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Mom Who Used to Be in Foster Care Helps Family Reunite

family reunification

By Sharon Doodnauth, Quality Assurance Family Support Worker

In September of 2017, I got a notice from a friend that there was a sibling set of seven kids that was about to enter foster care after suffering from abuse and neglect. I had always wanted to start doing foster care but never felt that my home would be adequate as I have two kids of my own. Also, I was in foster care when I was younger and had a great single mother role model, but I still doubted myself.

After taking some time to think deeper about fostering, I felt called to foster more and more. While I wasn’t ready to provide for all seven of the siblings at the same time, I asked if I could take in the 9-year-old girl and the 16-month-old girl. It nagged me that the kids could not be kept together, but it worked out well when two of the other siblings were taken in by some fellow churchgoers. The siblings were able to see each other quite frequently.

Why I Decided to Foster

However, the family who took in the two girls’ brothers decided that it was too much for their young marriage. I had a serious nag in my chest about taking them. I waited. Soon after, I found out they were going to be moved to a town several miles away (the other siblings were already in a home many towns over). I was determined to keep these siblings together, so I decided to also take in the boys.

I moved things around in my home and tried my best to make it work and bought a bigger vehicle that would accommodate all of us. It was sometimes stressful, but I could not imagine them not being there. We rode the tides, and though it wasn’t easy, I made extra efforts to teach the children how to behave and respect others.

The children in my care got along great with my biological kids and helped my family grow. The boys jumped at every chance to play outside, which was great for my kids since they were often hesitant to engage in physical activity.

We all loved going out and doing activities together. Many of my friends used to call us ducks because all of us would walk in a row to the park and close places. I was the mother duck and the kids were my ducklings. Sometimes we would become ambitious and we would “park hop.” That is, walk from one park to the next. We looked for treasures along the way and we collected things. It was a lot of fun!

One of the other cool things was watching the biological parents of the children we took in grow. They did the things that they needed to do to get their kids back. They stumbled a few times, but pulled their socks up and got back up. I grew some pride for them and started to advocate for them and started trying to get them more included in their kids’ lives. It was very rewarding to experience. As I could see that they were getting closer to achieving their goal of going home, I was getting super excited for this family! I started telling them that I would be happy to babysit when they got the kids back home.

The Children in Sharon’s Care Return Home

The kids and I started doing things that would help their family, like making laundry detergent for their house and writing inspiring cards for their family. I started gathering some of the things that I was going to donate away and they asked if they could see if there was anything that their family could use. They picked out curtains and little things to dress up their house.

I was so excited for the children to be reunited with their parents! Though I started getting emotional before they returned home, I decided that I was going to “adopt” this family by staying close with all of them.

Since the kids have gone home, we still get together frequently by going to the lake, having dinner together, and I babysit every chance I get. They are still part of our lives. I feel like a stronger parent and I no longer doubt myself.

There is so much that 9 months of foster care can give you. I would do it again in a heartbeat. I also highly encourage others to become involved. It can be difficult, but if you can get past the rough patches, you’ll find a wonderful sense of purpose in life. Fostering is highly rewarding. The personal connection that you have in giving of yourself, in such a complete form, is irreplaceable.

Want to know more about fostering? Click here for answers to frequently asked questions!

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