Guest post by Dave Farguharson, Staff Member of Eckerd Community Alternatives | Pasco & Pinellas
Kristine Bigelow has been a professional for the greater part of her life. She has dozens of awards on the walls of her home and has accomplished pretty much every goal that she has pursued in life, but in her opinion becoming a foster parent has been the single most rewarding thing in which she has ever been involved.
“I feel as though I am honestly making a real difference in the lives of the families that I work with every day,” she says. “That I am helping to break that cycle of abuse and neglect.”
Following the passing of her husband, Kristine remembers asking herself what her future would hold. As a Christian she remembers asking God for some type of direction regarding what she should do now that the very fabric of her life had been so radically changed. She told us during the interview for this story about a day in the mall when she and her biological daughter were shopping with a friend of her daughter. Her daughter’s friend turned to Kristine and seemingly out of nowhere said that she would make a great foster parent. That was the first moment that Kristine had ever even considered such a thing. She believes that God used her daughter’s friend in order to place her on the path toward changing the lives of others even as her life was also being changed.
Kristine became licensed as a Foster Parent through Eckerd Community Alternatives at the end of December 2014. On January 15, 2015 she received her first child into care, an event that would change her life forever.
Kristine remembers the first time that she contacted her foster child’s mother to set up a supervised visit. “There was not a great deal of trust at the beginning, but slowly that began to change,” she told us.
Over time, the biological mother started to see Kristine not as the enemy, but rather as a temporary caregiver for the child that she was not presently able to care for herself. Supervised visits at a visitation center grew into visits at public places and eventually, once their relationship developed, mom’s visits took place at Kristine’s home.
Kristine remembers learning from the mother that she herself had grown up in the system and really never had any positive role models. Kristine feels that in some ways she has become a mother to her foster child’s mother and a grandma to the child.
The biological mother worked hard to have her child returned to her care. She came to the point where she understood the mistakes that she made and began turning her life around. Kristine eventually invited her to attend her church. That invitation turned out to be yet another piece in the relationship puzzle that helped this mother get back on her feet. Nine months later Kristine’s foster child was successfully reunified with a very grateful mother.
Kristine says that you have to be willing to take a chance on a parent. She explains, “Every situation is different, and parents have to want a relationship with the foster parent, but when this happens amazing things can take place!”
Kristine went on to share that even now the relationship that she built with this biological mother continues to grow. She feels that in some ways she had become a mother to her foster child’s mother and a grandma to the child. The biological mother now has a full time job so that she can properly provide for her child, and when necessary Kristine is the “go to” person the family relies on, watching the child when the mother has to work a night shift.