Their voyage began six years ago. Amanda is the owner of a Pet Grooming Salon and she had developed relationships with many of her clients over time, but there was one client who seemed quite special. Amanda remembers her friend had eight children (all under the age of 7) and none of them were her biological children. Amanda’s friend was a foster parent and she is the reason that Amanda is a foster parent today! Both women had tried for years unsuccessfully to have their own children. Amanda’s friend discovered that by being a foster parent she was able to fulfill a very special need in her life. The need to love, shelter, nourish and protect children. Amanda soon realized that by becoming a foster parent she would be able to fulfill that same desire and need within her own life.
That was 6 years ago and as of this blog, Amanda and her husband have fostered 19 children (including two children whom they just recently adopted. Child after child came into their lives. They loved, nurtured and protected each of those children as if they were their own. As Amanda puts it, “While a foster child was living with us we wanted them to feel safe and secure. We wanted them to be part of a family and experience the love of a family.”
When they least expected it Christopher and Amy came into their lives at different times and from different families. Christopher was six weeks old and Amy was only four days old when they were brought into Daniel and Amanda’s life. Amanda recalls how different the voyage was with each child. Christopher lived with their family for nearly a year and then he was reunified with his biological father only to be removed once again four months later. Amanda remembers that Eckerd had to “waiver” their home (make a special exception allowing her and Daniel to exceed the child capacity in their home so that Christopher could once again be placed with them). Being waivered would mean that Christopher could once again live in their home, but it would also mean that a case manager would need to come and visit their home every week. Amanda remembers the day that Christopher returned. She said that “He was only a year and a half old, but he remembered our home, the pets and his old bedroom.” Amanda said that Christopher went straight into the house, stopped for a moment or two and looked around and then headed straight for his old bedroom. He seemed to remember everything and appeared to feel that he was at home.
Next came Amy. She was only four days old when she arrived at their home. She came straight from the hospital and was born substance exposed. Amy has continued to grow and thrive, and today shows no negative signs of her exposure to drugs at birth.
Amanda remembers all of the people that went the extra mile on behalf of her family. She remembers case managers that would visit her home each week. She remembers the ways in which her licensing specialist continually fought for her family. She said the Eckerd licensing team was willing to waiver their home which allowed Christopher to be with them again, but it also meant a commitment to visit with us every week. Those visits were made because Eckerd felt that it was the right thing to do on behalf of the child. Amanda remembers Christopher returning to her home for a second time and feeling as though he had never left the first time. She remembers countless conversations with Amy’s mother during supervised visits between Amy and her biological mom. She remembers the Guardian Ad Litem that spent extra time communicating with Amy’s mother about considering what was in her daughter’s best interest, and then watched as Amy’s mother voluntarily signed the surrenders that would eventually allow for Amy’s adoption.
Amanda and Daniel will tell you that being a foster parent has its ups and downs, but they would also remind prospective foster parents that everyone goes through those positive and negative times in their lives. They would say to take it a day at a time and live in the moment. They believe that all children should have a home where they feel safe and loved and in which they can have a second chance to experience what it means to be a normal child and have a normal life.
Every foster parent is on a voyage of sorts. This family’s voyage took years rather than days or months, but they will tell you that the destination at which they arrived was amazing and they would not change the trip for anything in the world.