Parents frequently strive to model their children’s life after the greatest parts of their own, but Jessica Benzakein of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, believes the opposite.
Jessica was resolved to offer her kids considerably more than she had growing up after going through foster care and being a ward of the state at the age of 12. She has succeeded! Her home is now filled with love and laughter for all the right reasons.
Jessica was separated from her brother and left alone in the world when her mother renounced her parental rights. Worse, her caseworker did not believe she would be adopted.
‘If adoption is your plan A, you are too old,’ he remarked. And he wasn’t being sarcastic. I’ve got it. His argument was that if plan A is implemented, you do not fit what people are seeking for. By the age of 12, they believe you are severely wounded and horribly afflicted, and there is no turning back. Adoption rates drop dramatically between the ages of 2 and 5.
That’s why Jessica felt it was so crucial to accept foster children into her life as an adult. After having two biological children with her ex-husband, Eli (14) and Brenna (9), she began opening her house to children in need, with a focus on keeping siblings together.
She has been responsible for two sets of siblings for several years. Will (18), Carter (14), Sidney (13), and Markell (8) had thrived in her care, alongside Kendrich (6) and Terrell (4), so she thought it was time to formalize their family.
They went to court in January 2020 to finalize the adoptions, and Jessica is overjoyed to have six more children to call her own!
“Everybody tells me how lucky these kids are and what a good thing I did,” she said. “But … I’m going to cry … they grounded me. I went through my 20s thinking I didn’t really need a family. But I did. They give me purpose.”
The Benzakeins are doing fantastically well! They’ve had years to develop habits, such as weekly pizza parties and kitchen dance-offs. It results in a home that is rarely quiet, which Jessica prefers.
“It’s complete mayhem in a nice sense,” she explained. “They have a secure space where they may make errors, laugh, joke, and make fun of each other.”
Instead than allowing her tough history to define her, Jessica is working hard to ensure that her children are never alone. Congratulations, Benzakeins!