On this episode of the Bespoke Parenting Hour, host Julie Gunlock speaks to professor Christina Villegas, author of an upcoming reference book on foster care, about her own foster care to adoption story. Professor Villegas and her husband Manny went unexpectedly from zero to four kids age four and under in four years through the foster-to-adoption process. Julie asks Professor Villegas about that rapid change in lifestyle, her efforts to balance motherhood with work as a professor, and why a support system is key to success in fostering and adoption.


TRANSCRIPT

Julie Gunlock:

Hey, everyone. I’m Julie Gunlock, host of the Bespoke Parenting Hour. For those new to the program, this podcast is focused on how parents should custom tailor their parenting style to fit what’s best for their families, themselves, and most importantly, their kids. Today I’m joined by Christina Villegas. She is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and holds a Ph.D. in politics from the Institute for Philosophic Studies at the University of Dallas.

Christina is currently an associate professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, where she teaches courses in American government, public policy, and political thought. She has written several articles and books, including one on Alexander Hamilton. And she has a new book coming out on foster care in America. That is what we’re going to talk about today.

Christina and her husband, Manny, foster and adopted four biological siblings who are now — get ready for this — six, five, three, and two years old. That is really in the weeds there. Christina is currently homeschooling her oldest daughter, Sophia, who is in kindergarten. Thank you so much for joining me today, Christina.

Christina Villegas:

Julie, it’s my pleasure. I’ve been a longtime fan of your work.

Julie Gunlock:

Oh, great. Thank you so much. Honestly, I paused when I said six, five, three, and two. It wasn’t so long ago that I had a similar spread with my kids. And man, when I say you’re in the weeds, you really are in the weeds. But what a wonderful, wonderful time because they are so sweet at that age. You must be having a lot of fun.

Christina Villegas:

Yeah. Just yesterday morning, our three-year-old son was wrapping up his toys all day in empty shoe boxes. And then he put them diligently under the Christmas tree last night. Then this morning, he says, “It’s Christmas!” [inaudible 00:02:08] all the kids. Opened up his toys that he had wrapped.

Julie Gunlock:

That is so cute.

Christina Villegas:

[crosstalk 00:02:15] things at that age.

Julie Gunlock:

I remember that age, and I do remember the adorableness of it, but it is a lot of work and it can be a lot of exhaustion and coordination. Because I have kids that are similarly spaced, just very close in age. But again, every stage is really fun and every stage is really special. So I hope you enjoy this Christmas season and really, really treasure it because when they get older, like my kids… And my kids are still very sweet and they like their parents, like to hang out with their parents. But there’s nothing like Christmas morning with that age group. So really enjoy it.

Christina Villegas:

Yeah. We’re doing our best to enjoy it, amidst the potty training and everything else.

Julie Gunlock:

One thing we want to do with this podcast, and this is a new track that we’re taking with this podcast, is trying to find parents who have interesting parenting stories, or interesting parenting arrangements, or unusual parenting arrangements, and whether that’s somebody who works nights or someone who works in the gig economy and might not have normal hours, or specifically works that way because they want to be around their kids, so they might work off hours. And parents, for instance, who are divorced or are chronically ill.

We really want to examine how people parent under a number of different circumstances this next year, as we launch our second year of Bespoke. I’m so glad that you’re the first guest on this new Bespoke because you do have an interesting story. You went from no kids to four kids in a period of a very short amount of time, and I really want to hear your story. How did it happen? How did you first get interested in fostering?

Obviously, this is one of these really inspiring fostering-to-adoption stories. Obviously, Christina, I know this story because you and I are friends, and you have shared this with me before. But I find this just such an inspirational story. Why don’t you just start off telling us how this all happened?

Christina Villegas:

Yeah, Julie, it’s a really crazy story, one that I never would have imagined. And if you asked me 10 years ago, would I be capable of raising four little kids, I would say absolutely not. I have learned over the past several years, we’re capable of a lot more than we think we are. It’s also important just to adjust to circumstances that life throws your way.

Our story goes back to, let’s say, around 2014. My husband and I had been married for a while. I had gotten my Ph.D., just gotten hired in a tenure track position at Cal State University, San Bernardino. So career-wise, things were going great. We knew that we wanted kids and I had suffered a miscarriage, so we were processing our path forward that way. We just happened to go to this wedding where…

I had never actually thought I would be a good foster-adopt mom. I had a lot of concerns about that process, where I thought, “Man, I could never deal with it if a child got taken away or having to interact with the birth parents.” I wasn’t attracted to it naturally. I had way too many concerns. I realized, through this whole process, I was thinking a lot more about kids in terms of how they would benefit us rather than how we could be a benefit to children.

We were living a pretty awesome life in terms of having no kids and being able to travel, go out to dinner whenever we wanted. Anyway, so we didn’t know that we wanted kids. We attended a wedding and at our table was one of the leads in social services for the county. Just getting to know us, he said, “You guys would make awesome foster-adopt parents.” Our county has so many kids that need to be adopted and we don’t have enough good quality foster parents. A lot of my —

Julie Gunlock:

Okay. I have to just stop you there because this is a part of the story I did not know. This is really astonishing to me. So you really go to a wedding and just happened to be sitting at a table with someone who knows about foster care and knows about the parents that they’re looking for and knows about your [inaudible 00:07:15]. And so, it’s just through this literally happenstance, just luck, essentially, that you —

Christina Villegas:

Yeah. I would say providential, but yeah.

Julie Gunlock:

No kidding! Okay. I’m sorry. I just had to take a moment to note that because I think that we think of people that are in the foster care system or that go through this process as having some experience with it or knowing about it, or really maybe thinking about it for a lot of years or something like that. It’s really interesting. All right, sorry. Go on. I just wanted to note —

Christina Villegas:

Yeah. No, I knew hardly anything other than just those concerns that I expressed earlier. I had a friend who was placed with a baby who was then removed back to their birth parents. And so, I just had a complete reticence against the process, an innate reticence, until this particular moment. But at the same time, we had a friend that we were becoming closer with who had foster-adopted her five children, who was becoming somewhat like a mentor to me.

So we had all of these people just enter into our lives, that convinced us that this is the route we wanted to go. And so, we went through the process of getting licensed, which we could do a whole ‘nother podcast on that, and areas of improvement needed there.

Julie Gunlock:

Oh, yeah.

Christina Villegas:

April 2016, we finished all of our licensing requirements. People had told us, “It’s going to be a few months before they place a child with you.” So I felt like we had a lot of time. I didn’t really take it too seriously. And a few weeks after we were licensed, I got a call while I was actually at work, that there was a six-month-old baby girl who needed to be removed from her foster family because of certain circumstances there, and that she was most likely going to be eligible for adoption soon. So they wanted to make sure to put her into a family that was willing to adopt.

We agreed to take her in, that’s our oldest daughter, Sophia, and we were able to adopt her pretty quickly because they terminated… First family had a long history of very severe child neglect and abuse. And so, it was pretty obvious there was no other family member that she could go to, et cetera. So we were able to adopt her within… I think it was seven months we adopted her.

In the meantime, I’m still working. I think, “Oh, this is nice, we have our child now. I mean, there were difficulties involved with having a baby and working, but it was not too difficult. I thought, “This is kind of nice. We can balance our life with having kids and our work life and still do things.”

Julie Gunlock:

Well, and those are the problems everyone has, right? I mean, this is —

Christina Villegas:

Right.

Julie Gunlock:

Work-life balance, this is like, “Welcome to parenthood.” That’s just normal.

Christina Villegas:

Well, I laugh too at how seriously I took it, like I had a diaper bag with everything all perfect, put together. Oh, one thing I do want to say is I had a group of friends who really came through for me and just… Because we only had a couple of days’ notice when we picked up our daughter, Sophia, and I had a group of friends that came through and helped. They’re girls that I worked out with every morning, very close to them. They came through and just put together this last-minute, 24-hour-notice baby shower for us so that we had things to bring her home to, which was a huge support.

Julie Gunlock:

You bring up a good point though. I just, a few minutes ago, said, “Wow, these are normal parenting problems.” But you have nine months normally to think about this stuff, sometimes longer if you’re planning to have a kid.

Christina Villegas:

Yes. Well —

Julie Gunlock:

So you bring up a good point. God, this was 24 hours, “Get ready.”

Christina Villegas:

Right.

Julie Gunlock:

So, wow.

Christina Villegas:

Yeah. I remember asking the social worker, “Do you have a Newborn For Dummies book?” I mean, I’m the oldest of five kids, but it’s been a long time since I was around a baby. They just laughed. That’s another lesson I learned early on too, just how resilient kids are, and you just adapt to what needs to be done, and you don’t really have to take a course on it. You just figure it as we go along.

So anyways, we had started… My husband and I, when our daughter just turned two, we were thinking, “Well, maybe we should renew our license and think about taking in another child. I kid you not, Julie, as soon as our license was approved, I got a call. Again, I was at work. I was walking out to my car. I vividly remember it. The social worker said, “We just wanted to let you know that your daughter has a three-week-old brother. He tested positive for meth, and so he’s in foster care. We realized that you have his sister, so will you take him in as well?”

We said, “Oh, absolutely. We’re super excited. We’ll have a girl, we’ll have a boy.” We obviously had just gotten our license renewed, so we were hoping to take in another child. Well, so we’re super excited. So then, the social worker calls back that same night — and mind you, I have a barely-over-two-year-old. We’d just agreed to take in a three-week-old.

The social worker calls back that same night and says, “We just realized the birth parents had another little girl last year in a different county. It wasn’t even on our radar because we only keep track of her in this county. And so, we don’t know where that little girl is. She’s 14 months old. The birth parents are homeless and pretty serious drug abusers. So we don’t know where she is. So we’re going to have to find her. And when we do, we need to know whether you’re willing to take her too.”

I almost passed out because I have a just barely two-year-old. Now we just agreed to take in a three-week-old baby. Now you’re saying there’s a 14-month-old who is also their full biological sibling. And I have this job that I love. I remember telling the social worker, “I have a job.”

Julie Gunlock:

Right. Right.

Christina Villegas:

Yeah. Yeah. It didn’t faze her. She just said, “Well, we need to know.” And so, my husband and I talked about it, just real… I hung up with her and we both decided, “We have to do this. She’s in the middle. She’s the sibling in the middle. How could we say no?” And so we said yes, we’d take her too. Well, we ended up getting —

Julie Gunlock:

Imagine at this point, this is no longer, “Let me consider taking a foster care child.” This is your family. This is your daughter’s biological sister, sibling.

Christina Villegas:

Right.

Julie Gunlock:

So this decision is not just, okay, there’s another child and me and we’ve been called, which is in and of itself a painful decision because you want to help whatever child they ask you to help. But now these are siblings. This is a totally different level of feeling responsible for these kids.

Christina Villegas:

Yes.

Julie Gunlock:

I’m sorry to interrupt. That really does [crosstalk 00:15:17]-

Christina Villegas:

Oh, that’s okay. Yeah. In that training that they did with us, this is one thing that they really did a good job of emphasizing, is how important it is for siblings to stay together when possible. That’s another thing that I believe is providential about our story, is because we didn’t have biological kids, we were in a better position to be able to take all of our kids in than we would have been otherwise.

Julie Gunlock:

But that’s not it —

Christina Villegas:

No. No. Anyways, we get our three-week-old son, AJ, Alexander Joseph. We gave the kids all new names. And so, Alexander Hamilton, and Egypt Joseph from the Bible, because I wanted the kids to all have a special meaning to their name. And his, we really wanted him to see that there are these people that come from nothing that become great leaders of their country. And so, we took a lot of time choosing his name.

And then, it took them two months to find our daughter, Anna. She was just being dropped off with different drug addicts. So we got her at 16 months. But that whole time, since we had already agreed to take her in, I felt responsible for her safety because we had already agreed to take her. In my mind, she’s our daughter who’s out there missing. And so, that was a pretty emotional time just worrying every day, praying that they would find her.

It’s a whole ‘nother crazy story how they found her, but they finally brought her to us. We got our son in January. They brought her to us in March. She was in pretty bad condition because she’d been pretty severely neglected, and for the first couple of weeks, it was very stressful because we had a newborn and a two-year-old, and then a 16-month-old who cried nonstop and wouldn’t let go of my arm. But after two weeks, she just started transitioning.

She’s a normal, happy five-year-old now. But it was a bit of a rough transition. We had a lot to overcome. We were told by the social worker that birth mom had got her tubes tied, so I got rid of all of our baby stuff because one of the things with that many little kids is I did not want to hang on to extra stuff. I don’t like clutter. I don’t like anything that makes my life feel more stressful. So I did a huge decluttering, got rid of everything we didn’t need.

Julie Gunlock:

Great.

Christina Villegas:

And then, two years ago, a few days before Thanksgiving, we got a call. I was sitting in my office at work again, and I had a missed call from the county and I thought, “Oh, that’s strange.” We must have forgotten to file some paperwork correctly or something. So I called back, and they said, “We just wanted to let you know that your kids have a six-week-old sister who’s in foster care. I was like, “What? How is this possible?”

Julie Gunlock:

My God.

Christina Villegas:

Yeah. I was feeling a little overwhelmed by that call and I said, “My husband and I are going to need to take a day to talk about this, to pray about it.” We have three little ones at home. I remember we got a babysitter. We went out to dinner that night. I remember my husband saying, “I don’t know how we’re going to do this with four little ones, but I know we should.” I said, “Well, if we should, then we’ll be able to.”

And so, we agreed to take in our youngest daughter, Isabella. Again, I had to start from scratch, get all sorts of baby stuff, and within a few days. Although, by this time, I learned I didn’t need everything that I had before. In fact, by the time Isabella came around, I just put a diaper and a bottle in my purse. I don’t even think I used a diaper bag anymore.

Julie Gunlock:

That is so true. That is so true. I always felt that, like the first child, you’re really careful about everything you take for them and feed them. And by the third, you’re just hoping they find like a pea that fell on the ground or something.

Christina Villegas:

What’s funny is our youngest is the least picky eater out of all the kids. I think that’s just because I gave her whatever when she… I didn’t try to give her fancy baby food.

Julie Gunlock:

She’s better off for it. I want to talk a little bit about how it was professionally for you to go… It sounds like you have an enormous support structure. I know you have a close-knit family. It sounds like you have colleagues and friends in your community that you could rely on. I suspect you have a supportive work environment. But what was that like? How did you approach your employer? What arrangements were made? How was it like for your husband as well?

I’d like to explore that a little bit because I think one thing is… Yeah, and you certainly recognize this, not everyone has flexible… I work for IWF. I certainly have a flexible job. I don’t know how your main employer dealt with this, but I’d be curious to know. What was the ultimate reaction and arrangement that was made?

Christina Villegas:

Yes. Fortunately, I work for the most amazing department, and our department chair at that time, very supportive of what we were doing and encouraging. There are several people in my life that… And my husband then, my life that we wouldn’t have been able to do this without. One was my friend who had foster-adopted the five kids. She just provided invaluable mentorship and childcare help to me, because she understood the process, the regulations that we were going through, all of the appointments. If I had questions, I could ask her. We really did need childcare help early on, and she came through for me. Then I had, like I said, my friends who had put together last-minute baby showers to help me collect some stuff that I needed. And then, within my department, my colleagues were so supportive. The first time, when we had Sophia, I was the middle of the quarter so I wasn’t even able to really take maternity leave.

But fortunately, it was right before summer, so I was able to have the summer off. But then, when we got AJ and Anna, they made sure that I was able to take a reduction in classes. There were certain things that they couldn’t do because of union rules, and that’s where I realized how important it is to have a option for a flexible work environment. For just people who have biological children or people like my husband and I who are faced with this life-changing decision of taking in kids through foster-adoption, and I realized that the people that you work with, your work environment, is absolutely essential for —

Julie Gunlock:

Well, it’s interesting —

Christina Villegas:

— in terms of, I would have had to quit if they weren’t supportive that way.

Julie Gunlock:

Yeah. It’s interesting what you say about the interpersonal communication and the arrangements that you were able to make with your employer. You and they coming together and making arrangements worked well. But it’s when union regulations and regulations in general got involved, that it became complicated. I think that that is an interesting thing you said because we have an effort… Not to veer too far into policy and news here, but it is important to mention that we have a system here right now in the…

Or we have a proposal, rather, from Biden administration to nationalize childcare. What is so frightening about that is that if you did nationalize childcare, it would take away all these independent childcare facilities where people are able to negotiate a little bit better deals, or figure things out, or maybe cheaper rates. But it would also turn off all of these daycares and these government-run daycares with all the regulations where you really couldn’t work things out.

I think that would even reach into eventually what employers are willing to do, because if there’s just all this free daycare, maybe they wouldn’t allow… You could just put your kids in this daycare. Maybe they wouldn’t allow you the flexibility of doing something part-time or having more flexibility in your job when, “Hey, there’s all this free daycare. Why don’t you just stick your kid in there?” So I do think it’s interesting that once you get the government involved and they think…

Or even unions, these big [inaudible 00:24:50] organizations, or the government entity things, it really does complicate things where really, I think, in many cases, employers want to work with good employees. They want to retain good employees. And if having a more flexible schedule would retain that employee, more often than not, they’re willing to do that. And we see that in the data. We see that people, that there’s this big myth out there that, “Oh, nobody gets any time off for having babies. Nobody. No, there’s no maternity. There’s no nothing.”

Well, that’s not true. Most people are able to use some combination of things and then work out a better arrangement for themselves. Again, it’s entirely just on their own, not with the government saying [inaudible 00:25:33] to do that.

Christina Villegas:

Well, I realized with my kids, just because of their unique circumstance, too, they did so much better in terms of childcare when I didn’t leave them in a facility, but where they were actually in a home, with someone they had a connection to. Even now I have a girl come to our house to watch them a couple of mornings a week. And then they go to a preschool a couple mornings a week. That balance has been great for them.

I feel like they’re so much less anxious when most of the childcare is done out of our house or with a family friend who we’d… In our case, I hired our family friend to watch them on the days that I have classes, and then I worked from home on the days that I didn’t have classes. That was just an ideal arrangement because she knew the kids well. They felt loved there. They were less anxious about going over to her house than they were in any other circumstance.

I think that could be beneficial for all kids, but my kids in particular, they had a lot going on early in their life. They didn’t need anything else to stress them out. And so, it wouldn’t have worked for me if I wasn’t able to have that unique childcare arrangement.

Julie Gunlock:

Yeah. That makes a lot of sense and does worry me for the future of childcare in these situations where that option just won’t be available. There’s no reason for private childcare facility, or one of these in-home childcare facilities — which are, by the way, already regulated to death. I mean, these homecare daycare facilities, these women have to measure out every tablespoon of peanut butter. I mean, it’s insane. It’s not to say that, “Oh, they’re just regulatory free. Yeah. Yeah. We can do anything with them.”

But I do think that that will reduce the amount of flexibility, which I didn’t really even think about when I first started talking about this, how critical it would be for foster kids, to foster kids who may go into a foster home, but the parents do need some sort of help, healthcare help, that that could present as some instability for them. And so, being able to have a wide variety of choices in care facilities, in care arrangements for you is so important. That’s a really interesting aspect, Christina. I’m glad you brought that up.

I want to also talk about, I mean, it does sound like you have… I mean, I will say this, I feel like this needs to be a made-for-TV movie because your story is so [inaudible 00:28:29]. Sitting down at the wedding and talking to your own condition… I also have had miscarriages and I know that that really rocks your soul. And so, coming off of that, it’s finding this new opportunity, and oh my gosh, now you’re a family of six.

Christina Villegas:

Yeah.

Julie Gunlock:

It’s such an inspirational story, and then, to have the support that you have in your community, and your friends, and your employer. But what would you say to people? You earlier said, your husband, Manny, said, “If we should do it, then we can do it.” But there are people who really feel the draw and feel the desire to do this, whether it’s a feeling, an altruistic urge to do this, or for their own fulfillment to have a family, but that don’t have the supports and maybe don’t have an employer that understands, what advice would you give to people who are considering doing this? Maybe not on your scale. Maybe starting out slow. But I think maybe [crosstalk 00:29:37] —

Christina Villegas:

Although I never thought we would be doing it on our show either.

Julie Gunlock:

That’s true. What would you do say to these people, if they are facing a future with less support or are concerned about taking time off or approaching their employer for more flexible time?

Christina Villegas:

Yeah. Well, I would say, for one, going into something like this, it is absolutely essential that you have a team member in your spouse. My husband and I wouldn’t have ever been able to see this if we weren’t a team and were willing to help and both contribute in various ways. But also, I would say, one of the things that I’ve learned the most through this whole process is I always thought that my primary value came from what I was doing in terms of having my tenure track position and my career and my interactions at work.

Going through the process of from zero to four kids has made me completely change my priorities and what I’ve realized is most valuable in life. I remember one time my mom was staying with me and she said, “Well, I didn’t really realize how hard your day-to-day life was until I stayed with you.” But she said, “Remember, there is so much value in these day-to-day mundane tasks that you’re doing because there is no greater purpose that you can serve than to parent children well.”

She said, “Looking back on my life,” she said, “That’s the thing that I’m most grateful for above any other accomplishment.” She said, “Just remember that when you’re dealing with one child screaming, another’s throwing up. There’s poop on the floor. Even in these mundane tasks, there’s value because you are being a parent and raising children. You’re going to have more influence over them than anyone else.”

And so, that’s where I’ve learned… I love my work that I do, but I’ve changed my priorities in terms of what I think is most important, and my dedication of time are most valuable. But also, I’ve had a complete change in mindset where, going back to that statement, “If we’re supposed to do this, it will be possible.” So too, when I make choices, even though it seems like, okay, this circumstance isn’t going to work out because of work, or this or that, it’s like, “Well, what is the greatest purpose that I could be serving in this situation?”

If I follow through with that, then other things will fall into place through my just choosing to prioritize, even if that means giving up certain things that are valuable. I would say that it’s essential to have a support system. And so it’s essential for even those who might not be called to foster-adopt to look for opportunities to provide support to people who might be considering it but that are going to need that extra, extra help. Like I said, our family friend who came in with childcare help, and…

Julie Gunlock:

That’s a really good reminder. I’m focusing that question entirely on, what do people need? But I didn’t even think about, as a person who… I’m certainly interested in the foster care system itself and the reforms. Frankly, I think I would love to have you come back and maybe talk a little bit about that. We’ve talked about foster care system with Naomi Schaefer Riley who’s written extensively on it. I know IWF itself, where you’re a fellow, we have focused on that issue as well.

But I think it would be interesting to get your perspective as a foster care mom of four kids, and I should say adoptive mom of four foster kids that came to you for foster care, you probably have some interesting opinions and experiences yourself to talk about that. But I do like that you said it isn’t just foster parents who need to think about a support system and how they would handle this, but people in the community who are interested in, and like me, and the system itself and helping children, can look for ways in which you can contribute or help or aid a family that is doing this. I think that is really valuable advice to give because it is not something… My kids are getting older and I am also getting older.

Christina Villegas:

Yeah. You don’t want to take in four babies is what you’re saying.

Julie Gunlock:

Yeah. To do that at this particular stage of my… I’m pretty much looking at elder care facilities at this point, not foster care. But I will tell you, it is interesting that there are ways just to consider that, that there are ways… Especially this is the holiday season and there are ways to help. There are organizations. Would you recommend any particular organizations that work in this space that help in general the foster care world?

Are there volunteer opportunities or ways to contribute? If you have any suggestions, that would be great. And if not, we can add it to our… I always hate to do that to people, because I didn’t tell you in advance I’d be asking. So we can add it later. But if there are any organizations you would recommend, we’d love to hear it.

Christina Villegas:

Yeah. It varies based on the state. I actually have a reference book on foster care coming out in a few months where one of the chapters profiles different organizations that do that. There are churches that I know… The church my husband and I are going to now, they are involved with different organizations. One’s called Child Bridge that helps support foster families.

One volunteer opportunity that I think is essential, having gone through the whole process myself, is the CASA program, or the Court Appointed Special Advocates program, where an individual really becomes an advocate for the child in foster care. They’re not fostering them personally, but they’re with them through the whole court process and making sure that things move along in the best interest of the child. That’s one I would recommend.

Like I said, a lot of churches are involved with foster care, whether it’s recruiting families or assisting families. I could just think, off the top of my head, there were real needs that we had, just being a foster family. If you can just find people that are involved with them and support them, like for example, just in ways that you might not necessarily even think of. But one of the things that was most helpful to me is I had a friend come over and she helped me organize all of my cupboard.

I know that sounds crazy, but it just gave me more peace just knowing more where things were when I was kicking… Four little kids, things can get a little crazy and it just made me feel more at peace to have everything well-organized, to know where everything went, et cetera, or even just taking someone’s car to the carwash. When you have multiple little kids, sometimes it’s hard to get out of the house and just see those little tasks that need to be done or…

Julie Gunlock:

Yeah. Orderliness, I mean, I think I was always a tidy, orderly person, but I will tell you, disorder and things being not clean and not organized, it makes parenting harder. It truly does. And so, that’s a really good tip. I think that’s true of… Obviously, we’re talking about you who went from zero to four really quickly. This is great advice, frankly, for any new parents. You’re very, very out of sorts after you have a child, and you’re in essentially a whole new world.

And so, helping parents, any parents, by doing these little tasks is great advice. Also would be a great Christmas gift, I will say. But let’s —

Christina Villegas:

Yes. Yes.

Julie Gunlock:

Let’s end on this. I want to know where people… You mentioned that you are writing a resource book. Tell us a little bit about that and then tell us where people can find you on social media.

Christina Villegas:

Yeah. My book is being published by ABC-CLIO. It’s coming out in the spring. It’s just a reference book on the foster care system in America. It goes over the history of the development of the system, federal legislation, and how that transformed the system, some of the problems and controversies that are currently plaguing the system, and perspective essays from people that have been involved in the system in various ways. And so, that’s, again, coming out in the spring, published by ABC-CLIO.

In terms of social media, I’m not super active, not right now with four kids. I probably should be, writing books and all, but —

Julie Gunlock:

I think it’s smart. I think it’s smart.

Christina Villegas:

Yeah. Yeah. But yeah, in terms of if anyone ever wants to contact me, even if it’s just to get personal advice, my email address is [email protected] So [email protected]

Julie Gunlock:

I will add, you are, as I’d mentioned in the intro, you are a fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum and all of [inaudible 00:40:12], and commentary, this blog… I’m sorry, rather, podcast, will be up on IWF as well. So you can find all of her writing there as well. We will certainly put up your resource because I think that that is enormously, enormously important. As I’m sure you know, IW has started a new program called the Independent Women’s Network, which is a members-only platform, and we have a resource center there. So we can talk further about maybe putting up some blurbs from your resource book and adding links in there, because I know a lot of women are looking for more information on this. To be honest with you, resources on the subject are slim. So I’m really glad to hear that you’re doing that.

Christina Villegas:

Thank you, Julie. It was great to talk to you.

Julie Gunlock:

It is always great to talk to you. I always enjoy seeing you. Sometimes you come to DC, and we see each other at the dinner, at the IWF dinner. We certainly do not see each other or talk to each other enough, because I always enjoy it so much. I hope you’ll come back on to talk about the foster care program in general. I think your experiences in that world are really important. So I hope you’ll come back. Listen, you have a great holiday season with those little ones and enjoy every second. We wish you the best.

Christina Villegas:

Same to you, Julie. Thanks so much for having me on.

Julie Gunlock:

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