‘He has a lot of people that love him’

Published 1:00 pm Sunday, March 3, 2019

WELLS — Over seven years ago, Trey Seedorf had never taken a bath or a shower in a tub.

Over seven years ago, Trey had never celebrated his birthday, or received a Christmas gift.

Over seven years ago, Trey didn’t know his own name.

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Over seven years ago, Trey hadn’t found his family yet.

But he has them now.

Now 11 years old, Trey is the youngest of Terri and Steve Seedorf’s four children. He was born to the stepdaughter of Steve Seedorf’s brother, who he was left with after he was born. Trey’s step-grandfather was an alcoholic who neglected Trey and his sister, so much so that then-Head Start teacher Renee O’Rourke picked up on the signs of trouble at home. She stepped in, and the children were eventually removed from the home.

After about one month, Trey came to live with the Seedorfs in December 2011. His sister is now with another family.

Terri and Steve Seedorf had their foster parents license at one point, but didn’t continue with it after a year of only two calls they were out of town for. When Trey came into the picture, Terri Seedorf said they had a family meeting with their three older children before bringing Trey into their home.

When the family was in consensus that Trey belonged with them, then came the hoops for the Seedorfs to jump through. There was fingerprinting and plenty of paperwork, and eventually a hearing that granted them legal guardianship of Trey. They do hope to one day legally adopt Trey, but there are some complications as Trey is part Native American.

To the Seedorfs, Trey was meant to be a part of the family. Terri Seedorf said they had always wanted four children. Having suffered two miscarriages, Terri Seedorf felt she couldn’t have any more children after her oldest three, who all have names that start with T: Tiffany, Tanner and Trinity. Trey fit right in as child number four.

“It was just kind of like an angel set in place there, when we had the opportunity to foster him,” Steve Seedorf said.

“I think it was just a blessing,” Terri Seedorf said. “It was like God’s plan anyway.”

Still, there have been adjustments.

Trey had been through a lot in just his first four years of life. He was quiet and often hid when he first came home with the Seedorfs. He was also behind academically and was considered developmentally delayed due to neglect.

While the Seedorfs said there is still some fear for Trey of losing the people in his life — before the Seedorfs, he lost everyone in his life either due to death or abandonment — Trey has made leaps and bounds worth of progress.

“When we first got him, he was quiet as can be,” Terri Seedorf said. “In kindergarten, he got in trouble for talking too much, and — you know what — we were excited.”

Terri and Steve Seedorf have four children: Trey and Trinity, who are pictured, and Tanner and Tiffany. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Terri Seedorf attributes a lot of Trey’s progress to his environment — being in a home with people who love him. They got him talking through time spent with other children as well as adults, through school, church and family gatherings.

“Just being in an environment where people love you and interact with you — that makes a difference,” Terri Seedorf said.

“We always talk about what’s going to win: nature or nurture. And right now, nurture’s winning.”

Trey calls the Seedorfs Mom and Dad, and now has their last name. He plays with his brother and sisters and loves wrestling with the family’s two dogs. He has started to take an interest in hunting with his father and likes to play on the Wii with his siblings. Trey has started to try his hand at basketball and wrestling and is testing the waters of being a part of band this year. He has also gotten into taekwondo, which his mother believes helps him to focus. While he still has trouble sleeping through the night, saying nightly prayers with his dad helps.

The Seedorfs said they have been very open with Trey about who his biological mother is, and where he came from. They’ve gone to powwows of the Nakata tribe — or Yankton Sioux tribe — and are learning about the culture of Trey’s ancestors together, so much so that his former last name is now part of his legal middle name.

Trey meets with a counselor once a month to make sure he knows he can ask any questions he has or talk to someone about his background and his adjustments. Terri Seedorf said adolescence can sometimes be a trying time for children who are being fostered or adopted, as they start to question more where they fit in with their families. She hopes the family’s close bond as well as the counselor will help Trey weather any possible rough patches with his past.

While the United South Central fifth-grader still struggles sometimes academically, Terri Seedorf said the teachers have been wonderful to work with.

“He fits in real well,” Terri Seedorf said. “It’s a team effort — we all work really hard.”

Trey has had not only an impact on his family’s home life, but Terri Seedorf’s professional life as well.

Originally a Catholic school teacher, Terri Seedorf became a special education teacher after gaining Trey as a son.

“He’s the reason why I became a special ed teacher — dealing with a child that has been abused and neglected, and knowing that we can make a difference in his life,” she said.

While the Seedorfs are no longer foster parents, they still encourage others to consider it as a way to expand their own families and to help children in need. They said perspective foster parents need to be mentally prepared, as many foster children come from troubled backgrounds and need time to adjust to their new surroundings.

“If people have the financial resources, and if they want to help children, this is a good way to do it,” Terri Seedorf said. “It takes a lot of work, though. You have to be mentally prepared for nights when they wake up screaming. You never know the baggage of what’s going to come.”

“Any families that are out there thinking about fostering, I would encourage them to have open arms and go with the flow,” Steve Seedorf said.

The Seedorfs have hit their share of bumps since Trey came into their lives, but wouldn’t trade those tough times for anything. Having never been around water much — the only baths Trey had ever had before being with the Seedorfs were sponge baths — he was extremely afraid of water and even the bathtub when he first came to live with them. Bathtime was hard, and so were the swim lessons the Seedorfs enrolled him in. But now, Trey loves the water. He takes 45-minute showers when he can. The family spends a lot of time on their boat during the summer, and Terri Seedorf said Trey would live in the water if he could.

Instead, he lives at home, with his family.

He has them now.

“He has a lot of people that love him,” Terri Seedorf said, before calling into the next room, “Right, Trey?”

“Yeah,” he yelled back, followed by giggling and laughing from both rooms.

About Colleen Harrison

Colleen Harrison is the photo editor at the Albert Lea Tribune. She does photography and writes general-assignment stories.

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