May is National Foster Care Month!

We at TALK READ SING Tampa Bay and Champions for Children want to honor the role Fosters have served in the life of a child and the deep love and care that Fosters provide which surely enhanced their life (lives).

To celebrate, we share a personal journey with you to educate and encourage others who may feel compelled to be a caring adult in a child’s life in one way or another!

Our own TALK READ SING Tampa Bay expert, Jenna, caught up with a colleague at Champions for Children, and foster mom, Laura. 

Jenna: What brought you to the decision to become a foster parent?

Laura: I did a lot of fundraising and raising awareness for child abuse starting in High School. I designed and
sold t-shirts, made blue ribbon pins for people to wear, and collected donations from friend, family and church congregations. This money was donated to the Rainbow House in Columbia, Missouri,  a safe home for children who are victim to child abuse and neglect. I continued with this passion while attending Missouri State University. Once I moved to Florida to complete my degree at Florida Gulf Coast University, I lost my connections and network, so I stopped the fundraising and collecting donations. A few years went by and I met a coworker that was a single foster mom. I knew this was my calling. This became the way I could give back to the kids that need my time, love and safe space the most.

Jenna: How long have you been/were a foster parent? What kept/has kept you in it?

Laura: I have been licensed almost two years. I want to continue being able to use my personal and work experience to co-parent. I want the parents to know I’m on their side and rooting for them. We are all human and get on the wrong track sometimes, and I hope to be a light in getting them back on the right one. I also love getting to meet new kiddos and be a “bonus” mom. My daughter loves spending time with new family members, too. Although my daughter’s foster care journey has been very different from most (I am the only mom/parent she has ever known after birth), I want
fostering to be a part of the rest of our lives, so she knows we must continue helping children just like she needed help.

Jenna: How many fosters did you take in over the course of your time as a foster parent? Do any
stick out in your mind for any reason?

Laura: I have had four placements total. I have loved them all the same for different amounts of time, but my
longest placement, Amelia, sticks out the most. She is soon to be a Hudson forever and ever! We are patiently awaiting an adoption court date once they are in person again.

Jenna: What is your favorite fostering moment or your fondest memory?

Laura: The most incredible thing to witness throughout this entire journey is a village being built on our behalf. I started this journey as a single 24-year-old wanting to share my love, time and space with children who need it. I never expected this to become an adoption journey. I don’t have any local family and my friend base began very small after just moving to the Tampa area a few months prior. The community, other foster parents and new friends and coworkers have carried us through many hard times of this adventure. This village has helped when daycare closes, but
Mom still works. When placement calls and you need an entire wardrobe for a child you found out about only three hours prior. When you have been getting a maximum of 2.5 hours of sleep at a time for four months straight, they give you a break. The village is the only way to keep going. I am so thankful and blessed for every single person who has touched our lives during the last two years.

Jenna: What has been the most challenging part of being a foster parent?

Laura: One of the hardest things about fostering is the lack of communication or misinformation. It is a broken system. Many parts are getting much better, but some remain the same or get worse. I have had times of being told I am getting a placement, five-year-old girl, she will arrive tonight, and CPI will be in touch. The time becomes 10:30 pm and I have heard nothing. She was fortunate to be able to go to a family member, but no one called me to let me know. So I sat– waiting, excited and anxious. Yet, no child to welcome that night. There is a lot of misinformation from case workers, to licensing specialists, to Guardian ad Litems and more. I have to remind myself that the system is overwhelmed, every social worker is overworked, but it can be extremely challenging for the child and for the foster parent.

Jenna: What advice do you have for individuals or families who are interested in fostering?

Laura: The best advice I can give is to ask about resources in the community, ask to be connected with other foster families, ask when you have any questions. There is a Family Deployment Specialist that should remain constant through most of anyone’s journey and can find the answers if they do not know them right away. Facebook Foster Parent groups have been HUGE in supporting my physical, emotional, and relationship needs. I could never do this without the resources and people involved in our journey. I also highly recommend Champions for Children playgroups and Parents as Teachers program. I tell every case worker I come in contact with about the organization and how much they have done for me as a parent. Both biological and foster parents could have HUGE success by utilizing these free programs.

Jenna: In one word, please describe your experience as a foster parent.

Laura: Gratifying