Braving The Future

Environmental science teacher balances her school, home and business life during the pandemic

Shelby Hansen

In a corner of north Fort Worth sits a small house. The lawn is enormous, and the fence wraps around to feature a greenhouse, pool, and tire swing worn with love. Laughs come from inside the house as a dog barks at the treats thrown at her. There is love and happiness in the jumbling house, and they would not have it any other way.  

On Dec. 18, 2019, environmental science teacher Denise Bennett and her partner, Catherine, adopted their foster children, three siblings from Oklahoma. Since then, they have gone through the COVID-19 pandemic, running a small business and remote learning together.  

“Last spring when we were told we were staying home, it was hard because not only did I have to figure out what I was teaching, I had to help the kids and do it all at once,” Bennett said. “It was hard because my partner works at night and sleeps during the day, so I was with them all day long. On the business end, it shut down and everything was canceled.” 

Bennett and her partner had been trying to start a family, but their attempts were unsuccessful, so they went the adoption route. With Bennett being part of the Cherokee Nation, they tried to adopt through the Nation in Oklahoma, and they found Cassidy, Ashton and Keith: three siblings that needed a good home.  

“The state of Oklahoma was looking to separate them, so the Cherokee Nation asked if we would take three kids even though we filed for two,” Bennett said. “To be part of our family forever has been challenging for them because they don’t know what that means. We’ve had some discipline issues, and the kids are going through therapy, but they’re finally understanding this is their forever home, which is the hardest piece.” 

During the summer, as the nation started to return to a semblance of normalcy, the business end began to open back up. Bennett’s business, Organic Barky Bites, started to take off, and the entire family rallied to help. Now, with everyone back at school, it is becoming easier for Bennett and her partner to make sure their children are growing and healing from their past. 

“There’s nothing normal about this,” Bennett said. “If we didn’t have kids, would life be easier? Sure. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. They’re precious, and they need stability. We’re going to be the ones to give it to them.”