The Many Faces of Fosters
First-Time Fosters, Long-Time Fosters
What motivates someone to welcome a child into their homes and their hearts, knowing that their time together may be temporary? We connected with foster parents, some newly licensed, some who have been licensed for years and discovered that while their circumstances are varied, they all share a common goal—to provide a safe and loving home for a child in need.
Here are their stories and advice for those considering fostering:
It has only been days since Kimberly and Nate Hoffman welcomed a 3-week-old boy into their homes and already the baby has stolen their hearts. Motivated by a strong desire to have children, Kimberly and Nate considered all options and decided to become foster parents.
“It is something that evolved with us,” explains Kimberly. “I don’t think my husband or I ever envisioned ourselves fostering. We wanted a family and haven’t been able to have our own children. We wanted to have children in our home and there are children who need homes.”
The couple attended a foster parent orientation and found the information and process very positive, so they kept moving forward.
“We really wanted to do it and I can see us doing more,” Kimberly says, “We have to take it one placement at a time.”
She knows she will continue to grow more attached to the baby even though their time together may be temporary. “I don’t know if you can ever really be prepared. We know in our heads that he can go back to his family and we want that for him, but if that doesn’t work out, we would be very happy to keep him.”
Nate Hoffman wondered how he would feel having a child in his home that was not his biological child, but his apprehension quickly faded. “He has only been here a day and I love him. I am surprised at how excited I was when he arrived.”
For Nate, the most difficult part so far has been diaper changing. “I changed my first poopy diaper ever,” he says, “I was shaking. Kim walked me through it. The hardest part was those wiggly little legs.”
Kimberly expects fostering to have its challenges. “We don’t even know how hard it will be because we haven’t been in it that long. I think our lives are blessed by it.”
The couple said anyone who is considering fostering should attend an orientation. The entire process takes about six months and during that time they will know if it is right for them.
After 18 years, four sets of twins, at least 20 foster children and about 100 respite-care children, it is understandable that Laura and John Frohardt’s kid count is fuzzy. But their dedication to helping children is crystal clear. Struggling to have their own children, the Frohardts contemplated adopting. John thought they should have one child, Laura thought three. During adoption orientation they learned about twins in the foster system getting separated and decided to get their foster license. At the height of their fostering career they had eight children in their home at one time. Today they have seven, all of whom they have adopted.
Laura remembers her first placement was a boy from a homeless family living under a bridge. She could tell the boy was loved and eventually that family was reunited. She also remembers a time when she had five in diapers and car seats.
“It is chaotic and you have to stay organized. You just have to plan ahead,” Laura says.
She admits that traveling can be a challenge, yet she managed to take a half-dozen children to Hawaii. They attended a luau, snorkeled, and swam with sea turtles. Her tip for others: Talk to the locals. They will help you.
The biggest challenge, Laura says, is navigating the system. There are so many questions, especially when you first start, and the agency with which the foster parents work will help find the answers.
She says it is important to work with and empower the birth parents when possible. “It has always been my goal to get them reunited with their birth family.”
Foster parents also need to make decisions together. There is a lot of paperwork, she says, but it is not that difficult.
“If you foster even one child, you are making a difference in that person’s life. If it is something you are interested in, look into it. Once you become a foster parent you won’t believe you ever were wondering if you should. There’s a realization that this is exactly what you should be doing.”