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By SARAH BEACH
The News-Democrat Intern
If you were to meet the Cary family, you wouldn’t know that four of their seven children are foster kids.
Chris and Konnie Cary, of Carrollton, are parents to Joel, 14, Sarah, 11, Jacob, 11, Levi, 8, Gage, 6, Jordyn, 5, and Max, 2.
They all work and play together like siblings, even though Jacob and the three youngest are only living with them temporarily.
The family likes to go on trips together—to the zoo, Holiday World, camping and Louisville Bats games, just to name a few.
“When we go out people say, ‘are these all yours?’ and I say, ‘Absolutely!’” said their mother, Konnie. “Happily, I love saying yes, that they are all ours.”
“You form wonderful bonds. It’s been such a gift—it’s a blessing to our family to have these others join us,” she said.
The children all attend the Christian Academy of Carrollton, except for Max, who goes to Head Start to allow Konnie to volunteer at the other children’s school in the mornings.
The family drives a large van, which they have affectionately dubbed ‘the bus.’
Sarah, who is in seventh grade, does not normally have a sister. Suddenly having a little sister is not a problem for her, however, as she and Jordyn spend time fixing their hair and painting their fingernails together. The age difference is not a problem, either, even though they are six years apart.
Jacob, a fifth grader, likes football and basketball and skateboarding. For Jacob, it was “a little bit hard” not knowing the family he was moving into, he said. As the oldest of the foster siblings, the adjustment was hardest for him, but he said it only took him a day to get used to his new family.
For Konnie, “the largest adjustment wasn’t so much interacting with the children as much as the change in things you do daily,” she said. “The dishes are always there and the meals always need to be cooked.”
All the kids have daily jobs to help out. Homework time is more structured when there are more kids, in order to get more done, and the older kids help the younger kids.
“Well, I guess it’s just good to help somebody if they need help,” Joel said of all the work he does to help out. Then he added, with a smile, “Usually Mom makes us anyways.”
“We really try to make them as much our family as possible,” Konnie said. “Chris and I do some divide and conquer to make it a little easier.”
“Everyone pitches in—it’s a family,” she said. “We have our ups and downs, we have our squabbles, but it’s really been wonderful.”
Her husband, Chris, said that both he and Konnie had wanted to take in foster children long before they met and married, and eventually they got to the point where they were able to do it.
He and Konnie had to receive several weeks of state-sponsored training in order to be able to take in foster children.
This is the fourth occasion where they have had a child or a group of children move into their home. While these four children have been living with them for a year and a half now, they have had some children stay for as short as a few days and some as long as six months.
“It was a little different, but then eventually you get used to it,” Joel said. “They stay for a long time.”
“We’ve had very good experiences…it is difficult at first, it is an adjustment,” Konnie said, “it’s hard when they come, but it’s very hard when they leave as well.”
“We just want to welcome any child that God wants to bring to our doors,” she said.
On most Saturdays, the children get to go and visit their biological mother, where they like to swim in the pool. Jacob also likes to play basketball with her neighbors.
“We’ve been very fortunate in that we’ve had great relationships with the biological parents as well, so we call as often as we can, and they do get to see (their) mom, normally weekly,” said Konnie.
Despite many of the stereotypes associated with foster children, the Cary’s have never had a bad experience.
“It just really depends on who you talk to,” Konnie said. “Some people have their idea of what a foster child may be like, and that idea can be so different for everyone…but for the most part, they are just children like everyone else’s children.”
“There are people with real problems, real challenges,” Chris said, “but we find ourselves very blessed.”
“People say we give so much,” said Konnie, “but we receive far more than we give, we really honestly do.”