'I knew in my heart': After nearly four years, adoption completed for foster mother and daughter
Berlene Wright will never forget the day when Taria arrived at her foster home. She was 12 days old, weighed only 4 pounds, and came directly from the hospital with drug withdrawal symptoms.
“She would shake real bad when she was little,” recalled Berlene, a foster parent licensed through Oakland Family Services since 2014. “I would hold her tight to calm her, so she could feel my heart beat.”
Something felt different with this foster child for Berlene, who had opened up her home to four other foster children before Taria. Berlene just “felt it in her heart” that one day she would adopt Taria.
That day came on June 22 – almost four years after a caseworker placed Taria in Berlene’s arms for the first time.
“I thought, you are finally mine,” Berlene said. “She always called me Mama and would tell me, ‘Mama, I love you.’ All she knows is me. I wouldn’t want to give her to anybody else since I had her when she was 12 days old. I wouldn’t feel right. I love her like she was my own child, like I had her. l didn’t want anybody else to have her.”
While the parental rights of Taria’s biological mother, who struggled with drug use, were terminated before Taria was 2 years old, the parental rights of her biological father were not terminated until she was 3 years old. Berlene said a judge gave the dad several chances to gain custody of Taria, but he was unable to meet the requirements.
Lynn Matthijs, adoption/foster care case manager at Oakland Family Services, said she is glad Taria is now officially a part of Berlene’s family. Berlene has a daughter, who is 18, and a son, who is 24.
“Berlene goes above and beyond for any foster child placed in her home,” she said. “Taria has some medical issues, and Berlene makes it a priority that all of her needs are met,” she said. “It is nice to have a foster parent who is so organized and on top of things. I also appreciate that she has been so patient and understanding throughout Taria's foster care case.”
Berlene makes her foster kids her first priority. Besides taking care of their medical needs, she makes reading part of their daily routine and regularly takes photos of her foster children, so their biological parents can see them growing up.
“The photos may give them the encouragement they need to they will want to get their kids back,” she said.
Berlene also always makes sure her foster children look presentable when leaving the house.
“I can look totally messy with my hair, but these kids are going to be clean, dressed, and their hair is always done,” she said. “I would rather I not have anything. I do for the kids first.’
Besides Taria, Berlene also cares for a 6-month-old foster child, who arrived at her home when she was only four days old.
“Taria loves the baby and is a big help,” Berlene said. “She plays with the baby while she is on the floor, she gets her toys for her, and she throws her diaper away.”
Berlene decided to become a foster parent after her daughter graduated from high school. She learned about Oakland Family Services from family members. Berlene said the agency has been very helpful, open-minded toward suggestions and accessible.
“I can always call my case worker’s cell number and ask them any information I need, and they know how to help me,” she said. “They are always open to hear anything you need to talk to them about.”
If you have room in your home and heart, Berlene encourages you to consider becoming a foster parent.
“There are so many kids out here who need help, love and support,” she said. “Their parents might not be able to do it at the present time. You mostly are like a substitute for their parents and to help and guide the kid. Sometimes they might go back to the mom and sometimes not, but you have to just show them love and be kind to them and raise them.”