After meeting a foster mother and seeing the impact she made, Ronald and Fatima reevaluated how they were spending their time after retirement. After some research, they found Children’s Bureau and began the training to become foster parents themselves. Since then, they have welcomed over 20 children into their family. Read more about their experience in their interview with Children’s Bureau below.
CB: How did you find Children’s Bureau and why did you choose to foster through this agency?
Children’s Bureau has an office in Palmdale and we saw the name on the outside of the building. We researched the name to find out what it meant. Then, we read reports on Children’s Bureau and other agencies. Children’s Bureau was the only choice for us based on the information we had found.
CB: How has Children’s Bureau helped you on this journey?
Our experience with Children’s Bureau and its social workers has been a pleasurable experience. The social workers are very helpful and easy to work with. The organization is supportive, provides training and is there daily for our needs. The people of Children’s Bureau are always ready to answer any question we have and back us up when we need it.
CB: What inspired you to become foster parents and how has it changed your life?
A one-time encounter with a foster mom inspired us to do something to “payback” for the goodness and kindness shown to us during a previous family situation. We were two people with grown children and a big house with three empty bedrooms. I was retired. I asked my wife if we were going to just sit around watching TV and waiting to die. We had this thought that we could provide a child something he or she didn’t have. I guess we unconsciously thought that we could help save the world with some love and material things. How naïve.
We went to CB and began our training to be foster parents. After graduation, we anxiously awaited our first appreciative child. For approximately the next year we did our duty. However, our attitude and outlook really changed when we received a Christmas Eve emergency placement call for a brother and sister who had been abandoned. It was very soon after that that we realized we needed more specialized training. We immediately enrolled in classes at the local Community College – and also took online classes.
In addition to the training, we changed our approach to fostering. Almost all children in the foster system have experienced abuse or neglect that impacts them. Along with the love and material things we were providing, we had to address the issues each child has whether it is physical, psychological, or social. We are still amazed at the number of children in the foster care system. We have learned how to interact with the legal system, the medical system, private therapy agencies and most of all, birth parents.
CB: How have you helped the children transition back to their families?
Helping children with their transition has not been a very big problem for us since most of the children we care for are younger than school age. We talk to them about their birth parents and support family time (visitations) with them. The school-age children are always told the truth in such a way that their current situation is a healing-learning-growing process. Reunification is the reward the child and parents enjoy for achieving their goals.
CB: What do you do to prepare yourselves for the child leaving?
Preparing oneself for a child leaving is impossible. We know the child will leave but he or she will always be with us in our heart and mind. They will always be our lost children. Why lost? Once a child leaves, we never hear about them again. We have not been fortunate to have continued a relationship with the birth family as other foster families have. Sometimes you never get over a child leaving. My wife still cries with the thought of a little boy that came to us two days old. She was called to the hospital and was wheeled out in a wheelchair with him in her arms. A child like that becomes your baby and no amount of preparation can make separation easy or the hurt go away.
A copy of the child’s life book allows us to remember our experience with each child.
CB: What advice would you give others who are considering being resource parents?
Fostering is a pleasure but it is also work. I would suggest that training is the most important thing one can do. All children will be impacted by their experience prior to joining your family. Depending on their age, you have to know what to do on a daily basis. I recommend that prospective resource parents not wear rose-colored glasses but be realistic about what they want to do. Fostering is not about saving the world but providing one unique child the necessities of life to grow into a happy, healthy, productive adult.
We have had 20+ children join our family through Children’s Bureau and currently, we have three little girls, ages 1,2, and 3. People ask us about the bond that develops with the children, and yes, you do develop a bond, but with reunification the goal, you know they will leave someday and you prepare for it.
However, there happens to be a child or two that will melt your heart like no other and you know that that one child is for you, to be your family. That happened to us with our son.
The problem with my wife and I is that we are too old to consider adopting other children. However, we still enjoy each child and love them like they are ours to keep. I am 77 years old and fostering is one of the greatest joys I have ever had. Instead of sitting around watching TV and talking about yesteryears, we are living in the now and the future. We have added a room to the house that is a playroom and classroom just for the children. We have also added raised gardens so the little ones can plant and raise vegetables. My wife and I like the life and joy of the young ones even as they make us tired and happy.
*Interview from Spring 2017