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 Pearl Project, 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!"
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