The Healing Power of a Forever Family Olive Crest
At the young age of seven, coming to the United States with other children who needed help was both scary and exciting for Valeria. She was the youngest child in the group and the only one who wasn’t living in an orphanage. A victim of unspeakable abuse and neglect, Valeria was considered an orphan and had been living in temporary homes in Columbia for most of her young life.
She understood that her trip to the United States might mean that she would be able to stop moving from place to place and live with one family. It would also mean living in a strange new place surrounded by people who spoke a different language then she did. She worried that something “bad” might happen to her.
Within the first few days she was in the US, Valeria, went to church with one of the ladies who was helping to facilitate her group's visit. Little did she know that would be the day she would meet her forever family!
For Renae and Matthew Kennedy, opening their home to a child who needed a family was always in their plans. It was just a matter of when. They had come close a couple of times but just didn’t feel like the situation was right.
Then one day while volunteering at a Vacation Bible School put on by their church, Renae noticed a little girl she hadn’t seen before.
The little girl was trying to talk to one of the other adults (who didn’t speak Spanish) in her native language which made the exchange a bit more interesting to observe. Renae finished up her work at Vacation Bible School and headed home but she kept thinking about the beautiful little girl.
“She kept sticking out in my mind; and I was honestly mesmerized by her,” says Renae.
Later that day, Renae and Matthew e-mailed the woman from church and asked about the girl. They learned that the little girl was a seven-year-old orphan visiting from Colombia named Valeria, and she was looking for a forever family.
“The woman from church jokingly asked if we were interested in adopting her, and we instantly replied ‘yes.’”
Around the same time Matthew and Renae welcomed Valeria into her new home, they also learned they were pregnant, and soon Valeria had a baby sister named Simone.
This forever family’s story continued. Still feeling led to open their home to children in need, the Kennedy’s began working with Olive Crest to connect them with another child. In 2012 an eight year old girl name Angelica joined their family. And later that same year, Renae gave birth to Killian, their fourth daughter.
Angelica came to the Kennedy family from her birth mother’s home with a traumatic past, aggression, and anger. But the power of being in a safe, loving home has proven to be far stronger than pain and trauma of Angelica’s past. Because of her new loving family and contact with her birth mother, Angelica has been able to begin healing from her past by asking her birth mother questions.
“I didn’t understand at the very beginning how having the birth family in the picture could be a positive thing,” says Renae.
But she and Matthew have since learned that involving Angelica’s biological mother has encouraged their daughter to ask questions about her childhood and cope with her history. Angelica has become a great student, has loving relationships with her sisters, and is a joy to be around.
With four daughters under one roof, it is safe to assume that parenting would come with a few challenges. Because the Kennedys adopted Valeria and Angelica at an older age, they knew that their daughters had memories from another life and questions about their past that might go unanswered. Renae and Matthew agree that there will never be a time when they don’t grieve for their daughters’ histories. But they choose to feel empowered by the fact that they can impact their girls’ futures with the love and support they desperately need.
“That is what’s important: You have today, and you have the rest of their lives, so you can either sit in fear, or sit in the blessing of knowing you get that future,” says Renae.
Renae and Matthew bask in every “first” they get to be a part of in their daughters’ lives. Whether it was the first time the girls heard the words “I love you and I want you forever” and their faces lit up with the comfort of that knowledge, the first time they played at the park knowing they were safe, or even when they faced their first moment of tough love, the one thing that the Kennedy’s know is that it was and will always be worth it.
“We get to see redemption taking place in their hearts each day,” - Renae