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September 4, 2020
“I could not imagine life with 11 children; now I can’t imagine life without 11 children.” -Meghan Ten Brink
Meghan Ten Brink’s quote sparks a reminder that sometimes you don’t know what you’re missing until it happens. For Meghan and her husband, it was growing their family and hearts in a way that almost feels like destiny.
Patsy Stills, the director of the Heart Gallery of Pinellas and Pasco introduces us to the inspiring family as they share their adoption story and how they became a family of 13.
My husband Travis and I always knew we wanted to foster. I have two sisters who were adopted. They were 10 and 11 when they came into our lives and had been in foster care for six years. Because of my childhood, I was very familiar with the benefits of fostering and adoption.
We married, had babies and put off the idea of fostering until after our fourth child. It was now our time, our moment. We started fostering with no intention of adopting. At that time, our hearts were in reunification of the child with their birth parent(s).
After three foster children, our minds changed when we met siblings Jude and Naomi. We adopted them both. With 21 foster children coming through our home, we knew we accomplished our goals of fostering.
Then we were introduced to Kobe who was featured on the Heart Gallery. We felt the pull to adopt Kobe and provide him with the stability we knew we could give him. Kobe has been with us over a year now and he’s a super big brother. He’s no longer in special school programs, no longer on medications, he’s now able to be a kid again and knows he has a forever home with us!
Adoption has definitely changed our lives. Little did we know we were missing something. I could not imagine life with 11 children; now I can’t imagine life without 11 children.
We have watched them grow and change and it has opened our eyes to helping others foster and build relationships with families.
We’re proud to think our children are benefiting from adoption by expanding our family. We’re hopeful they will be open to fostering and adopting when they are ready to start their own families.
It’s not as scary as people may think. One thing that is really great is they have an understanding that our little ones don’t. They are able to vocalize what they think, feel and need. You can reason and be bluntly honest with them.
With smaller children, you can see small leaps, with older children you see huge leaps. You can help these kids rekindle their dreams and become their authentic selves.
Meghan and Travis Ten Brink with their kids: Kobe, 12, Clary, 10, Azaria, 9, Violet, River and Naomi, 7, Jude and Ezra, 5, Willow, 4, Olive, 3, Ivy, 2.
A few of our adoptions have not been through the Heart Gallery. The biggest advantage of adopting a child through the Heart Gallery is the organization’s ongoing support before and well after the adoption.
We receive access to support groups and services that we wouldn’t have access to otherwise. Simply, families receive a level of support that you don’t get anywhere else.
We are waiting to finalize the adoption of three of our girls. The fourth sibling, a sister, just moved in with us and we plan to adopt her as well. What’s one more kid, right? She is 7 years old and now we have three 7-year-olds in our family!
Originally published in the September 2020 edition of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.
Learn more and join the Gulf Coast JFCS Heart Gallery of Pinellas and Pasco’s Streaming Live Event, Saturday, Nov. 146-7p.m.
For more information: https://gulfcoastjewishfamilyandcommunityservices.org/heartstrings/
About the Author: Patsy Stills is the director of the Gulf Coast JFCS Heart Gallery of Pinellas and Pasco Program. Stills volunteers with the Harbor Exchange Club and the Guardian Ad Litem Program as a Volunteer Child Advocate. Patsy is a member of the YMCA, Working Women of Tampa Bay, Church of the Ascension, Grants Collaborative of Tampa Bay, Leadership Tampa 1996 and Leadership Tampa Bay 2000. She is also an avid runner and a retired mobile DJ. Patsy and Jed Stills married in 1987 and are proud parents of three grown children.