Answers for Avery: Family journey in foster care inspires book series | Local News

Faced with a new chapter in her young life, 3-year-old Avery Robertson had questions.

Her questions and the emotions that accompany them, as well as the attempts of those close to her to provide answers, have made the 10-year-old girl the main character of a series of books.

About to become a foster sister, Avery confessed to her grandmother Rhonda Wagner that she had mixed feelings.

An avid reader who shared her love of books with her granddaughter, the Scott Township wife began searching for a volume that would explain foster care to the youngster.

“Whenever we faced unchartered waters, we would find a book and sit down and read together,” Rhonda explained. “I looked everywhere and found things for foster children, but there was nothing for ‘the forever child’ to explain the importance of foster care and its role.

“That’s when I felt the nudge of the Lord, telling me why not write one,” the retired FirstEnergy administrative assistant continued. “I thought a foster mom or dad would know better, so I tried to ignore it, but it wouldn’t go away.”

Not only has it not gone away, but the appeal has extended to the four-part “Joy of Avery” children’s book series, the third of which was published earlier this year by Lucid Books, a Christian publisher. based in Texas.

NOT THE PLAN

While Rhonda never planned to become an author when she retired, her daughter Lisa Wagner Robertson had no plans to become a foster parent or the inspiration for a series of books.

A dual-sport athlete at Laurel High School, Lisa graduated in 2003 and went on to play volleyball at Penn State Behrend in Erie.

She and her husband, JJ, married in June 2011 and less than a year later, on March 30, 2012, welcomed Avery into the world after an uneventful and uncomplicated pregnancy. It was supposed to be the start of the big family Lisa had always dreamed of.

But just days after Avery was born, Lisa began experiencing excruciating abdominal pain, which she initially described as after-effects of childbirth. Eventually going to the hospital, Lisa thought she had a bladder or uterus infection.

However, she was admitted and ended up in the intensive care unit suffering from septic shock, with pneumonia, bladder and kidney infections and plummeting blood pressure as her organs bodies were beginning to close.

“Somehow I had caught Group A strep and it was attacking my body,” the Hartville, Ohio resident recalled in an essay she wrote for the site. Web Love What Matters.

While the drugs initially seemed to clear up the infection, her fevers continued and a more detailed scan revealed that necrotizing fasciitis, a serious and often fatal bacterial infection, was attacking her uterus, which would need to be removed in order to save her. . life.

“My reality set in and there I was – 26 years old, newlywed, first time, brand new mum, barren forever,” Lisa wrote in the post, detailing the ordeal which also affected his mental health.

As Lisa recovered, she and her husband remained determined to expand their family, going through two unsuccessful rounds of in vitro fertilization.

“That’s really when we started to stress our faith even more, asking ‘What are we doing, Lord? ‘” Lisa recalled, adding, “We can’t talk about our journey without talking about our faith, they go hand in hand.”

It was around this time that the couple started hearing about foster care.

“It kept happening. I had never, ever thought about it, but we felt like God was calling us into foster care,” Lisa said.

After undergoing extensive training, background checks and other requirements, the Robertsons received their foster license in November 2015.

They had seven long-term placements and numerous children to whom they provided respite care, caring for them when their regular foster families needed a break.

Some of the children were reunited with their biological families and others went to live with relatives. But two have become forever members of the Robertsons family.

RHODES AND BOWEN

Rhodes, now 5 1/2, was the Robertsons’ third long-term placement.

While all of their foster families touched their hearts, the little boy who arrived with a host of medical issues particularly related to Lisa, who would become his adoptive mother.

“I really felt that this broken little baby came to heal my broken heart,” Lisa said.

When the youngster’s birth mother was ‘unable to complete case services’, Lisa and JJ decided to adopt Rhodes, and later her brother Bowen, who will turn 4 next month. The boys also continue to have a relationship with their birth mother, visiting her and their other siblings.

“I don’t think Rhodes really understands who they are, but he knows they’re someone important in his life and they care about him,” Lisa explained. “One of the first and most important lessons we learned about foster care is that the biological family is not the enemy, we are a team and it is in the interest of the child. child to operate that way.

“It’s always easier (when a foster child leaves) when you know where they’re going,” she continued, recounting a placement that found her “forever family” with her grandmother. organic. “Other times, especially when you don’t necessarily agree with the placement, there’s a lot of grief and you wonder what their life is like.”

While the Robertsons are currently adopting another baby, it remains to be seen how long they will continue and if more children will become part of their “forever family”.

“I have one more place for a body in my car,” laughed Lisa, adding, “I don’t know when our family, both adoptive and forever, will be complete. God will let us know.

‘AVERY’S JOY’

Besides requiring a bigger car, another child could also mean another book.

Loosely based on the Robertsons’ own experiences, ‘It’s OK to Wonder’, the first volume in the ‘Joy of Avery’ series is written from a child’s perspective, as the main character questions and worries of the arrival of the adopted child. The second book, “Braver Than Me”, describes the foster family’s primary goal of reuniting the child with their biological family, while the recent “Say Yes Again” explains that reunification is not is not always possible and details the placement of the parents. The still untitled fourth volume will deal with adoption.

Each book also includes a glossary of words and a list of conversation starters.

“Each builds on the previous one, focusing on the family’s steps into the unknown and the emotions that come with it, especially being happy and sad at the same time,” Rhonda explained.

“Although the books are aimed at children aged around 5 to 10, they can be useful for anyone, even adults,” she continued. “As a new adoptive grandparent, I wrote them as much for myself as for Avery.”

For his part, Avery found it “super cool” to be the main character of the series.

“I often wonder if she even remembers life before she became a foster parent,” Lisa said. “At first I was worried about how everything would work out for the child of yours, but that quickly fades. I think the host family changed us all for the better. It certainly teaches you empathy and compassion.

“She’s now old enough to be part of the conversation (before a new foster child arrives) and she’s usually the first to say ‘yes, yes, let’s do it,'” Lisa continued, adding, ” We have all been changed by the lives that have been in our home.A child needed love, and that is what we had to give.

(The “Joy of Avery” series is available online at most book retailers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It can also be purchased from author Rhonda Wagner’s website at www.rhondawagnerbook .com.)

rgendreau@ncnewsonline.com