“You did not grow under my heart, but in my heart.” – Ryan Family
At an early age, Shelley Ryan was diagnosed with a medical condition that caused her to have strokes. When discussing motherhood with her doctor, she was advised not to have children. “The chances of a reoccurring stroke went up 2000 percent,” if she gave birth. With those odds, Shelley and her husband Nick decided not to risk it. “We were fine without having kids,” she said. “After all, we had many opportunities to enjoy children through our friends, nieces and nephews.” It wasn’t until Nick went to a foster family agency (FFA) for a work project that he discovered the joy of foster youth. That evening, he came home and suggested to Shelley that they should look into becoming foster parents or adopting. They began researching the differences between a private adoption agency, going through the county, or through an FFA. Eventually, Shelley and Nick chose the FFA, and it led them on a path that changed their lives forever.
As certified foster parents, Shelley and Nick were introduced to four amazing foster boys who they would soon make part of their family. Their boys came to them at ages 7½, 6, 3, and 10 days old. While their oldest son became adoptable almost immediately, the younger three boys – who were biological brothers – took a little longer. The process took about 2½ years before the adoption was finalized. Although these children were Shelley and Ryan’s dream, fears still ran through their minds. Shelley remembers thinking, “Will we be good parents, love them as if they were our own biological children, will our families love and accept them, and furthermore, will they accept us?” However, Shelley and Nick found out they weren’t the only ones with fears and doubts. The first time they met their new foster son, they were nervous and paralyzed with questions. Years later, this young man revealed his fears in wondering if they would like him enough to keep him. Shelley smiles in sharing that everyone’s questions were answered with a definite YES!
In any family, there are challenges, but for an adopted family, these problems can be unique. Their children grew up not knowing about their first steps, first words and other important milestones. Shelley expressed, “It’s hard, because we don’t have answers for them.” But the family got through these obstacles and many more together. Their family motto is, “You did not grow under my heart, but in my heart.” The love shared within this family extends to other relatives as well. They have grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who love them regardless of sharing the same blood. Shelley said, “Children just need a family to love them and believe in them.”
Nick and Shelley were able to give their sons stability, love, and a home they so desperately needed. It’s unanimous that they all gave each other the gift of family. Shelley recalls people often saying, “Oh, your boys are so lucky to have you.” However, the way Nick and Shelley see it, “We are so lucky to have all four of them!”
Through her commitment to helping FFAs succeed, Shelley has since taken the position of Community Involvement Coordinator at Olive Crest for the Riverside office that services all of the Inland Empire, encompassing Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. She works with mentors and volunteers, donors and fundraising special events. Shelley loves her job and it fills her heart to see people want to get involved to help foster children. “One person can make a change in a child’s life, and it’s such a blessing to see how that change can happen.” At Olive Crest, Shelley helps others connect with fosters due to her own experiences. “There are lots of children in our own communities who are looking for their forever, loving family. It does not matter what age they are; we all need family in our lives.”
If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a foster/adoptive parent, mentor or volunteer, you can reach Shelley at (951) 300-9830 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit
www.olivecrest.org to find out more about the organization. W
The Story of Ann
My name is Kelley Womack and I am an Olive Crest Angel. The Angels support Olive Crest in various ways, such as helping to put on events. I am proud to be an Angel, and in a small way, to help support the wonderful work that Olive Crest does for foster children and their families.
I would like to take a moment and share with you a story about a little girl…we will call her “Ann.”
Ann’s parents were unfit parents. They divorced before she was born, they were alcoholics and abusers, and they gave up custody of their children one by one. Ann’s mom abandoned her one night to run off to Mexico with her boyfriend. Ann was 4-years-old, sitting on a couch overnight…all alone.
Ann then started a series of foster placements – 11 different families from the ages of 4 to 10. A few months here, a few months there. It was 11 different placements, 11 different schools, 11 different families – all in six years. Each one promising, “This is your forever home; we are going to be your mommy and daddy; these are your brothers and sisters.” Although Ann pretty much had her guard up all the time, when she was 8-years-old, she was put in a home that she was so certain was it, she called those people mommy and daddy, and she informally changed her name to their name. She lasted there seven months.
The placements ended for different reasons. People who made promises got divorced; new “brothers and sisters” didn’t like Ann; kids were jealous; families didn’t want to deal with a child who still wet the bed and sucked her thumb at the age of 6, 7, 8…; families decided they couldn’t afford another kid, and Ann had to go. On to another family, trying again to fit in, trying to make new friends in another school, trying to act like she didn’t care, trying to be SO GOOD that this family wouldn’t want to give her up. There were 11 families in six years.
Here are some of the comments made by social workers regarding Ann during that time. “Ann’s mom is reluctant to place her daughter in the children’s home for fear she will have to support the child financially.” In another case, “Since Ann was having a little trouble fitting in with their child, she had to go.” A little trouble fitting in. Social workers wrote that, “Ann reads for hours as a way to separate from her reality.” And, “Because Ann throws temper fits to get her way and is a moody child, she is difficult to place.” When Ann was 9-years-old, a social worker wrote, “The grandmother left town without telling Ann they were leaving her in Texas.” It was also said about Ann: “It is our opinion that the child has been too damaged to relate deeply. Therefore, she is not a candidate for adoption.” And finally, “Ann is not capable of a warm, consistent relationship with someone…”
Olive Crest exists to help children like Ann, and to support the families that take these children in. When you give to Olive Crest, you are supporting the programs that make it possible for families to weather the storms that are inevitable when providing love and a temporary or forever home to unwanted children. When you give to Olive Crest with your time or your money, you are saying to a child like Ann, “You are worthy,” “You are important,” and “I want to help you.”
Let me tell you what happened to Ann. It turns out that some of those characteristics that made her so hard to place – the strong sense of self that she exhibited with temper tantrums, the intellect that she gained reading for hours and hours in an attempt to disconnect – these traits served Ann very well as she matured into adulthood. Foster children are estimated to lose 4-6 months of academic progress every time they are moved. Only 10% of foster children go to college, and of that 10%, only 3% graduate – Ann is a college graduate. Ann went on to graduate school.
And there were strong, consistent relationships from age 10 on that turned the tide for Ann. “Not capable of a warm, consistent relationship,” as one social worker said…? I think not. My name is Kelley Ann. I am Ann. I am here because of my warm, consistent relationships.
Thank you for supporting Olive Crest and our children! You can be the difference in some child’s life. A child like Ann. THANK YOU!
From a Speech by Kelley Womack, Olive Crest
Too often, children who come to Olive Crest have never had a happy Christmas, let alone received gifts on Christmas morning. They only have memories of fear and loneliness, abuse and neglect.
But you can help! This Christmas, you can be the miracle for a child, teen, or family in crisis. Consider making a gift of one or more gift cards. Or, you can purchase items from the suggested list below.
Suggested Gift Items:
Boosters, Crib bedding
Toy cars, blocks
Sports equipment, craft kits
Helmets, board games
Bakeware sets, towels
Suggested Gift Cards:
Gas (Arco, Shell, Chevron)
Toys R Us