The Summer of Wendell


The Summer of Wendell
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What was to be for just a Summer has turned into a lifetime, and everyone involved couldn’t be happier.

“Instantly, me and him kind of hit it off. He was my buddy,” Teran Herthel said of the 3-year-old boy she began fostering in April 2016.

Single at the time, fostering wasn’t even on Teran’s radar. She had been serving as a host for foreign exchange students, but a presentation on foster care at a local community meeting pushed her to consider getting involved.

Teran initially decided that she would only serve as a respite provider, helping to keep kids overnight for other foster families.

That is until she met Wendell.

After providing respite every other weekend for Wendell’s foster family, his social worker asked if Teran would consider becoming his full-time foster parent, thus beginning what Teran affectionately nicknamed The Summer of Wendell. The weeks flew by as Teran and Wendell spent time at the park, visited the zoo, and went to see Elmo.

“At the end of the Summer, we went to court, and they said, ‘See you in six months,’” Teran said.

Those six months turned into another six months, and that’s when Teran allowed herself to start dreaming about a more permanent future with the little boy who had become such a big part of her life.

In the meantime, she began dating Justin. They actually had gone out once right before Teran started fostering Wendell, but she wanted to make sure she gave Wendell the attention he needed, so she slowed things down. Justin understood and was happy to hang out as friends, tagging along to the park and treating them to dinner.

“We used to joke and say that Wendell went on more dates with us than we went (on) without him,” Teran said.

As their relationship developed, Teran and Justin started talking about marriage, but since he would be living in the same home as Wendell, Justin first needed to become a licensed foster parent himself. With no classes scheduled, he asked if the agency would offer special, one-on-one sessions. They agreed, and Justin used two weeks of vacation from work to earn his license so he and Teran could get married on September 1, 2018.

A year later, Wendell became eligible for adoption, and Teran and Justin had no doubt they wanted him to become a permanent part of their family. On October 22, 2020, he did.

While the pandemic kept them from having an in-person adoption finalization hearing at the courthouse, the day was no less special. Teran’s best friend paid for a photographer to document their day as the judge—via Zoom—congratulated them on becoming a family.

“Honestly, it was probably one of the best gifts that we’ve gotten,” Teran said, noting she is thankful to have photos since the day itself, with all of the emotion and activity, was a blur.

She simply remembers the judge asking Wendell some questions, the song Celebration playing, and lots of smiles.

The smiles didn’t end on adoption day, though. “Wendell was so excited the first day of school when we picked him up, and he said, ‘They called my new name (in class)!’” Teran said.

Teran is grateful for the support she has received from her church family at Southeast's Southwest Campus. After gathering with other foster and adoptive parents at the campus, Teran told Justin that it was the first time she truly felt understood.

So, what does Wendell, now 9, think now that it’s been over a year since his adoption was finalized?

“Being adopted to me means that I get to have a family that loves me that I know will take care of me forever,” he said.

To learn more about fostering or adopting, please join us for a Considering Foster Care & Adoption session.