The comments starting rolling in shortly after Treka Engleman and her children were featured in a local news segment about adoption.
Engleman, who is black, wasn’t surprised. She's often mistaken for the babysitter.
“People were writing things like, ‘All these black kids in foster care and she goes and adopts white kids,’” the Cincinnati-based teacher’s aide told TODAY Parents. “They accused me of self-hatred and all this terrible stuff.”
But when Engleman, 32, watches the clip, all she is sees is love.
“We’re just like any other family,” she said. “We’re just different colors.”
Though Engleman officially became the mom of Mercedes, 16, Alexis, 13, and Elijah, 3, on Nov. 1, 2019, she has long considered them to be her children.
Elijah, who was born addicted to drugs, was placed in Engleman’s care when he was just 6 days old in 2016. "He's been attached to my hip ever since," the single mother joked. Next came Alexis, followed by her biological sister Mercedes.
“They were supposed to come together, but Mercedes got in trouble and was sent to a group home,” Engleman revealed. "That broke my heart."
The separation took an emotional toll on Alexis. Mercedes had always been more like a mother to Alexis than a sibling, and she had trouble functioning without her. As the youngest of 11 kids, Engleman couldn’t imagine what Alexis and Mercedes were going through.
“I knew they needed to be reunited,” Engleman said.
When Mercedes finally joined the family in March 2018, Engleman noticed an instant change in Alexis.
“Suddenly, Alexis started getting good grades,” Engleman recalled. "She had been so worried about Mercedes that she couldn't focus on anything else."
Mercedes, who previously struggled with behavioral problems at school, also turned a corner.
“I think it was such a relief for her to know I’m here and I’m not leaving her side," Engleman explained. "Just recently, on my birthday, Mercedes sent me a text message that said, 'Thank you for stepping up and being a mom.'"
Engleman is no longer taking in foster children — she would need a bigger house — but is open to the idea further down the road.
As she told TODAY Parents, “All kids deserve love, security and stability.”