Diona Fillis from Arcadia in Gqeberha always wanted to have a big family. But after the birth of her first child she suffered several miscarriages and was devastated when she was told she wouldn’t be able to have any more children of her own.
So she did the next best thing – she turned to fostering children to fulfil her dream of having many kids. The 46-year-old now calls herself mom to 11 children and is sharing her story to spread her message: that you don’t have to give birth to become a mother.
“My husband and I were excited when we welcomed our daughter, Zené, 28 years ago. She would be the first of many beloved children, we thought. But my second pregnancy ended in miscarriage and four more followed.
My pregnancies just never got past the three-month mark. After consulting gynaecologists, I was told I had endometriosis. This condition, which sees endometrial tissue develop outside of the uterine cavity, can lead to infertility.
When the doctors told me there was nothing they could do, I was devastated. I had the option of IVF treatment, but it was too expensive. I just had to accept I would never be able to carry more children.
For many years it was tough trying to understand why this was happening to us. Then in 2010 we decided to take in a family member’s son after his mother passed away. We still wanted our family to grow, so in 2013 I decided to take matters in my own hands. I registered my non-profit organisation, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star [Care] Home. With the help of the department of social development, I was able to legally register foster children who needed homes and bring them home with me.
Today I have 11 kids. We have four boys and seven girls all between the ages of one and 19. Seven kids are legal foster cases, and the other four are family members’ kids my husband and I are taking care of.
I really see them as my own. But I always tell them if they feel like they want to go to their families when they are older or turn 18, they are welcome to. All I want is for them to be able to provide for themselves and stand on their own two feet when they leave our home.
Fostering children isn’t always easy – you need finances, resources and patience to deal with toddlers and teenagers. But for me, it’s the best thing ever because these amazing children fill our home with love and joy.
We also get a lot of support from Forever Family Homes, a non-governmental organisation that helps children in crisis.
At times, I felt alone as a foster mom but working with the NGO has given me a sense of purpose. With their help I’m now able to foster 11 kids. This isn’t an achievement or a goal, for me it’s giving life to a child. And tough as it may be, I’ll continue doing it for as long as I can because I want them to have a family.”