Long-time Collinsville foster parents become permanent parents to 3 foster kids; Not done yet

The Stuarts encourage others to open their hearts and homes to kids in need

Debbie Monterrey
April 25, 2019 - 11:26 am

It was a big morning at the Madison County Courthouse in Edwardsville for the Stuart family of Collinsville, as long-time foster parents Lesley and Chad Stuart officially adopted their three children: Matthew, Alex and Kylie.

"It's very emotional," said Lesley, before the adoption hearing. "I'm not sure who's going to cry more. Me or my husband."

Over the past six years, the Stuarts have fostered 13 children. Some have stayed a few days, some a year or more. Each is remembered with their name adorning a wall in the Stuart family home. Matthew, now 5,  has been with the Stuarts almost since his birth. Kylie and Alex, both 2, came along later, after the Stuarts thought they were done fostering, because it was so heartbreaking each time a child moved on.

"It's supposed to hurt, though," explains Lesley. "If they leave and you're not hurt, you're not in it for the right reasons. You're supposed to love and treat them as your family."

Today, they are a family, legally, after the adoption ceremony Lesley said would be filled with friends, family, fellow foster families, and even biological relatives of one of their adopted children. 

Stuart says she didn't set out to be a foster parent. She'd initially planned a domestic adoption when she got a call to foster Matthew. She immediately said yes. But as other children came and went, she and her husband struggled until they really understood what foster care is.

"We are that in-between place for that child, whether it's to nurse them back to health after coming off the drug addiction, or just an in-between home until they find their forever home," she says. "It took us until after the second long-term kiddo left us to know that he was here for a reason and now he is where he's supposed to be."

The Stuarts have fostered a number of kids with medical issues. The children they adopted were born with substance issues: one was born addicted to heroin, one addicted to methamphetamine, one with fetal alcohol syndrome. The state of Illinois provides their medical care and all three are happy and healthy now. 

Lesley Stuart is passionate about foster care and encourages more people to step up to give children in foster care the love, support and safety that they need. 

"Everyone keeps asking, 'Are you done?' because it's been such a hard journey," says Lesley. "We're not done. Now I want a bigger house so we can take more kids. I don't know if we'll adopt more, but we'll definitely foster."

For more information on becoming a foster parent, volunteering and supporting foster care, call 1-800-FOSTER3, or visit the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition or Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

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