Foster Parenting: A Courageous Choice That Transforms Lives with Love and Compassion

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    Janette and Bill Cook (sitting and standing on left) and their family. Photo courtesy of Janette Cook
    Janette and Bill Cook (sitting and standing on left) and their family. Photo courtesy of Janette Cook

    In a world where children often become victims of circumstances they have no control over, it’s nice to know there are people who will come to their rescue.

    Foster parenting takes courage, fortitude, and, most of all, a giant and loving heart. It’s not easy to do, but for caring folks willing to save a youth from a life of sadness and hardship, participants in the industry will say they have no other choice.

    It is a choice that can make a difference. They choose to bring children into their world, which can help a youngster understand the warmth and compassion that go with being wanted.

    THE COOKS

    Janette Cook and her husband Bill have been fostering for nearly 15 years, with 12 of those years being as a Primary Medical Needs home.

    “We often foster medically fragile babies, babies born addicted to various drugs, or children with special needs,” she explained. “There have been times of real struggle in our home. Not only working hard to provide a safe, happy environment for all of our children but also dealing with medical issues of our own.

    “Having a community of support is crucial. During those times of extra stress, I have always known that help is a call or text away.”
    Fostering a child is different than adopting. Fostering is giving a child a temporary home until they are adopted. Of course, foster parents can also choose to adopt.

    “When people ask me how we can do it, or say they wouldn’t be able to foster, I tell them the same thing. ‘If it doesn’t break my heart a little to say goodbye, then I didn’t do it right,'” Janet said. “Each of our children will forever be a part of our family.”
    Like all foster families, the Cooks volunteer daily to love the children. They volunteer to put their lives on hold to stay by their side during illness, therapies, and each small victory.

    “We also volunteer to put our hearts on the line. Each child who leaves our home, takes a part of us with them,” she said.

    She said that they are often viewed by birth families as the bad guys.
    “After all, their children are with us,” Janet said. “I strive to keep open communication with birth parents. I send them photos, videos and updates. I know it is very hard for them to be apart from their babies. I am privileged to be a support for the parents as they rebuild their lives.”

    THE HARRIS FAMILY

    family photo
    Christy and Michael Harris and their family.
    Photo courtesy of Christy Harris

     

    Christy and Michael Harris have been foster parents who moved to adopt.
    Their adopted daughters are now both 4 years old.

    “They are not biological sisters. We did adopt them at the same time, though,” Christy said. “One of them was seven days old, and one was ten days old when they brought them to our home. We really didn’t expect to adopt since we were told that rarely happens with babies. Usually, someone in the family steps up.”

    Christy said the best thing to do for those interested in fostering – or adopting – is to start with an informational meeting at a foster agency.

    “I would go to several,” she said. “I also recommend following Foster the Family on IG (Instagram) or any other families that foster. Ask a family you know who has fostered.”

    She said there are also ways to help if folks aren’t in a position to foster, noting that the best route could be as a respite provider. This helps families who foster get a much-needed break.

    She noted that while the process to qualify as a foster or adoptive family is lengthy, one thing stands out above all.

    “Having a loving, stable home that is willing to love these children as our own,” she said. “We are in our 40’s. You have to be a certain age to foster, but I think they look at a variety of things like financial stability, too. You want to have support because there is a lot of appointments you must attend.”

    In the case of the Harrises, they already had two biological children, ages 8 and 9.
    “They are brothers and sisters. They really don’t see them any differently. We’ve asked,” she said.

    Christy offered some additional advice about how challenging emotionally fostering and adopting can be as the system is set up to reunite families if at all possible.

    “We initially went into it to adopt, but our hearts were changed after learning more about it,” she said. “We then really wanted to support the biological family and nurture them to be able to reunite.

    “Our case really is so unique from what I hear. Babies really aren’t that easily adopted. We prayed for their families, but ultimately, they weren’t able to overcome generations of trauma to parent their children.

    “We love our girls dearly but know they will have their own grief and many questions as they begin to really understand what adoption is. We talk about it with them, but the understanding isn’t there yet.”

     

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    Rick Mauch
    Rick Mauch is a veteran of more than four decades in the media. He began writing in high school and immediately went into broadcasting for almost a decade after graduating, working his way to morning drive in Birmingham, Alabama. However, realizing how much he missed writing (though he did continue to do some during his time in top-40 radio), Rick returned to what he loved and has been doing it ever since. Rick's career has spanned a plethora of media outlets, including community journalism, sports, entertainment, politics and more. He's worked in print, broadcast and online media. He also spent several years doing public relations for a children's home in East Texas - still writing on the side, of course. When he's not writing, Rick loves to play golf and do Bigfoot research. He's an avid believer. He also made his first hole-in-one in June of 2020. Rick is married to Junell Mauch. They have five children and three granddaughters

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