Spotlight: Nathan and Emily, Foster Parents for The Villages

Nathan and Emily Kiegel

Less than a month after officially becoming foster parents for The Villages, Nathan and Emily met 8-month-old Amber*. It was a perfect match. Born with DiGeorge Syndrome, a rare chromosome disorder, Amber’s life was destined to include multiple surgeries, therapy and 24-hour care. Emily, a registered nurse, and Nathan, a respiratory therapist, accepted Amber with open arms and lots of love.

Instantly, the family, who also have two biological children, began to focus on Amber’s health, driving her to Kentucky for doctor appointments, setting up therapy sessions, and rearranging their schedules to accommodate her needs.

An opportunity to make a difference

Emily and Nathan, married for 13 years, had always considered foster parenting and often spoke with friends and colleagues who were familiar with the process. The final nudge was from one of Emily’s nursing co-workers, who often shared stories about her foster parenting research and the growing number of Indiana children in need of loving homes. The family began researching options and found The Villages was the perfect fit.

Both admit there were doubts during the process. Concerns lingered about becoming attached to a child temporarily placed in the home and the impact on the family dynamic.

“All of us who consider foster parenting get to that point when we wonder whether to go for it or not,” Nathan said. “I thought about that early on and questioned if we would regret not doing it all. Not pursing (foster parenting) would’ve been a terrible choice. This is one of the best decisions we ever made.”

Nathan and Emily say the ongoing support from The Villages’ staff made being foster parents easier.

“The staff has extensive knowledge about foster parenting procedures and helped us get through a lot of the red tape,” Nathan said. “They are always there to make sure our needs are met and never hesitate to light fires, when necessary, to get a response.”

Amber is family

Managing Amber’s needs requires all hands on deck. The family continues to work full-time, but different shifts to ensure one of them is home with Amber at all times. She requires frequent medical checkups and therapy. She has eight doctors and four therapy sessions each week and is on oxygen around the clock with regular monitoring and tube feedings throughout the night. Nathan and Emily say she is getting stronger each day.

Not yet walking, Amber loves to scoot around the house, splash in the pool and move to hip hop music. She travels with the family on frequent outings to support their 10-year-old daughter’s softball games, thanks to a portable oxygen concentrator supplied by The Villages. Amber even traveled to Disney World where Nathan and Emily’s 6-year-old son packed her favorite toy, a ball, when he noticed mom, Emily, forgot it.

“They see her as a sibling,” Emily said. “They are as in love with her as we are.”

Another major help for the family is Nathan’s mom, a pediatric nurse, who is approved to watch Amber.

“We know this is a combination of things that are more than rare,” Nathan said. “We are very, very lucky to have her.”

More love to give

The family does not rule out the possibility of welcoming more children in the future.

“After Amber reaches a certain age and we are satisfied with her progress, we absolutely want to continue foster parenting,” Nathan said. “We would have to expand the house, make another room, but until that time, we are open to respite care. We realize that it is extremely difficult for families with children like Amber to find respite care.”

Currently, the family is in the process of adopting Amber, now age 2. “She is part of our family. We all love her,” Nathan said. “And she is very attached to us. As soon as we walk in the door, she wants us to hold her immediately, especially when she sees Emily. Amber is definitely a mommy’s girl.”

*The child’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.

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