Ashley Chiappano wanted to be a mother.
“We tried traditionally and that was not working for us,” Chiappano said. “We looked into foster care. The bottom line is – we wanted to be parents.”
After being licensed for about two weeks, Chiappano and her husband received their first placement: eighteen month old Lillie. She arrived half-asleep in little pajamas wearing a brown coat. She didn’t cry. Instead she walked quietly over to a toy bin and began to play.
“Now we were told to guard ourselves from getting too attached,” Chiappano said. “But you fall in love with them immediately; you can’t help but fall in love with them. You can’t stop yourself. We loved her from the start. We decided we’d give her the best life possible for as long as she was with us.”
She was adopted twenty months later after her biological father, a man suffering from cerebral palsy who still remains part of her life, offered to surrender parental rights.
“When someone hands you their child, you start to believe you have a purpose,” Chiappano said. “It changes everything. It makes me believe that good things happen. That if you do good acts, you receive good in return.”
Shortly after Lillie’s adoption in June 2011, Chiappano found out she was pregnant with her son, Sawyer. Five months later, she received a phone call that Lillie’s biological mother was pregnant with a baby girl and due any day.
After talking it over with her husband, a five-months pregnant Chiappano took Daisy home to her sister Lillie. The adoption process took 19 months, but in January 2013, she was officially Chiappano’s youngest daughter.
“I am forever changed,” Chiappano said. “It changes your perspective on how the world works. We learned so much about ourselves, our abilities.”
But her family wasn’t complete. Shortly after bringing Daisy home, Chiappano found out she was pregnant with Sully.
She would soon be a mother of four.
“I went into this because I want to be a mom,” Chiappano said. “I went into this to have them, not for them to have me. People say ‘they’re so lucky to have you.’ The truth is I’m so lucky to have them.”
For Chiappano, becoming a foster parent was never strictly about saving those in need. It was about being a mother.
It’s something she’s grateful to be every day.
“It’s life-changing,” Chiappano said. “Instead of growing in my belly, they grew in my heart.”
Lloyd Nelson is the Digital Media Manager of Foster and Adoptive Family Services. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.