Across the county, foster parents take children in need into their homes. In some cases, these same children become a part of their families forever through adoption. New Jersey foster parent Karen Booker knows this story well.
What has made such an impact on Karen’s life was her decision to foster over 50 children, 3 of whom she has adopted. Karen touched so many lives during her 5 years of being a licensed foster parent and continues to keep her home open to children in care.
The Booker’s journey to becoming the Outstanding Adoptive Family of the Year at Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS) and the Division of Child Protection and Permanency’s (DCP&P) Annual Recognition Brunch began when her biological children were getting ready to go to college. Rather than having another child, she said she decided to foster because she “knew that there were a lot of children out there who needed homes and needed love.”
At first, Karen had to do some convincing to get her husband, Trevor, on board as she knew that fostering children is not for everyone. “I kept saying ‘What do we have to lose? If we take this journey and realize it’s not for us, well then at least we know it’s not for us,’” Karen says.
Once they became licensed and took in their first placement, not only did they know they were meant to foster but also that they needed to care for as many children as they possibly could.
Having fostered so many children, she has experienced all the ups and downs of foster care but has never let anything sway her drive to help those in need. “I just love having the kids in the house, why not have more? We are open to anything and I never say never anymore,” she says.
Her love extends beyond the children currently in her care. It stays with those she has fostered and even reaches their biological mothers. Karen has formed such a strong bond with one of them, who views Karen as a maternal figure, that the woman has given legal guardianship of her daughter to Karen.
While Karen continues to be a biological mother, a foster mother, an adoptive mother and a legal guardian, she finds that she still has more to give. “Because I’m always maxed out with the children (in regards to foster care, New Jersey allows for a total of 6 children to live in one residence) I feel like all I can do at this point is to recruit other foster families, and that is what I’ve been spending a lot of time and attention on, showing my friends this life that I have and that they could have that too,” she says.
Along with helping her adopted and foster children through the different obstacles life has thrown at them, Karen signed up for Foster and Adoptive Family Services’ (FAFS) Heart to Heart Mentoring program as a mentor to newer foster parents.
FAFS partnered her with Lisa, a woman who was thrust into the world of foster care when her young niece needed a safe home. Lisa says: “I didn’t know people like Karen existed to be honest… It’s nice to know that there are great people out there willing to take children who are broken, or who come from places where they could eventually be broken, and to really help them through this journey. And then to be able to take even more of herself and help other people who are trying to do the same thing, that’s amazing.”
Karen’s endless love and dedication to children earned her family the award for Outstanding Adoptive Family of the Year at Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS) and the Division of Child Protection and Permanency’s (DCP&P) Annual Recognition Brunch. Even with the amazing work the Booker family has already done for foster children, they are far from slowing down as they continue to foster more children with the hope of adding to their ever-growing family through adoption.
To learn more about fostering and adopting in New Jersey, click here. If you’re not a New Jersey resident, visit your state’s website for more information.