The rewards are many, say foster parents
Province marks Foster Families Week from Oct. 21-27
When talking about her role as a foster parent, Lynn Eddy focuses on what she’s gotten from the experience over the past 19 years rather than the love and nurturing she’s given to the children she’s cared for.
Mother’s Day is always a sensitive day for a child in care, the Shoal Harbour woman says, recalling how a five-year-old boy got up early on Mother’s Day and made her a sandwich smothered in Cheese Whiz.
He’d only been with her family a short time, she says, and had no idea she hated Cheese Whiz. But, as they say, it’s the thought that counts. “I hugged him and kissed him and cuddled him on my bed while I ate the whole thing. I always have Cheese Whiz in my house now,” says the 44-year-old.
A beaming face
Feb. 14 is also a special occasion for young and old alike — a day to acknowledge feelings towards loved ones.
“A child took his allowance and bought me these earrings for Valentine’s Day. He was seven and I thought he was buying them for a little girl. He had spent all his allowance on these very long earrings that had about 20 plastic stars on them and I can still see his face beaming when he told me ‘And guess what? They glow in the dark!’”
Lynn says the earrings remain among her most treasured possessions.
Lynn was also ecstatic a couple of years ago when she got a call that a newborn was in need of care. It was the second time she and her husband, Rick, welcomed an infant into their home.
Lynn also recalls the child who quickly became comfortable in his new home but couldn’t find his voice, at first, to tell her how he felt.
“He wanted to tell me that he loved me but didn’t know how. So he used to write it on sticky-notes and post them in our home.”
Loving another child
Lynn says becoming a foster parent almost two decades ago is one of the best decisions she’s ever made. She always dreamed of having a large family, but that was not to be.
After her only child was three years-old, and knowing she could not have any more children, Lynn and her husband decided to look into adoption. The social worker asked the young couple, who were living in North Harbour at the time, if they’d ever considered fostering. A week later the Eddys received a call about a 15-year-old girl in need of care.
They welcomed the teen into their home where she stayed for over five years.
“You have to ask yourself, ‘ Can you love another child the way you love your own?’ And I was only 25 when she came to us. And it didn’t make any difference if she was 15 or one. I knew right from the beginning that it made no difference, that I could love another child as I loved my own.”
Just months after leaving their home, the young woman was tragically killed in an accident.
Over the years, the Eddys have cared for about 20 children. Rick says fostering is rewarding as well as challenging. “People need to get involved knowing that any time a family group expands, there are going to be challenges. And when you do the courses you need to take (to become a foster parent), you’re going into it with your eyes open and you’ll know what to expect,” he says.
Lynn has some advice for other foster parents and those who are thinking about bringing children into their homes: stay informed, become active in your community in the activities the children are involved with and take whatever training is offered.
Developing relationships between foster parents and the child’s biological parents is crucial, she says, as returning the child to the biological parents is always the No. 1 goal of fostering.
Oct. 21-27 is Foster Families Week
Diane Molloy, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Foster Families Association, says there are approximately 775 children in care in this province. That’s the highest it’s been in awhile, she says, and a high percentage of these children are under age 12.
There are currently about 560 foster homes in this province. Many of these homes have been set up to care for a particular child. Some homes are for respite only.
When a foster home is not available, she says, children are cared for in apartment settings.
Because of the lack of homes, children are also being uprooted from not only their families but also their friends, she says, when they have to be moved to another community.
Oftentimes, she adds, it’s not possible to keep siblings together.
Fostering is a team effort, Molloy says. It’s all about families helping families.
A new continuum of care strategy announced in Budget 2012 focuses on recruiting and retaining foster families. It comes with a price tag of $18.4 million over the next two years. Molloy is optimistic that the new system will lead to more foster homes.
“If we had 100 new ( foster) homes today that would go a long way in taking care of the children that are not in foster homes,” she says.
Meanwhile, Lynn says she’d encourage individuals and families to look into becoming foster parents.
“If you know the need is there and you can do it, how can you not?”
On the web: http://www.nlffa.ca/
Newfoundland and Labrador Foster Families Association social worker Amy Kendall-Fulford (left) and the association’s executive director, Diane Molloy, pick the winners of this year’s drawing contest. The association offers drawing and writing contests in schools throughout the province each year to celebrate Foster Families Week.