The Leary house is full—full of kids, full of hope, full of love. There’s Melissa, Sam, Mia, Ellie, Willow, Emma, Ayiah, Summer, and a new foster child. They are a family of nine, whose relationships were formed by birth, adoption, and foster care.
“More people, more love as long as we can meet everyone’s needs,” said Melissa.
There are a lot of needs to meet, but Melissa and Sam feel this is their purpose—a feeling that bloomed during the difficult loss of Sam’s mother.
“She always had an open door for anybody that needed family,” said Melissa.
After much discussion and deliberation in their family, Melissa and Sam became foster parents with DePaul in the summer of 2020. Within days, sisters Emma, Ayiah, and Summer were walking in the door desperately in need of support, guidance, and love. Because of their past, they were fearful of everyday activities, they didn’t know what a bedtime was, and they had little understanding of self-care.
“What shocked us was the sheer number of little things they had missed out on,” said Sam.
At times, the girls would refuse food, which meant tears and screams of “I can’t, I’m afraid.” From discussions with a therapist and their own research, Melissa and Sam grew to understand that food refusal was the girls’ way of finding control in an out-of-control world. Melissa and Sam relied on their faith and the strength and resilience of the children to bring them through those tough early days. They are also grateful for DePaul’s counseling, help with doctors’ appointments, just being there no matter what.
“To see the girls enjoy life, find peace, and know they have a secure and stable future, it’s extraordinary,” said Melissa.
Today, the whole Leary family has been transformed by their foster care journey.
“Growing your family through foster care is going to grow your life in ways that are beautiful and beyond your imagination,” said Melissa.
They know it took work to get here and that the work never really ends, especially because they just welcomed a new foster child into the home. But the work is worth it to them. The family is stronger, they are closer, and their gratitude for the little things in life, and for each other, is immeasurable.
“There are challenges along the way, but you just lean into them, turn your face into the wind, and walk through them together holding hands as a family,” said Melissa.