By Trish Bittman
Fifty-four babies in 11 years sounds like a lot. Don’t you think you’d be done by then? Not Kendra Field and Deanna “Dee” Bennett. They are hoping for dozens more. It all started 14 years ago right here on Bainbridge when the couple met on the softball field.
Field and Bennett each hoped children would be in their future. After two years of dating, they decided to become foster parents as a means to adopt children of their own. Field and Bennett embarked on the sometimes difficult, always emotional journey of foster parenting.
After relinquishing the second baby, Bennett didn’t think she could do it again. “It was hard to send that baby off after bonding with him,” Bennett said. After some serious soul searching, Field and Bennett decided not only that they could continue to foster, but that they must in order to give the babies love, support and a semblance of family.
Fostering led them to adopt three boys in quick succession: Levi, Carlos and Trey. Each boy came to them as an infant through the foster care system. While the two mamas were thrilled with their sons, they agreed a daughter would complete the family.
Two years ago Erin came into their lives as a newborn. The boys and their moms fell in love with her right away, and she was adopted at six months. Everyone continues to dote on her. Pity Erin’s future romantic interests; it won’t be easy to get past that band of brothers. Each child, except one, has contact with his or her biological family.
Field and Bennett have not been able to locate Carlos’ birth mother. “We would love to find her because Carlos wants to see what she looks like and let her know he’s happy,” Field said. In addition to their children, Field and Bennett consider their closest friend, Mary Cowie, and her daughter, Alice, to be family members. They jokingly refer to Mary as their third wife and think of Alice as another daughter.
With their family complete and their commitment to fostering strong, a legal marriage was the only thing missing. This was important to both Field and Bennett, for their children’s sake as well as to receive the benefits and privileges of a married couple. It wasn’t much of a surprise when Bennett proposed to Field as soon as the referendum to legalize gay marriage in Washington passed in late 2012.
Mary, as maid of honor, was tasked with planning the wedding. Keeping the wedding’s guest list to 300 proved to be a challenge. Field, being a Bainbridge native, and Bennett, having lived here for close to 20 years, are friends with nearly half of Bainbridge.
The wedding was a community event with guests pitching in to provide everything from flowers to the wedding cake. The nuptials were also one of the first between same-sex couples on Bainbridge Island. “Being one of the few families of diversity on Bainbridge, we tend to stand out,” Field said.
“But that’s not a bad thing.” The community has embraced their family and they get a lot of positive feedback for fostering so many children. The Field-Bennetts may not look like your average family, but around here they are treated like one.
Field is mainly a stay-at-home-mom and does some part-time childcare. Bennett owns a painting business. With four children and almost always a foster child, usually an infant, living with them, it’s safe to say this family doesn’t have a great deal of down time. For the sake of their sanity, Field and Bennett make it a point to take frequent family vacations. They also enjoy having date night when they can find some poor sucker, er, kind friend to babysit.
“The community is our backbone,” Bennett said. “It’s been everything to us, whether it’s Kendra’s parents, the mom’s group, our church community, Island School families or other friends, there is always someone willing to lend a hand, offer support or spend time with us.” For them, as for many of us, it’s what Bainbridge Island is all about—family, friends and community.
Even with their full schedule and seemingly full house, Field and Bennett find themselves with an abundance of love to share and continue to open their home to foster children. Don’t be surprised to see them with another 54 babies over the next 11 years.