For Jarod and Jennifer, it was always clear they would spend their lives helping children in need. After their five children (three adopted, two biological) became teenagers and young adults, they began the training to become resource parents with the goal of providing a loving family to children in their community. They have since fostered multiple children, reunified some with birth parents, and are on track for an adoption. Read more about their experience in their interview with Children’s Bureau below.
CB: How did you find Children’s Bureau and what inspired you to become resource parents?
Helping at-risk children has been our life’s calling. Jarod and I spent 8 years in the country of Haiti, working to adopt three children of our own and forming children’s homes and a school to provide life and hope for orphaned and abandoned children there. Now that we are back in the States, our goals have not changed. Our three adopted children are all young adults, two of whom live at home, and our two biological children are teens.
All of them have been supportive of our passion to provide a loving family for children in need. In fact, when they heard a challenge in church a few years ago for families to consider fostering, they begged Jarod and me to do so! Not long after that, while attending a “back to school” night at our children’s high school, I noticed an adoptive mom attending sessions with her tall high schooler and a tiny newborn baby in her arms. I decided to approach her and learn more of her story. She was thrilled to share how she had fostered and adopted through Children’s Bureau, and only weeks later, Jarod and I began the process of becoming foster parents.
CB: What was the process of becoming a resource parent and how long did it take?
We became resource parents a couple years before COVID hit, so we enjoyed the in-person training classes. It took us a few months to get through the training and get our final approvals. Our first little one joined our family a couple months after we were approved.
CB: How have you helped the children transition back to their families? What was that like for you?
Our first little boy, who came to us as the happiest sweetest eight-month-old, is on track to be adopted into our family. Ironically, we did not become foster parents for the purpose of adoption, yet we count ourselves blessed that this amazing child will be part of our family forever.
We have had other children who were reunited with birth families, and just as most people imagine when they think about foster care, it is not an easy thing to let go of children who have your heart. Being a resource family is about doing everything in your power to help children, not to protect yourself. We have learned that we cannot control outcomes, but we can be here and make a life-long difference in children’s lives. Sometimes their return to birth families is cause for celebration, and we have rejoiced when children have been able to be welcomed into the loving arms and homes of their families. There have been other times when we simply do not know how things turned out, even though relatives were optimistic and completed all the necessary steps to get their little ones back home.
We hope and pray for the very best for them, and we remain dedicated to doing the part that we can do. If we can bring light and peace and a sense of safety and love for several months, we will do that. If we are called upon to bring those things for the rest of the child’s life, we will do that.
CB: What were the birth parents/family like and how much contact do you have with them?
For some of our children, the birth parents text, call, or do zoom meetings once a week. So far, they have been very respectful and have also shown appreciation for what we are doing to help their children. We are grateful that they are showing their children how much they love them by staying in touch. Children need to know that their birth parents love them. We are so glad they are making the effort to stay in their lives, even if they are not able to reunify with them.
CB: How did you incorporate the birth parents/family into your child’s life?
We honor all our children’s birth parents by talking about them frequently. We stay in touch with all the relatives who have expressed a willingness to be a part of their children’s lives. If we have pictures, we make those available to our children. We want them to feel connected to everyone who loves them.
CB: How has Children’s Bureau helped you on this journey?
As we entered the world of foster care, Children’s Bureau provided valuable training and support. We have had amazing social workers who clearly care about our family and the children that join our family. They have been willing to go the second and third mile to make sure that we have whatever we need to thrive. They have listened carefully and empathetically through various challenges and have shown that the welfare of every member of our family matters to them.
CB: What activities/therapies have the children joining your family through foster care experienced?
One of our little ones receives child development therapy once a week and occupational therapy twice a week. His fine motor skills and cognitive skills are being stretched and developed through these sessions. Another child received mental health services, and yet another will be able to receive behavioral services as needed. We are thankful that these therapies are readily available, even in the comfort of our own home, to help our kids develop and thrive. It is a blessing to know there is a large team of people ready and willing to help us meet any needs our children have.
CB: How did you manage your and other family member’s feelings when a child goes to live with another family?
Any time a child has been in our care, we have loved them as if they would be with us forever, all the while knowing it may not be the case. We must be careful not to make promises we cannot keep, but we do promise them we will always love them no matter what. With our younger children, we are careful to explain the situation ahead of time and frequently again afterwards, assuring them of our love for them and for the child who left. Recently, we needed to explain to our soon-to-be-adopted child that he will be part of our family forever, even though another child was leaving our home for family reunification. That is a lot for a little one to process, so we have learned to be patient as he has a lot of big emotions for the time being.
CB: What challenges have you faced as a resource parent and what have you learned?
One of the biggest challenges we face is the desire to help more and more children. We know we cannot help every child out there, and sometimes we feel frustrated that more people are not willing to open their lives and families to help children in need. While we will continue to do everything we can possibly do, we also face our own limitations. Right now, our challenge is to adjust to the change of dynamics we recently experienced, with one child leaving and another child arriving on the same day. That is pretty rare, and we are so proud of our children for rising to the challenges they have faced in the past weeks and months. They have learned to be flexible and adjust to new personalities with grace and patience – something even seasoned parents struggle with.
CB: Tell us about your children today and their interests.
Our oldest son, Justin, is in the Army Reserves, entering culinary school, while also writing and directing his own film. His twin Jaden, has special needs and lives at home with us, enjoying walks, balloons, and dogs. Our two oldest daughters, Daphne and Dora, have recently graduated from high school. One is considering getting into real estate like Dad, the other has always had interests in psychology and fashion design. Both are incredibly skilled at helping our younger kids develop. Brendan will be a sophomore in high school and loves thinking and conversing on a deep level. Our three-year-old loves superheroes, trips to the park, and wins the hearts of everyone he meets. Our 21- month-old loves jumping on the trampoline and holding tightly to his favorite blanket and has been happily getting acquainted with his 8- year-old sister who joined our home a few weeks ago. She is loving school, riding bikes, and is incredibly sweet and affectionate. We are so proud of each child in our home. They are each incredibly precious and strong. We cannot wait to see the rest of their lives unfold, and we’re so privileged to play a part in their stories.