Chad and Jennifer work together as foster parents
Chad and I grew up in Ashland, Oregon and we were high school sweethearts. Our ways parted once I began college and Chad moved to Portland, and I was married to someone else for 15 years. Chad and I reconnected at our 20 year high school reunion and married about a year later. We've been married very happily for 9 1/2 years.
Neither of us have children of our own, which was very painful, especially to me. Nearing our 50s, we discussed adopting an older child. Then one day Chad came home with a foster program folder from Boys & Girls Aid. He had stopped by there to make a delivery, he is a driver, and talked to someone about their programs.
I was hesitant at first, having had a negative experience with being a DHS foster parent several years ago. But after talking to Boys & Girls Aid staff, and lots of prayer and conversation on our parts, we felt compelled to move forward. It just seems to "fit" us, and we are able to have a positive impact on youth and families. Fostering has become an integral part of our lives, and our home feels empty when we don't have a teenager in the house. Even the dog gets depressed when the boys leave us!
We really love the kids! Each one has a unique viewpoint and special personality, and they are just plain fun to be around! It is especially rewarding when they contact us after leaving the program and update us on how they are doing. We have some former foster sons that we see regularly, and Chad is a mentor to them, which is important because some of these boys have no father figure in their lives.
There have been challenges. It can be disheartening to see a youth doing well, and then making a bad decision that sets them back. And it is frustrating to work with a youth and see them make positive progress, but then they return home and the dysfunction there continues to be a negative influence. We have found it important to remind ourselves that there is only so much we can do, and to keep doing it to the best of our abilities. But there comes a time when we have to let it go, and hope that our example will be of some good to the youth as they go through life.
We think the most important part of fostering is to show the youth that there are other ways to live than what they may be used to. Many of the youth in foster care have been exposed to the adults in their life abusing drugs, being neglectful, engaging in criminal activity or even being abusive. We try to show them a family life where everyone is treated with loving respect and the adults are dependable, consistent, sober, and model healthy communication and a work ethic.
Good foster parents have a positive impact on more than just the youth they take into their homes, their modeling can affect entire families and even have multi-generational impact as the youth grow up and have kids of their own. This in turn makes a difference to society as a whole. Foster parenting is compassion made tangible, and is a long term investment in society's most precious "commodity," our children.