In Elizabethtown, Kentucky, Ashley Purcell and her husband Scott work to raise their children with the very thing that bonds them; love.
After having two children of her own and living a comfortable life with her small, but content, family, Ashley felt that something was missing. After talking with Scott and her two children, John and Ava, Ashley and her family collectively decided that what they were missing was an opportunity to share the wonderful life they had built for themselves. After being made aware of the foster care system in their community through their church, the Purcells decided the best way to share their lives with those in need was to become foster parents.
It wasn’t long before the Purcell household was introduced to the “tornado triplets”. Cameron, Caleb, and Conrad quickly became a part of their lives that would not easily be replaced or moved on from.
Although reunification with the parents is always the hope for foster children, that doesn’t always happen. After having the boys in their home for almost two years, it became apparent that the reality of their situation was not what was hoped for. The boys would not be going back home.
Cameron, Caleb, and Conrad are three faces of a growing problem within the foster care system. With the prescription, abuse, and overdose rate of opioids rising, so is the number of children in foster care. In Kentucky as of 2018, there was a record number of children in the foster care system in the state of Kentucky. 9,654 children were in out-of-home care. Although Cameron, Caleb, and Conrad may come from a hard background, Ashley makes it a point to not only pray for the children affected by drugs but also for their parents. “Addiction is a monster,” Ashley says, “and it is not easily dealt with.”
This number and it’s rapid increase is what drives Ashley to be a mother, a youth minister, a foster parent, and a children’s advocate all in one. Whether it be through speaking at conferences, meeting with and educating her fellow foster parents in her community, or simply posting on social media about ways to help the foster care community, Ashley gives the utmost importance to the role she plays in the lives of children in need.
But, the role she plays is not always the easiest. There are hurdles that her entire family has to maneuver in order for them to function as a foster family. John and Ava, previously having their parents to themselves, have had to learn to share their home and their parents with new children. To make this adjustment easier, Ashley makes it a point to devote time solely John and Ava, giving them the attention that may be missing with foster children in the house. For Ava, this time might look like a trip to the nail salon or to lunch. John may find his quality time being spent at a concert or the movies. Regardless of the activities, both John and Ava look forward to the time spent getting to be with their parents. Sometimes coming from difficult backgrounds, the Purcells also have to learn to parent and coexist with children who have emotional and behavioral issues. This means taking the time to listen to, give attention to, and help these children find their place in a home with strangers. Ashley and Scott also struggle to find time for themselves in a house full of children, but seeks out ways to step out and enjoy time with one another. Being a foster family is not easy, and Ashley is the first to admit it.
Even through the hardships of fostering, Ashley and her family have never wanted to change their decision. While it works for them, Ashley states that not everyone can be a foster family. But, even though not everyone can foster, Ashley says that everyone can do something. Whether that be helping to raise awareness for the children in foster care in your community, helping out a foster family with groceries, or even offering to babysit so that foster parents can have a night to themselves, Ashley says that there is a part for everyone to play when it comes to working together to enhance the lives of the children in need in the foster care system.
Working to give Cameron, Caleb, and Conrad a caring home and a loving family isn’t something the Purcell’s consider work. Ashley, Scott, John, and Ava are all in agreeance that the boys aren’t looked at as foster children or foster brothers. To Ashley, the three boys are her sons. Although Ashley says that the day the adoption of the boys is finalized and they are officially Purcells will be celebrated, in her heart, they are and always will be her boys.