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An Adoption Story | Love Makes a Family

November is National Adoption Month, and an opportunity for all of us to reflect on love and family and how important it is for the community to embrace foster and adoptive parents.

For many parents who are called to be a family, the pathway may be anything but traditional, as the Vandenbergs’ story demonstrates. The Vandenberg family will soon celebrate 20 years of marriage, six years of fostering, and more recently, the adoption of two brothers for a total of three adopted children from Hillsborough County’s foster care system.

The Vandenburgs became foster parents in 2012, eager to make a difference in the lives of children who were victims of traumatic experiences. They made it their mission to offer each child in their care the unconditional love and support they desperately needed to heal. They worked hard to meet the individual needs of each child, including emotional and unique medical needs, such as reflux, liver disease, and neurological issues. No matter the obstacle, the Vandenburgs always prioritized the best interest of each and every child. As a result, the children thrived.

Love Makes Family

Their focus was to help reconnect children with their biological families. I’m thrilled to share that out of the 10 children that the family fostered, seven have been able to return home to be with their biological families. Although the Vandenburgs had no intention of adopting, they created an unbreakable bond with three children, who became part of their forever family through adoption.

For children transitioning from foster care to adoption, permanency is bigger than the word adoption. For these children, the sense of “home” means so much more.  It’s a sense of belonging, feeling safe and loved, and ultimately, cared for. Permanency is having a place and people to whom no matter what happens. It brings with it the sense of unconditional love and support, something we all need as human beings.

Love Makes Family

These days, the Vandenberg family continues to thrive and grow in love and appreciation for each other. They feel as if their family is now complete with three young boys, and have decided to switch gears in foster care. The family is no longer actively fostering, but instead, is focused completely on parenting and teaching their children, prioritizing education and life experiences, and of course, advocating for foster care and adoption. For the miracle of family, the Vandenbergs, and so many others like them: Thank you for your love, sacrifice, and service, for being foster parents and for the beauty of adoption!

Interested in learning more about fostering?

Contact the Fostering Families program at the Children’s Home Network at (813) 864-1403 or visit

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