The Fontenot Family: Keeping Children at the Center
In this Family Spotlight, Audrey and Nicholas Fontenot share their journey of adoption through foster care and their approach of keeping children at the center. Adoption had always been on their hearts when they thought about growing their family. Both Audrey and Nicholas were adopted as children, and they knew they wanted to be there for a child in need of a safe, nurturing permanent family. When the timing was right, they began their journey of adopting through foster care.
Beginning the Journey
The Fontenots first obtained their foster care adoption license with another agency. They fostered two other children who were ultimately reunited with their family members. Then, however, 7-day-old Ryleigh came into their lives. Immediately, Audrey and Nicholas loved her and made her part of their family, even though they weren’t sure what her path to permanency would be.
During the summer of 2021, the Fontenots transferred their license to Arms Wide Adoption Services. At Arms Wide, they met Senior Foster Care Adoption Coordinator Jennifer Roderick, and they were impressed by the personal and responsive care they received. As Audrey recalled, “Jennifer was so great…the process was very smooth. She didn’t turn her phone off at 5:00 pm; she answered anytime.”
Keeping the Children at the Center
Audrey shared that being a foster parent taught her a lot about parenting. Above all, patience! Foster care requires patience with the child welfare system, because there are a lot of rules and home visits, but it is all for the sake of the child’s safety. “Also, patience with the kids,” Audrey said.
“You don’t know what the kids have been through – you just try to do everything you can to help the kids.”
Keeping the children at the center of their purpose kept the Fontenots going. “We wanted to adopt all [the kids we fostered]—but the main thing is what’s best for the kids,” Audrey said.
What’s best for the children could mean reunification with their biological family, going to a relative’s care, or adoption by the foster family. In Ryleigh’s case, adoption was the best path forward.
Family Life Today
Audrey and Nicholas finalized Ryleigh’s adoption on May 26 over Zoom. Afterwards, they had a celebration with close friends and family—and of course, cake and confetti!
What is life like now that they have finalized? “It feels mostly the same,” Audrey shared, “Except no paperwork—and we don’t have to ask permission to go on vacation.” One of Ryleigh’s favorite activities is helping with yard work, especially helping to mow the grass by taking a ride on the riding lawnmower! They also enjoy swimming, going to museums, and watching movies as a family.
Advice for future adoptive parents
The Fontenots spent over two years working with the foster care system, and they have great advice for future foster and adoptive parents. It’s important to understand the process. “Do your research, and make sure you look at everything you sign,” Audrey advised.
“And remember—you aren’t doing it for you, but for the kids.”
Patience is key, because the path of foster care adoption is not always straightforward. “It’s hard in the beginning – and it may get ugly before it gets pretty,” Audrey said. “Be patient, it takes time. It’s all worth it in the end.”
Every child deserves a safe, nurturing permanent family. If you are interested in starting your foster care or adoption journey, attending an Arms Wide Information Meeting is the first step. Our Permanency Navigators are also here to answer any questions about foster care that you have before beginning your journey. Give us a call to speak to a Permanency Navigator today: 713.681.6991