Always Room for More Family!

Michelle O'Mara, CAP's new Wendy's Wonderful Kids recruiter, has taken a serendipitous journey through life to find family in many unexpected places.

All my life I have loved children and wanted to be a teacher, as did all my elementary school friends. After graduating from high school, I followed my passion for children, and went right to work in a day care center, followed by a position as a nanny for a few years.

After getting married and having my own children, I decided not only to continue caring for my own, but to care for other people’s children as well. So I became a nanny to a family with an 18-month daughter, the same age as my own, and the girls grew up together to become best friends. For 17 years, I also I worked in our elementary school as a librarian and a teaching assistant.

My desire to foster and adopt began in 2014. I remember this because my oldest was in college and my youngest was entering high school. I always knew that my days of being a mother to young children were not over.

I wasn’t sure how it was going to happen, but I knew in my heart that it would. My partner Marc and I saw an advertisement for potential foster parents. We immediately decided to go to an informational meeting at a local library, figuring that getting a little info couldn’t hurt. Within one year, we had gone through all the necessary training, and we were taking in our first foster child. Our lives haven’t been the same since!

Between 2015 and 2016 we took in over 14 children ranging from 18 months to 12 years, including three siblings sets of two, and two sibling sets of three. The shortest stay was 11 days, the longest was six months. In 2016, we took in two siblings (ages seven and eight), who never left. We adopted them in 2019.

By 2021, I had concluded my position as a nanny. I saw that Children Awaiting Parents (CAP) had an opening to help children in foster care through the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program. Here was my opportunity to help even more children on an even larger scale. I was fortunate enough to be hired and became CAP’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter.

Wendy’s Wonderful Kids is the signature program of The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. The foundation partners with adoption agencies who hire recruiters to implement the Child-Focused Recruitment Model to help children who are freed for adoption find connection and permanency. These youth have been in foster care the longest, including teenagers, and children with special needs, and siblings.

Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters work with smaller caseloads of 12-15 children to ensure that each child receives the time, resources, and support they deserve. I currently have 12 kids (ages seven to 21) from four New York State counties in my caseload, with 6 potential adoptions, including a four-sibling set.

Even before I talk about adoption or guardianship with the children, my purpose is to connect with them, to be the consistent adult they can trust. As I was hired during the pandemic, I’ve needed to be flexible in how I see kids. So zooms and phone calls were how we communicated. Now, with a decrease in restrictions, I am excited to begin seeing children in person!

Working at Children Awaiting Parents has certainly deepened my view of foster care and the foster care system. There are many aspects of the system that need changing. However, there is an abundance of people working toward positive changes who always have the youth at the forefront of everything they do. CAP staff are those people. They work diligently to do what is best for each and every child and family coming through the doors. Whether it is adoption or the new therapeutic foster care program, children’s needs always come first.

My family is not only people with whom I share DNA, but it is also people I share LIFE with. So many people have come into my life for a day, a year, or a season. Those people are considered family. I have former foster children who are FAMILY, I have former and current co-workers who are FAMILY. ALL my children are my FAMILY, and there will always be room for more FAMILY in my life!

Along this journey I have learned that I have strength for more than myself, I have courage for more than myself, I have compassion for more than myself, and I have love for more than myself.

The foster care and adoption journey has been life-changing for my entire family, and even though it’s been difficult, frustrating, and exhausting, it is also beautiful, magical, and magnificently challenging.