Here’s to amazing foster care providers during an extraordinary time

We have met some incredible people during our journey as foster care providers, men and women who rise to significant challenges every single day, and then wake up the next morning (sometimes from a bedroom floor where they have slept all night) and rise again.

I met a very capable, very young woman during my training who is single-handedly providing care for boy with physical, emotional and mental challenges. She said she saw a need and figured she could help. Her energy and poise astounded me. At 22-years old, she is the youngest foster mother I have met and she is also one of the most astute.

Another woman spoke cheerfully about her two little charges, who were three and five-years old when they came into her care. They were scared of the dark at first, she told us, so she slept on the floor of their bedroom for the first two months.

We know and rely on a family that provides respite care in a home that resembles a well-organized, actively-parented Neverland with a tree house, trampoline and dirt bike trail in back of the house, and a warm and loving home environment within. The children in this home (and there are often many of them) orbit like happy little planets around a kitchen island, which always smells like home-baked goodies and exudes maternal peace.

We have met several emergency care providers, whose doors are always open and beds stay full, because, as quickly as one child moves on, another comes to stay. But the bellies and hearts in those homes stay full as well, and the parents maintain them with an astonishing level of calm.

Our admiration for these families has grown exponentially during this time of extraordinary challenge. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many programs these families rely on to help provide therapy and care have been reduced or eliminated. Birth parent visits that require supervision have been seriously limited as well, and many have had to occur via telephone or video conference. Most schools have gone virtual, which has left foster parents with the added burden of monitoring online classes, which, in many of these houses, involves multiple schools.

In addition to all of that, these foster parents are navigating exposure to a deadly virus for themselves, the children in their care and their families.

I really can’t say enough about them, but I thought I’d give it a whirl.

I see you, foster families, and I think you are amazing. In a year rife with bitterness and struggle, you have provided us all with an example of how human beings can connect in timeless ways, around dinner tables, through bedtime stories and with warm hugs. And, in these simple ways, with consistency and a lot of hard work, you make this world better.

Thank you.

P.S. If you’re feeling restless about this old world and are wanting to make a positive change, you might consider becoming a foster care provider. For more information about foster care in this area, please contact the Outagamie County/Calument County Foster Care Team at 920-832-5161 or via email at hhsfoster@outagamie.org.

I thought this picture, which I took on a walk through the woods yesterday, provided a good glimpse into what foster care looks like during a pandemic. The signs point you in crazy directions, the path twists and turns and you just have to keep moving forward.
But, it also provides you a good deal of perspective on what really matters in life, and that’s a valuable gift.

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