Below is an inspirational story of a local foster family written by Pepper Richardson, a dear friend of mine that I have had the honor of photographing not only her wedding years ago but now her gorgeous family.

Foster care came to me.

The Cause…

I had always desired to somehow help children and families since I was a child, but foster care was not really a conscious thought of mine.

In 2015, I met my niece at my half-sister’s funeral. She was 17 and had grown up in the system, never adopted. I did not grow up knowing this side of my family and I lived thinking all my sister’s children had been adopted.

Shortly after my niece turned 18 (you can remain a foster child until age 21 in NY) we were asked to be her emergency relative foster parents. We said “YES” with no knowledge of how the system worked, my niece’s life and trauma she had experienced, and zero training.

She lived with us for two months and sadly we were not equipped to care for her properly at that time, so we asked for her to move.

That was hard. We were done with foster care.

The Prayer

Shortly after that, my daughter Carleigh, age 6 at the time, came home from church and announced she was asking “BIG” and is praying for a baby brother AND a baby sister. I told her as lovingly as I could that it was not going to happen and that is what I believed. She rebutted with “ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE WITH GOD”

Also, during this time after our experience with my niece, I realized I was very interested in trauma. I realized I had my own trauma that I still needed to receive healing for. I started training and becoming trauma informed on my own still having no clue that we would someday again give foster care a try.

Answered Prayer #1

In 2017, Alanna was born, my great niece. A beautiful daughter to my beautiful niece that was my first foster child. My niece was never parented herself, growing up in the system with no permanency, therefore was unable to parent another person.

Five adoptive children raise their hands in glee with big foster sis behind them holding baby foster brother in a sunflower field in CNY with Simply Shelayna Family Photography.
These kiddos are happy to be with their forever family!

In May of 2018 we reopened our foster home and Alanna moved in. Now we were trained and much more equipped. In November 2018, Ayden (Alanna’s brother) was born and came home with us too.

Our family was complete. Carleigh got her baby brother and baby sister.

Little did I know that God had different plans and she must have made her request to God at least 6 times!

Answered Prayer #2

In March 2020, right at the start of Covid 19, we received a call for a placement of a little girl and a boy (Aylivia and Connor) the exact same age as Alanna and Ayden. Due to Covid, they were hoping we would say “yes” since we had clothes in their sizes/goods etc. We thought we were saying yes to a temporary placement.

6 children, 5 adopted, 1 foster, run to their foster families opened arms in a sunflower field in CNY with Simply Shelayna Family Photography.
Run into the arms of love!

Answered Prayer #3

In May 2020, we were asked again to take newborn baby sibling of Aylivia and Connor.

We said “Yes” still believing it was temporary.

Welcome Christian.

Answered Prayer #4

In July 2021, we received a call for newborn baby T, which is baby sibling to Alanna and Ayden.

We said Yes. Keeping siblings together is extremely important to me because I have 11 half-siblings but only grew up or ever knew of one. I didn’t meet any others until I was 17 and I just met a baby sister for the first-time last month. Yes, I’m still meeting siblings at 47 years young. Trauma.

A foster father with his 3 adopted sons and one foster child in a sunflower field in CNY with Simply Shelayna Newborn Photography.
Dad and the boys

Fast forward two plus years and Aylivia, Connor, and Christian are freed for adoption.

Shall we keep them, or will they look for a forever home?

We already bonded and loved them as our own for two plus years. We did not have any peace with moving them on to another family… we became their adoptive family.

We have asked Carleigh to thank God that she has received so many baby brothers (4) and sisters (2) and her prayer has been satisfied. Haha!

The reality is…

There are 25,397 children in foster care in New York State. Of these, 621 children are legally freed and waiting for an adoptive family and 3,051 children have a goal of adoption.

There are many more foster children than there are foster homes. Homes are needed for kids that will reunify to their biological families . Permanency IS needed for kids that are already freed.

I no longer make plans.

Proverbs 16:9 says: A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9 NKJV

My 6-year-old daughter knew more about God than I did and that “All Things are possible with GOD” to him that believes.

All children, even our biological children belong to GOD. Good stewards are needed to care for them.

If you cannot foster or adopt yourself, there are many ways you can help local foster families to keep doing it. Please email me at to get connected with ways you can help or for more information if you are interested in foster care or adoption.

Alanna adopted 11/20/2020

Ayden adopted 06/16/2022

Aylivia, Connor, Christian adopted 10/25/2022

 T’s adoption date is TBD

❤️The Richardson’s

A foster family stands behind the 5 children they have adopted plus one foster child in a sunflower field with Simply Shelayna Family Photography.
One big, loving family!

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