Connie & John Kennedy adopted every child in their foster care
By Erin Crowell 5/4/09
With 11 boys, seven girls and two golden retrievers, Connie and John Kennedy would still consider making their family bigger. But unlike the large families we see on television (i.e. the Octomom, Jon and Kate Plus 8, and the Duggar Family), most of the Kennedy children are adopted.
After the birth of her first three children, Connie was unable to have more children due to health complications. And, coming from a family of 12, she felt three wasnt enough. So, the Interlochen couple turned to Child and Family Services and became foster parents.
Foster care about killed me, says Connie.
But, it wasnt because the children were difficult. It was quite the opposite.
Foster care is only temporary, explains Connie. After we gave one child back to his family, we were invited over to the house for a visit. When it was time to leave, the boy said to me, Foster mommy, I want to come home with you. It broke my heart.
ADOPTED EVERY ONE
After 19 years of fostering, John and Connie have adopted every child that has come into their care. Last year they adopted seven more children, bringing the total number to 18.
A few years ago, the couple attended Michigans first National Adoption Day.
A judge was giving everyone statistics, saying that 300 kids in Michigan are in need of a home, says John. Then (the judge) said, Oops! I shouldnt have told John that. Everyone thought it was funny.
With 12 of the 18 children living at home, money gets tight. John works as a licensed builder and is the owner of J & C Home Improvement, while Connie works out of their home as a cosmetologist. Although the couple gets some financial aid from the government, it isnt much.
We obviously dont do it for the money, Connie says. The kids get Medicaid, but thats about it.
Currently, eight children are in braces, something the government doesnt pay for. And for the Kennedys, everyday spending can add up big. One trip to McDonalds costs an average $80, while a trip to the movies can run a total of $200.
Thats why the couple is creative in their spending. Rather than go to the movies, they purchase DVDs and play them on the projector screen at home. They also own a camper trailer, which sleeps everyone comfortably (the boys like to tent it, as John says) and on longer vacations instead of staying in a hotel, they rent a house for the weekend.
When it comes to Christmas, The Kennedys save early, starting on the very first day of the year.
By Christmas, were knee high in wrapping paper, Connie jokes.
Other spending strategies include looking through the discount racks, buying off-season clothing and buying food in bulk.
When people wonder how to run a large household smoothly, The Kennedys preach consistency.
Every day starts at 5:30 a.m. and ends by 10 p.m. And when theyre not doing homework, all the kids are responsible for a daily chore, which Connie has charted out on the computer, from doing the dishes to vacuuming the carpet to feeding the dog.
I tell the kids that were a team. If someone doesnt load the dishwasher, then someone else might not be able to use a clean glass in the morning, Connie says. If one person slacks off, someone else suffers.
The Kennedys are also consistent in discipline.
I dont repeat myself a lot, John says. If they mess up, they do laps around the house or move the wood pile from one end of the yard to the other.
Connie says some neighbors have adopted the running laps strategy for their children.
A while back, one of the Kennedy boys got kicked off the school bus for misbehaving.
He walked a mile and a half to school every day that week, John says. Of course, we followed behind him in a car so he
And with just two licensed drivers in a household of 14 people, travel coordination becomes a challenge. Several children are involved in extra curricular activities including football, baseball, orchestra and choir. On the upside, John and Connie now only have to attend parent teacher conferences at three different schools, versus five.
While the Kennedy family seems to have everything together, people still ask questions.
Theyll ask us things like, Are you Catholic? Ever heard of birth control? John says. They just dont get it.
What the Kennedys do tell people is that if anyone has the room, they should consider foster care or adoption.
There are a lot of kids out there in need of a home, Connie says.
John adds, Every kid needs to know that theres someone out there who cares about them.
Festival of Tables
Would you like to support adoption and foster care for needy children?
Come to the 8th Annual Festival of Tables, one of the regions most popular celebrations of springtime. Its the primary fundraising event for Child and Family Services, a private non-profit organization providing foster care (its biggest program), adoption (second biggest), counseling, advocacy and prevention programs.
The event will take place at The Hagerty Center on Mothers Day Weekend, May 8 & 9.
The festival features dozens of dining tables, designed by local families and organizations Enjoy the beautiful designs and enter a raffle to take one home. Participants may also enter four fantasy raffle packages such as the Room Re-Do or A Year of Fine Dining, each valued around $2,000. There will also be a silent auction and the (Not) Just for Men tent, new to the Friday Night Gala Preview (beginning at 6 p.m.). The traditional Ladies Luncheon will be held on Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Hagerty Center.
The Festival of Tables provides 20 percent of funds donated to Child and Family Services annually, helping nearly 3,000 people each year receive vital services in 13 counties in northwestern Michigan.
Tickets to the Festival of Tables are $50 each for either event.
For tickets and information, visit www.festivaloftables.org or call 231-946-8975.