By Tracy McNew
For Deena and Michael Jellesed of Libby and their family, 2019 will start off with one of the most important events of their lives; adoption.
Deena Jellesed, who has been fostering four siblings for nearly four years, is looking forward to becoming a legal family. “You never know from year to year, or sometimes from day to day if the kids will still be here when you are a foster parent,” she told The Montanian.
In a Christmas eve interview, while monitoring the official NORAD Santa tracker with the kids, Jellesed said, “This is not something that I intended to do in my mid-50s, but it’s the hugs and the love, and the little things like my husband’s face the first time that one of them called him dad, that makes it all worth it.”
Jellesed and her husband adopted two of the four children back in September, and they are scheduled to adopt the other two on Wednesday, January 2.
Almost four years ago when Jellesed started this journey, she recalled, she was single, living in a two bedroom home, and had only known the children for a few months as their daycare provider.
When the kids were placed in the foster care system, she said, she knew that they’d be separated because there aren’t a lot of foster parents who will take four kids. That’s when Jellesed decided to become a foster parent; to keep this family together and provide them with a safe and loving home until they could go back to their parents. As time went on though, she said, “I had to change my way of thinking,” and the decision was easy to make when the opportunity to adopt and to give the kids a permanent safe and loving home arose.
When asked about the stress of raising four children along with working full time, maintaining relationships with the children’s’ biological family, entering into a marriage, adding on to make room for everyone in her home, and missing out on being a regular grandmother to her grandchildren, Jellesed said, “If it wasn’t for the prayers of many people within my church, within my family, and my friends, it would be so much harder. You could say living on a prayer,” she continued. “Because it’s the prayers of so many people that have got us where we are today.”
The family was gifted a beautiful table that sits all six of them, and they take full advantage of using it. We were raised to be seen and not heard, Jellesed said, but these kids sit at the table with us and we try to make sure they are well entertained with conversation and games. They enjoy spending time together, watching family movies, and they even took a family trip to Disneyland.
Holiday photo of her family courtesy of Deena Jellesed.
The family also works hard to maintain relationships with the kids’ birth family. They recently visited with grandparents from Washington. “I would hope that if the shoe was on the other foot, that I’d be allowed to have a relationship with my grandchildren,” Jellesed said.
Maintaining a positive relationship with the kids’ birth mother is important to them too. One wonderful gift their mother gave them is music, Jellesed said, and she recalled a day at Rosauers when three of the kids were sitting on a bench near the checkout stands and singing to entertain themselves. Just as the cashier and Jellesed began to joke about getting a hat to put in front of them, they looked over to catch sight of a man giving each of the kids a dollar bill.
When the kids ask her about not being their biological parent, she shares with them how they may not have been born from her tummy, but they were born in her heart. She and her husband don’t have to love the kids, they choose to love them which is just as good, maybe even better.
Jellesed encourages anyone interested in foster parenting to follow up with Child Protective Services. “It takes a special person to love someone else’s kids and then give them back,” she said, but you can do it if you are single, if you are working, and if you are older. “There is no age limit on loving kids, and there are so many kids that need it.”