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Friday, Oct 28, 2016

Meet Leelani Voigtland, Berkshire Home Finder and adoptive parent

imageLeelani Voigtland did not originally plan to work in foster care. The young foster parent was pursuing her Early Childhood Education degree and working part time to pay the bills when she was approached by a Berkshire employee with a job opportunity as a Home Finder for youth in foster care. The rest of Voigtland’s story fell into place when she took that first job at Berkshire. Voigtland now has three years of experience under her belt, after serving as a Home Finder in Schoharie, and then later starting a large foster care program in Putnam, Sullivan, Orange and Duchess Counties.

While such a significant role covering Berkshire’s foster care home finding in four counties may seem daunting, Voigtland is no stranger to foster care and the commitment it requires to help place children with the right families. “Growing up, my mom was a foster mom—I had 25 foster siblings in and out of our home throughout the years,” said Voigtland. “We adopted six teenagers from the Bronx, and I had three bio siblings as well, making us a family of nine.”

Witnessing what her foster siblings went through motivated her to become a foster parent at 21 years old, and lifelong advocate for children in care. Both as a single foster parent and now with her husband, Voigtland has fostered 18 children and adopted two, and has recently welcomed her first bio child into the family. “I fostered with Berkshire for seven years, and their Home
Finders really provide such hands on support for our families, doing good social work and therapeutic foster care,” said Voigtland. “My family’s own adoption experience was super easy, and Berkshire was there with us during every step of the adoption process. In less than 6 months, we were able to officially adopt our daughter.”

With love and support from Voigtland and her then fiancée, as well as Berkshire staff, her now 11 year old daughter has moved from nonverbal and expressing signs of autism to doing extremely well in school and participating in cheerleading.

Voigtland and her husband are now in the process of adopting another child, and they look forward to her children growing up in a house that fosters, just like Voigtland’s did. She encourages others on the fence about becoming foster parents to consider the benefits of raising their bio children in this kind of a welcoming environment. “As a Home Finder, I have a dual perspective,” said Voigtland. “When prospective foster parents say, ‘I’m worried about how fostering children will affect my bio children,’ I tell them that I turned out okay. I tell them that their children will become more compassionate, and if they’re looking for an agency that will help them through that journey, Berkshire is the place.”   

—Sydney Lester


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