For Carlos Gonzales and Eduardo Marrero, the foster care system made total sense as a way to start their family.
Both Carlos and Eduardo said they always wanted kids. Between the time they met in 2005 and their wedding in 2011, Eduardo obtained his master's degree in marriage and family therapy and took a job running a foster care agency near their home in Miami, Florida.
Although Eduardo’s work already revolved around foster kids, the couple didn’t consider starting their family at all until Eduardo left that very busy job.
“At that time, he knew that he wouldn’t have the time to become a foster parent as his job required around-the-clock attention,” Carlos said.
Eduardo left the foster care agency in 2016, and began his current position as the manager of a family strengthening program. That’s when he spoke with a former colleague, who said if the couple were interested in fostering, the National Youth Advocacy Program (NYAP) would be their top recommendation.
“Our experience with NYAP was an amazing one,” Carlos said. “As foster parents, we always received support from them. Interestingly, it never felt like they were part of a system, it always felt more like they were part of our family. Even after adoption, we’ve kept in contact with a few that became very close to us. We would highly recommend this agency for anyone that is looking to foster.”
When Eduardo asked Carlos about the idea of fostering children of their own, he said he was immediately on board.
“Eduardo called me while I was at work, and he asked me my thoughts about becoming a foster parent,” Carlos said. “He gave me the information, and I just said, ‘Yes this is something we should look into.’”
What Carlos didn’t know was that he had to give Eduardo an answer right then and there, since the classes to become a foster parent were beginning the following day.
“We decided to give it a shot,” Carlos smiled, “and within a couple of months, we became foster parents.”
As can be the case within the foster care system, things moved incredibly quickly for Eduardo and Carlos.
The same day they got their foster parent license, they brought in their first foster child; 17-year-old Amy. Although she would leave for college almost straight away, the couple said they are still very close with Amy, who always comes home for the holidays.
One month after Amy came into their home, the couple faced what they called their biggest challenge to date.
“We received a call from our agency letting us know that there was a 6-day-old baby that needed a home,” Eduardo explained. “So we brought the baby into our home and were told that there was a strong possibility that we would be able to adopt him. But after two months, we were told by the agency that we needed to coordinate to meet with the baby’s great-grandmother so that he could go live with his family.”
Although the foster agency and parenting classes try to prepare foster parents for these kinds of scenarios, Carlos said it was still a very difficult call to receive.
“That was the biggest heartache we had ever experienced,” he said. “They try to prepare you for these scenarios, but there’s truly no way to emotionally prepare yourself for that heartache.”
After Amy left for college the following year, the couple received a call about two young brothers, 8-year-old Jayden and 4-year-old David, who needed an immediate foster home, and were in need of adoption.
As soon as they saw the boys’ pictures and learned about their story, they agreed to bring them into their home. And in September 2017, Carlos and Eduardo adopted them both.
Much to the couples’ surprise, the following year, the boy's biological mother had another baby, this time a baby girl.
“We were asked if we would like to bring her into our home so that the siblings could be together, and of course we said yes,” Carlos said. “We were really excited, as we always wanted a little girl.”
After they took in baby Eva, in 2019 the unthinkable happened. The childrens’ biological mother had yet another baby girl. So the couple received another call from child protective services, asking if they would also consider taking their childrens’ baby sister. This time, they took a little longer with their decision.
“We were given time to think about it. We were definitely afraid of whether we would be able to handle four children,” Eduardo admitted. “Especially since our youngest had only turned a year old. After much discussion not only with each other, but with our family and friends, we decided to bring baby number four into our lives.”
By April 2020, the couple were also able to adopt both Eva and baby Isabella. Since their youngest four kids joined their home, the pair say their lives have drastically changed, and they love it in every way.
“Prior to having kids, your priorities are definitely different,” Carlos said. “Our lives consisted of traveling, eating out, hanging out with friends or hosting an occasional Mojito Night in our home. Since then, the priorities have shifted. Weekends now consist of family time and trips to Disney. But it’s great. The children have shown us what unconditional love truly is.”