Inspiration, Challenges, and Rewards: Meet Our Foster Families

One thing we know for sure is there’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” family … or foster family. Some foster families are “empty nesters,” often older couples looking to make a difference. Others are younger, perhaps with children of their own—or single parents, individuals who have never had children, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

They all share one thing in common, though. Our dedicated foster families believe all children deserve loving care, a safe, welcoming place to call home, and hope for the future.

To honor our foster families, we shared some of their stories in Facebook posts during National Foster Care Month in May. We hope the excerpts reprinted here will help inspire others to join the community of NAFI Rhode Island foster families.

Jen & Aubrey: Becoming Foster Parents
As COVID-19 Changed the World

Jen & Aubrey, NAFI RI foster familiesJen and Aubrey, a newly licensed couple, took in their first placement just a month before the world changed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. They have navigated this new way of life with dedication and a great sense of humor, and feel the sudden changes in their lives, and the lives of the kids in their home, have only brought them closer as a family. The message is more powerful in their own words:

“Being a foster parent is quite honestly the best thing that has ever happened to us—well except for finding each other! We became foster-to-adopt parents for the very first time this past Valentine’s Day—you know about a month before the outbreak of a global viral pandemic. Talk about a plot twist! However, looking over the last few months, we have had so many bright spots because of this crazy journey and these amazing boys! Here are a few of the highlights:

* Marvel Movie Marathons

* UNO Battles

* My other half excitedly telling me how he and the 12-year-old “crushed the geometry quiz” (and how much he is relearning in his new role as “teacher & principal” of distance learning)

* Me trying to beat the 15-year-old at a staring contest

* An innumerable amount of fart jokes. LOL, never realized the benefit of these until COVID

We had so many whys that drew us to this path, which could all pretty much be summed up with a hope and dream of creating a family. So I wanted to share the ‘whys’ that get us through the hard days, and the tremendous amount of joy we have experienced since becoming foster parents, and meeting our boys after opening not only our home but our hearts to them.”

Cassia & Diz: ‘We Couldn’t Live Without Her’

Cassia and Diz, NAFI RI foster familiesCassia and Diz have been fostering a young woman who’s now a teen for the last year-and-a-half, with the ultimate goal of adoption. In their spare time, they have been collecting luggage all across the state to donate to children in foster care, so they never have to move in garbage bags. All of this, in addition to their involvement with the local arts and LGBTQIA+ community, may seem exhausting, but Cassia and Diz take it all in stride! Here’s more of their story:

“The two of us had talked about the possibility of becoming foster/adoptive parents at some point in the future, but we thought it was in the more distant future. Then we met K. Cassia was matched with K through a mentoring program, and got to know K while she was at another placement. Day visits in the community turned into weekend visits at our house, and it got harder and harder for everyone each time K left. At some point, before it was official, we all became a family. Our household is full of 20- and 30-somethings who hadn’t planned on living with a teenager anytime soon, but everyone was on board and changed their plans when it was clear how much we love each other and how we couldn’t live without her. Now we’ve officially been a family for almost a year-and-a-half. We haven’t legally adopted her yet, but there is no universe in which anything would change our minds about wanting to be her parents. There hasn’t been a moment when we’ve regretted moving all of our plans up for her, and we are so grateful that she wants to be a part of our family as much as we want her to be.”

Myndi & Kevin: ‘With Love, Respect and Consistency,
Even the Toughest Kids Respond’

Myndi & Kevin, NAFI RI foster familiesMyndi and Kevin Thomas have been NAFI foster parents for several years, and have been fostering for much longer. They treat all the young people in their home with respect and kindness. Things have gotten difficult at times, but they have never thought about giving up. They believe they are meant to help others and value the lessons every child placed in their home has provided. Here’s their “why”:

“My husband and I began discussing foster care after it became painfully obvious we were unable to have children of our own. We talked about pros and cons without really knowing what was even involved in being foster parents … . Then, after six years of marriage, we were handed a miracle. Against the odds we had a baby girl. And life got REALLY busy. But a couple years after our daughter was born, the subject started coming up again. In short, we FINALLY discussed it at home in reach of a computer and decided to look into it. We registered for classes that day. I worried about a lot of things, but most of all how our only child would feel sharing us. Turns out that was one thing I didn’t need to worry about! Amber-Rose was all-in from day one. Growing up with parents who did their best despite addiction had shown me that sometimes families need the time and space to get better. I also understood that sometimes no amount of time and space was going to make a home safe for children. We wanted to help, so we did. We took the classes and went through the interviews and were accepted. We have never once regretted that decision. Amber is now 22 and still loves welcoming new siblings in to the house. We have had varied ages come in; from two weeks to 17 years old. We have had various lengths of time they have stayed—from 36  hours to three-and-a-half years. We’ve had kids leave only to return. Some kids we are still in contact with, while others we last saw when they left. What we’ve found is that with love, respect, and consistency, even the toughest kids respond. If all my kids leave here with something that helps them someday break the cycle, then we’ve done our jobs. I hope that every one of our kids has a better, or easier life after spending time as part of our family.”

Angel & Jose: ‘We Have Really Fallen in Love
With Our Journey and Having a Positive Impact’

Angel & Jose, NAFI RI foster familiesAngel and Jose Torres have been NAFI foster parents since 2018. They are realistic, flexible, compassionate, and kind, and their sense of humor about day-to-day life is phenomenal. Below they describe their reason for fostering:

“We started fostering because we wanted to expand our family and adopt a child. Over the course of time, we have really fallen in love with our journey and having a positive impact upon the lives of the children that have crossed our path. We have been fostering for two years, and have had six total children. There have been moments of joy, heartbreak, laughs, and lots of hard work. We really would not change it for the world, and feel that foster care is a fantastic and life-changing experience. We have both grown as individuals, as a couple, and as a family. For anyone contemplating foster care, we recommend ‘just do it!’ There is never a ‘right’ time to have children. The time is now.”

Florence: ‘I Feel the Need to Share …
What I Missed Having as a Child’

Florence, NAFI RI foster familiesFlorence has been a NAFI foster parent for almost 10 years, and has been a licensed foster parent for much longer. She came to fostering after her experiences growing up in care on the island of Haiti and decided she wanted to provide children with a loving place to stay, where they would be safe and cared for. Florence is a mother and grandmother, as well as a teacher in Massachusetts. It is clear that she has loved spending her life helping others, especially children and families. Florence has written a poem about what led her to fostering, and how she has made helping people her life’s calling:

I choose to serve or help other people because I have been helped in the past by people non related to me.

Removed from mom and dad at the age of two,

I had to learn to cope with the situation that I had to endure.

Growing up with nuns at a very young age, life was tough.

My life was programmed to do good and accept any situation.

I was rarely right;

Always blamed or punished for something that I didn’t do.

Now that I am grown,

I feel the need to share with the unfortunates what I missed having as a child such as the love, the care, the good understanding and the family time.

I called it giving back to society.

Foster Parenting Through the Eyes of the Alves Family

The Alves, NAFI RI foster familiesBeing a foster parent is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, but at the same time one of the most amazing things you’ll ever experience! Raising a child is hard, raising a child that isn’t yours is even harder. So why do we do this? Most of the great things in life are hard to get and require a lot of sacrifices, but we still work hard to get those things, and taking care of a child/youth when they need it the most is no different. It’s hard and rewarding at the same time. Many people are afraid to get hurt, but what alternative do these children have if we don’t open our doors and hearts? Are you afraid to suffer and get attached? These children want and need you to understand and get attached, that’s how you show them you care, and that’s how you show them they are loved. When you care so much for a child that losing them makes you cry, then you are doing the right thing. What they learn in your home stays with them forever. No matter their age.

As a foster family, we have experienced struggles that made some of us question why we were doing this. One day, when one of our foster children was having a very hard time and one of my daughters asked, “Why do you do this?” I told her, if you think it’s hard for us, imagine how much harder it is for this child. She hugged me and stayed with me until I was able to calm him down. The children were reunified with their mom and we all worked together to accomplish their goal!

Doing foster care is not just the parents’ decision, it’s a family decision. Your children need to be involved and have a say in this so they can support you in the good times and in the bad ones.

Recently, we had two children who came into our lives and brought so much joy to our home and, in the blink of an eye, they had to move out of state into a different foster home. We cried so much and were so worried about them. Thankfully, the oldest sent me a message telling us how much they love us and wished they were with us, how happy they were to be with all their siblings and in contact with their mom. That made us feel so much better and happy for them.

Throughout our journeys, we have had so much support from our agency. They made sure we were OK and supported us through all of it. They were our village and we are so grateful for them. So go ahead, take the step, suffer a little and be part of a child’s life, a child who is waiting for you to tell him/her everything is going to be OK … because you care!

Terri And Chris Rogers’ Journey as Foster Parents

The Rogers, NAFI RI foster familiesTerri and Chris Rogers have been foster parents since 2007. Together for more than 30 years after meeting in high school, they have two grown sons of their own, Christopher and Daniel, and have taken guardianship of two girls, Jennifer and Janasia. Terri tells their story:

“When our journey as foster parents began, I figured we would try to help teenage girls. I knew I could relate to them in so many ways, having been in their position—maybe different circumstances but the same feelings. Our first foster daughter came to us at 14 with the clothes on her back, and a tough exterior. It was definitely a learning experience for us, considering we had only raised two boys! This child was a great kid, and made it an easy transition for us. This young lady, Daniella, is now 25 years old, and is still part of our family. We talk regularly and I will always love her as if she were my own. We have since fostered so many children, and many of our “girls” are now young women—Mildred, Lily, and Carly to name a few—who we still talk to and consider part of our family. In 2015, when Jennifer needed a permanent home, we took guardianship of her without question. The following year, we did the same for Janasia. Both girls had been with us since they were 10 years old, and they are now active teenagers who never have to worry about where they are sleeping at night.”

“Since we have become foster parents to these and many other girls our lives have changed for the better. I have seen how my family has changed their lives as well. My girls now tell me how much they love us, and thank us for always being there for them, no matter what. I hope that even the children that weren’t with us for long got something from living with us, because I know we have learned something from every placement. Being a foster parent is a hard and, at times, thankless job, but I’m glad we chose this path!”

Become a NAFI Rhode Island Foster Family!

Foster families come in many forms. Foster children placed with relatives make up one-quarter of all children in the foster care system, and you don’t have to be married to be a foster or adoptive parent. Single parent homes represent one-third of adoptions from foster care. NAFI RI is also proud to welcome LGBTQIA+ individuals and couples as foster parents. Learn how you can help a child find a forever family by contacting Jessica Marcil, Chantal Jackson, or Kristine Bouthillier at (401) 921-8710, or by emailing jessicamarcil@nafi.com.