The foster-adoption journey of the Biener Marquardt family not only spans many years, but many miles, as well. The couple embarked on their journey in Chicago with hopes of adopting an infant, but it wasn’t until they relocated to Los Angeles and found Children’s Bureau that they were able to realize their dreams of becoming resource parents. Read the family’s interview below to learn more about their experience fost-adopting through Children’s Bureau, the advantages and challenges they faced as resource parents to siblings, how they keep the memory of the children’s birth mother alive and much more.

 

1. How did you find CB and why did you choose to become a resource parent through this agency?

We started our family journey in Chicago where we were working on an infant adoption with a private agency. This was a long seven years of emotional ups and downs which did not result in a child joining our family. During an emotional low, Michael’s company offered him a promotion and relocated us to Los Angeles. Seeking a new beginning, we reassessed and decided to explore foster- to-adopt scenarios for siblings. Through our research, we found Children’s Bureau and decided to attend an information meeting. Our partnership with CB started on a very cold and wet day at their North Hollywood House where several prospective resource parents huddled around a space heater asking questions. Though many of the questions terrified us, the philosophy of CB and the available resources encouraged us to learn more.

 

2. What was the process of becoming a resource parent and how long did it take?

Since we had completed the adoption certification process in Illinois, the mounds of paperwork and interview questions that followed did not surprise us. We quickly completed the initial process and were approved to begin the resource training meetings. These trainings really challenged us to think differently and prepared us for the many challenges that we would face. Hearing from the P.R.I.D.E. panel is the highlight for most prospective parents. Little did we know that we would pick up most of our techniques from that conversation! We did run into an issue with our family assessment (home study) as the townhouse we were renting had open outdoor streams running between buildings that did not meet foster care standards. However, after six months in Los Angeles, we were ready to pursue buying a home and this pushed us to move a little faster. In all, we were able to complete our entire certification process in about six months. Then, two years later, we got to repeat the process all over again! Our licensing had lapsed, and we recertified on an accelerated basis so Hannah could live with us.

3. What inspired you to become resource parents and how has it changed your lives?

We always knew we wanted to adopt, but we fell into becoming resource parents. It surprises us how much we have each grown from this. By opening our hearts to the foster care experience, we have learned to think about other perspectives. There are so many good people—Children’s Bureau staff, social workers, resource parents and many others–doing their best to help children.

4. How did you feel about fostering siblings? What do you feel was the difference from fostering one child to a sibling set of two?

As first-time resource parents, we would highly recommend fostering siblings. We went from zero to two kids overnight. We learned with the kids and they learned from us. We made sure to spend special time with each child individually so that we could create strong bonds and encourage their interests. So, we treated them like siblings but individuals, as well.

 

Adding the third sibling changed the dynamic, especially adapting to a new schedule with an infant.  Now that the kids outnumber us, we often get outvoted on movie night and dinner choices!

5. Were there any special challenges with caring for siblings? Advantages?

We were thrilled to bring Apple and Marcelo into our home together. They have been lucky to have remained together through all their transitions. The first few weeks Marcelo was very difficult to understand due to speech challenges and truly tested our limited Spanish speaking capabilities. Apple was able to help convey what Marcelo wanted until we learned his cadence of speech. It has been wonderful to see that even today they are able to fill in the gaps for each other. When one doesn’t remember a detail from a story, the other typically can share the missing memory. They continue to have a strong bond and, even though they argue like all siblings do, they have a close connection and have each other’s back.

 

When their younger sister came to live with us at three and a half months old, it was wonderful to see how they cared for her. Though they are now teenagers and sometimes treat her like a bothersome and annoying little sister, she looks up to them and wants to be just like them.

 

6. How do you incorporate the birth parents/family into your children’s lives?

We do not currently have contact with the birthmother, but we often talk and wonder about her as a family. The older children frequently share their memories of her, and we hold dear the gifts, stuffed animals, books and blankets she gave them when they were young. On Mother’s Day, we celebrate her by creating cards and taking pictures that we will save for one day in the future.

 

7. How has Children’s Bureau helped you on this journey?

We are very thankful for Children’s Bureau’s support. The P.R.I.D.E. training and resource parent panel really prepared us for many of the challenges we have faced. Whether it is a meltdown over ketchup, breaking our routine, recommending resources or connecting us with other resource parents, Children’s Bureau’s staff have guided us and been the calm voices when we were ready to freak out.

 

9. What activities/therapies have the children joining your family through foster care experienced?

Apple and Marcelo both benefitted from cognitive behavioral therapy. It gave them an opportunity to resolve their feelings over being removed from a prior foster family and coming to live with us.

We are an active family and enjoy frequent vacations, visits to museums, movies, game nights and hikes that help keep the children engaged and happy.

10. Tell us about your children today and their interests.

Apple (age 14) is a fantastic artist who loves to animate, play guitar and is learning the drums. She is the strongest teenager we have ever known. She is a trendsetter in her style, willingly challenges gender norms and is a fierce advocate for her friends and what is right. Marcelo (age 12) is a jokester, a great friend, a loving soul who gives great hugs, a sports fanatic, and is quickly becoming a beast at lacrosse. Hannah (age 5) is the Energizer Bunny, a Disney Princess, tea party organizer and a great storyteller.

Having family fun.