Giving Children A Special Place to Live Could Mean They Have Everything One Day

Her smile lights up a room.  When you meet nine-year old Cheyenne Ranae Hudkins of Trappe, you realize she has a special spirit.  Her mother, Karen Hudkins, proudly tells anyone who will listen to the miracle story of her adopted daughter Cheyenne.

Since 1996, Karen Hudkins has fostered and given respite care to over 30 children in her home.  In addition, she has raised four of her own children, now ages 32, 31, 28, and 24 and is involved in the lives of her 12 grandchildren.  When asked why she took on such an onerous task, Hudkins comments, “If you give children one thing, like a safe home in which to stay, they could have everything one day.”” 

For Hudkins the reward of being involved in foster care has been seeing the children come back after they are grown to visit and thank her for what she did by giving them a loving home at a needy time in their lives.

Hudkins initially provided respite care for Cheyenne.  Respite care is a service given to foster parents who need time away from providing the daily care of a child.  “When she came into my home I looked beyond her physical needs and saw the special child that was within.”  Cheyenne was on a heart monitor and had cerebral palsy, which left her physically unable to move and unable to talk.  Her prognosis for leading a normal life was very poor.  When Cheyenne was 16 months old, Hudkins became her foster mother.  After three years as their foster child, the Hudkins’ adopted Cheyenne.

Hudkins says, “There is something very special about Cheyenne.  She has a special spirit that allows her to see the world without flaws. She is always positive about everyone she meets.”

Hudkins always believed that Cheyenne could lead a healthy and productive life and with love and support that they could overcome her physical disabilities.  She recalls, “I just started working with her and pushing her, determined that she would walk and talk one day.  After regular visits to AI Dupont Hospital in Wilmington, we found treatments that loosened and stretched her muscles.  The treatments were not easy and we both cried through them, but day by day Cheyenne got better.”

A poem given to Cheyenne on her adoption day, recalls the family’s struggles, “Some days have been difficult, the pain so much to bear.  Your disability a challenge, this battle we’ll always share.””

Today, when Cheyenne bounds into the room with her 14-year old sister Sarah, also adopted by the Hudkins, one would never know that she had such a rough start to life.  The only remnants of her struggles are the colorful leg braces which peek beneath her jeans at her ankles.  She is living the life of a normal nine-year old.

Susan Merriken, Foster Care and Adoption Supervisor at the Talbot County Department of Social Services, comments, “Karen Hudkins is always willing to go the extra mile when we call her about children in need.  She even answers calls in the middle of the night.

Hudkins remembers some of the difficult calls she has responded to, especially the calls for children who had been abused and the drug-induced babies she cared for directly from the hospital.  Looking back on some of the hardest cases, she comments, “Sometimes kids just need to be held and loved.”

She comments about her husband Rick’s commitment to her passion for fostering children, “He’s a hard-working man and has the biggest heart of anyone I know.  Because he’s a big kid himself, he loves the kids being here.”  She adds, “He says if it makes me happy, then he’s happy.” 

When asked about why she and her husband haven’t adopted more than two children over the years, Hudkins says that the others she cared for were not available for adoption; otherwise, she would have adopted more.  She adds, “I don’t think I have ever turned down a request to place a child in my home.  God gave me a heart to love these children as he loves me.”  She adds, “I believe in advocating for children.  I always advocated for my own four, and now advocate for my 12 grandchildren.  I guess it’s just a part of who I am.”

For information about becoming a licensed foster/adoptive parent, contact the Talbot County Department of Social Services at 410-770-4848 or attend the regional information session for prospective foster/adoptive parents on Wednesday, June 18 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Dorchester County Department of Social Services at 627 Race Street in Cambridge.