By Tiffany Merlo Phelps 
mail@floridanewsline.com

Amanda Seeley always knew that she wanted to be a foster parent one day. She even shared this plan with her soon-to-be husband at the time, and he agreed. One day, while attending a Bible study at her church, Fruit Cove Baptist, Seeley was asked to identify one thing that God had told her to “step out and do” that she had yet to do. “I could not sleep that night. I knew I had to do it,” said Seeley. That Sunday she called a friend who had foster care knowledge and on Monday she learned about foster care courses which ironically were starting that evening. Seeley and her husband, Matthew, began immediately. It was a seven-week course that had to be attended by both parents, and the Seeleys, married in 2003, had two biological children aged eight and six at home. Family and neighbors enabled them to attend the courses. And while the training was a big commitment of time, the couple never wavered in their belief that this was the right journey for their family – now a family of eight. 

Q: What happened after you finished all the training and home inspections? 

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A: We got a phone call for Respite Care, which is assisting another foster family temporarily. So, we welcomed a three-year-old girl into our home for a few days. She left on a Sunday, and we immediately got a call about a newborn who was three days old. We said yes, and we met Isaac that Monday night when the Department of Children and Families brought him to us. He was born on July 15, 2016, came to us July 18, 2016, and we adopted him on Feb. 22, 2017. His case was very quick, but that is not usually the norm. In July 2017, we welcomed 14-month-old Malachi into our family. This case was much more complicated, but we were able to adopt Malachi on Nov. 29, 2018. During this same time, we got pregnant with our surprise baby, Ben, who was born on July 7, 2018. In September 2019, we received news that Malachi’s sister was born July 31, 2019 and had gone into the system. We were prepared to get her, but then she was placed elsewhere. On her year birthday, July 31, 2020, we got a call asking if we were still interested in taking her. We had stayed in contact with the case worker the entire time to check in on her. We started to get her on weekends and then eventually she transferred to our home Dec. 18, 2020. Over Zoom with the judge on June 4, 2021, we adopted our Ella. 

Q: How has this shaped your biological children, especially the oldest two? 

A: The way they view the family concept and family unit is very different. They understand that it is not the blood that bonds you. They have learned that it is not all about you, but how you can help others. They are very protective over their siblings. 

Q: You are very active in the fitness industry. Explain your passion for movement.

A: I grew up at the Dupont Family YMCA because my mom loved group fitness. I also took dance lessons and participated on dance teams from the age of two through high school. I began teaching group fitness about four years ago and currently teach BodyPump, Cardio Dance and SoulBody Barre. My main goal is to have fun and not take myself too seriously. I want everyone to get a good sweat on and have fun. For me, it is my sanity. 

Q: What advice would you have for someone who is considering being a foster parent? 

A: Our mission as foster parents is to work alongside the family towards unification. You want to provide a routine and security. You want what is best for the child. You have to be prepared to say goodbye. You cannot go in saying “I want to adopt.” You have to be selfless. It is a selfless act to show foster children love and security. You have to do what is in the best interest of the child — always. 

[Author’s Note: Seeley said that there is a huge need for foster parents in St. Johns and Duval counties, and there are many ways to help whether it be through respite care, fostering, adopting, helping foster families, donating clothes, meals or furniture. Fruit Cove Baptist offers a program called “Fostering Hope,” and you do not have to be a member of the church to participate. Contact Karen Roy at Fosteringhope@fruitcove.com for more information.]

Photo courtesy Amanda Seeley 
Amanda Seeley and family.

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