Four Siblings Find Love, A Home With Haslett Mom
Every small child has wide-eyed dreams for the future.
Some dream of becoming a world-famous scientist who finds the cure for the incurable illness. Others dream of soaring to the dark void of the unknown as a fearless astronaut prepared to discover the truth in the unexplored. Yet others dream of being unexpectedly tapped to step into coveted and hallowed shoes as the fifth Beatle.
Haslett resident AmyJo Duckett’s young dreams, however, were much more down to earth. Sure, she had two dreams in her mind, but neither necessarily strained the bounds of obtainability. She wanted to be a teacher and she wanted to be a mother.
Yet, as with even the most starry and innocent ambitions, life creeps in to tether dreams back to the hard ground of reality.
The pursuit of one of Duckett’s dreams came easy. Born and raised in St. Johns, she earned a master’s degree in special education before launching a 15-year teaching career that primarily focused on special-needs students.
The other dream was more elusive.
Her first marriage dissolved before the consideration of starting a family blossomed. When she remarried, her husband, Tico, brought his own daughter into the bond, someone Duckett lovingly refers to as her “bonus daughter.” She left the education field and began working alongside her husband at his two businesses.
“Shortly after that, we started talking about expanding our family,” Duckett said. “But when we tried to expand our family, we were met with infertility.”
The faith-based family took solace in their church, where many fellow congregants offered encouragement and shared stories of fostering and adoption.
“We just started talking about that option as a couple, ‘Should we do this?’” Duckett said.
In the midst of those talks, Duckett found herself driving down Cedar Street in Lansing one day. Before she realized, she was sitting in front of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services: “Something just told me to pull into the parking lot. I walked up to a security guard and asked where I needed to go to become a foster parent. He pointed me to the door, and I went in.”
She took a number — 844, something that caught her attention. Her husband had confided that repeated fours had been a thread throughout his life. He considered four to be lucky.
“When my number was called about an hour later, I spoke to the woman and she immediately took me in back to the social workers. … I knew right away that this was where I was supposed to be,” Duckett said. “There was such a need.”
The better part of the next year was spent completing the complex process: paperwork, educational training, family physicals, home inspections, background checks.
“When we finally got our fostering license, we were told that we would probably be receiving a call within an hour. The need was that great,” Duckett explained. “Sure enough, within 20 minutes of getting our license, the phone rang.”
The first call wasn’t a success. The child was in a medically fragile condition, and the Ducketts realized they did not have the capacity to provide the proper amount of care. The second call resulted in the couple bringing home an 8-month-old with shaken baby syndrome. The baby was loved and doted over, but eventually taken in by the child’s maternal grandmother.
The ultimate goal of fostering is to see a child eventually reunited with his or her family. Still, the pain of the loss took its toll, and the couple wanted some time to emotionally recuperate. In August 2016, Duckett was treating her father to a birthday dinner and a movie, but she just wanted to check her phone for messages before entering the theater. A lengthy text awaited her from a social worker. Twins — a 22-month-old boy and girl — had been surrendered by their birth mother.
“They wanted to know if we could get them in 45 minutes,” Duckett said. “I talked with my husband … should we say yes? Something was telling me that we needed to be a part of this.”
The twins came home with the Ducketts and were given the love and attention they deserved. They settled into the new surroundings with ease; but just a few months later, Duckett received another call. This was about a 6-month-old — a little sister of the twins who had been moved throughout the foster system. Was there a chance the siblings could be reunited under one roof?
“Of course, we said yes. We wanted them all to be together. We brought her home two days after Christmas,” Duckett noted.
The holiday gift came with an additional surprise in 2017. The birth mother of the children was pregnant, and the child would be surrendered. A judge would want all four siblings to remain together, meaning if the Ducketts declined, it would risk losing the three children currently in the couple’s care that they loved.
“Now we were trying to figure out if we could handle four,” Duckett said. “If we weren’t able to provide, we would have said no.”
So three became four, and the official adoption process the Ducketts had started now brought another child into the protective fold. The four siblings’ adoption was finalized April 4, 2019. Four — that repeating number again.
“We adopted four kids on 4/4, and I was 44 years old at the time. … There are no mistakes. Everything happens for a reason,” Duckett said.
The twins — Harmony and Mario — are now 5. Little sister Tru is 4 and Jayden is 2. For the 46-year-old Duckett, the journey to motherhood is a dream realized — although on a road less traveled. Yet it worked out for the best. In retrospect, she doesn’t think she was prepared for it as her younger self — the selfless giving, the unconditionality, the forgiveness required. Age has provided the capacity to pour 100% of herself into the role of mom.
“What being a mom means to me is that you always have someone to love, you always have someone to share with,” she said. “I love sharing myself with my kids, and I love having my kids share themselves with me. Being a mom is definitely the best thing that has ever happened to me. It’s the most challenging, but it’s the most rewarding.”