An Incredible Journey for Foster Parents Who are Equally Incredible

January 10, 2018 – We are very proud to announce two of our foster parents, Joan Benicken and Roger Phillips, were named “Community Angels” in the January issue of Orlando magazine for their dedication to the 41 children they have fostered over the years!

Oprah Started it:

Both from Queens, N.Y., Joan Benicken and Roger Phillips married and later divorced their junior prom dates, but secretly lamented letting the other slip away. Phillips’ career eventually took him to Bradenton. Then in 2006, Benicken was moving to Orlando to join her grown daughters and care for her dying sister. “Oprah had a show on and said everybody should reconnect with one person from her life,” related Benicken, who sent identical letters to three Roger Phillips via classmates.com. Phillips – the correct one – “showed up at my door with a Care Bear. What’s not to love?” He never left.

A House to Fill:

Shortly after Benicken moved to Orlando, her sister died of cancer, and then her daughters and grandchildren moved out of state. Benicken told Phillips, “There are supposed to be kids here. Why don’t we foster kids?” So, six years ago, their journey began.

Late-Night Knock:

Late on the night of the day the couple were licensed, an emergency caseworker showed up at their door with two brothers rescued from human trafficking. The boys had been kept locked up, spoke gibberish to one another, had not attended school and had not seen daylight. They stayed in the care of Phillips and Benicken for 3.5 years until they were adopted. The boys are now flourishing. “All you can do is your best, so we did our best,” Phillips says humbly.

A Community Effort

: In August, Phillips and Benicken received the first-ever Hannah Eimer’s “best Foster Parent in the U.s.” award from the national nonprofit group Transfiguring Adoption. The couple credit their network of support. But as Danielle Abbey of Community Based Care of Central Florida says, “They could have easily just said, ‘We’re not prepared for this. We can’t handle this. They have to go somewhere else.’ Instead, they said, ‘We’re going to step in and succeed where their parents failed, and we’re going to do the absolute best we can for them until they’re able and ready to go to their forever family.'”

The Book of their Lives:

Phillips and Benicken keep a scrapbook with pictures of the 41 children who have been in their care, including the two boys they now have. Says Benicken, “This is the book of my life. This is the book of his life. We need eight more children until this book is filled.” As Phillips puts it, “We got to raise the children we never had together.”