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“My daughters were in the foster system for 908 days.”
Educator, advocate, and single mama to two girls, Alisa Ronis shares her incredibly emotional and inspiring journey of adopting her daughters through the foster system, despite countless setbacks. Her story truly embodies the strength of mothers and the lengths we will go to as mamas to serve the best interest of our children.
Alisa, tell us a little about you:
I am a mother, educator, friend, daughter, sister, cousin, and advocate. Traveling is my happy place! I grew up in Orange County, but moved to San Diego to be close to family and go to college. I love it here and I could never imagine myself living anywhere else. My girls and I live in my grandparents’ home, which was just renovated. It’s so special to me because there are so many family memories here - my daughters are the third generation to live in this home. I love being a teacher and couldn’t imagine a different career. I met my closest friends in elementary and high school, and we are still so close to this day. Female friendships are how I get through life!
What was the most unexpected part of your own motherhood journey?
I always start Back to School night by apologizing to all the families that I judged before I became a mom! As a teacher, students listen to me and show me respect on a daily basis in the classroom. Now that I’m a mom, I know that’s often not at all what it’s like at home! I always wondered about the parents who would tell me how differently their children behaved at home, compared to what I saw in the classroom. And then I became a mom and it all made sense! It always makes me laugh when I think back, because I have always envisioned my kids giving me their full attention just like my students.
Tell us about your experience with the foster program! What was the best part and what was the most challenging? What do you want others to know when exploring this path to parenthood?
Being a foster parent was the most difficult thing I have ever done! The system is broken beyond belief, and children and families suffer in the process. My daughters were in the system for 908 days. Foster care is heartbreaking and nerve-racking at the same time. In 2013, I was in a staff meeting and got a phone call to pick up a 9 day old baby. I got to the placement center around 5 o’clock and by 7:30 I was sitting on my couch with a 4 1/2 pound baby, half a can of formula, a bag of clothes for a toddler and three diapers.
Nobody told me at that time that my daughter had a biological sister who had gone to live in a different home. My older daughter was in the system for ten months, living in an unhealthy environment before they allowed her to live with her sister and I. My girls had only ever known each other through court supervised weekly visits. But after that first time I brought them both home, I noticed they were holding hands, and I knew their bond was inseparable!
During the adoption process, there were seven different occasions when I was told the girls would be removed from my home so they could be reunited with their birth mother’s friends or family. My anxiety was always at a 10 and it became my new norm. We had weekly visits that were supervised by a variety of social workers. Those social workers needed to check their body for bruises, and interviewed me about their week and took notes while their birth mom was interacting with them. It was scary! I have immense gratitude for their birth mom because she became supportive of me adopting the girls about two years into the process. She and I continue to be in contact and send pictures a few times a year. She will always have a special place in my heart, and I want her to know her children are thriving and loved!
In what ways do you feel your path to motherhood was different or unique?
My foster experience is very unique because my girls were my very first placement. Most people that are trying to adopt through the foster care system have several placements before an adoption is finalized. I want people to know that children in the foster care system need advocates. There are many ways to help support children in the system. You don’t have to be a foster parent to make a difference!
My path to being a mom was also unique, because I never wanted children until I turned 40! I loved being a teacher and a fun aunt. I was in a long-term relationship with a man that had four children. I loved being a bonus~mom to his 2 youngest and friend to his older children. I continue to have a relationship with them, and they are some of my favorite people on earth! They help me raise my daughters. Being a single mom is challenging, but I have a great village of friends and family who support us.
What is the best thing you learned about parenting and who did you learn it from?
The best thing I learned about parenting is unconditional love. My mom is a great role model, and I am truly amazed by how she raised my brothers and I. We knew no matter what choices we made in life, our mom would always love us and be our number one cheerleader. Another great parenting tip I got from a mother at my school was to give your children “days.” We divide the week up and whoever’s day it is it gets to choose the music in the car, show on TV, decide who showers first etc. Assigned days have saved so many arguments in our house!
How does Matrescence’s Mission to “mother the mother” resonate with you as a mom?
“Mother the mother” reminds me of how much privilege I have as a white woman living in America. Sadly, many women around the world are suffering and being treated unfairly. Their children suffer as a result of their circumstances. Mother the mother also reminds me of the power in my friendships. My daughters are Black and are learning to understand the injustices of their world. I’m grateful for the Black women who teach me how to raise Black girls in 2023. They are growing up surrounded by strong women who love and guide them with patience and dignity. I am eternally grateful for the many women that I can be honest and open with. I could never be a mom without the support of my family and friends.
What has been the most challenging part of being a mom, and how do you manage it?
Being a mom is challenging! I’m not sure what the most challenging part is, but I do know thinking about someone 24-7 is beautiful and challenging. I think it’s important to remember that our children all have different needs. What parenting looks like for one child, is completely different from what it looks like for the other children living in your home. So, making sure that each child is getting the love and attention they need and deserve can be overwhelming at times. Parenting is not a one size fits all relationship!
When someone looks at you as a mom, what do you hope they'll take away about parenting?
I hope they see that being a mom is the best thing I ever did in my life! I hope they see the gratitude I have watching my children learn and grow. I hope they would understand that not every day is perfect, but we are connected as a family. My girls will change the world because of who they are and all the people that guide them through life!
Follow Alisa here