Dee Sienknecht is the adoptive mom to 4-year-old Ellie and 10-year-old Josiah. She’s also fostering a baby in her home and once prayed to God, “Put the kids in my home that need me.” (Photo by Gaye Bunderson)
By Gaye Bunderson
Her name is pronounced sink-night, and she is 55.
Dee Sienknecht was one of those women who spent a lot of years putting her career first. That’s not a bad thing – she cherished her life as a hopeful opera singer and a music teacher. She finished her Bachelor’s degree at Boise State University, Master’s degree at Eastern Washington University, then taught voice, piano and choir at Texas A&M in Kingsville, at Fresco Arts Academy in Eagle, and at schools in Meridian, Boise, and Nampa.
She was then, and she is now, a single woman. She had a fulfilling career, yet always assumed she’d get married. “But,” she said, “a husband never came along.”
That didn’t stop Sienknecht from dreaming about a family.
“In my early 40s, I started thinking, ‘I’m going to pursue being a parent’,” the singer and musician explained. She and God were in agreement with those plans, as Sienknecht thought about fostering children in her home.
“I felt it was of God and I started praying, ‘Put the kids in my home that need me, and that I need in my life’. I’ve always loved kids, and I always assumed I’d have children.”
Now, she does have children. It just may not look exactly like it does for others. It started with taking in foster children and then ultimately working on adopting some of them. Seeing Sienknecht at a coffee shop with two of her youngsters, watching her care for them, and hearing them call her Mom as they take her hand, one realizes that a mother’s love is viable in more than one circumstance.
Her first step in caring for a youngster came when she returned to Boise from Texas to help take care of a nephew. She had assisted other family members, including her mother and sister, but the experience was a kind of first step into the world of overseeing a child grow up. She now calls her nephew “a wonderful young man.”
In 2012, she attended a foster parent training, got a background check, and met all the other requirements of prospective foster moms. But she said she was more or less viewed, and actually kind of was, one of those people who didn’t want to take in a foster child and then have to say goodbye to him or her. Subsequently, it took her quite a while to be chosen.
In 2014, she took in a couple of girls “for respite care” – which means their foster parents were allowed to have a break during that time. But she remained discouraged about the fostering process. “I was frustrated that I wasn’t getting calls from the state about trying to be an adoptive parent myself. I felt like I was their last resort.”
She said that when she did take in foster children, what she anticipated happened: it was hard to let them go. “I cried and cried and cried,” she admitted.
Then God stepped in.
“He gave me a picture that I was just a bridge to get the children over the troubled waters in their lives.”
She finally got a letter of recommendation from her church pastor at the time and was then put in touch with some grandparents who were taking care of their children’s children but felt they were possibly too old for the long-term job. They wanted the kids to be in good hands and wanted them raised in the church. Sienknecht was chosen to take in a boy named Josiah at 19 months old. She has since adopted him, he’s now 10, and his grandparents, a brother, and an aunt, uncle, and cousins stay in touch on a regular basis. “We’re very connected – they are a second family to me,” Sienknecht said.
Josiah attends church and made his own decision at age 6 to be baptized, according to his mom.
As of October 11, Sienknecht adopted another child that had been in her care, 4-year-old Ellie. The child came to her through “regular foster care” when she was 6 months old. Sienknecht is also fostering a baby in her home.
The woman who once served as the family babysitter growing up just because she was the only single sibling is now a happy and loving parent herself.
Sienknecht serves as worship and arts director at Cloverdale Church of God and said, “I’ve been involved in church music since I was 13. My support system is my church, my sister Deborah, Josiah’s biological grandparents, and my best friend, Karin, is a huge support. She has four kids and one foster child of her own. It was in God’s timing for her to be my friend; she is one of the best gifts I ever received.”
Sienknecht is aware that not everyone can be a foster parent, but she offers tips about how others can help, including:
- Ask “What do you need?” Don’t wait for a foster (or adoptive) parent to ask for help, just offer it.
- One woman contacted Sienknecht and told her, “I’m going to bring a meal over.” It was a delicious and out-of-the-blue blessing, and Sienknecht encourages others to do the same.
- Volunteer to take the kids for a day and give the foster parent a much-needed break.
- Ask when is the best time for you to come do some cleaning (don’t make it an option).
- Play games with the kids. They’ll love you for it.
- Buy a movie pass for a foster family so they can all see a movie together (without selling a kidney).
Love on the family the way foster and adoptive parents love on the kids. It’s not hard, according to Sienknecht. “It’s easy to love them,” she said.