Jeff and Amy have been fostering in Marion County since 2017, and also fostered in China for almost two years prior to that. They've had 47 precious little (and big) ones come through their door, some for a night and some forever.
"The hardest part is admitting to ourselves that we can't say yes to them all. Seriously, every single call shatters your heart. It's also heartbreaking to hear their stories and to think about what some of these kids have endured in their short lives."
"Surprisingly, there is so much beauty in foster care. Whether if be the community support and bond we've ended up creating with others on the same journey, seeing a well-deserved reunification of a family, or being able to officially become a legal parent to a child we've been parenting for years."
"One thing that is said to us the most is, 'I could never foster because I wouldn't be able to give them back.' Actually, you could. And if you feel like you would love them so much that it would destroy you to say goodbye, then you would probably make the perfect foster parent. It is not easy, but when you see a bio parent bend over backwards and work so hard to bring their family back together, it's also very rewarding!"
The Gronlunds have fostered 14 children, including respite placements, since 2016.
"The best part is witnessing children grow into themselves as they feel safe and loved, and watching them overcome difficulties and meet milestones that seemed impossible when they first arrive. These kids transform in front of your eyes."
"These are NOT bad kids. These are children of unfortunate circumstances that they had no say in. They’ve been hurt, or neglected, and any behavior they display is a direct correlation of their experiences. They need stability and unconditional love & support. They ARE the future and we have a responsibility to set them up for success."
"There’s never going to be an ideal time to start. You’ll always have a reason or an excuse not to. If you feel called, just do it. And find your village of support. You can’t do it alone."
The Gallaghers have fostered 12 kiddos over the last 2.5 years.
"A LOT has surprised me, but probably the most surprising thing for me is how easy it's been to have love for the parents who created the children I have loved."
"The little things: we had a kiddo who never got to buy gifts for anyone before, so we took them to the store to shop for family, taking kids out on the boat for the first time or helping them catch their first fish. Just watching them enjoy some of the simple things in life that most children, born into a secure and loving home, get to experience."
The Murphys have fostered 31 children since beginning their foster journey four years ago.
"The best part is getting to be a safe place in a child’s life and love them no matter how long or short the time frame may be."
"That the kids never go home. The goal is always reunification first. We are here to support the bio parents until it is no longer safe to do so."
"If you think you can’t foster because you would 'get too attached', these kids never thought they would need a stranger to get attached to. This is exactly what a child coming in to a foster care situation needs. The hurt in your heart is not nearly as strong as their need to be loved."
The Hayes family have fostered 7 children over the last 4 years.
"Our son: We have infertility; he was conceived by insemination. As he got older he started asking for siblings and we were honest with him. We told him that we had trouble having babies, but we could foster or adopt. We explained both to him at the age of five and he chose to foster, and like us, to one day adopt the child that God sent to us! After 4 years of fostering God sent us our missing piece! We adopted our daughter in March."
"Friendly caseworkers that answer back in the same day, amazing licensing agency that let me ask all kinds of questions and help us with insurance things, we have really loved the Feed Fosters program, the Village Closet has been such a great resource, and Jesus! Seriously our church has helped us pray thru so much!"
"It’s all hard.. meeting someone new, getting them settled in, meeting their family, working with their family, letting them go, wondering about them when they are on visits and when they reunite."
"Loving someone new, hearing their laughter and joy, seeing a milestone met by the child or the parent, getting to know their family, seeing a reunification play out!"
The Case family has adopted five children and fostered 19 children over the last 3 1/2 years. They also have adult children and grandchildren.
"The biggest help has been other foster families, an awesome foster-friendly day care, great case workers, family members, church friends and foster-friendly schools."
"The greatest need is care for the children so the parents can get some time away to recharge - especially for those of us with large families."
"Some get it, some don't, but all are supportive. My parents keep asking us how many grandchildren do they have now."
"watching the children struggling to heal from so much"
"experiencing a family being restored to healthy"
Prepare meals ahead and freeze.
Do some laundry every day.
Label clothes with initials so the smaller children can help sort and put away laundry.
Put out everything for the morning the night before - clothes, shoes, backpacks, lunches, school work, etc.
Teach kids to make own lunch.
Have a snack basket that the kids can pick from anytime.
Find a teen or two from church/neighborhood to come and play/watch the little children at the older children's games/school etc. We have even taken some on vacation with us to help corral the kiddos at Disney. It worked out great!!
Chore chart - especially in the summer.
Who's/where's your buddy? Older children pick a younger child to play with and keep track of while at play, at the park, in the store, loading and buckling into the van, etc.
The Hayes have fostered 12 children over the last three years.
"My greatest supports are my foster village, including The Pearl Project, my Villager through Foster Florida, my mentor and my church family. "
"My greatest need at this point is prayer and diapers!!!"
"Well that is actually kind of funny, because going in I was apprehensive about having relationships with biological parents, but that has been my greatest reward! Encouraging and helping a family reunite and see them thrive actually inspires me more to keep doing this hard work, I have gained so many extended friends and family members in this process."
"Get too attached it will not only change their lives but it will change yours in so many positive ways!"
The Reeves have fostered 20 children over the last 2.5 years.
"Having a support system with fellow foster families & our church family! I met my best friend at church and she was the only local foster parent I had met. I ran up to her for the first time and (we were newly licensed) after our service and yelled “I’m a foster mom!” A couple weeks later, our family of 8 children and two adults were down sick with a stomach virus! Being a former foster mom, she knew the difficulties of sick large families! I ran into her a church on a Wednesday and she handed me a large back of paper places, plastic Utensils, Lysol, and paper towels!"
"At times, it would be great to have an extra set of
hands. Depending on the amount of children, of course! We have busy schedules like anyone else. Helping with driving to therapies, or babysitting, sorting donations (when we take in a child(ren)
we often get a LOT of donated clothes! It’s wonderful, but gets overwhelming sorting things out by myself with all of my kiddos!), picking up grocery orders, etc!"
"We didn’t want to have more biological children. We have four. We wanted to be able to provide safety and the love of a family to other children who don’t get to experience it."
"The best part is hearing from past families on how we’ve touched their lives, no matter how young the children were. We just received a text last week from some grandparents thanking us because their young grandchild made comments on how he loved church and that his “other parents” (us), used to take him to church."
"At first, some were for it while others were totally against it. Now, everyone is definitely on board with it because they have met our children we welcome and realize they are normal kids who just fit right in with our family! It’s really changed their hearts towards foster care."
"Enjoy it! Big families are so much fun! Don’t worry about the looks or comments from others!"
The McBrides have fostered 160 children in the last four years!
"Fellow Foster families"
"Aside from sanity, support from friends and community."
"Shaun was in foster care."
"Having to say no because we have no room or having them leave after being a part of the family for an extended amount of time."
"Seeing them reunified and happy to be with family."
"Oh, there are so many: that all kids are bad, that they get removed due to only drugs, and that they don’t come with trauma. Just being removed from their normal life is trauma in it of itself."
"Just pray; ask for help when you feel overwhelmed; your village is out there just waiting to help."
"They love it, yet think we are crazy for taking in so many kids."
"Open your hearts; don’t let the scary descriptions on paper deter you from saying yes! The “worst” child on paper I’ve had, has actually been my most favorite child, as we know we made a difference while he was in our home for 111 days. We still are in contact with him and his family."
Tracey has been fostering for 14 years and has welcomed 39 children into her home.
"Creating a strong support system was the best thing to help me be able to foster for this long."
"As a single foster parent, my greatest need is just getting a break for a few hours."
"I always wanted to adopt a child who was labeled 'hard to adopt.' I was very naïve back then. A co-worker adopted a sibling group and one day I asked her if I could talk to her. We sat in the break room for a little while and that was it. I called and my journey started."
"I feel the hardest part of my journal is being a single mom."
"The best part is watching children heal from trauma, but I cherish the feelings of helping put a family back together. There is no greater reward than helping a mother get on her feet and giving her a chance to raise her child."
"I don’t like the fact that most people think we are in it just to adopt. I didn’t start fostering just to adopt, my plan was to foster and if a child needed a permanent home then they could stay forever. This is exactly what I have done."
"My extended family has been supportive over these years."
"My advice to anyone who wants to go on this journey is to build a strong support system."
Kristina has had one foster child since beginning her journey one year ago.
"The mentors and foster parent navigator."
"Safe, approved after-hours childcare for weekend functions.
"I've raised three nonbiological children and to think where they would be today without my love and advocacy is what motivated me to help more littles that weren't known to me personally"
"That you don't have to be married to foster - you can be a single parent like me!"
"Do it! The heartache is real, but so is the love and joy this journey brings. Choose to get too attached...it's what they need!"
"From day one, they have supported and been family to my little...grandma, aunts, uncles, cousins...everyone!"
They have lost count of how many kiddos they have fostered over the last nine years-but it's been over 50!
"The support of fellow foster and adoptive families."
"Respite to go on dates or have kid-free get aways."
"After we adopted our son from care, his foster parents talked us into fostering. They encouraged us to 'just try it'. Shortly after that we took our classes and the rest is history."
"Seeing the gains children make after being in a stable and loving home."
"That we are doing this for financial gain! This makes me crazy!"
"If your heart is urging you to try it..... then try it. You won’t know if it’s for you until you try it."
Sarah has welcomed 22 children into her home over the last four years.
"I am my own worst critic; I often asked myself, “am I well equipped? Could I help these children who have gone through trauma I could never imagine going through myself?
But the longer my home remained opened, the less I would doubt my own abilities."
"I technically began this journey 30 years ago when we adopted a newborn from the system, then almost 9 years later we adopted another newborn from the system, both with special needs. It was not until almost four years ago that I became a foster parent. As a single mother, I was encouraged by both my children to embark on this journey. I had a calling from God a long time ago to foster but I simply never followed through. Four years later, the calling was too strong and as a result I finally took the steps to foster. It was not until last year that I discovered my true calling, which was to care for children with Autism and that is who I mainly care for now. I could not imagine doing anything else. These children are difficult at times, but as you pour into them and see the transformation overtime it truly is rewarding. To God be the glory!"
"I joined a Facebook group of local foster families where I could vent and get solutions and find resources for children with certain behaviors. This group was more than just a teaching tool. Members who would take in new children would receive abundant offerings of clothing and other supplies needed for that child, who more often than not came with nothing. I began to view the members of this group as family members, and they have been the strongest support to me during this journey. A few years into my journey, our foster parent association got involved with a group called Foster Florida. As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise children” and this group is our village. This group provides pre-made dinners for the freezer for those days that you are on the go as well as babysitters on the evenings you just need time to yourself.
This journey is not for everyone, however there are other roles you can take, such as a “foodie” to provide meals or babysitter to that neighbor who fosters. If you do have the calling, answer it, it is such a wonderful journey! "
The Firkins have fostered 22 children since they began fostering two years ago.
"This year with COVID we understand it’s been hard for everyone, but we really need more foster family activities to get involved in. It would be nice to go out on the weekend with groups of us to build friendships!"
"The mentors and foster parent navigator!"
"I could never do that, it would hurt too much!” If this is how you feel that it would hurt too much, then that means you would make a great foster parent. These children need us to dive into them wholeheartedly and love them to the extent that if they one day leave, we experience the hurt. That just means the time spent with us we were able to take their hurt away. Whether for a day, a few weeks, months and yes, sometimes even more than a year. Give your all to them!
"Since the beginning, our families have loved every child that has come into our home as if they have been a part of our family from the beginning. Our extended families are a major part of our success in continuing to foster."
"Network and get to know fellow foster parents and mentors. Outside of our little foster care community, it’s hard for others to understand what all is involved. Lean into others more experienced, and in turn be there to support others as needed."
The Blagdons have fostered seven children over the last six months.
"Connecting with (and venting to!) other foster families. We've also had a family step up to help us with childcare and they have been the biggest blessing."
"We need more families to start fostering! Or at least it would be super helpful to have more people willing to babysit or help with appointments."
"People sometimes think foster kids are broken or must have bad behavior but each of the kids who've come to our family these past 6 months have been some of the bravest and most amazing people I'll ever meet. "
"The hardest part is all of the unknowns. What happened to these kids? How long will we have him? What does he eat? How does she sleep? Is this too much medicine? Or not enough? How do I help her parents? What does he need right this minute? Am I doing enough to make a difference?"
"Seeing the kiddos thrive and find happiness even during this scary part of their life. We love taking adventures and giving each of them time to just play and be a kid."
The Nelms have cared for 8 children since beginning their foster journey 6 years ago.
"Our saviour, Lord and friend Christ Jesus - His truth has kept us striving when tough times arise; second thing, a spouse who daily encourages me in this mission; third has been our friends and mentors Carol and Chat Johnson."
"The most ongoing need we have is for our family and friends to offer consistent prayer for us. We know we do not wrestle against flesh and blood. Also, the extra tools we recently learned through a TBRI practitioner (thanks Tera!) have been incredibly helpful. Now we’re better able to pour into the hearts of these little ones who have been affected by cycles of trauma."
"The hardest part is not worrying about the many distractions of the case (which are, for the most part, completely out of our control). So we’re learning to keep our thoughts focused on making best use of the time. Every day is a gift and opportunity to help meet the unique needs of our little ones - and to learn to love them like Jesus loves us."
Persevere through all the training and paperwork - it’s SO worth it! As soon as possible, add to your initial training by developing your trauma competency. It absolutely makes a difference in almost every placement you’ll get! Google "Pearl Project" and "Chosen Care".
Alex fostered for five years, and had 15 kids come through her doors and stay anywhere from three days to forever through adoption
"The biggest BIGGEST help and blessing has been through the Pearl Project. Seriously. No one understands how challenging it can be unless they have been there. The support I get from them is PRICELESS!"
"My biggest need as a foster and adoptive family is for people to support all of us and not just the kids. We parents are doing the bulk of the work. We are having to meet the tremendous needs these kids have on our own. 24/7. There are a lot of people who want to buy the kids gifts or take them on surprise outings. But rarely have I had someone come up and say, 'How can I help you so you can better help your kids?' It just doesn’t happen. And we get physically and emotionally worn out."
"Two things played a major role in my decision to foster. One, I grew up in a similar way as the kids who have come into my home. I was abused as a child and I know what it’s like to live with this big hole inside that tells you over and over you’re not good enough and you don’t belong. It was a long road to get to the place where I am today and I wanted to help kids get on their healing journey sooner. So maybe they wouldn’t have to experience some of the hardships I did as a young adult.
The second thing that inspired me was the adoptive mom of my bio twins that'I had to place for adoption at birth. We have an open adoption and one day we were sitting at her table and she looked at me and said, “Alex. I think its’ time you started fostering.' I took that as a sign from God that maybe He was saying, 'Yes, Alexandra. It’s time for you to help others heal.' So when I flew back home after our visit I signed up for the foster care orientation to find out what I needed to do to start this journey. And I haven’t looked back."
"I would say the hardest part is dealing with the tremendous behaviors that these kids have as a result of the trauma they have experienced and realizing that the behavior is not intentional. It’s not about you. It’s the only way they know how to express their pain.
The following quote says it all.
'Remember, everyone in the classroom has a story that leads to misbehavior and defiance. Nine times out of 10, the story behind the misbehavior won’t make you angry; it will break your heart.'”
- Annette Breaux
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