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Writala family

Wirtala family finds purpose through foster care

May 22, 2024 | Blog, Foster Care Stories

Youth Villages’ mission is to help children and their families live successfully, and a big part of achieving that goal is keeping the family together. Sometimes, though, families are unable to remain together — either for a while or longer — due to circumstances in the home.

That’s where Youth Villages foster care program comes in to provide safe, secure homes for children to grow and thrive. Across Tennessee, there are more than 500 children in foster care homes and our goal is to expand our network to over 1,000 homes in the next year. We are dedicated to recruiting and nurturing new foster families to ensure that every child affected by foster care finds a loving and ideal home in their community.

Jamison and Trisha Wirtala opened their home and their hearts for foster care. Since they were certified to foster with Youth Villages in 2019, the couple has welcomed six — yes, six — children into their home and has adopted two of them.

“We can’t say no, and that’s on us,” Trisha said. “We’re just not ready to be done yet.”

Decision to grow a family wins out

In 2018, Jamison and Trisha moved to Memphis. After years of trying to have their own children, the couple — Jamison, a firefighter paramedic for the city of Memphis, and Trisha, an emergency room nurse — made another decision that changed their lives.

“When we made the move, we decided to do one of two things,” Trisha said. “Were we going to travel with our jobs or plant roots in one place and have kids?”

Having a family won out, but they weren’t sure how to get started. After talking through different options to grow their family, the couple settled on foster care.

“We didn’t know how we were going to have kids, but we knew we wanted them,” Trisha said. “We looked into foster care because we knew there were children out there who needed parents.”

After researching online, the Wirtalas emailed several foster care organizations around the area. They went with the first one that replied.

“Youth Villages was the first to email us back and the first to have foster care classes available,” Jamison said.

In 2019, the couple started their foster care training classes and were later certified that same year. Then, the Wirtalas gave Youth Villages an idea of how they wanted to start fostering.

“We put it in the hands of Youth Villages and told them you can either start us with all littles or all teenagers,” Trisha said. “Our first child was a 6-week-old boy, and we went from there.”

Writala family

Open hearts and open home bring in six children

The Wirtalas first placement of a 6-week-old boy came with his 6-year-old sibling. Both grew to be a part of their family in a short time. After six months, the two children were reunited with their mother.

“They took our hearts immediately,” Trisha said. “It broke our hearts. I feel like if it didn’t break our hearts, we weren’t doing the job right.”

The Wirtalas took a two-month break but opened their home again and received another child. Their family was off and running.

Their second child was a 6-week-old boy who they adopted. Five months later, they took in another child. Four months later, a third child was placed in their home. The Wirtalas heard their third child had a sibling — and they didn’t like siblings separated — so they added her to their home. Six months later, they received another child. And, after a year with no call, their most recent child was placed in their home in August of 2023. “We realized quickly our ability to say no was not an option,” Trisha said.

The family’s story, however, doesn’t stop there. Each child the Wirtalas have fostered has medical challenges — including one child with Down’s Syndrome, one on the autism spectrum and one with sickle cell — that requires frequent doctor appointments, numerous therapy visits and around-the-clock care. But that doesn’t faze Jamison and Trisha. Their goal is to give all their children a loving, safe and secure environment to grow and thrive.

“They (Wirtalas) will take anyone, but it just happens that these kids have high medical needs,” said Hannah Davis, a Youth Villages foster care specialist. “You see the structure they put in to nurture the children. They rise to the challenge of making sure they are providing everything for the children. They provide great support on how to navigate it as a two-person home with high-intensive jobs and high-intensity children.”

Despite all the medical appointments and their jobs, Jamison and Trisha make it a priority to make sure their children have experiences and joys they had growing up. They travel with the children and make trips to the water park in the spring and their cabin in the summer.

I have no problem taking them anywhere. These children deserve what I had as a kid. I want them to cherish this time.
- Trisha

Even with their plates seemingly full, the Wirtalas continue to open their home. They have provided their home for children from other foster homes through respite care, where the children are placed to provide the primary caregivers a rest, or break, from a few hours up to a few days.

While the Wirtalas have been able to juggle life with two jobs, six children and others coming through their home, they credit Youth Villages for the support and resources it has provided.

“We are so grateful and lucky for the team that works with us,” Jamison said. “We feel heard. We bring ideas to the table, and they brainstorm with us. If we would do it over again, we’d go with Youth Villages.”

If you’re interested in learning more about fostering, sign up for an upcoming virtual info session to connect with staff and learn more about the process. If you have any questions or can’t make any of the sessions, please call us at 1-888-MY-YV-KID or submit an inquiry here.

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