“Oh, we talked about it before we decided to be foster parents,” says Karen Madison very matter-of-factly.
“We did?” questions her husband Ted with a crooked smile on his face and twinkle in his eye.
As a child, Karen always wanted to have an orphanage. As a newly married couple in 1967, their home wasn’t quite equipped to care for scores of children simultaneously. But they could care for one or two additional children at a time. Multiply that over two decades, and the number of children they cared for, diapered, rocked, fed, clothed, and loved totals 78. Yes, you read correctly: 78.
The Madison’s came to Amara to adopt a child on June 6, 1968, on the day that Bobby Kennedy died. They called Medina Children’s Services (the present day Amara), and met their social worker, Marjorie Schaller. And they still stay in contact with Marjorie to this day. Because after adopting their daughter Kristin, and then their son David a year later, they contacted Medina about fostering children. This was a family with the capacity to love children, and let them go. They would go on to foster 76 babies and toddlers.
Their adopted children were a few weeks old before they could meet them, before they could take them home. Karen knew this meant that someone else had cared for them, had held them, and had loved them for weeks before she could be their mom. This was her chance to pay it forward.
”I wanted my kids to know that there wasn’t a minute that went by where someone didn’t love them.”
In real life, this means that Karen and Ted possess an enormous amount of flexibility and patience, an almost infinite ability to love. Pick up a four-month-old the day you are leaving on a family camping trip? No problem! Have two kids in high school and an infant still waking up in the night? You got it!
Their true capacity to care and love for children in the most selfless way might be most apparent in how they said good-bye to them. For the children in their care, going home to their new family became celebrated as their “Happy Day.” A celebration! Whether the children were with their family for a day, a week, or a few months, this was their special day. They went with new clothes, with teddy bears, with all of the love and hope that Karen could possibly squeeze into each child to ready them for their family, their forever home.
In the end, Karen got her orphanage, one child at a time. One Happy Day at a time.
We at Amara are grateful for the Madison’s capacity to love children in need. For their service to these children, we are honored to award Karen and Ted Madison with the 2014 Stella Mae Carmichael Award. Karen and Ted continue to be inspired by foster parents who care for children in need. Karen now actively serves our troops and their families with the USO.