“I’ve wanted to be a foster parent since I was 16,” shared Summer. She worked at a daycare at the time and didn’t even know any foster families, but somehow knew there was a need and wanted to ensure kids were safe and loved. It wasn’t just a fleeting idea, either. Summer majored in Social Work in college and even interned with Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services (PCHAS).
After graduation, she returned to her hometown to work as a teacher and was excited a PCHAS Foster Parent had joined the staff at her church. It was great to have someone to answer questions like, “Can singles become foster parents?” She was pleased to learn that she could foster and adopt with a strong support system.
It affected Summer’s parents, too. They wanted to help brothers and sisters in foster care stay together. They fostered two sibling groups and adopted her two younger brothers. She was not a foster parent yet, but Summer was learning so much, and she got the opportunity to support her parents and the boys.
As she approached her thirtieth birthday, Summer wanted to become a mom as much as ever. Her desire to foster never waned and she knew she needed to be prepared. So, she bought a home and buckled down to be wise with her money. She found a counselor and built a connection so she’d have a professional she could talk to about her thoughts and feelings. Summer also took stock of her support system to ensure she wasn’t taking a huge leap of faith alone. All this reassured her it was the right time to begin fostering. When the new year started, Summer contacted PCHAS for information about the process, and things started falling into place.
Summer wanted to become a foster parent, but deep down, she hoped she would be able to adopt the children and avoid the loss involved with reunification. She took part in a twenty-one-day prayer initiative and prayed daily for a smooth experience and the opportunity to adopt. After several days, Summer felt a conviction from the Lord: she was praying for other families to fail. She took the encounter with God seriously and knew she had to change her heart and focus. She continued her daily prayers, but her new petition asked God to restore families, for the parents to know their kids are safe, and for strength and wisdom to help kids heal.
She worked on all the requirements to become a foster parent and completed her verification soon after her summer break began. About two weeks later, she welcomed her first child. In the 18 months that have followed, she has cared for 12 children ranging from newborns to 8 years old.
The experience has affirmed Summer’s calling, but it is not an easy path. Fostering requires flexibility, and foster parents must navigate ambiguity with grace. Summer says the challenges are worth it because the rewards are so great.
The children have needed Summer’s care for different lengths of time. Some have reunited with relatives or family friends, and she has had children reunify with their parents twice. Reunification is always the goal for kids in foster care, and Summer supports it 100%.
“Meeting the birth family was scary, at first,” says Summer, “but it evolved into a good relationship.” Summer likes writing, so she takes the initiative to write a letter to the family as soon as possible. “I try to assure them the kids are loved and that I’m rooting for them. I tell them that I’m praying for them and that I pray for them with the kids at bedtime,” Summer shared. “We pray for strength for mom and dad, compassion and wisdom for me, and for the kids to feel loved and safe.” The reactions from the children’s families have been positive. She says, “I didn’t realize how much I was going to love being involved with the birth families.”
For two groups of kids, her positive relationship with the birth family has resulted in an ongoing relationship even now that the kids are back home. Summer loves seeing the children grow up and be part of their lives, and she is grateful for the chance to continue encouraging their parents.
When we asked Summer what advice she would share, she quickly discussed the need for support and the importance of good planning. When one group of siblings left to live with family, it happened very quickly. The children had been with her for about eight months. The loss was hard on Summer, so she started making a game plan she could use going forward. The most important thing is ensuring people who are supportive (and educated about foster care) know of her needs and are available to listen as she needs them in the days following a loss. Summer also finds it helpful to increase her counseling visits for a couple of weeks because she knows how important it is to support her mental health. Once, she went to stay with her parents for a few days. She’s found comfort in having a plan, and navigating loss well has helped her “stay in the game” to continue providing a nurturing family for other kids who need her.
There is a huge need for families to foster – especially for siblings and school-aged kids. “It’s needed,” Summer said. “[The losses] might hurt, but it’s not about you. You don’t get into this for you; you get into fostering for the kids. It’s going to be hard… but you can do it!”
If you have an unwavering commitment to ensuring kids are safe and feel loved like Summer does, we want to meet you. Join An Online Info Session to learn more or Connect With Us at 281-324-0544 or firstname.lastname@example.org.