We can learn a lot about kindness, generosity and love from foster parents. They open not only their heart, but their home. It doesn’t get more basic than that and it’s this simple yet profound gesture that sets them apart. Like the great Bill Bellicek says, “No days off.” Foster parenting is always on, 24/7/365. They don’t get to go home at night and leave their work behind. In fact, that’s when their work is often just beginning. However, almost every foster parent will tell you that it doesn’t feel like work. They will tell you they have benefited more in many ways than the children that have found a home with them.
April has been a foster parent for almost two decades and has impacted the lives of more than 20 kids in that time. I had an opportunity to sit down with April and get to know more about her journey in fostering:
After graduating from college, I worked at Verizon for about 16 years and ended up leaving my job to take care of some family responsibilities that needed my attention. Right around that time is when I started fostering. I love gardening.
I think it’s a metaphor for life and I use gardening as a way to teach the kids in my home. They learn about hard work, patience and taking care of something other than themselves. They learn that life can be hard, but the payoff is great.
I learned that a family member of mine was actually going to be in foster care. This was a relative I didn’t even know I had. I ended up taking him into my home and it was just an awesome experience. After he left, I decided I wanted to do it again.
Don’t be afraid. I was scared at first. I was scared I was going to mess up. I was scared about the unknown. Its cliché, but kids don’t come with a manual so you are going to make mistakes. That’s ok. Be forgiving. Also, it takes a village. You need to have your support team ready. Just remember, being a foster parent is amazing, even if it can be hard at times.
Wow, so many things come to mind. Seeing a child come into your home, they may be timid, not able to read, behind in their development. But the progress they make is unbelievable. It’s so satisfying to see them come out of their shell, succeed and thrive. Just knowing that I played a part in their journey as a foster parent is very rewarding.
That it only takes one person to make a difference in the life of a child. It’s hard to believe, but there are some kids who don’t have anyone they can count on. You can be that person. It doesn’t matter what color, nationality, background or experience, I can be a mom, an “auntie” or a friend to someone.
You need a loving home. A structured environment. You need patience and understanding.
The training is awesome. I learned so much about different approaches and ways of working with kids that has really made a difference. The 24/7 on call at HopeWell is huge. Knowing that I can just pick up the phone and talk to somebody is really important. Most of all its about support. At this point, I’ve worked with just about every one of the staff and I can say that each one of them have been fantastic. The HopeWell staff are like family.
Foster parenting represents the best of the human spirit. They are selfless in ways that can be hard to imagine. They are heroes.
During my nearly 20-year career in human services, I’ve been fortunate enough to work alongside some of the most remarkable people you could ever hope to meet. Teachers, doctors, social workers, community organizers, first responders and therapeutic mentors have all dedicated their professional lives in service to others. All of these people deserve our recognition and appreciation but there is something uniquely special about one group in particular; foster parents. We don’t think of them often or talk about them very much, but their stories need to be told.