Navigating the Path of Foster Parenting
With nearly 400,000 children in our foster care system, there is a great need for foster parents who are willing to provide a safe, loving, and nurturing environment for children from broken homes. According to the Human Rights Campaign, children placed in foster care have experienced various issues such as the death of a parent/legal guardian, divorce, drug and alcohol abuse by parents, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, and financial hardship. Because of these experiences, foster parenting can be difficult.
Although there are many challenges in foster parenting, married couple TJ and Kendra Ogroske find making an impact in children’s lives rewarding. Even when they cannot find time for a date night, they still find joy in showing the children unconditional love—demonstrating the love of the Father to them.
Hearing the Call to Foster Parenting
While working at Frito Lay, TJ met a young boy in the early morning hours at a local gas station, where he was delivering products. The five-year-old boy was wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt without shoes and socks in 35-degree weather. TJ asked the boy where his shoes were. The boy cried and told TJ his mom had left him.
Confused about what steps he should take, TJ texted his wife for advice. In the end, TJ called the police, and they took the child. This incident sparked a conversation between TJ and his wife. They discussed what would happen to this little boy if his mom had really abandoned him. The couple started talking about what they could do to help children in these situations.
Simultaneously, they suggested becoming foster parents. Kendra recalls thinking, “We had a house with two extra rooms and love to give. There was no reason we couldn’t help a kid in need.”
Coping with the Challenges of Foster Parenting
After fostering 10 children and adopting two children over a five-and-a-half-year span, the Ogroskes share how they cope with the challenges foster parents face every day.
One of the most challenging aspects of foster parenting is meeting all the requirements. Upon placement, the couple has three days to take the child for an annual check-up and to the dentist’s office. To support the children, there are numerous meetings to attend. They must meet with CPS (Child Protective Services), CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), and their lawyer. As working parents, it is hard for them to schedule these meetings.
Building relationships is key to being successful foster parents. It is important to build relationships with CPS and CASA workers, which Kendra admitted can be challenging at times. But one way to build these relationships is to be completely honest with the agencies. Kendra advises foster parents to ask a lot of questions and offer all pertinent information to the workers to help everyone have a good understanding of the child’s situation.
It can also be challenging to foster children with a variety of issues due to their diverse life experiences. To make the transition easier for the children, it is important to build trust and positive relationships with the children and with their teachers or daycare providers. To build these relationships, Kendra checks in with their daycare providers daily and gives the daycare as much information as she can.
In addition, the couple has a difficult time in finding room in their schedule to go on a date night. Also, in order to leave the children at the house, they must have an approved babysitter or respite provider. As a result, the couple has a hard time building relationships with other adults since they cannot leave the children easily. For many foster parents, this aspect of foster parenting can create feelings of loneliness and isolation.
To cope with these challenges, Kendra relies on TJ. Kendra and TJ talk through the obstacles and pray to God for guidance. Kendra discusses how she overcomes these challenges, “Sometimes I remind myself that this challenge is small when looking at the bigger picture of being able to love on His children. It’s not about us but about them and showing His love.”
Reaping the Rewards of Foster Parenting
Foster parenting can be difficult but also rewarding. Kendra loves building a safe environment to make foster children feel more secure and confident in their surroundings. When a child is placed in their care, they have the child choose a stuffed animal or a toy to make them feel like they own something.
Seeing children grow in this environment is one of the greatest rewards a foster parent can receive.
It warms Kendra’s heart to see the children change while under the couple’s care. Kendra loves to see a child giggling and playing that used to barely smile. It brings her joy to know she is making an impact in the lives of children in the community.
Advice for Prospective Foster Parents
First of all, if you are considering becoming a foster parent, check out your state’s requirements. If you reside in Texas, visit Requirements for Foster/Adopt Families.
If you are still interested in foster parenting after reading the guidelines, Kendra advises prospective foster parents to “just do it. It is so rewarding in the end. It’s not easy, but it is worth it to see the child smile and feel loved.”
Next, start interviewing an agency. Talk to people who are foster parents and see what agency they use. Ask them questions about their agency and decide which one works best for you. Agencies are a huge support system for foster parents. Check out Foster and Adoption Agencies in Texas to find an agency in your area.
Although foster parenting can be difficult, remember you are making a big difference in the lives of children who need love, security, and stability. Look for local churches and organizations that provide foster care support services.
Supporting Foster Parents
Foster parents’ biggest need is finding approved babysitters and respite care providers. When describing the loneliness and isolation some foster parents feel, Kendra says, “Sometimes you feel like you’re on an island and cooped up; having someone there to lend the helping hand would be HUGE.”
Another way to support foster families is to set up a foster closet from which families can shop after receiving a placement. Sometimes calls for foster placements can happen at 2:00 a.m., leaving the parents struggling to find clothes that fit the gender and age of the child. It would be helpful for foster closets to include a variety of toiletries and toys for various ages.
Not all of us can become foster parents, but we can all work together to support those called to this important job. A little support from each person in our community can go a long way in making a difference in children’s lives as they try to put the pieces back together.