By Amanda and Mindy
In May, Mindy and I celebrated our fifth year as foster parents. It is a milestone that makes us proud, but it is also one we have doubted reaching at times. For us, five years can be measured in weeks, months and years just as much as it can be measured in tantrums, tears and eventual success.
We came to foster parenting out of a calling to help kids. We both had professions working with children in different capacities, and we felt drawn to do more. When we looked into foster parenting, something clicked and we saw this as an opportunity to make a significant impact on kids who have been given so little in life.
Mindy and I are both fortunate to grow-up in families where we never worried about our safety or when we would have our next meal. We had families who were supportive and loving throughout childhood and continue to be an important part of our lives.
The first thing we realized during the foster parent training process is that so few of the kids in the system know what it’s like to have a loving family. Their childhoods were very different than what Mindy and I experienced. Many of the kids were exposed to some form of trauma like sexual, physical or emotional abuse. Neglect is common and their concept of family is often heartbreaking.
Our home is certified to care for some of the highest needs children. These are kids who have been in the system for an extended amount of time or experienced abuse that was so severe that a traditional foster care home does not work for them.
As foster parents, we play the role of being a first in a kid’s journey in foster care. We are often the first adults a kid can truly trust. There are nights where our home is the first place a teenager may have felt safe sleeping in years. There are months where it’s the first time all year a kid doesn’t have to worry about moving to a new foster home.
These firsts are what we celebrate as foster parents. They keep us inspired for when our home becomes overwhelming or too difficult to continue fostering.
It would be easy to say that all they need are hugs and to know someone loves them. We certainly provide that, but healing trauma can be a chaotic and confusing process. They have been abused and abandoned. For some, all they have known is unimaginable pain.
How this looks is outward anger and frustration. We have been spit on, had things thrown at us and seen holes punched in our walls. We have endured tantrums, outbursts and meltdowns. We have gone to bed crying and asked ourselves if this is all worth it.
We would have never made it five years as foster parents if we were doing this alone. Foster Plus works with 13 amazing providers, and have been our teammates and our community to ensure we succeed as foster parents.
There have been times where staff have driven across town to sit outside our house in case we need help and they always pick up the phone to answer questions all hours of the day. At our lowest, they show us as foster parents, and show the kids who are in our home, that there are people rooting for us and supporting us.
This support has helped so many wonderful kids get to a better place. One of our first placements was 4-year-old boy who had experienced abuse and neglect so severe that professionals doubted he would ever be able to do simple tasks like brush his teeth, put on his jacket and go off to school.
His first few years in our home were turbulent, but five years later, Sean can do all of those things and much more. Mindy and I eventually adopted Sean and continue to celebrate just how far he has come.
Even after adopting Sean, we continue to foster because we know there are many more kids coming from similar situations. We have the room in our home and room in our hearts to help support kids in their foster care journey and help get them to a happier and healthier future.
Foster Plus: There is a significant need for more foster parents in Oregon, particularly for kids who’ve experienced trauma. Foster Plus is an effort of 13 social service agencies collaborating to connect kids in need with the support and stability of committed, caring foster families. To learn more, visit fosterplus.org.