Loved as Your Own

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Fresh out of college, Ryan and Mandy Sheehan married and planned to have a family. However, what they didn’t know was how the Lord had planned for their family to look. After all three of their biological children were born, they gave away all of their infant clothes and baby items to friends – but it wasn’t long until they found themselves wanting another child.

“I really was done and felt complete with how my family was and the biological children we had,” said Mandy. “I know it was God that put the passion in my heart for babies.”

After talking with a friend who was fostering with STARRY and hearing great things about their experience, the Sheehans decided to become foster parents.

“There are so many kids out there who need a home and it seemed like a great opportunity to show love to a child who needed it,” Mandy said.

In the past three years, they’ve had nine foster children, ranging in age from 3 days to 3 years old, placed in their home through STARRY.

“I love each of these foster kids just like I do my own children, even if we only have them for a short time,” said Mandy. “Regardless of how long it takes or what it entails, we’re here to love them just the same.”

Becoming a foster parent can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but the journey it is not without struggle. “Foster care isn’t easy,” explained Ryan. “All the training you go through is helpful, but none if of it really, truly prepares you for your first placement.”

“Being a foster parent is a difficult job because of the time it takes, the changes you have to make, and the emotional struggle,” added Mandy. “At one point, I really started thinking that God had picked the wrong person for this job … but then I started seeing each of these children get better, healthier, and happier. Getting to see them turn around makes it all worth it.”

“There is a healing aspect to foster care,” said Ryan. “You see the need, as overwhelming as it may be, and you get to help fix it.”

All of the foster children who have been placed in the Sheehan’s home have been reunited with their biological families, with the exception of Gabriel.

At 7 months old, Gabriel was placed in Ryan and Mandy’s home. “He became part of the family. Our older kids [ages 13, 12 and 10 years old] absolutely loved him,” said Mandy. When Gabriel’s case began moving toward adoption, Ryan and Mandy were presented with the chance to make him a part of their forever family. They knew this was an opportunity they couldn’t let pass.

“We loved him and our kids loved him,” Ryan said. As a family, they decided to make it official and Gabriel’s adoption was finalized earlier this year. “Adopting a child was a blessing I didn’t even know I wanted,” said Mandy.

Through their foster care and adoption journey, the Sheehans have seen many friends open their homes to children in need. “It pushes a lot of people to think about this in a way they haven’t considered it before,” said Ryan. Their older children have seen the direct effects of this process, as well.

“Fostering has opened many doors for our kids. They have friends who ask questions and open up easily in these kinds of conversations,” said Ryan. “They’re learning that they have friends who’ve been adopted or who say they want to do something like foster care that one day too.”

With Gabriel’s adoption finalized, the Sheehans continue to serve as a foster family and may even consider another adoption. “I have no idea what God has in store,” said Mandy. “If God says to adopt again, we will. Our hearts are open.”

“The thing is, we have to do something because the need is so great,” explained Ryan. “None of us can sit back and watch. So whatever stage of life you’re in, you can do something and make a difference in the life of child, don’t count yourself out.”