By Sgt. Melissa LessardMay 1, 2019
FORT HOOD, Texas -- On any given day there are over 400,000 children in foster care in the United States. Of that number, only about 135,000 are adopted each year.
Sgt. 1st Class Ricky Hill, an intelligence analyst for the 504th Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade, met his wife Shoko, while stationed in Okinawa, Japan. The Hills always knew they wanted to foster and adopt children and discussed the possibility before deciding to start their family.
"We were in Japan, but Japan did not allow us to foster because we lived on base and they did not have that kind of program like the states," said Shoko.
The Hills became licensed foster parents while stationed here at Fort Hood. Ricky said when he joined the 504th in 2016, the first sergeant at the time fostered through an agency and introduced the Hills to that agency.
With that, the family started the process to become foster parents and began working to adopt children.
"Thankfully, in the military and with this unit and our leadership, they were able to work with us," said Hill. "Foster families are different than regular families because there are additional responsibilities for the foster children."
Hill said when they started fostering, they had to conduct weekly visits with the biological family of their two currently adopted children. They also worked with an agency social worker, and he and his wife were able to check on their foster children to see if they were to reunite with their biological family or if they were going to be adopted.
The thought of not being able to adopt the children that were in their care was also on their mind during the process and caused anxiety for the family.
"It was a rollercoaster the whole time," he said. "It kept going back and forth from adoption to reunification, adoption, reunification. It did that like four times. We never really knew the whole time. It was that kind of anxiety that we had to go through."
Through the ups and downs of fostering to becoming adoptive parents, Shoko and Ricky continually build both their personal and family resiliency. They are both familiar with the adoption process through personal experiences and were able to use those experiences.
Shoko said that through the process though she and her husband communicate better, their marriage is stronger, and they work more as a team.
"We always talk and cry together," Shoko said.
Adopting while in the military can be challenging. Ricky and Shoko said they constantly remind each other that deploying is always a possibility.
"It might be harder, but that shouldn't keep people from doing it," said Hill. "If you have the desire, determination, and love for these kids - that goes a long way."
"We do get training, which gives awareness," said Hill. "I would say I've built a lot of patience. Whoever does foster care should know that times are going to be difficult, but you must continuously love these kids. Show them that you will be there when they need it. Even if the children do not stay, you gave them something to leave with. Hopefully they will remember that."
"We don't think you have to be blood-related to be a mother or father. It's the attributes of the mother and father that matter," said Hill.