Mari is no stranger to a foster care environment. Growing up, her parents — who loved their community and were committed to helping however they could — took in many children who had entered the foster care system.
“I grew up with many foster brothers and sisters,” Mari says. “My parents nurtured us all the same. We went to church, we went to the beach, and we traveled together. There was a lot of love.”
So after Mari got married and had her first two children, she and her husband decided to foster. They have now been foster parents for more than nine years. So far, Mari has had 22 children and teenagers stay in her home — the oldest was 18-years-old and the youngest was just over three.
Mari recalls, “When we decided to foster, we talked to our seven-year-old first and asked her how she would feel about sharing mom and dad with another child. She was super excited. She looked at it like she would have a big brother or sister. She absolutely loved it. When one child would leave, she would ask, “who is coming next?'”
Mari and her husband both work full-time jobs, so being a parent/foster parent makes things very busy. While there are great benefits, she advises new foster parents to be ready to take on all the feelings that can come with supporting a child experiencing foster care.
“Being a foster parent can be an emotional rollercoaster. You’ll need to guard your heart,” Mari says. “You’ll want to give these kids all your love and that’s great. But try not to get too emotionally attached or it will be difficult when it comes time for the child to go back to a parent or to be placed up for adoption.”
Mari shares that she has had numerous times when a foster care placement was difficult to give up. In one case, she had two siblings who became legally cleared for adoption. However, she and her husband had previously decided that if they were going to be foster parents, they would not adopt.
“We said from the beginning that our role would be advocating for the child under our care and providing them with a safe place to live,” she shares. “Our goal was to either get them back home with their parents or adopted into a good home. That allows us to serve many more youth.”
The siblings were eventually adopted. Mari and her family recently had a visit with them. She was proud to see how they had grown.
“It is so rewarding,” reflects Mari. “I’ve had kids in my home who had never been to an amusement park, or had a birthday party, or even had never been out to a restaurant for dinner. To be able to give these kids these memorable experiences is an amazing feeling. When they grow up, they can say, “I was in a foster home and Mari and her family gave me love and cared for me and advocated for me.'”