Debbie Gonzalez, 52
English Teacher at West Morris Central High School
Emma, 12; Auriel, 10
NJF: What’s your favorite part about raising kids in Chester?
DG: It’s a true small town. My neighbors are like family—we watch out for each other. I can walk to anything I need and I feel very safe here. I also love the schools and know that my girls are getting a quality education.
NJF: What was it like adopting two kids from China and bringing them to Chester on your own?
DG: The adoption process is, as many have said, a journey not for the faint of heart—that’s even more true for a single woman. Having a stable home in a good community helped—I had to send pictures of my home in my application to China. They asked about the community and its diversity, as well as the school system and its acceptance of bi-racial families. More people are moving here from other countries with different backgrounds, so my girls never felt different. We also had local adoptive families reach out to us and share their experiences so that we all felt included. So many people were there to support us and make us feel a firm part of this little town. For my first adoption, my fellow teachers and administrators secretly gathered money and gifted it to me during my shower to cover my flight to China. They felt like my girls were their girls. My memories of waiting for and raising my girls in Chester are extraordinary!
NJF: What is your childcare situation?
DG: My mom moved in with me during the week to help me with the girls. Now, she drops my youngest off at school in the morning after I drive my oldest to the bus stop on my way to work. She’s also there in the afternoon when Emma gets home from school. I’m so lucky she’s there for me and the girls.
NJF: What are some of your favorite spots in town?
DG: We love Patriot’s Path behind West Morris (it goes all the way to Califon). The girls and I love to walk and bike by the water and look out over every bridge. Buttermilk Falls in Mendham is also a nice secret place to hike, explore and use a big rock to “slide” into the water. We love the cider donuts at Stony Hill Farms, frozen lemonades and cookies at Maria’s Cafe, Spinn Candy, the cotton candy store in town, and the Redwoods patio for dinner while it’s still warm enough to enjoy it.
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