Besides running her business, Preciado Photography, Krystal Preciado, 34, of Coarsegold has her hands full with three young children under six. Her day starts at 7 a.m. to make sure her oldest, Grant, a first grader at the Seventh Day Adventist Christian School, gets there on time. "Mommy" things take up the rest of her day, and while her toddler twins are napping, she takes advantage of the break to work on her business. Hectic and tiring as her days can get, Preciado loves her life, and prides herself on being the kind of mother she never had.
Because her mother was a Heroin and Methamphetamine addict and her father was an alcoholic, Preciado was removed from the home. From age 6 to 16, she bounced from foster home to foster home, and had three family placements. Preciado tried to return to live with her mother three times, but after a few short months, she found herself living in another foster home because of drugs.
"I was raised in Kerman," Preciado said, "and lived in foster homes in Fresno, Madera Ranchos, city of Madera, Coarsegold, Oakhurst and Bass Lake. I must have lived in 19 or 20 different homes. The reason I moved around so much was because I would be with Mom, would get yanked out, would get placed in a temporary foster home, and then an aunt or grandparent would take me in, but then something would happen like a divorce and I'd be back in foster care."
It was a hard life for a little girl, and as if that wasn't tough enough, when Preciado was an impressionable age 9, her step-grandmother told her that she was going to turn out just like her mother.
"That freaked me out," Preciado said, "and I thought to myself ... there's no way. I would never abandon my kids. Maybe it's because I was a strong kid and very resilient ... I could see through what was happening even when Mom was shooting up in front of me. I knew it was wrong, that it was bad, and I knew I would never be like her."
From ages 9-12, Preciado lived with her mother's sister, Joyce Patterson, in Madera, who gave her a taste of what a normal childhood should look like.
"When I lived there, I became active in church, had a chore list and we always sat down to dinner together I'm so thankful for my years in her home sometimes I think she's the reason I mother the way I do."
That too, ended abruptly when problems tore the Patterson family apart. Preciado ran away to her babysitter's home. A few foster homes later, at age 15, she arrived in the home of her final foster mother, Sue Hamlin.
"Even though Sue was going through a divorce herself, she always empowered me and built me up," Preciado recalled. "She told me I could do better and be better."
Preciado latched on to the encouraging words, and began working two jobs, bussing at Sheri Ds and housekeeping at World Mark in Bass Lake. She was also focused on her home studies to obtain her high school diploma.
Another influential female role model came into Preciado's life about that time. When she was a high school junior, Mary Beth Harrison became Preciado's counselor and home studies teacher.
"We only met once a month for testing," Preciado recalled, "but she made me feel like I could do anything that there were no limits and she talked to me about applying for college."
Under Hamlin's guidance and Harrison's proding, Preciado became more and more independent, using her earnings to purchase her first car before she even had a driver's license. She emancipated at 16 and a year later, met her husband, Ryan. Together they attended college in San Luis Obispo, which is where Preciado discovered her love of photography.
The couple married in 2005 at Sunny Meadows Ranch in Mariposa County, and in 2007 had their first child. All along, their long-term family plan was to have a mixture of biological and adopted children.
"Our goal and dream was to become foster parents and adopt," Preciado explained. "First, though, we wanted to have a permanent home so two months after purchasing our first home, we started taking licensing classes to become foster parents. After completing everything, we decided to hold off for personal reasons. Then we got a call from Fresno County about newborn twins, who were going to be placed for adoption Owen, who weighed 3 pounds 11 ounces and Genevieve, who weighed 2 pounds 4 ounces. We were told we had three days to make a decision."
Even though they had been preparing for this, the young couple didn't have the luxury of taking their time to jump into all that this kind of committment would involve. They also didn't have the necessary baby supplies on-hand like cribs, strollers, car seats or diapers.
Nevertheless, the Preciados decided to foster the twins when they were just six-days old, and when they brought the infants home for the first time, they found their front lawn covered with every baby item they required courtesy of Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS). Preciado called it a "God thing."
The hard work and constant care kicked-in immediately.
"The twins required 24-hour care it was the most intense time of my life," Preciado said. "They had to be fed every two hours, and because they had such a hard time sucking, each one took 45 minutes to drink three ounces."
The couple had friends who helped out as much as possible, and one year later, the Preciados adopted Owen and Genevieve, who have grown to be normal, curious and high-energy 2 1/2 year olds.
"I'm happy with my life, but sometimes parenting does get tiring and some days are harder than others." At that exact moment, the twins began screaming ... "I'm waiting for my nanny to show up," Preciado teased. "Overall, my life has turned out exactly like I wanted ... exactly how I imagined."
Preciado's reasons for telling her story are altruistic.
"I want people to know foster kids can turn out okay if given a chance. I wasn't that bad a kid or that bad a teen. If there are families out there thinking about fostering or adopting, I want to help them make that decision," she said. "It's so rewarding ... there are so many children who need a permanent home, a solid foundation, consistent love and someone they can count on to be there no matter what."
"As a child, I was very much up and down, and all around I believe it's so important for parents to be solid and unwavering. I moved around so much when I was growing up that I just want our kids to be grounded, established in one place and always know that they are loved ... every child should feel that way."