When Rachael Rester learned her sister’s three children were being taken away four or five years ago, Rachael knew she had to do something.

The children, who lived in Springfield, Missouri, were being taken away by the state of Missouri to be placed in a foster home because of domestic violence, drugs and unsanitary living conditions.

Rachael, a single mother who lives in Manhattan, knew it would be a challenge to add three more children to her family, which included her son, Bryson, 8, but she wanted to do anything to help those children.

“I, at that time, had shared with (my sister) that whatever it takes, I want those kids here, and I will take care of them,” Rachael said.

Rachael asked her sister to give the agency her phone number to get the ball rolling on Rachael being able to take care of the three kids. But by the time Rachael got all of the proper certifications for foster parenting, the children, living with another family, said they already felt safe in their current home.

“And after two years, I was told that I would not be given any of the children because they had been where they were for two years and they were comfortable,” Rachael said. “They were finally feeling safe, but I was devastated. ... My dad was devastated; we were all lost.”

But, Rachael said all the work toward becoming a foster parent would not go to waste.

“And I sat on it for about two or three months, and I thought, you know what, God told me that I should go after those kids and I should get them,” she said. “That didn’t happen, and that wasn’t in my plan. But I didn’t do that for nothing. I never dreamt of being a foster mom. I never thought of adopting. I thought about birthing my own children and a lot of them. But that wasn’t what’s been in my plan. If I did all that work for a foster license, a piece of paper, why should I give that up when there are thousands of other children that need me too?”

Flash forward to 2020, and Rachael has been a foster parent to nine children, although her most recent child moved in March.

“I know that when I have every single one of these kids, I know I’m making the best impact I possibly can,” she said. “I’m giving them the best love, support and encouragement that I possibly can.”

“So while it’s hard every single day, because there are roller coasters — foster care is a roller coaster, 100% — I would ride that ride for the rest of my life,” she continued.

In addition to being a foster parent, Rachael, who is the office manager at AAA in Manhattan, has raised her son alone as Bryson’s father walked out on them essentially on “day four,” Rachael said.

Although it’s been hard for Bryson to grow up without a dad, Rachael said she has done everything in her power to provide him with the best possible childhood, all while teaching important lessons along the way.

“I am a very glass half full type of person,” she said. “I try not to look at the negatives. You know the fact that my son doesn’t have a dad and he, you know, has maybe missed out on a couple opportunities. I don’t say that my son has missed out on those opportunities, I say his dad has. Because my son didn’t know those opportunities existed. So I just kind of look at it with a very positive perspective.”

Like Rachael, St. George resident Michelle Haub thought she would have her own children. After about six years of struggling to have children of their own, Michelle and her husband, Mark, decided to adopt.

“And so, for awhile there, you know, there was obviously that thing of like ‘I can still control this, and ... medical people can fix me,’” Michelle said. “And then you you know you come to this realization — obviously it took us a lot longer then it probably should have — but, then you finally come to listening to God and saying, ‘You know, what’s more important here? Is it more important that we pass on our genes, our genetics? Or is it more important that we get to be parents and we get to be with kids that need the love and support?’”

Michelle and her husband adopted two children. They first adopted Trae, 15, when he was six and a half months old from South Korea. They adopted their second child, Trewman, 12, at birth here in the United States.

“This was God’s plan, and our life is because of the beauty of those birth moms,” Michelle said. “I think a lot of times we, as a society, look at adoption as ‘Oh you know those poor children, they just were abandoned or whatever.’ And that is truly not the case.

“Those birth moms gave everything that they had to give these children the life that they didn’t feel like they could give them at that time, whether that’s a financial situation, a mental situation or safety.

“It doesn’t matter what circumstances it was that brought those moms to those decisions, but what really matters is that they were completely selfless. They completely put their own desires and needs at bay so that they could make a very hard decision for themselves to give their children the life that they wanted them to have.”

Michelle, who is the special programs leader at Meadowlark Hills in Manhattan, said the family still keeps in touch with Trewman’s birth mom, and it’s really important for the whole family.

“A lot of times, people will say how lucky our kids are, that they were adopted,” Michelle said. “But in reality, it’s really Mark and I that were so lucky to be able, like I said, have birth moms that were selfless and to be able to have systems in our world that allow us to grow our family and to take care of kids.”

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