Before she was Mom to Bockary, Janet and Myracle, she was Aunt Kate to just about everyone else.
Including the teenager who stayed with Kate Wilcox for half a semester in 2013 so the girl could finish high school in Lincoln after her parents moved. And to the girl who moved in with her when another friend relocated to Lincoln but hadn’t quite found a place to stay yet.
“I really had the ability to love other peoples’ kids,” she said.
But Wilcox, a teacher at Lincoln Public Schools, knew that she wanted her own kids to love. She had always been drawn to foster care — it tugged at her heart — and she felt like God was calling her to it.
So in 2017, she got her license and worked with the foster care agency Christian Heritage to line up some kids looking for a home. Because of her prior experience, the agency told her to expect to house one or two teenage girls.
“I was prepared for teenagers and I was a little disappointed to be honest. I love teenagers and I get along with them, but there was a part of me that really wanted to raise little kids and do the whole ‘life’ thing,” said Wilcox, who teaches English language learners at Everett Elementary School.
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Instead, she got three children — biological siblings all under the age of 5 who had shuffled homes over the years.
Bockary, the football-loving big brother who’s everybody’s best friend.
Janet Faye, named after her grandmothers and ferociously independent.
Myracle, the goofy, funny, loving baby sister.
They had gone through the foster care system before and were at a home with two younger siblings when Christian Heritage connected them with Wilcox. Being single, she wasn’t sure if she was ready to take on all three, but she was smitten with the trio.
Wilcox went in with the idea of just being a foster parent, but she was called to something more. On Nov. 3, 2018 — National Adoption Day — Aunt Kate officially became Mom in an adoption ceremony.
It was an open adoption — Wilcox worked with the children’s biological parents, who were “so supportive and loving.”
The past three years have been filled with grace, with love, but also challenges. It’s not easy to raise three children by yourself. Wilcox said her mother provides invaluable support. Her father and brother, too. Male role models for Bockary.
They moved to a bigger home in south Lincoln about two years ago, with a large backyard and plenty of space for a trampoline.
Bockary, 10, loves football, especially the Miami Dolphins, Alabama and Nebraska, of course (ask him what his magic eight ball says about the Huskers next season).
Janet, 8, and Myracle, 6, love to cook. Janet wants to be a chef.
They love their piebald kitty Tiana, named after the Disney princess.
Sundays are for church and pizza. Headstands are a common sight.
“Whenever we’re feeling down, she always cheers us up,” Bockary said.
This summer, the family is planning a road trip on a charter bus to Mississippi for a reunion on their biological mother’s side of the family. In addition to two younger siblings adopted by another family on that November day in 2018, the three children also have four older half-siblings they stay in contact with.
Wilcox says she couldn’t have done it without her family, faith and Christian Heritage, which has specialists that check in on foster families and provide support.
The foster care agency helps more than 1,000 kids annually across Nebraska. In addition to facilitating foster care matches, Christian Heritage also helps children experiencing neglect and abuse, provides support for biological families and teaches practical parenting and life skills to incarcerated mothers.
On any given day in Nebraska, there are about 4,000 children who are in the state’s protective custody looking for a family.
“You don’t have to go very far down the road to find kids who need help,” said Stacy Bingham, executive director of growth and stewardship at Christian Heritage.
Wilcox, a Lincoln native, went to college in Kansas, where she majored in theater and gave acting a shot in LA. She moved back to Kansas and worked odd jobs, including as a youth leader, residence hall director and substitute teacher, where she found her calling in education.
She moved back to Lincoln in 2010, then spent some time in Morocco teaching and caring for orphaned children, where she decided she was ready to have children of her own.
Parenting, Wilcox says, is like a magnifying glass. Things she never thought she would care about are important now. And some things that seemed like a big deal are no longer important.
“As long as we’re happy, as long as we’re together, as long as we’re doing OK,” Wilcox says, “all that other stuff doesn’t matter so much.”
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