Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Jaime and I’ll be 38 in a few weeks. I grew up in Great Falls and later attended the University of Montana (GO GRIZ!) where I met my husband, Justin. We have been together 16 years and he is currently an active duty soldier in the Montana Army National Guard serving on a terrorism response team. I have done everything from teach preschool to wedding/event planning to interior design. Currently, I am a stay at home mom and I run a small church-based food pantry.
We have 2 biological children – McKayl (14) and Taetumn (12). After the loss of a baby and a difficult pregnancy with our daughter, we began researching adoption. In 2007, we adopted our son, Cruz, at 5 days old. That was just the start of our journey to adoption and foster care. We have since adopted two more children as babies, Serephina-Grace (6) and Hawkins (3). We are also fostering two children who we adore. Our day to day life is pretty busy. Several of our children have special needs requiring many hours each week of physical, occupational and speech therapies, not to mention psychotherapy and regular well visits (Peds Rehab-you know I love ya!). Let’s just say we spend a lot of time at the hospital and we know who gives out suckers.
So, if you’re doing the math, there are nine people in my house right now! It’s loud, silly and pretty gross at times. Good thing I actually enjoy cooking and doing laundry! We live in the Helena valley situated between Great Divide & Hauser Lake. We like skiing both.
Your photo here is taken in front of the Lewis and Clark County Courthouse. Tell us why this location means something to you.
Over the years, this very courthouse is where a judge has declared our children officially ours, giving them our last name. I’ve also spent many hours here testifying and representing our foster children (basically, this looks like me praying and pacing near the bathroom). My husband or I attend every hearing we are privy to. The foster care system is a complicated mix of family members, committees, social workers, attorneys and judges. Their jobs are to uphold certain laws and policies to ensure the best possible outcome for each child. I respect and appreciate how this all comes together, however, the waiting can be excruciating. Most cases take years to resolve. For these children, this courthouse is where their lives are legally and forever changed. Their cases begin and end here. Our prayer is that their lives are restored with a new hope for the future, whatever the outcome may be.
What are some of your favorite organizations making a difference in the lives of children in foster care?
The foster care system nationwide is broken. In Montana, the rate of children being abused and neglected has grown at startling rates. In 2014, the number of children in foster care was 2,317. In 2015, that number jumped to 2,775. We are caring for two of those children. To us, they are so much more than a number. In December of last year, the total number of foster families didn’t even cover half of what was needed. Social workers are overwhelmed and so are the families trying to help. That being said, we have met some incredibly dedicated people along the way that are tirelessly working to fix that! I found two great organizations making a huge impact with therapies and interventions for foster children and many others, too. They both work at improving the lives of at-risk children providing trauma informed strategies and solutions. They are Intermountain Children’s Home and ChildWise Institute.
Describe your perfect day.
Have I mentioned I’m not a morning person? Justin brings me coffee in bed when he’s home. He slides it carefully onto my bedside dresser and then runs for his life. For the start of my perfect day, I’ll take a white mocha with almond milk, before my eyes are even open. Then, a big family breakfast cooked by my husband because I’m a terrible breakfast cook. We would float and fish the Missouri in our kayaks. Later, we would meet some friends at the lake and jump on our boat and pull the kids around wakeboarding and tubing. I would drive of course because I’m the fun one. We would stay until the snacks ran out enjoying one last sunset cruise.
Basically, this is our summer and it’s perfect to me. Sometimes, we are at the lake 8-10 hours before calling it a day. What a life!
If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor?
I would choose my grandmother, Lois. By the time I was a young adult and having children of my own, Alzheimer’s disease had taken over her mind. For 10 years, we said the long goodbye, watching her slowly fade from the most darling lady to a voiceless shell. I would love nothing more than to sit down with her now and ask her about her childhood, faith and her perspective on being a wife and mother. I have never personally known anyone as kind and giving as her. Her patience never ran out and she lived to be a blessing to others. I can’t think of a better mentor than her.
What is one of your favorite quotes?
Jody Landers said “A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.”
And for our children, we speak this truth over their lives: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11
When you have 30 minutes of free-time, how do you pass the time?
This doesn’t happen often, but when it does I would grab a coffee and do a little shopping. You would be amazed at what I can get accomplished in 30 minutes!
What was the last movie, TV show or book that really impacted you and why?
The last book I read was Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter. It’s the heartbreaking true story of her 9 years in foster care and how she survived terrible abuse to find courage and ultimately justice for herself and others. Stories like hers motivate me to continue the work we do.
Let’s talk about music. Word on the street is you have a great voice. What is your favorite kind of music and why?
Gosh, thanks. I think I was singing before I could speak in complete sentences. I LOVE all types of music. In High School, I travelled with my choir and we even sang on the Disney channel – some amazing times! I was also a member of several all-state choirs. I think I can still remember every first soprano part from Gabriel Faure’s Requiem. We really did perform some incredible pieces.
Currently, I have the privilege of leading worship at Helena First Assembly of God. I had to take a break for several months (many more than I had planned), because of the level of care our foster baby needed. There’s nothing like leading a congregation in praise and worship and I’m excited to be back!
What’s playing on your iPhone?
On my iPhone today you will find: An embarrassing amount of 90’s hip hop and R&B songs, Michael Jackson, Fleetwood Mac and the other Mac – Toby. Also, Adele, JT, Hillsong, Bethel, Christ for the Nations, Lecrae and too many cheesy 80’s songs to mention (think Europe’s The Final Countdown). In our home there is always something playing and our kitchen is for dancing.
Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
I hope to travel to Ukraine with my mom someday. My great grandmother was born there and we’ve always talked about going there and meeting some of our relatives.
How would your friends describe you?
I’m fortunate to have a small group of girlfriends that I’ve known since 4th grade. They will tell you I’m faithful, funny and loyal to a fault. I’m always looking for the best in people. We survived middle school – so nothing can tear us apart!
Raising children with special needs can be very isolating and that’s truthfully my life right now. My husband is my best buddy and we cling to each other to stay sane! We only get to see other friends once or twice a month. With a family our size, and babies with needs like ours, you don’t just pop over to someone’s house for dinner! Also, so much of what we do can’t be shared with anyone. It’s a lonely road, so encouraging messages and calls really do keep us going. Don’t give up on us, friends! We hope to see you soon!
Coffee or tea?
Coffee. All day, every day.
Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate – always and forever.
Introvert or extrovert?
Rural or urban?
Dress up or dress down?
Cats or dogs?
Sunrise or sunset?
Detailed or abstract?
Classic or modern?
I appreciate both.
Call or text?
If you call me, neither of us will be able to hear a thing! Text please.
Fiction or non-fiction?
Salty or Sweet?
Both. Together please.
What do you love most about Montana?
Even though I’ve lived here my whole life, I’m still in awe of our state’s beauty. My favorite place is Lindbergh Lake where I spent every summer as a child. Our drinking water came straight from the crystal clear lake and it’s a quiet, beautiful place (Don’t go there, you will hate it). I recently heard someone from out of state say, “No one in this entire country loves their state like the people of Montana do.” Well, isn’t that the truth, buddy?! Montana ‘til I die!
When my kids are older, I plan on fishing and snowboarding every single day. And with our weather, that’s entirely possible almost every month of the year! Beat that!
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
Eight years ago, we stood in our window and watched our son’s 15 year old mother leave our house without him in her arms. I wanted to run after her and tell her we would do anything we could so she could parent him. My joy cost that precious mama the greatest pain of her life. The days that followed were dark, but today we couldn’t be happier with our open adoption. And in that same sense, what we are currently doing now as foster parents is hard. At the heart of adoption and foster care is complicated and continuous grief. We can only hope to be a reflection of God’s love in return.
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
I am grateful for my husband. Being a military family is not easy, but I don’t know another man with more integrity or as hardworking as him. He goes along with every crazy idea I have that usually starts with, “So…you look extra handsome today…there’s a baby I think we should help.” I feel my best when I’m helping and serving others and that’s what I get to do every single day. Without him by my side none of this would be possible. The challenges we face have made us better people and parents. To think of the generations that will be impacted because of our decisions is humbling.
“It is on us, as the redeemed and adopted ones of God, to extend the grace we have received through Jesus into the lives of those who are just like me.” Mark Tennant