By: Debbie Feehs
It was a crisis in Los Angeles that made Valenti decide that she wanted to become involved in foster care. Valenti recalls watching reports about the Rodney King riots and when children were interviewed is when she realized she could not just sit back and do nothing. She said, “what scared me the most was looking at these little kids that were so angry and I thought ‘Oh my God this is our future’…for me that was the catalyst. I had to do something.” She probably did not realize the extent of which she would be led to help. At the time she thought, “If we can take one kid and make a difference, that would make a difference.” Now about 20 years later Valenti is still making a difference, and has helped with over 100 kids.
While living in the Whiteaker Neighborhood, Valenti met an 8 year old boy and his mother who lived nearby. Her and her husband Don Valenti began to build a relationship with the boy, especially because the mother was struggling with her own challenges of discovering her sexuality. The mother and the boy moved away and years later Valenti receives a phone call from the mother. The boy, who is now 12 years old, had gotten into trouble and was at a group home with Christian Family Services. The mother was no longer seen as fit to care for him and she was told to name three people who were willing to help. Valenti was one of those people. After this boy became Valenti’s first placement, it was not long until before she and her husband were watching over six teenage kids.
Valenti has certainly had plenty of challenges through out her time as a foster parent, but she remembers one rough situation that she referred to as “life altering.” Three days before Christmas Valenti received a teenage girl who was fifteen years old. The young girl had an odd bump by her neck, which Valenti thought should be checked out by a doctor. She was right. The lump turned out to be stage four Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The tenth-grader lost all her hair and had to become homeschooled. Valenti recalls taking her to McDonalds after chemotherapy to buy her strawberry milkshakes. As a celebration after the completion of the young girls chemo, Valenti, her husband, and all her current children at the time took a two-week trip to California, but the celebration was short lived. After their trip the 15-year-old got sick again. Valenti moved to Portland to be with her through treatment but 2 days before her 16th birthday she passed away. It was an emotional struggle for Valenti and her foster kids. “You question what you are doing. You question everything that has happened in your life at that time.”
Now Valenti runs a strict house with her husband, adopted daughter, and 4 foster children. Although her husband is ready to slow things down, Valenti shows no sign of ending her help for these kids.