Erasing Emptiness: The Journey of a Foster Family

Passion is evident in a person’s voice.  A passionate person speaks with an excited rhythm and warm tone.  Their pitch is dynamic and their words flow with ease.

I heard pure passion in Deborah Kemper’s voice today.  Deborah is a true superstar.  She is a wife, parent, career woman, and California’s State PTA Secretary.  What makes Deborah unique is that she is also a foster mom who has opened her heart and home to three foster children.  She felt called to help those in need and has exceeded following through on that goal.

Cliff and kids

Cliff with Capri, Milo and Nowa

On a trip with her husband, Cliff, in October of 2006 Deborah felt called to welcome a foster child into their home while on a hike up Mount Kilimanjaro.  Deborah raised two children who are older and now expecting children of their own, but says “We had 5 cars and 4 bedrooms, which were all empty.”  She says, “It was time to help someone else.”  That realization led her to begin the foster parenting process and just one year later, Deborah and Cliff brought Milo, a 7 year old girl who lost her parents to a violent past, into their lives.

Deborah feels particularly close to Milo because she shares a common past with her.  Both lost a parent to violence at the same age and both were separated from their siblings at that time.  She knew Milo’s anger, pain, and confusion.  Since adopting Milo when she was 10 years old, the Kempers have come a long way in creating a new life and new opportunities for Milo and two more foster children, Nowa (age 15) and Capri (age 14).

All three children have been accepted to high school and are making huge strides in their work ethic and grades.  Deborah works with them during the summers to remedy learning gaps caused by patchy attendance in their past.  Now, all three have received awards for perfect attendance.  Milo, now 13, has been accepted into Summit Charter School, which has a 96% college graduation rate among its alumni, a significant difference from the average 50% high school graduation rate among U.S. foster children.


Deborah with Nowa, Capri and Milo

Milo and Capri also participate in PTA’s Reflections program and continue to grow as artists.  Last year, Milo earned an honorable mention for her moving literary work about her experience as a foster and adopted child.  In the moving excerpt below, Milo describes the elation she felt on the day of her adoption.

“A year later I woke up to my mom’s voice echoing through our halls, while she was trying to sing my name, “Milo! Milo! It’s time.  Take a shower and get dressed.”  I had my hair all nice and really curly at first, then it became puffy with curls at the end. The day I was getting adopted February 14, 2010.  The courtroom was filled with chocolate, cupcakes and heart shaped balloons. Judge Lee granted me a family.  Everybody jumping around. No more emptiness. But with pride. Love. Wanted.  Normal. Complete family.”

Deborah and Milo’s story is remarkable, but not entirely unique.  There are currently 542,000 foster children all over the nation.  Though not all foster children have the attention and resources like Milo, they all deserve a chance to, as Deborah says, “grow up to become productive citizens of our society.”  To learn more about foster care, visit CASA and AdoptUSKids.

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