“Helping one kid at a time is the most important message. If you can offer a warm house for someone, it's better than giving them a million dollars.” — Liliana, Washington State foster parent
One of the first things new families learn as they are brought into the community is that there isn’t a typical foster parent. They come from all walks of life, representing different backgrounds, ages, and ethnicities. The one thing they have in common is a compassion for children and their parents.
For Liliana, it was her experience working at a pediatric center that inspired her to become a foster parent. “I saw babies that needed to go to a home end up in foster care,” says Liliana. So, at the age of 24, she began the licensing process.
The first agency she tried denied her, believing that she was too young to handle the responsibility required of a foster parent. But, not to be deterred, Liliana pressed on, and found an agency that supported her ambition to support a child in need.
Fitting Fostering Into a Full Life
Liliana signed up for foster care with the intention of taking care of newborns, but she changed her mind once she was licensed. She decided to take in teenagers who could attend school while she went to work.
She learned of the urgent need for foster parents who were native Spanish speakers. With her unique background and skills, she took the placement of a 13-year-old girl. That was 12 years ago.
Since that time, Liliana has fostered several teenage girls, usually between two and four, at any given time. She took a break along the way to get married and arrange a new life with her husband. But it wasn’t long before she was ready to foster again.
The girls she’s fostered have gone on to create their own families. “The oldest now is 26, and she’s doing great. She’s got two kids of her own and it’s just amazing to see the incredible woman she has become,” Liliana beams.
Not Always Easy, but Always Worth It
Liliana admits there were surprises along the way. She learned she couldn’t leave a child with an unapproved family member and that she was responsible for a child's behavior if she brought them to work.
But most importantly, she learned to get as much information as possible about a child, “because you never know what their background is, or what might be a trigger for them."
Liliana advises, “Inform yourself. Get as much information as you can about the kids. And, don’t just trust what’s in their file either, because a child can change.” Despite the challenges, she can’t think of anything she’d change.
“At the end of the day I know that I’ve helped a kid who might otherwise be doing God knows what. I know they are safe, and warm, and they have food. It’s one less teenage girl out there,” says Liliana.
Liliana overcame the challenges of being a single, young foster parent. Now, she’s spent more than a decade changing lives.
Find out how you can get the support you need to follow in Liliana’s footsteps. Read our informational guide: Is Foster Parenting Right For You?