Children born addicted find welcoming arms in Ralston family

Parents Raenn and Ken originally got into foster care to change the lives of kids, but they never imagined how much it would change their own lives. (WTOV).

The season of giving for the Ralston Family in Toronto isn't just around the holidays.

They’re a family made up of nine kids -- four biological and five adopted.

Parents Raeann and Ken originally got into foster care to change the lives of kids, but they never imagined how much it would change their own lives.

In this family, the grandparents are Sherry and Albert. The kids are Jonathan, the oldest, followed by Brooklynne, Rachel and Makayla.

And then there are Nevaeh, Haven, Zoey, Selah, and Bean – all of whom are adopted. Those five all have something in common. They were all born premature and positive for drugs. And they all have their own unique story to tell.

"Nevaeh was our first adopted child, and she was born on I'm not sure how many different chemicals. Crack. I believe there was heroin,” Ken said.

Haven is Nevaeh's half sibling. Raeann says he was a challenge at first.

“And now we co-parent,” she said. “It's very unique. It's set up with legally just as if we were a divorced couple. They are his parents as well, and he calls them mom and dad."

Zoey was the "easiest" baby.

“Zoey was born 6 weeks premature. She was born positive for cocaine and opioids,” Raeann said. “She came to us she was only 3 or 4 days old."

Then follows Selah, who is also 5. Originally, Raeann and Ken thought she would be around temporarily in hopes that another foster mom, who had not adopted, would soon have an open place in her home.

“As this always goes, that's not what the plan was,” Raeann said. “She stayed. She stayed with us, so we ended up with Zoey and Selah, who are very much like twins being only 6 months. They are very much connected in that way."

As for Bean, doctors didn't think he was going to make it.

“To be with Benjamin, the youngest, we have that when the doctor gave us his charts at 1-year-old. He said here's your testimony because she didn't think the was gonna make it,” Ken said. “Actually none of us did. It was pretty severe.”

It took a lot of extra care, a lot of extra attention, and a lot of extra love to get them to good health.

“What I’ve taught my kids is we all are – there is no such thing as healthy. You know what I mean, a stereotype of healthy,” Raeann said. “Everyone has a disfunction; there is no perfect. And this just you, love each other and you’re there for each other, and it’s much bigger picture than just the kids, it’s the families.

“These are hurting people. They aren’t monsters. The parents, you know, they have bondages in their life and they have, they love their children. But for lack of the ability to break addictions and come away from things that just aren’t healthy, they lose their children. This is a story of loss. Not just a great miracle that we have all these children. There’s loss.”

Each of the older ones play a very important role.

"I guess I was an extra disciplinary hand to kind of make sure everyone is behaving,” older brother Jonathan said. “And it's always been my role, playing with the kids. I always play with the kids."

Brooklyn is the craft person. Makayla is the caregiver. Rachel is their transportation.

There are a lot of highs, but …

“It's not always been a fairytale,” Sherry said. “There's a lot of long hard roads that we've been down. Lots of tears, lots of discussions, and it's not always just been, you know, a pleasant, feel-good thing. There's been times where we really just had to pull together to get through the difficult time.”

Nine kids equals a lot of Christmas traditions, like decorating and baking, and of course, a ton of presents!

“Talk about wrapping gifts, oh my!” Sherry said. “We have to start days in advance. We used to do it on Christmas Eve, and nobody got any sleep. Like we were up all night wrapping gifts."

So while the holidays may be a little hectic for the Ralston family, they wouldn't have it any other way.

"It's not something you take a vacation from,” Sherry said. “It's not something that you take your 2 days off a week. It's 24 hours a day. And it takes a lot of dedication, it really does. But it's worth it. When you see these little kids lined up on this couch watching TV and all snuggled together and you think to yourself, ‘this is why. This is the reason, and it's so worth it."

The Ralston family encourages families in Jefferson County to foster.

For more information on how to do that, click here.

Raeann explains a little about that process.

“They call for a child. You’re matched. Your family is usually matched according to those child’s needs. And so they call us and we get together and we pray. My husband and I pray together to see if that’s the right timing. And we talk with our children and you know it takes about 2 months for a transition. And so it’s a hard thing bringing a new child into your home and you have visits, medical home visits, doctor visits, and visits with the families getting to know the families.”

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