Your Neighbor: Meet Becca Albertson
Published 12:05 am Thursday, July 21, 2022
By Mandy Haggerson
For the Clemmons Courier
Becca Albertson was born in Winston-Salem. The daughter of a United States Air Force doctor, she and her family made a few stops to various bases in Washington, D.C., and Colorado before ending up in North Carolina permanently when she was just 8 years old.
“From a very young age I developed a love for riding horses. Probably around 4 or 5 years old I began riding with the introduction from both my mom and my aunt. It cultivated an awareness of a love for nature and animals. I thought horses were beautiful creatures and I created a reverence for animals simultaneously,” Albertson said.
Albertson also embraced ballet and jazz outside of her love for horses and animals. “At 10 or 11 years old I began at the Academy of Dance Arts. At that age, I had made the decision to dance, and I loved it immediately. It helped me learn to be very present in my body. I spent a lot of time at that dance studio all the way through high school. Many nights I would stay and dance until 9 p.m. after being there for several hours throughout the week. My real take away other than strengthening my physical self was also developing my emotional and spiritual self,” she said.
Albertson’s parents believed that another way for their children to grow was to expose them to many people that weren’t afforded the same opportunities as their own.
“My parents always showed us the humanity of people. Whether we were at the soup kitchen, traveling to Cape Hatteras after a hurricane to provide relief, or building houses with our church for people with disabilities, we needed to be part of the solution,” Albertson said.
Albertson’s parents began doing mission work in orphanages in Romania.
“My dad helped with the medical missions because there was such a tremendous need for Western medicine. He had gotten to know the ambassador to Romania at the time. My mother and I went to the orphanages and did a lot of holding babies and assisting with medical things. In retrospect, I wonder if it was hard when we left because those babies and children got a taste of attachment and being held. There were so many babies compared to the staff, I always worried that the babies would feel abandoned. I’ve thought about those babies and children often throughout my journey in life,” says Albertson.
One baby in particular touched Albertson and her family. Not long after the baby’s birth, her mother had to leave her at the hospital for her own protection. Albertson’s parents chose to adopt the baby that became Becca’s sister.
Becca was forever touched and changed by those mission trips. Her parents would go on to adopt two additional daughters that expanded their family. These experiences would send Becca on a quest to know better and do better.
“I had decided to go to Wake Forest University for college. I had really thought I wanted to go to Duke University but they at the time flat out rejected me. I loved that rejection story because it was a learning lesson that pushed me hard never to give up,” Albertson said.
Also, a semi-finalist for the Morehead Scholarship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Albertson thought the smaller school would be a better fit. Albertson learned from that experience that things typically work out just as they are supposed to. Headed to school in Winston-Salem in the fall of 1998, Albertson with her high school boyfriend, Zach, became very involved on campus. “I chose to study psychology and loved it immediately. I clung onto the psychology department because it was incredible. Psychology made sense to me, and I saw how it feeds into everything in life,” Albertson said.
Albertson didn’t forgo her love for helping others when she got on campus. She formed the Ties that Bind organization which encouraged other students to think outside the box and help others.
“Back in the late 1990s when Russia had invaded a part of the Republic of Georgia, we went over there to help the displaced youth. I had felt such empathy that these people were considered refugees in their own country. They were like you and me and had to uproot their entire lives to go live elsewhere. We went to the capital in Tbilisi to help. At that time no one went there, and I think it was a very eye-opening trip for the students who traveled with me including the president of our college,” Albertson said. “I know you don’t have to travel abroad to make a difference or help, but the exposure to cultures that are just not as fortunate as ours really is eye opening.” Albertson made a trip to help youth every year of her time at Wake Forest.
As Albertson’s college journey was ending in the spring of 2002, she and Zach got engaged and married soon after graduation. “I had contemplated getting a master’s because I wanted to go into social work. However, I thought it made more sense to see if that’s what I wanted to do before spending money for school by working for Carolina Adoption Services. It was a cool pivot because the director trusted me enough to be a caseworker right out of college based on my experiences. I’m so glad she did because I got to do a lot of amazing things that I enjoyed tremendously,” Albertson said. “At first, I did casework in Guatemala. I also did home studies, stepparent adoptions, domestic adoptions and international adoptions. Our small agency did a lot of great work in Moldova. International adoptions took hits ethically during that time. We wanted to make sure that we really found children who needed to be adopted. Sadly, children would be stolen because they knew that Americans and other Western Nations wanted to adopt them. Our goal was to identify who was truly in need of families. Older children and kids with special needs were always at the top of the list.”
During Albertson’s 10-year career at Carolina Adoption Services, she became a mother herself. Daughter, Leah (18) and Peter (16) were born while she was helping children find families.
“I was very fortunate because I was able to work around my children’s schedules. They were very flexible with me. I don’t know how I could have done it if they hadn’t been,” Albertson said. In 2007 when Leah and Peter were young, the Albertsons decided to expand their family by adopting a son born in Ethiopia. Sam (15) was 8 months old at the time when the Albertsons met and adopted their future son. “His diagnosis at the orphanage was failure to thrive. He was a tiny little guy. When we got him here, he had several conditions we needed to treat to get him healthy,” Albertson said.
Life in the Albertson family was busy. However, it got even busier when both Zach and Becca chose to go back to school. “Zach had decided he wanted to go back to school to become a dentist, and I found an accelerated nursing program at Duke University for 16 months that interested me. I went ahead and did the prerequisites there at a community college to begin,” Albertson said. “It was made possible because we had such a tremendous support system. Good friends of ours helped us with kid pick-ups and making schedules work. Duke was flexible too because they knew I had children.”
Once Albertson graduated from nursing school, she immediately began working in the Cone Health System in the emergency room. “As much as I loved my job, it was very challenging to have a regular schedule and be a mom as well. After a little over a year, I left to work as a nurse in the school system. In the Bible the most uttered phrase is ‘Fear not’ and that’s my life theme as well. When you put fear down it opens up opportunities and enriches your life,” she said. “My oldest son at the time was also grappling with his mental health. I knew I needed to also be there for him to get order in our lives to keep it simple and small. I think homeschooling him helped save him during his fourth through sixth grade years in school. After that time frame and managing his anxiety, he knew he was ready to go back into a school setting. The teachers and staff at Jefferson were amazing and rallied behind him to make it exactly what he needed. It was one of the tougher times in life that taught me so much, especially about the importance of mental health.
“It was also during that time I learned that if you’re wrong, you should admit it. I never thought homeschooling was a good option, but I absolutely realized that was a mistake. My friends that had told me so appreciated that I owned the err of my original thought on that one.”
As Albertson’s older son got better, and they navigated the mental health community for additional support, they considered adoption again. “We are the type of family that wanted to take on children needing adoption. We became licensed foster parents knowing we would eventually become a permanent guardian to a child or adopt. Initially, our thought was that one child under Sam’s age at the time which was 11 would be best. And of course, instead of one we got a call for sisters. They were 7 and 5 years old and needed adoptive placement. I reached out to their foster mom who was with them for several years. Their birth mother had struggled with addiction and an abusive relationship. We learned so much about the girls from their foster mom which helped transition them into our family,” Albertson said.
The foster family where their new daughters, Laylia (10) and Ava (8½) came from also informed the Albertsons that there were more children from that family. An older sister, Chelsea (16) and brother, Khaled (13½). “I wanted Laylia and Ava to have a relationship with their siblings. I realized very quickly that Chelsea, who had cared for the girls when she lived with them was not in a good foster situation. Something just wasn’t right. Chelsea had also bounced around from various homes and was in a group home. I looked at Zach one day last summer and asked him if I was insane to even consider adding another teenager to our house. We didn’t have the room at that time, but then decided to purchase Zach’s dad’s house that would make that possible if he concurred. Zach agreed, if the kids were on board, Chelsea should live with us. At that point, I sat down with the kids to have an honest conversation. I obviously didn’t include Laylia and Ava because they were too young for that conversation. I told them Leah, Peter and Sam about my idea. At first Leah and Sam were all for it, and Peter was worried it might be too hectic. After having Chelsea come over for visits Peter came to me one day and told me Chelsea needed to come live with us. Peter said he couldn’t stand the thought of her not having our home as her own too. I double and triple checked the kids would be OK, and they assured me it was the right decision for our family,” Albertson said.
The Albertsons took the necessary steps to have Chelsea join their family. “Everyone involved in that situation cried tears of joy. When we asked Chelsea since the decision was ultimately up to her, if she wanted to live with us, she told us it was her dream come true. She has been with us for a year now and her adoption was finalized in April 2022,” Albertson said. “I call Chelsea my favorite surprise.”
Albertson also supported Laylia, Ava and Chelsea with speaking to their biological mom. “It’s a pretty common fear for adoptive parents to worry about the biological parent. However, that theme about not fearing in life applies to this situation too. Regardless of if they are with us for a period of time or permanently these children still have a biological parent, and you can’t just throw them away. Even if they are people who have hurt them deeply, you must see the bigger picture. The child has more love and support to their story if they are included. To say that I always remember that wouldn’t be honest, however you have to put your pride away for that and look through the long lens. For our girls, I was so glad to see that their mom is completely clean now and does have a relationship with them and our entire family. It’s a gift,” Albertson said.
Like many families, Albertson homeschooled during COVID-19 initially.
“We then sent them to St. John’s in January of 2021. I also started working there to help fill in as the school nurse and P.E. teacher. I knew it wasn’t a permanent situation, but I really loved working there in such a loving environment. I’m now getting ready to get my oldest to school at Fordham University in New York, which I can’t believe. I’m also looking to find part-time work in patient behavioral health primarily with youth. My passion to help the youth is very much inside me. Zach and I have always loved volunteering at our church as well. It’s always been something I’ve been drawn to,” Albertson said. “And I will always be passionate about encouraging others to take the leap of faith to foster and adopt children in need. There is such a great void for both fosters and adopters. There are some incredible children out there right now waiting. The Crossnore Children’s Home and Children’s Home Society of North Carolina are great places to start. Or by contacting our local county’s social services. It’s one of the most rewarding experiences you can embark on. It has brought so much joy into our lives when we just had a little faith.”