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'Mama Belle' has been changing children's lives for over 25 years

"These children are my life. They made my life what it is now."
Maribelle Gonzalez Foster Family .png
Posted at 8:09 AM, May 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-13 17:53:54-04

PETERSBURG, Va. -- A great foster family comes in all shapes and sizes, and from many different backgrounds.

This foster family is a perfect example of that.

"In my family, we're called the rainbow family, because we got Latina, we got African American.We got all kinds here, and we all love each other," said Maribelle Gonzalez.

A bulletin board in her home covered with photos gives you a feel for just how many little lives she's touched.

After having two children of her own, she became a foster parent in the early 80s, spending 25 of those years in Petersburg.

"It is so much fun. It is so much love. I just adore these kids. I really do. All of them," Gonzalez said, with tears in her eyes.

The children call her "Mama Belle."

Emotions run heavy when she talks about her time as a foster parent because she said it's her passion.

"I always put myself in the shoes of the parents, and the children. And it's heartbreaking, because you feel for the parents and the children," Gonzalez said.

Even though the goal is always to reunite the children with their biological families, Gonzalez has adopted three over the years. Justice was first when she was only a year old.

Gonzalez recalled,"We picked up this tiny little girl that couldn't even talk. She could only say three words, brought her home with us... I'm about to cry... I'm sorry... And she's 24 now."

"My mom, she's awesome, to put it shortly, she's awesome," said Justice.

Justice said being raised in such a loving, diverse and ever-changing family is making her a better mother to her two year old.

"It just made me more patient, because it's like, I understand like okay, toddlers are gonna do toddlers."

There's a need for more foster parents of diverse backgrounds. And Mama Belle promises, it'll change your life.

"These children are my life. They made my life what it is now. People say, well, the children need me... No, I need them."

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, you can contact Connecting Hearts by calling 804-282-5644.

Note: To protect the privacy of these foster children, their faces have been blurred.