe place where they can screw up and make mistakes and laugh and joke and poke fun of each other.”
Instead of letting her difficult past define her, Jessica is working hard to make sure her kids never feel alone. Congratulations, Benzakein family!
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