Tim and Shelly Haylett of Hillsdale received the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute Angels Award for their work in foster care.
The Angels in Adoption program gives an opportunity for members of Congress to honor people in their districts who have done outstanding work with foster children or orphans. U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg recognized the Hayletts as the 2020 Angels in Adoption from Michigan’s 7th Congressional District.
The award includes meeting with members of Congress and other groups for round table discussions. Shelly Haylett said the most important topic to her is House Bill 4420, which would provide mental health services for foster children much earlier in the process.
The couple also works for Court Appointed Special Advocates of Hillsdale. Tim serves on the board of directors, and Shelly is a volunteer who offers consistency for foster children and communicates with the judge and child about what is best for the child’s living situation.
Heather Upton, the Executive Director of CASA, said the Hayletts were incredibly deserving of the award.
“Kids come in shocked and confused,” Upton said. “Tim and Shelly welcome them in with open arms, and do whatever they can to make them feel safe and at home.”
Shelly Haylett said she got the idea to start fostering while selling MRI machines to hospitals.
“We were able to see how the brain functions,” Haylett said. “Seeing that trauma is real and that it affects the brain impacted me.”
Haylett said she didn’t want to start fostering until her own children were out of the house so that she could “be all in.” The couple’s emphasis on full commitment makes perfect sense to their son, Matt Mueller.
“They’re not gifted with any amazing superpowers, but everything they do they do 100%,” Mueller said. “They’ve had their difficulties, but they persisted and put in the time to make sure they are prepared for different, hard situations.”
The couple has fostered 37 children in the past three years as a short-term, emergency foster home. Haylett said they welcome children for as short as an overnight stay for as long as six months.
“We look at each situation and what’s best for the child,” Haylett said. “Are the parents progressing? Is there a relative they can live with? Does it make more sense to move them to a pre-adoptive home?”
Children from challenging situations come to their house on the lake, which the family has named “Camp Haylett.” The kids can run around outside, spend time in the water, or feed ducks and chickens at the nearby farm owned by Haylett’s oldest son.
Haylett said her three sons have always been supportive of their work in foster care. She said she remembers how excited one of her little foster girls was when Mueller gave her a stuffed llama for her birthday.
“I can’t resist giving them a birthday present, seeing them light up, seeing them become so much more open even after just three weeks at my parent’s house,” Mueller said.
The biggest challenge for Haylett is saying goodbye, but she said her Catholic faith helps her trust that God works for good in all situations.
“You’re not doing it right if you’re not getting attached and falling in love with these kids,” Haylett said.
Haylett said she has learned so much from the foster children and hopes that other members of the community can too. Voting, offering to babysit or tutor children, or being understanding when a child is acting up in a store are all ways the Hillsdale community can help.
“The strength of these kids is phenomenal,” Haylett said. “I’ve become a much better person and developed an incredible amount of patience by working with them.”