May is National Foster Care Month, an important time to raise awareness about the needs of children and youth in foster care and their families, while also celebrating the contributions of dedicated foster families and other caring individuals and organizations that are already supporting these young people.
My journey to becoming a foster parent
As somebody who spent time in foster care as an infant, I always knew I wanted to become a foster parent and give back to a system I knew needed support. It just never seemed like the right time. Until a mentor, Marylou Sudders, the Massachusetts Secretary of Health & Human Services, reminded me that there’s never an ideal time. Her wisdom stuck with me and helped encourage me to dive in two years ago.
I’m so glad I did. I describe fostering as ‘joyous chaos,’ because as a single person working two jobs, going to school, and sometimes having multiple kids in the home, it can be a lot, but it is a privilege to open my home to these children and see them thrive in the midst of challenging times.
No matter what your personal or family circumstances, if you have ever thought that you could provide a safe, welcoming, and affirming home for a child from your local community who is in need, then consider becoming a foster parent. We can each play a part in enhancing the lives of children and youth in foster care.
Nicolas’ story: From respite care to adoption
Director of satellite business processes, Nicolás D’Onofrio, his wife, Julia, and their young sons, decided together to become a foster family in 2018.
In the first year, they received 10 short-term placements, which was manageable despite the urgent medical needs of two of the children. “My personal life and my professional life really came together,” says Nicolas. “It was something amazing to be able to partner with Kate and get a deeper understanding of the amazing work they do in Government Relations to advocate for all children.”
The outpouring of love and support from friends, family, neighbors, and the Boston Children’s community made for Nicolas’ “best year ever.”
Yet 2019 is looking just as good. The family has decided to adopt one of their foster daughters who had been placed in their home on three separate occasions. The boys recently got to sign the official paperwork along with their parents. “We now know that by opening our home, we were in a way opening the world for our children.”
The need for foster homes
There is currently a critical need for all types of foster homes across Massachusetts and the U.S., including respite homes that provide short-term placement support to long-term foster parents and hotline homes that can help accommodate children during emergencies that occur during nights and weekends.
There is also a need for homes that are willing to support children with chronic health or mental health needs such as asthma, diabetes, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as well as safe, welcoming and affirming homes for children and youth who identify as LGBTQ+.
Boston Children’s collaboration with the Foster MA Campaign
In my job as director of state government relations at Boston Children’s, I work to address the systematic challenges in the child welfare space, but systematic change takes time and I know there’s a current urgent need for more homes as we work to improve the system. That is where the idea to have Boston Children’s Hospital collaborate with the Foster MA Campaign was born.
After months of preparation, with help from Nicolas and an amazing interdisciplinary team of other colleagues around the hospital, we’re now proud to announce our new collaboration with the Foster MA campaign to help recruit and retain foster and adoptive parents in Massachusetts. Next week, we host our first free resource fair for current and prospective foster and adoptive families to learn about the process of becoming a foster or adoptive parent, along with the vast wealth of resources and supports available to current and prospective families.
Part of the reason I’m so excited about this event is because I feel that at Boston Children’s, we are a community of people who care deeply about children. We are the perfect place to find similar like-minded people who might be willing to say, “You know what? I have the capability and interest in opening my home to a child in need.”
Our CEO, Sandra L. Fenwick, always says, “Children are 25 percent of our population, but they’re 100 percent of our future.” What better way for us to help support the future than by fostering vulnerable kids who are in need of a safe space to call home. That is why we are calling this collaboration “Fostering the Future.”
Learn more about becoming a foster parent in Massachusetts.
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