Written by Washington Foster Team
Nearly every time a foster care story is on the news, it seems to be filled with tragic moments.
Children being ripped away from their homes, families dissolving, and siblings losing touch, sometimes for a few months, sometimes for a few years.
But what isn’t shown as often are those moments of incredible joy, when foster parents step into a child’s life and give them another chance at having a safe, stable, and loving home.
Learning about a child’s path to happiness is one of the best ways for foster parents to become better at what they do. It is through the experiences of others that we learn and improve. Here are a few of our favorites.
It’s Never Too Late To Change
Stephanie and Eva have had three children. All three were taken away from them at birth.
For years, the Burlington couple battled addiction and arrests that made it impossible for them to provide a safe home for their children. Years after their first child, Chad, was born, the couple relinquished their rights.
When a lack of progress toward reunification threatened the same outcome for their second child, Stephanie and Eva decided to fight for themselves, their child, and their hope for a real family.
The couple enrolled in drug treatment programs, attended meetings with social workers, and got clean together. When their daughter Mia was born, they were both clean and sober. But even then, their past meant they couldn’t bring her home. Instead of quitting, they kept working toward reunification. Six months later, their children finally came home.
Today, Eva is looking toward a new career, Stephanie is working toward becoming a chemical dependency counselor, and their kids are preparing for a brighter future with parents they can rely on for a safe and loving home.
A Mother Returns From Rock Bottom
When Marsha Valenzuela had her two youngest sons taken away, it was clear she couldn’t care for them or herself. She was dealing with a decades-long addiction, wasn’t eating, got arrested, and ended up homeless.
It was at her lowest point that she finally found the strength to get better and become the mother she knew her children deserved. She committed to treatment, worked with lawyers and caseworkers, and was finally reunited with her sons. Her youngest is now attending college and Valenzuela is working at a non-profit where she supports families in foster care.
Denver & Miranda
“You want foster parents who are going to get attached and who are going to have broken hearts at the end, because then you’re doing your job right.” — Miranda, foster mom
Denver and Miranda were already parents of a young boy when they decided to become foster parents. Soon after, an infant was placed with them. They weren’t sure how their son would react to the new family dynamic, but those fears didn’t last long.
“He got home and ran up the stairs. He was jumping up and down and saying ‘Baby! Baby! Baby!’ ” recalls Miranda. And it wasn’t just an initial excitement. After a difficult day of their foster child crying, Miranda and Denver’s son offered to hold their foster child and soothe him.
For Denver and Miranda, the experience has cemented their belief that anyone can become a foster parent. “That’s what we’re here for,” says Miranda, “to keep them warm and safe.”
Amber Finds Trust In An Aunt
Amber was removed from her home when she was only six, along with her three-year-old brother. On top of the trauma that comes with losing a home, a routine, parents, and friends, Amber couldn’t shake the idea that maybe this was partly her fault.
She knew something wasn’t right at home, so she asked an adult for help. When her mother’s abusive partner found out, he took it out on her. Soon after, she was placed in foster care. In her mind, asking for help had ruined her life, so she stopped asking and withdrew.
Amber switched homes three times and temporarily got separated from her brother before an aunt took her in and started the healing process. Her aunt talked to her about the situation, something other foster parents and social workers had never done. Her aunt listened, gave Amber room to heal, and committed to consistently being there for her.
Over time, that constant presence of love allowed Amber to trust someone again. “I'm the person that I am today because of what I experienced. But also because I had that consistent adult in my life, which was my aunt who I call my mom,” says Amber.
Today, she works for Hand in Hand, helping other foster children and families build trust, heal, and learn to build a sense of home when everything seems lost.
My Two Dads Saved My Life
“My two dads have helped me navigate discrimination, racism, homophobia, and most importantly gave me the power to be in control of my own voice and embrace who I was.” — Weston Gallo, former foster child
As a child, Weston Gallo knew he was different. He would later discover that he identified as non-binary and gay. Growing up in a conservative, rural, religious family was never easy for Weston, but when he finally came out to his family, things got even worse.
When he was 14, Weston was placed in foster care due to abuse and negligence from his family. Placement wasn’t easy. Many foster families couldn’t accept Weston for who he was even as he struggled to figure out his own identity. At one point, he considered ending his life. That was, until he met his two dads.
An LGBT couple took placement of Weston and immediately his life changed. They showed him how to be proud of his identity, taught him how to deal with racism, homophobia, and other types of discrimination. They welcomed him as the person he was, rather than the labels others put on him.
“I am a walking testimony that if it wasn’t for my dads taking a chance on me and helping me embrace my sexual orientation, the color of my skin, and who Weston is, I wouldn’t be here,” says Weston.
Not all foster care stories end in reunification, but it’s still the main goal of foster care because of the incredible benefits it offers. Learn more about reunification and why it’s so important for foster children by reading our free guide, Reunify And Thrive: Why Reunification Is Critical To Foster Care.