Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A coffee break with Marlene

It's time to introduce you to another one of our great ambassador families. These foster and adoptive parents are helping Iowa KidsNet raise awareness about foster care within their networks of friends, neighbors and communities.

Today we'll talk to Marlene, our Cedar Rapids ambassador family. Marlene and her husband have adopted three boys from foster care, ages 11, 8, and 7, who are all biological siblings.

Hi Marlene! Can you start by telling us how you got involved with foster care?

My husband and I dealt with infertility issues early on in our marriage. We decided that we would be okay without children and for seven years we were. But then my biological clock started ticking as I approached 30. So, since I am adopted, it was a natural choice for us to become parents through adoption. We completed PS-MAPP training classes and became licensed in 2005.

Thanks for your involvement as an ambassador family! What have you been up to?

First, let me say that I'm glad the ambassador family program exists, but I would do this work regardless. As an ambassador family, I wrote an editorial that was printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, and I made a guest appearance on a local radio show during National Foster Care Month in May.

My Facebook profile has a link to Iowa KidsNet's website, and I try to include sayings or quotes about foster parenting or adoption. I also obtained permission from the University of Iowa School of Social Work to place brochures in their resource rack. I look forward to doing some additional activities this summer.

(Marlene's editorial was wonderful, by the way. Here's the link, but unfortunately it's available to view only by purchase or if you already have an account on the website.)

We sometimes refer to foster and adoptive families as everyday heroes. In that case, what is your foster and adoptive parent superpower?

Well, I have a big mouth naturally, so I'd say my superpower is using it to advocate for kids.

What do you think is the biggest myth about foster parenting or children in care?

There are a few. One is that we are in it for the money. We may be in it for something, but I guarantee it isn't money since it only covers part of a child's expenses, and it will never be enough to compensate for extra appointments, loss of privacy, behaviors and a loss of sleep. Another common myth is that all foster children need is love. That's a good start, but it also takes patience, in some cases therapy, a sense of humor, a lot of prayer and more therapy.

Is there a special moment that sticks out from your foster care journey?

That's easy. I had no clue that my kids' former foster parents, siblings, and their adoptive families would become so much a part of our family, but that's exactly what happened. If you remember, we have three adopted sons. They are all biological brothers, and they are part of a sibling group of six. Their siblings are adopted by two other families who we try to see monthly.

Something happened along the way - the sibling visits became something we enjoyed and looked forward to versus something we were doing only because it was the right thing to do. Before we knew it, we were going on weekend trips together and celebrating family birthdays. As for the former foster family of two of our boys, they have become close friends to us and surrogate grandparents to all of our boys.

That's great to hear. It's so important to keep those sibling bonds when possible. Last question. What are three essential qualities a foster parent should have?

Every foster or adoptive parent should be flexible, able to laugh and have a never ending supply of hugs and kisses.

Thanks for joining us Marlene! Anything else to add?

Becoming an adoptive parent has been the hardest and best thing I have ever done. I have the children that God intended for me, and my experience has sparked such a passion for working with children that I went back to school and now I'm working toward a master's degree in social work.

Thanks to all our ambassador families for raising awareness about the needs of children in foster care!


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