Guest post by Pinellas County Foster Parent Charles Parker with Eckerd Community Alternatives
I doubt too many people would have described me as a typical caregiver. I never even planned on being a parent. However, my wife Stacey became interested in becoming a foster parent while working as an occupational therapist at All Children’s Hospital. It was there she learned about the sad situations some kids endure every day. Eventually, she convinced me that we could become foster parents together. I haven’t regretted a day since.
Now that the big ball has dropped in Time Square and people have vowed fresh beginnings, my hope for 2013 is that more everyday people consider becoming foster parents. I am always struck by the number of people who say to me, “I thought about doing that, but I could never let the kids go.” People often imagine the heartbreak associated with goodbyes, but every time a child is reunited with their family they get back a sense of self, a sense of belonging – things most of us take for granted.
We fostered a 3-year-old girl who had only seen her father and grandparents as an infant. To prepare her to be reunified with her grandfather, we created photo books of her family, the house, her new bedroom, even the family pets. When she saw her grandfather at the airport she ran to him as if he had raised her since birth. That day, as this innocent precious girl reacquainted with her family, she looked up and told my wife that it was “time to go.” Although any caring person would be sad when it is time to say goodbye to a little one, it is a good feeling knowing the child is ready to move on and make a loving connection with a new family.
Stacey and I just adopted our second child out of foster care, a little girl we cared for since she was 14 days old. We are in the process of renewing our foster license, and while the names on that license are mine and Stacey’s, our daughters are also a foster “caregivers” in many ways. Our 7-year-old has had so many little brothers and sisters that she sometimes forgets that her family is unique, and that not every home takes on the challenges of helping other families in need.
Because goodbyes are hard, many people will never consider the rewards of foster parenting. But there is good in goodbye, especially when the result is a new chance for a child in need. While fostering is not easy and it is a decision the entire family has to be all in on, the benefits both for the family and for the child are immense. Please consider becoming a foster parent. It is not too late to enrich your new year’s resolution with a new experience – one that could unite a broken family.
To learn more about how to become a foster parent visit Fostering Florida’s Future.