Nothing formulaic about it

PLTW teacher Andy Wilkins take an outside-the-box approach to parenting

Andrew Wilkins with his family after they adopted Deanna. He is with his wife, Venessa, his son, Josh, and his two daughters, Ellie and Deanna.

Andrew Wilkins with his family after they adopted Deanna. He is with his wife, Venessa, his son, Josh, and his two daughters, Ellie and Deanna.

Kaci Craig and Eli Maxwell

No one-month contracts. No exchanges. And no refunds. Adoption is a lifetime commitment. And if you ask Andy Wilkins, it’s the best deal he ever made.     

Andrew Wilkins, an Algebra 1 and Aerospace Engineering teacher, opens his doors to foster kids who don’t have a home they can stay in. After a few years of fostering, they met a little girl who became the fifth member of the Wilkins family.

Andrew and his wife Vanessa had been hoping to foster kids since early on in their marriage. Eventually, they connected with an organization that helps support orphaned children. 

“Since we first got married, my wife and I have been thinking about adoption, and it was really pressing on her mind a lot more than mine early on. We decided to take a trip with an organization called The Boaz Project,” Andrew said. “Through that process we decided that we definitely wanted to care for orphans. When we came back we knew that there are some kids who don’t get to experience joy.”

The Wilkins had a huge decision to make when it came to letting children into their lives. They had many reasons why they wanted to share some joy into the lives of foster kids. Their religion had a part to play with their decision to foster kids.

“It came from our faith in general, and we believe that everyone is valuable. There are people who don’t have a home, and we wanted to provide them a home,” Andrew said. “We wanted to open our doors to whoever needed a home for a little bit of time or a lot of time.”

After they filled out all their paperwork, passed their home visits and family interviews, and went through the classes administered by Child Protective Services, the Wilkins family was ready to open their home to a little girl named Deanna.

“We went through foster care, and we had her when she was one.” Andrew said. “Then when she was two, she went back home with a parent, and then we had her again when she was four.”

Eventually, Deanna became pre-adoptive, which means the foster care system wanted to find a suitable home for the foster kids. That’s when the Wilkins got a call that would change their lives.

“We got a call at the end of last school year. We saw that the call was from a former case manager,” Andrew said. “ We thought it was weird that she was calling us and we were like, ‘Really? She’s gonna come back,’ so it was really exciting for us.”

On Jan. 4 2019, Deanna became Deanna Joy Wilkins.

“It is really hard to describe that feeling,” Vanessa said. “In some ways it was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It was finally official and and there was no chance she was going to leave. We have loved her before that like she was ours.”

Adopting Deanna and being able to help foster kids gave Vanessa a way to make a bigger impact on the world of foster care.

Vanessa was offered a job working for Hands of Hope, where she became the foster care director.

“We had already fostered and I was very passionate about it and we were getting called back into it,” Vanessa said. “Hands of Hope does a lot of things to tangibly support foster families and foster kids. And [they provide] a lot of ways for people to get involved without being a foster parent”

Fostering children was a big decision that the Wilkins’ made and it had a huge impact on the way they live today. They made that decision not knowing what the outcome would be.

“When you choose to foster, you chose to be open to the fact that you are going to provide a home for someone. It may not be permanent, but it may be someone who gets to stay with you,” Andrew said. “But you are going to love them like they are your own until they aren’t staying with you anymore. It wasn’t something we considered lightly, but we consider it as a calling. And it paid off, because now we have Deanna.”