General Hospital's Jen Lilley Opens Up About Fostering And Adoption - Exclusive

You may know Jen Lilley for her roles on the hit soaps "Days of Our Lives," as Theresa Donovan, and "General Hospital," as Maxie Jones. She's also become a regular face in Christmas romances like "Mingle All the Way," "Angel Falls: A Novel Holiday," and her most recent, "Royally Wrapped for Christmas" (via IMDb). However, the actress has a lot going on outside of her career, and one of her top priorities is her family. Lilley is a mother of three with another on the way in 2022 (via People). Her oldest children, Kayden and Jeffrey, were adopted through foster care. 

Since bringing Kayden into her life, Lilley has been a big advocate for foster parenting. She even hosts a podcast called "Fostering Hope," where she talks to some of the most influential people working in foster care. During her exclusive interview with The List, Lilley chatted about her journey with foster care, the ups and downs along the way, and gave advice to any prospective foster parents.

How Jen Lilley began her fostering journey

Although Jen Lilley's parents didn't officially foster anyone, she was inspired by how they welcomed people into their home. The actress shared that throughout her childhood they often invited friends going through a hard time to stay with them. "So, the idea of having someone outside of our family unit living in our house was not a foreign concept to me, and it was not scary or intimidating to me," Lilley said.

However, her husband, Jason Wayne, wasn't as sure of the idea at first. Lilley explained that, like many people, he had the "myth and misconception that children in foster care are bad kids," she said. "But the truth is, they're not. They've just fallen into a very broken system through no fault of their own." Luckily, once he had a chance to meet and mentor foster children through volunteer work they did at Childhelp, Wayne quickly came around to the idea. So, the pair registered as foster parents, and their first placement, four-month-old Kayden, is now one of two children they've adopted through fostering.

The challenges of fostering

Jen Lilley is the first to admit that being a foster parent is challenging and not the right path for everybody. "There's no way to sugarcoat it," she said. "It's emotional. It will challenge you mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally, beyond the capacity you think your heart can handle."

For Lilley, the most difficult part of fostering is playing "middle mom," which she described as the experience of caring for and loving a child while also monitoring their relationship with their birth parents. "You're trying to root for that family to get back together, and you want them to reunify. But at the same time, you'll observe things that are causing the child pain," Lilley said.

However, despite the ups and downs along the way, Lilley wouldn't trade her experience. The actress believes fostering changed her "life and family for the better forever." While acknowledging the challenges, the good still outweighs any hardships, and she said the same seems to be the case for other foster parents. "I've never really met a foster parent that would say they would never do it again, or they regretted it," she said.

Lilley's advice to those considering fostering

If you've ever considered fostering yourself, Lilley's biggest piece of advice is to start getting more information about it. "If you have a curiosity about it, you might as well take an introductory class; they're free." The key is having all the facts necessary to make your decision. As she told her husband, Jason, when they first started discussing fostering, "You're not allowed to say no to something that you don't know what you're saying no to. You can say no, but you need to know what you're actually saying no to."

Lilley stressed that there's no harm in taking the introductory class and realizing fostering isn't for you or that it's just not a good time. She also pointed out plenty of ways to help children in the system — even if you don't foster them. Her recommendation was to offer whatever skillset you have to the cause. For example, photographers could provide free portrait sessions, and bakers could make birthday cakes for kids in the system. "[Everyone has] unique talents and gifts. So, you should use those, Lilley said. "Those are your God-given strengths, and you can use them in so many ways that bring joy to other people."

"Royally Wrapped for Christmas," starring Jen Lilley and Brendan Fehr, will be airing on GAC Family throughout the holiday season.