This Sunday will be a very special one for Theresa Neigh and her family.
It will be Theresa’s first Mother’s Day, which she will celebrate with her five-year-old daughter and six-year-old son and husband Jim.
The siblings arrived just in time for Christmas last year — two adorable, almost identical, rambunctious yet incredibly sweet children who needed Theresa and Jim more than the Neighs could have ever imagined.
But if it weren’t for the Neighs’ decision to become foster parents, Theresa may never have had the chance to be called “Mom.”
Their journey into parenthood began 12 years ago, when Theresa was 38 and the couple tried to start a family. She had always planned on becoming a mother, but when the time came her body did not respond. They skipped fertility treatments and considered adoption, but as her 40s came, a child did not. The couple decided that foster care may be the answer, and once that decision was made in 2011, they finally had the family they had long hoped for.
“So many people had suggested we go through the Department of Family and Children Services, which is a big risk because their job is to re-unite. We went through our classes and had the home study done, and then we were approved in November. I prayed a lot about it...and I said ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could have a child by Christmas?’”
The children came to the Neigh household on December 20.
“They came from a much larger family, and we don’t know how that is going to turn out long-term, but I am going to love them as if they are going to stay forever, whether they are going to stay or not,” she said.
The couple, who have been married for eight years and have full-time jobs, somehow made the transition appear seamless. Just five months into their new life, they’ve managed to make the house look like the children were born there — teeming with dogs, snuggles, laughter and the contained chaos that is parenthood. While still maintaining their busy work schedules, the couple also designates time for each child to develop a hobby. The son plays soccer, and the daughter is a gymnast. The children had never been to school but they are very excited about learning their ABC’s, and they are getting that numbers thing down too. Theresa admits the learning curve goes both ways, all four family members are learning new things every day.
“The greatest reward is having someone call you ‘Mom,’” Theresa said. “Having someone that needs me...being part of something so much bigger than myself. To have someone call you ‘Mom’ is underestimated. People don’t realize how dramatic it is to be called ‘Mom.’ You can be called mom and not be a mom but to be called mom is great.”
The Neighs are keenly aware that DFCS ultimately seeks to reunite families. The children visit their mother every week, and they have siblings placed in foster homes as well. But for now, they are very happy to have the parents they live with, and that dedication and diligence earned the Neigh’s “Foster Parent Rookies of the Year” by Rockdale DFCS.
LaToya Skinner, the DFCS Resource Development Case Manager who trained the Neighs last year and continues to work closely with the family, helped select the Neighs for the award. She says Theresa’s dedication throughout the entire process has been outstanding.
“These children want to be loved. They may come with baggage, as we all do. They want to come home at night and lay in their bed...they want to be loved, to have food to eat, and to know that they can get up and have the same thing tomorrow. They want to know that it isn’t going anywhere. She saw the need and was willing to open her heart and her home,” she explained.
Theresa and Jim had five days to make sure Santa brought the toys for the children, then last month the Easter Bunny came bearing a basket full of goodies. Soon the first year of school will come to a close and it will be time for the family to go camping.
No matter what the future holds, today four people have a happy, stable and loving family made up of four equal parts, and each of them will carry the memories of the family they have together for a lifetime.
For more information on becoming a foster parent, call Rockdale DFCS at (770) 388-5025.