Friday, July 18, 2008


Veteran foster parents parents Anna Rodriguez-Murillo and her husband Jose of Rialto hold their newly adopted children two-year-old Matthew and three-year-old Seren. They were their foster parents for two years. The couple are also foster parents of the four more children through the Knotts Family and Parenting Institute.


(RIALTO, Calif) Anna Rodriguez-Murillo is consumed with caring for other people’s children. The 26-year-old foster care mom from Rialto loves the 11 children she has parented as if they were her own.

“I don’t think it matters if I’m not their real mom,” said Rodriguez-Murillo, who has cared for as many as six foster care children at a time. “Right now, I don’t have time to have my own children, maybe in the future. I’m so attached to these kids. For me, it’s as if I had them.”

Soon, Rodriguez-Murillo and her husband, Jose, a 27-year-old finish carpenter, will become legal parents to two of the six children in their busy household. A seven-week-old boy and 14-month-old girl came to them two years ago through the Knotts Family and Parenting Institute in San Bernardino, which opened in 1992. This month, the couple and Matthew and Seren will be dressed in their nicest clothes to attend the adoption finalization proceedings at the county courthouse in San Bernardino.

Matthew and Seren represent two of the 434 adoptions that are facilitated annually by San Bernardino County Department of Children’s Services. Knotts Family and Parenting Institute, which contracts with the county, recruited and trained Anna and Jose Murillo to care for children who are temporarily removed from their home due to abuse or neglect.

When a child can’t be returned to the parent or be placed permanently with relatives, Gwendolyn Knotts, CEO of the Knotts Family and Parenting Institute, said she hopes that some of their 40 foster care families will choose to adopt. Parents such as Anna and Jose Murillo need no encouragement. “Anna reflects it in the care she provides. She has a natural passion and a lot of patience. She personally has a desire to give love to other children.”

“My wife does a nice job,” said Murillo, who is originally from Carson. “She treats them well. I love having a lot of kids around to play with.”

Matthew came to the couple at seven weeks old. His bones were broken from being shaken. A county nurse visited their home weekly and taught them how to gently care for the infant so his injuries would heal.

“My husband, he got so close to the baby boy,” Rodriguez-Murillo said. “He was so delicate. We couldn’t hold him or he would cry. It would hurt too much. We would hug him and rub his back.” A CT head scan at Loma Linda University Medical Center showed no evidence of brain injury, the most serious complication for shaken babies.

Rodriguez-Murillo didn’t plan on adopting when she signed up with Knotts Family and Parenting Institute almost two and a half years ago. But she became so attached to the children that she knew if any of them could not be reunited with their biological family, she would probably want to adopt.

Gwendolyn Knotts said that more and more of the families who work with the Knotts Family and Parenting Institute are willing to take that step. “It’s become such a natural progression, that the Knotts Institute is now in the process of getting licensed to facilitate adoption.”

Rodriguez-Murillo’s path to foster parenthood began in her own childhood in South Los Angeles. Her mother never worked at home as a housewife, so Anna, the oldest of seven children, helped care for her younger siblings. Anna Rodriguez was 16 when she married Jose Murillo, her boyfriend at Locke High School. The young couple followed her mother when she moved to Rialto. They lived in her home for three months, and then bought a house on a quiet dead end street – a perfect place for children to play.

For five years, Rodriguez-Murillo was the caretaker of her brother-in-law’s children after the breakup of his marriage. One day, a neighbor asked her what happened to the two kids who used to play outside. Rodriguez- Murillo explained that they had gone to live with their grandmother. The neighbor, who was a foster care parent with the Knotts Family and Parenting Institute, suggested that Rodriguez-Murillo also get certified.

“After my brother-in-law’s kids left, I felt that something was missing. Then I thought, my house is big. I could take care of some other people’s kids.”

The couple went through a three-month training and certification program at the Knotts Family and Parenting Institute to learn how to parent foster children -- from CPR and first aid to learning how to be a mentor to the child’s biological parent – if it’s determined that the child can be safely reunited with the family.

Rodriguez-Murillo said she is never on her own as a foster parent. Knotts offers the children tutoring, mental health services, mentoring and recreational and cultural activities. “If we need something, Knotts is always there,” she says.

The Knotts Family and Parenting Institute will be there for Rodriguez-Murillo and her husband next Christmas for an unprecedented family vacation. The Knotts Institute will step in to care for their four boys in foster care when the parents take Matthew and Seren to meet their new relatives in Mexico.

“I can’t take the others out of the country, but my family in Mexico is excited that I am adopting,” Rodriguez- Murillo said. “They see them as my own.”

Since 1992 the Knotts Family and Parenting Institute has provided foster family services for the children, parents and foster parents of Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

For more information or to become a foster parent call the Knotts Family and Parenting Institute at (909) 880-0600.

Foster Care in San Bernardino County
• The Children’s Services Department investigates 30,358 emergency referrals annually
• Emergency referrals increased by 25 percent from 2000 through October 18, 2007
• The County supervises 6,000 children monthly, approximately 4,568 of whom are placed in foster homes.
Why are children removed from their parents care?
• General neglect: 41 percent
• Physical abuse: 17 percent
• Sexual abuse: 9 percent