The month of May is designated National Foster Care Month. As WACAP focuses on finding permanency for every child growing up without a family, we appreciate the many people in our communities who are committed to creating that opportunity for children from the start, stepping forward to foster children temporarily while the child’s future path remains unclear. WACAP’s “A Family for Me” Coordinator, Denise Russell, regularly has the opportunity to meet and witness local foster families in action and here’s what she has to say:
At WACAP we know that foster parents not only manage all the usual appointments and activities that come with having children at home, but they also spend countless hours supporting their foster children during a time that’s often filled with transition and loss, talking with counselors and caseworkers, meeting with doctors and teachers…. To say these families are busy would be an understatement! So we really appreciate when a foster parent can accompany a child who’s participating in one of our “A Family for Me” video shoots. A foster parent’s presence provides comfort and reassurance for the kids as we get to know them and learn more about what they hope for in a family. (By featuring these kids through A Family for Me, we’ve seen these videos make an incredible difference in finding their future adoptive families.)
I will never forget Destiny, Xzavier, and Dezeray’s foster parents. When we decided to film Whirleyball as an activity, they brought these three siblings, plus their older sister and three other foster kids, so that everyone could participate. They came in two separate vehicles and traveled quite a distance to meet up with us. To me, it was a mystery how both foster parents arrived relaxed and in good humor!
Over and over again, foster parents have been willing to dive right in to help us out. They’ve been up for jumping into bumper cars, strapping on roller skates, climbing on jungle gyms, and many have even made a last minute run to the store so their foster child could wear something new for the experience. But mostly what they have provided is encouragement. We always try to plan an activity that will light up the kids and appeal to their interests and personalities. Like all parents, foster moms and dads always seem happy to see the kids happy. And perhaps they feel it even more, knowing the history of their foster child and having seen the scars of it.
For non-verbal children, foster parents have helped us with a willingness to speak about the child on camera. When they do, it’s always with candor, enthusiasm, and a deep commitment. Their comments are so often about how much the children have added to their lives. Like Alex’s foster mom, who said, “I just think he’s amazing. My husband loves him to death. We think that whoever adopts him will be very blessed.”
Sometimes, foster parents are not able to make it to our video shoots, and that gives the kids a different opportunity to speak very openly. Like, Dulce, who said, “We have our ups and our downs, bad days, good days. But we have a really good bond.” And 15-year-old, Delontea who explained that “you kind of get attached.”
I marvel at the bravery of foster parents to care for, and take on the responsibility, of a child that has experienced extreme heartache and quite often, trauma. To me, they’ve conquered the fear of everyday parental imperfection in order to provide shelter, protection, and stability for a child. They are willing to open their hearts and homes for kids that are not only dealing with the normal challenges of growing up, but also fragile healing from the past, and a profound uncertainty of their future. At the same time, foster parents know that these kids may be adopted. When that happens, they will help them gather their clothes and toys and prepare them for life with their forever family. And then their home will change again, with the energy of that child exiting, and the complexity of another child arriving; creating more memories and requiring more love and comfort.
About WACAP’s “A Family for Me Program Coordinator,” Denise Russell:
Denise joined WACAP in 2013 and in her first three years, interviewed over 90 foster children, helping create adoption outreach videos for each child. An adoptee herself, Denise feels a special connection with every child she meets. Interacting daily with dedicated caseworkers and foster parents, and being so welcomed by the committed businesses and community members involved, she finds even the video planning process is magical. Outside of work, Denise enjoys “laughing a lot with her handy and hard-working husband, their two entertaining and opinionated sons” and the family’s two “goofy” Labradors.