Foster families provide most vulnerable children a safe, loving home

Special to the Star News

Across the nation, more than 400,000 children are in foster care.

Children enter foster care through no fault of their own, due to a termination of parental rights, the death of parent or guardian or the incarceration of a caregiver.

Foster parents are essential for keeping children from entering institutional settings and to provide stability, structure and care to some of the communities’ most vulnerable citizens. Foster families are temporary guardians, used to help children transition to reunification or adoption to their “forever home.”

While children benefit from loving and caring foster homes, so do foster families.

One Sherburne County family, the Johnsons (name changed to protect privacy) are the adoptive parents of four children. The Johnsons, age 71 and 60, respectively, finalized their adoption to four foster children in 2010 after viewing a documentary about children needing homes in the United States.

One of them penned this email:

“There are over 400,000 foster children in America. Each and every one of them is being cared for by a foster parent, hoping someday to find someone who they can call their real Mom or Dad.

“These children’s journey has been very hard; some being abandoned, some being neglected, some being orphaned by a tragic accident or some just not being wanted. In most cases, the birth parents made a bad choice, leaving their child, or children, to suffer because of it.

“Maybe the reason there are so many foster children in today’s world is that many people do not want to be ‘bothered’ by caring for someone else’s problems. You, or someone you know, might just be interested in giving just one of those needy children a ‘real’ home, one that is not just a ‘stop over’ in life for them.

“So many times, that is what happens to many foster children: It becomes a ‘stop over’ place, NOT a permanent home. Sometimes to 2-3-4-5-6, or even possibly 7, YES, seven foster homes, before someone decided their journey was over.

“The seven previous foster homes is the background of OUR new family. It has been seven years that we have known these children, two of those years being foster children in our home, until the adoption was completed in 2010. I have been called ‘crazy’ by many folks after hearing our story.

“(People) ask what compelled us to become foster parents especially after retiring. My response is always the same: Their (the child’s) first journey ends, but their final journey begins. It has been a journey filled with both tears of joy and tough love. It’s one in which I’ve never been sorry. I love the feeling, every time it happens, when my child runs to me, gives a hug, and says ‘this is my daddy.’

“Please have tears of joy if you or someone you know can and will make a difference in some child’s life. Please pass this on, if you feel there might be just one person out there who can make a difference for just one of those 400,000 foster kids. One is always good, but more is always better, especially if they are siblings, like our four children.”

According to Sherburne County Health and Human Services Supervisor Jodi Heurung, Sherburne County is continuously seeking new foster families willing to open their hearts and homes to children. For those who want to make a significant difference in a child’s life, becoming a foster parent may be a good fit.

In an effort to provide children with some stability during an uncertain time in their lives, Sherburne County attempts to place children into foster homes within their community. This allows children to maintain educational stability, friendships and other activities. This requires a sufficient number of foster homes disbursed throughout Sherburne County.

In 2013, Sherburne County had 46 licensed foster care homes for children. There were 73 children placed in foster care homes in 2013 in Sherburne County. The need for loving foster families continues to increase. It is the goal of Sherburne County to license six additional foster care homes in 2014.

May is National Foster Care Month. If you are interested in making a positive difference in a child’s life through becoming a foster parent, contact Suzanne Hulett, child foster care licenser, Sherburne County Health and Human Services, at 763-765-4033.