Dan and Amber White might know a thing or two about parenting.
The Mt. Juliet couple are the parents of eight children.
Together the Whites have four children, three girls and one boy.
However, in 2018, they decided to adopt four children that they had been foster parenting, thus bringing the household total to eight.
“This is how we got into the foster-care system,” said Amber White, who now serves as a children and family counselor and foster care recruiter trainer as she works with families in both Trousdale and Wilson counties. “I do in-home therapy with a company, and most of my kids are foster kids.
“One of the families that I worked with had several kids, and they started talking about the agency they fostered through ... we just started talking about it.”
Although her desire to foster children may have begun at that moment, Amber White knew that her husband would have to be on board in order to make it happen.
“It took my husband about a year to agree (to foster), but then we decided, ‘We can do this.,” said Amber White. “It took us about a year and a half to finally go fully forward.
“We got our first set of four (foster children) on July 31, 2018. They were two brothers and two sisters. They came to us because they were in separate homes. We were told that they were going to be with us for a while. We fell in love with the kids.”
But as it is the primary goal of the foster system to reunite children with parents, the courts, many times, send foster children home in an attempt to get the family back together. Although it is sometimes successful, it does not always work out well.
“We went to our first court case in October (of 2018), and the judge told (the children), ‘Go home,’ ” said Amber White. “We were like, ‘What just happened?’ Nobody was on board with it, but we couldn’t overrule what the judge said. We were heartbroken. We said, ‘We are never doing this again. They just took our kids.’ That is just the way it felt. Even in the short two-month time, that’s the way we felt about the kids.
“The day that the kids left, Oct. 4, the 11-year-old just turned around and looked at us. He said, ‘Can we come back?’ I said, ‘If God wants you to be back here, then that is in His plan, but I can’t make that decision.’ (The boy) had already anticipated coming back.”
Less than 45 days after the children left, the Whites received a call from an attorney who was representing the children’s interest, and he requested that they take the children back. However, by that time, they were fostering another set of four children.
“We got a call (from the lawyer), (and) he said, ‘They are getting ready to go get the kids ... can they come back to you,’ ” said Amber White. “I said we have another four kids, but if you can make it work, we will also make it work. So, we had 12 kids. We had two sets of fosters at that time, and we made it work.”
Their second set of foster children stayed with the Whites for 15 months and were able to successfully return home to their family, and the first set of children who had returned to the Whites’ home had officially been adopted ... by the Whites.
Davian Alexander White, 18, and Antonio James White, 15, are the two oldest of the White’s four adopted children. Significantly enough, in 2020, as they were able to change their last name to White, they were also given the opportunity to pick their middle names, names that both of the boys are proud of.
According to their mother, the eight siblings get along amazingly well.
“They go everywhere together,” said Amber White. “They are best (friends). They get along great. They really do. Overall, they get along amazingly.”
In agreement with their mother, the boys expressed their love for their siblings in a way that only teenaged boys can do.
“They (his siblings) are cool,” said Antonio White. “They’re very nice.”
Davian White added, “It’s crazy, but I do love them at the same time.”
Sadly enough, this is not always how the story goes for foster children. Davian White recalled the time when a former caretaker was caught up in to drugs and other illegal substances.
“My old caretaker was doing drugs and stuff,” said Davian White. “They were not looking out for us.”
Fortunately, that is not always the case as many foster parents have a heart for their children.
In the state of Tennessee, there are ore than 9,000 children that are currently in state custody, with over 8,500 of these children being in the foster-care system.
There are 98 children from Wilson County, and, thankfully, only one child from Trousdale County is currently in the foster system. However, these numbers can change daily, and children from all over Tennessee can be placed in any suitable home throughout the state.
Since it is a goal of the foster-care system to keep siblings together whenever possible, many foster families in Tennessee have children from different areas of the state. When the number of siblings to be placed together in foster care is high, it sometimes limits the homes that will take them in as a result of some people feeling as if their home is not large enough to accommodate several children at once.
However, Amber White recalls the time she and her husband made it work with 12 children in the house.
“Our house is actually 1721 square feet,” said Amber White. “It has three bedrooms and two baths and the garage that has been turned into a big room. A couple of years, before we started fostering, my oldest daughter said, ‘Let’s make (the garage) into a (bedroom). So, we built a wall and made a (bedroom). There are two sets of bunk beds in that room. Then, we started fostering.
“We did have to re-arrange everything (to accommodate 12 children). My son was a trooper though. He actually slept on the couch for about three weeks. He gave up his bed until we were able to maneuver my office to make it a bedroom for him while the other boys slept in his room. We made it work.”
According to TN.gov, foster parents are dually approved to adopt the children they foster. That affords them the first option of adopting their foster child or any other child that has become eligible for adoption.
For more information on becoming a Tennessee foster parent, interested individuals can call 833-525-8196 or go online to https://healthconnectamerica.com/become-a-foster-parent/.