Love at First Sight
Raquel was just a single woman trying to make ends meet when her future walked through the door. And it wasn’t even three feet tall.
Barely 2 years old, Vonte was a little boy who had been severely abused by his mother. Authorities found her dragging him around by his arm and beating him with an extension cord.
When he entered STARRY’s Foster Care Program, Vonte (pronounced von’-tay) had a swollen eye and a knot on his head. Raquel could tell he needed to be loved and she was ready to give up everything to provide it.
“I just wanted so bad to help him,” she said. “I loved him from the very first moment I met him.”
Vonte loved her, too, which he made known during a mandated supervised visit with his biological mother. The moment still brings tears to Raquel’s eyes.
“When we were all together, Vonte looked up and called me mommy,” Raquel remembered. “His mom said, ‘No, I’m mommy.’ He said, ‘I know, but she’s mommy, too!’ That was big for me.”
Having Vonte in her home meant that Raquel had to adapt her schedule to taking him to as many as six therapy sessions each week to deal with speech delays and a form of mild epilepsy that caused him to have trouble using the left side of his body.
After observing Vonte’s progress under her care, Child Protective Services asked if Raquel would consider adopting him. There was never a question in her mind, but there were hurdles to overcome.
It took more than a year of fighting appeals from Vonte’s biological parents before Raquel was able to finally legally adopt him. Now 5 years old, he continues to progress.
“He’s doing great,” said Raquel. “He can talk and he loves to share with his friends. I’m seeing him improve all the time. But I have to remember that he doesn’t think like a typical 5-year-old.
“I don’t let it be an excuse, though,” said Raquel. “I encourage him by just telling him, ‘You can do this!’”
It was advice Raquel needed not too long ago when STARRY asked her if she would consider becoming a foster parent in one of their group homes. She had been a foster parent for a few years, but being a mother to one child was one thing; caring for up to eight children at a time was another. It was something she prayed hard about.
Taking the position meant that Raquel had to leave her home, family and friends in Del Valle to live in Round Rock. But the call was great, and she hasn’t regretted it.
“I love it. I do. You see so many kids that need love and attention and I’m blessed to get to give that to them,” she said. “But this is so important. These kids are so special.”
And so is Raquel. Foster Care Director Sunny Farrell is still awed when she walks into Raquel’s home to find contented children (ranging in age from 15 months to 9 years old) and a spotless house.
“You can tell she really does feel led to be a foster parent,” said Sunny. “There’s no chaos in her home. It’s a loving environment. You can tell she truly enjoys what she’s doing and she knows her role in the reunification process.”
More than that, she knows her role as a mother to Vonte.
“He’s been a blessing to me. They all are.” Raquel said. “I’m blessed to get to do this every day.”