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

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

National Foster Care Month proclamation!

Last Thursday we were honored to join representatives from the Iowa Department of Human Services, the Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association and several Iowa families and children as Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed a proclamation declaring May to be National Foster Care Month in the state of Iowa.

Here's a few photos from the event!

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signs a National Foster Care Month proclamation.

What a great group!

The proclamation!

Alice's Story

A second story today as we wrap up National Foster Care Month!

We have many wonderful families who become foster parents after raising their biological children. They find they have the space, and they already have the experience, too. Alice shares how her family chose this path when they became empty nesters.

Alice's Story

Eight years ago my husband and I began the empty nest phase. After all the years of attending activities with our children we discovered that we missed the busyness. Our youngest daughter and a friend encouraged us to look into foster care. We joined the PS-MAPP classes. Here we found our niche. We were able to fill our home with the sounds of children once again. In fact, the first two that arrived have never left.

In the eight years we have been blessed to parent them, we have seen them grow from frightened, malnourished youngsters into happy, content young teens. It wasn't an easy road; it fact, it was (and still is) full of potholes and challenges. We live in a world where an “I don't like that food” is a VICTORY, because this means a child has finally learned that they won't go hungry anymore. A night without waking up or crawling into bed with someone else means that “I feel safe." An “I'm sorry” is the result of a long fought battle of building trust. And a hug returned is a PRICELESS TREASURE.

- Alice

Rebecca's Story

We're entering the last week of National Foster Care Month, and we'll have several stories to share with you this week! Over the past few years, we've asked families to share their "I Did It" reason, which is to answer the question "Why did you become a foster parent?" 

People embark on the journey of foster parenting for many diverse reasons. Here are Rebecca's - thank you Rebecca!

Rebecca's Story  

My husband and I have two beautiful children.  Amaiah was adopted through an agency, and Trent was adopted through the foster care system.

We did it because he needed a home, love and support. 

We did it because he deserves a loving family.

We did it because we had room in our heart to love another child.

We did it because every child deserves to have a family and someone to believe in them.

We have also fostered several children, and we will continue to do this in the future. 

We did it because the children needed us, and we will do it again.

We did it because we believe family is important.

We did it because we have the love to give and we always will.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Veronica and Daniel's Story

May is National Foster Care Month, a time to recognize those who make a difference for children in foster care and to raise awareness for the ongoing needs of youth in care. Thank you to all of our Iowa foster families for all you do!

Remember our National Adoption Month story campaign from last fall? To celebrate National Foster Care Month, we are excited to once again share stories from Iowa families.

We asked families to share their own words on one of two topics—why they chose to become foster parents (to honor the diverse reasons people get involved) or why people should foster teens (to draw awareness toward this critical and ongoing need).

Here's our first in this series. Sometimes when there are not enough foster homes for teens, a teen may be waiting in shelter care until the right home becomes available. Veronica and Daniel shared their thoughts on this issue and on how their view of teens has evolved during their journey as foster parents.

Veronica and Daniel's Story

Your days are set out in front of you without surprise. You’re to get up at a set time, you eat at a set time, you have “free time” at a set time, one phone call at a set time, bedtime at a set time. You may be thinking I’m talking about jail, but I’m not.

I’m going to tell you how kids sit, wait, and pray someone will take them home. Save them from shelter and let them into your home. Not many people listen to this. Not many people care. There is a stereotype against these kids. They are not “cute babies.” They are teenagers in shelter. We didn’t know what we were getting into. We walked into foster care thinking the same stereotype: Teenagers are bad kids. They are in shelter because they are troublemakers. We thought younger would be better for our family. We have kids of our own, 15 and 11, and teens wouldn’t fit. How wrong we were.

During our foster care training, they had teenagers come to a meeting and talk. One girl stood out from the rest. She had been sitting in shelter for months. Yes, months! No one wanted her. She wasn’t a bad kid.

Sure, she admitted to not getting along with her foster mom, but did she need to be in shelter for months? After hearing her story, we didn’t think so. We told the people running the class how sad her story was and that we would take her if we were licensed. They listened, we finished classes, they emailed DHS, DHS called, and we met our new foster daughter. She was 16.

The stereotype people have of teenagers in foster care needs to be erased in all of our minds. Teenagers are great to foster. They know what’s going on. They need love and affection, even more so, in my opinion, then younger ones. These kids need and want the same as younger kids. They want a home. They want a family. They are alone and soon they will be 18 and not even shelter will want them. Fostering teens has so many rewarding things to offer. As my teenager foster child would point out, if I would ask her why should families should foster teens, she would say, “I don’t need a car seat and I can ride the ‘big kid’ rides at Adventureland.” Teenagers know what you do for them, and it helps all the more. Take it from us. A normal, new, inexperienced foster family whose first placement was a 16-year-old. We were scared, due to our preconceptions, but we followed our hearts, and how joyously our hearts were rewarded.”

- Veronica and Daniel