Big hearts

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ken Williams didn’t have a point of reference for the life he’s now leading.

When he was growing up in Troy, all the families he knew had two to three children, so he never imagined that he would be the father of seven.

But then neither did he think he would marry a girl with a heart as good as gold and all the instincts of a mother hen.

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“We both wanted a large family, and I had been thinking about us being foster parents for a long time,” Mindy Williams said. “Ken said, yes, when he was ready.”

The couple had three children before Ken “was ready.”

“We thought being foster parents was what we could do to contribute to society,” he said. “It was something that we could do to help those less fortunate.”

Ken and Mindy sat down with their two young daughters, Ariel and Julianna, who were seven and five years old at the time, and talked with them about being a foster family. The girls were all for it.

But for Ariel, it was conditional.

“I had to be the oldest,” she said with a smile. “I already had a brother and a sister and I liked having children to play with.”

Mindy was operating a home day care with seven to eight children so a house full of children was the norm for the Williams’ children.

So, when foster children came into their home, the Williams’ children welcomed them and the transition was a rather easy one.

“But it was hard to say goodbye when they left,” Ariel said.

Ten foster children were part of the Williams family for a while. Four “adoptable” children are now “our children.”

Victor, age six “almost seven,” came into the family when he was four years old. Janae was adopted at 12 months.

The Williams later had an opportunity to adopt Victor’s half brother, Ethan, and, about a year later, Janae’s half sister, Marissa.

“Ethan and Marissa came to us from the hospital,” Mindy said.

Marissa, like her sister, is medically fragile.

“Marissa was a two-pound preemie,” Mindy said. “She has a lung disorder, eye issues, asthma, food allergies and she has a G-tube. She has many medical problems but she is a happy, wonderful little girl. And, she is ours.”

Janae has congenital heart disease and is possibly facing surgery. She came to the Williams family from multiple homes.

“She didn’t talk for a while but once she started, she hasn’t stopped,” Mindy said, laughing.

All of the adopted children came to the Williams family with physical issues and/or developmental delays. All were drug exposed.

Ken refers to his wife as Super Mom and she has the tools necessary to be just that.

She was a pediatric nurse prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom. She is familiar with the children’s medical conditions and with the required and necessary health care the children needed.

The couple’s son, Eric, age seven, has autism so they already had experience with speech and occupational therapists and other specialized needs of the newest members of their family.

All of the children are home schooled and Mindy said that is the best educational option for the children.

“Victor and Ethan could not handle being in a classroom with 24 other children,” she said. “Our children learn from each other and with each other. Sometimes, when I’m reading to the older children, the younger ones come and want to listen.”

Doctors’ appointments come often so school sometimes takes place in the car. No opportunity for learning escapes Ken and Mindy Williams.

“Sometimes it gets crazy,” Ken said. “But it’s fun. We have a good time together but sometimes Mindy and I have to stay up later than we’d like just to get some quiet time, to read or check our e-mail.”

He laughingly said there are a few times when they wonder if they haven’t bitten off more than they can chew. But those thoughts are quickly wiped away by the smile of a little dimpled boy or a little girl with bright red hair who have life the best it can be because a nurse had an idea and her husband said, I’m ready.”