Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Kaci's Story

Here's a final story to wrap up National Foster Care Month! Thanks so much to the families who shared  some of their reflections and experiences with us!

At the heart of National Foster Care Month is this truth—every child deserves a permanent connection to a caring adult. Kids in foster care need to know they have someone who cares about them and will stick with them through one of the toughest times in their life, no matter what. Kaci's words shine when she writes "I would never ever ever change being your foster parent."

Kaci's Story

Why I foster:
I believe.
I believe in you.
I believe healing can happen in your heart.
I believe a story is being written in your life and you should never be ashamed of that story.   
You, my Mr. Man, captured my heart the first time I met you.  Your absolutely caring heart.  Your desire to be a gentleman.  Your love for learning.
You, my Miss Magoo, captured my heart the first time I met you. Your silly personality.  Your always laughing spirit.  Your sweet cuddles while you listen to stories read. 
There are hard times. 
Times when your sad looks mad. 
Times when your scared looks crazy. 
Times of tears. 
Times of heartache. 
But the times of hope outshine these.  The times when glimpses of healing bring tears of joy.    
I would never ever ever change being your foster parent.  Never.
I believe in you.

I believe.

- Kaci

Monday, June 3, 2013

Gwen's Story

Did you know you can be single and be a foster or adoptive parent? 

Here's a very powerful reflection from Gwen on how her desire to give back led her on an unexpected and special journey!

Gwen's Story

As an adopted child myself, my parents were the prime example of loving a non-biological child unconditionally.  They also were the loving foster parents to my sister who came to live with us as a teenager and who remains part of our family to this day.

I knew at an early age that I wanted to show this same kind of love to a child.  As a single woman, each time I was around my friends and their children, I felt a loneliness that was indescribable.  This went on in my 20’s and then throughout my 30’s and I told myself that if I hadn’t found the right man to marry and hadn’t become a mom by the time I was 40, I would take matters in my own hands.

And, that is the route that God directed me in.  Initially, I knew the foster parenting would simply give me a chance to be a mom temporarily to children in my care and assist some of the parents possibly in their parenting skills.  I could share all of the Midwest values I’d learned and share my good heart with the children.  My ultimate hope was that if a child needed a full-time, permanent home, I would become the mother I always wanted to be.

Now, several years later, I’m happy to report that my dream of being a mother came true.  Two very special boys have entered my life and have given me a fulfillment I can’t describe.  Do I have horror stories to tell during my experiences?  Yes!  Did I cry every time a foster child left my home?  Yes!  Has it been some hard work?  Yes!  Has everything been sunshine and lollipops?  No!  Did I obviously survive it all?  Yes!

Parenting, if you do it right, isn’t always rosy, is a lot of hard work, and is a lot of trial and error.  But, I wouldn’t trade my experiences for the world because I know in my heart I’ve provided the love, nurturing, and support that the children in my home (whether temporary or permanent) have needed.  

We all need to make sure we give more than we receive and this is my way of giving to my community, taught by the best trainers in the world—my parents, Paul and Donna!!!

- Gwen

Friday, May 31, 2013

Mike and Eleanore's Story

Have you already raised your own kids? Are you an empty nester who misses going to high school basketball games or visiting with other parents at school events? Maybe you'll want to consider doing what Mike and Eleanore did and put that parenting experience to good use for children in foster care!

Mike and Eleanore share how they became foster parents not once, but twice even, and their journey along the way.

Mike and Eleanore's Story

We became interested in providing foster care in the year 1974. The local television station was asking people to consider becoming foster parents to children in need. We already knew about the foster care system because I had worked for the Union County Welfare Office prior to getting married. We signed on the “dotted line” (back then, they did not require hardly any training) and got a placement shortly after.

We were privileged to be chosen to take care of a five and a half month old baby boy in May, 1974. After having him in our home for a little over two years, he joined our family (my husband, our four-year-old biological daughter, and me) in October, 1976, through adoption. This baby boy has been a blessing to our family. Since adopting him, we also had four other biological children.

Since our first five children were all grown, married, and had children of their own, and our youngest son was ten years old, we decided to take the PS-MAPP classes and become foster parents again. In May of 2004, we became foster parents, and in May of 2005, we were blessed with the placement of a four-month-old little girl. In September of 2012, we adopted her and she became our seventh child.

Foster care can open up so many different possibilities to families, from mentoring parents to stepping up and adopting these children and giving them a stable and loving home.

- Mike and Eleanore

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Susan's Story

We did a National Foster Care Month radio interview this week where the host asked us, "So, are there any common misconceptions about teens in foster care?" 

Why, yes indeed, there certainly are! His perceptive question let us talk about how teens aren't placed into foster care due to any fault of their own, but how many have experienced abuse or neglect and a lack of stability in their lives. These teens can end up carrying a heavy burden of feeling "unwanted" when what they really need is a supportive and caring adult to stick with them through one of the toughest times in their life.

Susan makes a beautiful point in her reflection below when it comes to fostering teens: "If not me, then who?"

Susan's Story

There are many reasons to foster teens. These children will be the next leaders of this country. The things we teach them during these important years can help them to overcome many of the past issues they have experienced. Then, they can not only lead productive adult lives, but can also share their love and help with other teens some day.

I  won't tell you it's an easy job to have a houseful of teens. I have three teen girls in my home. There are dramas, normal girl issues and many trauma issues as well. They have been through so much by the time we get them at this age.

If we each could foster only one teen and help them to grow into the amazing person they are meant to be, just think of how many amazing people there would be!  Why foster teens? If everyone left it up to somebody else, who would do it?  If not me, then who?

- Susan 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Jennie and Sean's Story

Many people who become foster parents are surprised how much they learn during the process, whether it's about their own family or how opening their home and heart can impact another family and child.

Here's one family's reflection on their original view of foster care and how it evolved along the way. Their journey eventually led them to foster and adopt two very special boys!

Jennie and Sean's Story

Why did we become a foster family?  Honestly? We started the process for selfish reasons at first. We wanted to grow our family, we wanted more children.  We had adopted once before and knew we were called to be adoptive parents; we have a heart for adoption.  We wanted to foster a healthy child, preferably a baby who needed a home, who we could eventually adopt.  Then we were slapped in the face with reality.  And the reality is that our hearts were changed…they were broken.  We were presented in training with the need that exists, and with more than just statistics, with real life stories…heartbreaking stories and also stories of hope and redemption.  These stories, these realities, they made us different people; they made us not only want to become a foster family, but made us realize that we needed to.  We couldn’t turn back because the situation was likely not going to be the easy process where we would save a little baby like many hope it will be.  It is far from that.  It is so much more.  And the rewards…well, they have been beyond words.  I couldn’t write the appropriate words that would do justice to what wonderful blessings taking this path has provided us with.

Jennie and Sean's family with a new forever family photo on Adoption Day!

Becoming a foster family and eventually adopting 2 more sons through the process has blessed us in ways we could have never dreamed.  No, we didn’t get the perfectly healthy babies we had originally dreamed about in our minds.  Rather, we fostered and adopted a perfectly incredible 1 and 3 year old who we now are beyond honored to call our sons…forever.  They ARE perfect, they ARE “our babies”, and they ARE our sons…forever.  Cason came to us with needs beyond anything we could have ever dreamed we were capable of dealing with and yet he has shown us that we actually NEEDED him.  And Wesley came to us only a few weeks after that with a whole different set of needs that we again never knew we would be able to handle and yet, we realized just as quickly that we were capable and that we wanted to take care of every need these boys had.  We needed them just as much as they needed us.  We needed our hearts to feel, we needed to know first-hand what was out there so that we could do our part.  It’s an honor to do our part and in the end…WE were the ones who have been blessed by these 2 perfect children for our family. It was hard; it was overwhelming, emotional, scary and stressful.  Isn’t that just what parenting is? 

Fostering these boys was the hardest thing our family has endured together.  It was hard on our oldest son, Tate, it was a roller coaster, I cried many nights as I worried about our boys and cried many days when I had to turn away accepting more children into our home because our plate was just too full.  I begged so many family and friends to join with us, become a foster family.  All we wanted was to see each of these children in loving wonderful homes for this trying time in their lives or even forever.  It is not an easy path to take.  It is worth it…beyond worth it.  While it was the hardest thing we have endured as a family, it was also the most rewarding thing we have endured.  It has made us stronger, it has opened our eyes and hearts to a whole new world that we are so grateful we get to be a part of.  If it was easy to feel so incredibly rewarded and blessed by something…everyone would do it.  It’s not easy, but it has provided us with a fulfillment and joy and a family that we wouldn’t have ever been able to have without it.  Becoming a foster family CREATED our family and we could never put into words how unbelievably grateful we are for that!  

- Jennie and Sean