When the Emerson family moved to Los Angeles, they brought their dedication to fostering children with them. They quickly found Children’s Bureau, completed their training, and became approved resource parents in August. Read their interview with Children’s Bureau to learn about their family’s motivation for providing a safe, loving home for foster children and their evolving relationships with their children’s birth parents.
CB: How did you find Children’s Bureau and why did you choose to become a resource parent through this agency?
We were originally foster parents in another state through the county. When we found out that my husband was being stationed in Los Angeles next, naturally we looked into fostering through the county again. Within the first month of moving here, we were in an orientation but left feeling overwhelmed. The next day I went through a list of agencies in the area and found Children’s Bureau. We were at the next available orientation. After listening to another resource parent speak about her experience with Children’s Bureau and seeing how supportive the staff was, we knew that it was a perfect fit for us.
CB: What was the process of becoming a resource parent and how long did it take?
The process of becoming a resource parent was faster than expected, and exceedingly educational. We have taken PRIDE training in the past, but we did not feel like it fully prepared us for real life fostering. PRIDE training through Children’s Bureau was different. It was more hands on, with critical thinking, and a panel of other resource parents, both foster and foster-adoptive, that were able to enlighten us on real life experiences. All things that helped us navigate through being successful resource parents. We also met some amazing families in PRIDE training, families that will be lifelong friends. For us, we started the process by turning in our application in March. We were not able to take the next available classes because my husband was out of town for training, but we were approved by late August.
CB: What inspired you to become resource parents and how has it changed your life?
When I was 19, I worked for Shriner’s Children’s Hospital. There I met a foster mom for medically fragile children. She told me all about her life and her experiences, and I felt I wanted to do that as well. Later, I got married, had two biological children and we started discussing whether or not we wanted to adopt/foster. My husband feared he could not love another child as much as his biological kids and felt it would not be fair to a child placed with us. But we still took the plunge, went through training, and he fell in love instantly with the first child who joined our family. We have not looked back since.
CB: How have you helped the children transition back to their families? What was that like for you?
We have not been awarded the opportunity to help a child transition back to their families, but we have in our previous state. It was an eye-opening experience for us, which our older two biological kids helped us understand. Emotionally it hit me very hard at first, we knew the time was coming, but that did not take away the bond and love we had for our little girl. I remember not wanting to have to tell our older kids, who were five y three years of age at the time. They had bonded so well with her. We all sat down at the table, and I tried to keep it together as the words came out of my mouth. Our oldest started cheering, and at first, I was taken back. He then looks at our toddler girl, and said “Do you hear that? You get to go live with your grandma. I know you will miss us, but I am so happy for you.” It was at that moment that I really realized that we must love these kids like there is no tomorrow and even though it hurts to see them go, we remember to love selflessly.
CB: What were the birth parents/family like and how much contact do you have with them?
At first, I thought meeting birth parents was not only a bad idea, but dangerous. However, I found that to not be the case. In fact, it has been quite the opposite. Most parents just want to make sure that their children are being taken care of and loved. It is nice to get to know the history and likes/dislikes of birth families. No matter how long that child stays in care, it will only be beneficial for them. In our current situation, the birth parents look up to us as role models. In fact, the birth mom has told the social worker that she feels like I am her mother figure as well. While the case is active, we keep in touch with birth families and speak to each other weekly.
CB: How did you incorporate the birth parents/family into your child’s life?
We talk about birth parents and family daily. We pray for them at night as well. The birth mom and I message each other frequently and I send her pictures. We also set up a time, about every other month, to meet at a park for a couple of hours.
CB: How has Children’s Bureau helped you on this journey?
I can honestly say we would not have been able to do this without Children’s Bureau. They have become a second family to us. Our social workers have been amazing. They supported visits when we were not able to. They were persistent in getting us the information that we needed when the county was running a bit behind. Being resource parents can have truly rough days, and our social workers have always been there to lend an ear, a shoulder to cry on, and a voice of encouragement. We have also enjoyed utilizing the support groups. Sometimes it is nice just to get in a room of other resource parents and know that you are not alone. In my experience, CB has some of the most amazing families.
CB: What activities/therapies have the children joining your family through foster care experienced?
One of our saving graces with keeping the babies on track as much as possible is having them be a part of the Regional Center and receive occupational therapy. Our therapist has been amazing and has helped us get our babies to flourish as much as possible. We just started play therapy through mental health, and the process is fascinating. I cannot wait to watch them grow.
CB: How did you manage your and other family member’s feelings when a child goes to live with another family?
To be honest, our children’s outlook helps with the feelings of when a child goes home. When the first child who joined our family would cry, our oldest daughter would rock her, hush at her and tell her that it is ok. She would whisper that she knew that she missed her family, but we were here to love and take care of her right now. But when days get hard, it is so important to have a good support group. We have found that other resource families are best at truly understanding the feeling that you are going through.
CB: What challenges have you faced as a resource parent and what have you learned?
One of the challenges, which I still face daily, is to have grace for everyone involved. Have grace for the birth family. Have grace for the social workers. Have grace with the county workers. And most of all have grace for myself and my family. Another challenge I had/have is staying patient. There are so many days I wish there were a crystal ball, but I know that I have to just enjoy and live in the day because nothing is promised. I have learned to have a little more compassion for birth families. After all, we all make mistakes; just some of us are part of a better cycle than others.
CB: Tell us about your children today and their interests.
We have five children that live in our home today. Our oldest, Braden, is in the fourth grade. He loves math and playing soccer. He really loves learning about cars and hopes to invent a flying car one day. Our next child is Ansley. She is in the first grade. She loves reading and playing soccer as well. We spend a lot of time on the soccer field. She is our social butterfly; she loves meeting people and making new friends. Cora is our third. She is three. She loves trains and fire trucks. She has a sense of style that is all her own that always includes bright colors, animals, and shoes on the wrong feet. Her favorite person is our fourth, Bella who is two. She is a lover of Minnie Mouse and doing all things her bigger siblings do. She is super smart, and she loves to sing. Our little guy just turned one He is a lot of fun and has a silly sense of humor while also being chill. He loves wheels, and all things cars. Most of all, they all love each other.