Four Foster Care Stories: Foster Care Teens And Parents
FOSTER MOM | Mary Cummings
I have been a foster parent with Bellefaire JCB for nine years, and I enjoy caring for teen girls. The fun side of being a foster parent is that the children and I are one big family, and I treat all the kids the same. I don’t have favorites or do for one and not the other. We enjoy going on vacations, family gatherings, dinners, movies, various entertainment events and holiday celebrations together. There are times when being a foster parent can be challenging, such as helping new children feel comfortable and enforcing the rules of the home.
Some of the children don’t like to open up because of damage from previous foster homes or life experiences. My second foster child, Yvette, was like this, and she was my biggest challenge. By 15, she had already spent several years living on the streets and in and out of the Juvenile Detention Home. Yvette came into foster care because of truancy and fighting with her mom, her teachers and her peers. She was a runaway with 12 unanswered court cases to her record.
The day Yvette came into my home, she was dirty and had been living on the street for four months. The first week, i.e. the “honeymoon stage,” she was extremely nice. But from her file, I knew that Yvette was defiant, mouthy, and street smart. This person would soon surface, but so would her sweet side. She loved to talk, she loved nice clothes and for a child that never stayed in school, she was pretty smart!
Focusing on Her Strengths and Dealing with Her Weaknesses
Right away, I started to analyze Yvette’s strengths and weaknesses. She was street smart: she could catch the bus and use her charm to get what she wanted. I used those skills to teach Yvette self-sufficiency. She caught the bus to her therapy and to her friend’s house. Yvette was determined to get a job. She used the phone book to call managers about interviews and woke up early on Saturday mornings to submit applications. She gained employment two months after she moved into my home.
Yvette’s weakness was that she was very argumentative, and she had no respect for authority. I let Yvette know that I was the adult, and she was the child. I was clear that she must respect the rules of the house, show respect for me and most importantly, learn to respect herself. It wasn’t easy, but I was determined to teach her a new way.
It took five months for Yvette to gradually turn her life around. When Yvette returned to her home after nine months, she’d finished the tenth grade with good attendance, and the lowest grade on her report card was a “C”. She had a job, nice clothes, a savings account and a respectful attitude. Her mom could not believe how her child had changed.
Yvette kept her job and graduated from high school. She got married and had a son. She is currently a Sergeant in the Armed Forces and plans to make it a career. I told her I was so proud of her. She responded by saying, “Thanks for saving my life.”Being a foster parent is not easy, but making a difference in a child’s life brings joy to my heart. I care for all the children that enter my home and treat them like they are my own. This is not just a job; it is a privilege to lead and guide a child in the right direction.
FOSTER DAD | William Campbell
Becoming a foster parent has been a wonderful, rewarding, life-changing experience for our family. My wife, Renette, and I decided to enter into this journey when our children went away to college. Our home was not the same when our children went away; our “empty nest” felt so lonely that even the dogs became bored.
One day, my wife said, “Let’s open our home to some foster kids.” At first I thought she was losing her mind. I was just getting used to a quiet house, and I was very hesitant about moving troubled children, whom I didn’t know, into my home. But, Renette was serious about becoming a foster parent, and she started taking classes at Beech Brook, a mental health agency in Cleveland, Ohio. I began to notice reading material in my home and in the car. Renette knew I would read them.
I didn’t reveal my newfound interest to her right away; instead, I waited to see if she would continue going to class. To my surprise, she did continue and seemed very motivated when she returned home. I still held my ground, until she informed me that she couldn’t do it without me being certified as well. How could I let her down after all the classes she attended? From that point on, my life changed forever.
I started my training classes that spring. The classes were informative and interesting, and I learned a lot. Beech Brook gave so much information in such a short period of time. After completing all the classroom training requirements, background checks and physical and home studies, my wife and I became certified, licensed foster parents.
Taking in Our First Foster Child
We received our first offer from Beech Brook within a week: a 15-year-old boy with numerous issues, including drinking, drugs and trouble with the law. We declined this offer. Our second call came the next week: a 12-year-old boy, also with several issues. He had been placed in eight different foster homes throughout his young life. He was very defiant, disrespectful and aggressive toward authority figures. They said he was the youngest kid in the facility who needed a home right away. This kid sparked our interest and sounded like someone we were willing to take a chance with.
We made several visits out to meet our new foster son, Christian. Immediately, he started calling us mom and dad. When Christian first came into our home, he had many issues with my wife, and with women as a whole, because he had been abused by his mother and sisters as a child. But, he overcame these issues with tough love and understanding. He has since learned to trust us, and our unconditional love has helped him to deal with his anger.
Christian had always dreamt of being adopted; yet, adoption was the furthest thing from my mind when I became a foster parent. But, my attitude started to change as I noticed the big changes happening in Christian. We are now making his dreams come true. Soon our adoption will be finalized, and Christian will become part of our family forever.
FOSTER SON | Christian Hines
As a young child growing up in foster care, I had some fun times, but most of the time I was sad and depressed. It felt like no one understood my feelings or cared about me. I was angry at the world for taking me away from my parents. I was only five years old when I was placed into foster care. Missing my parents was the hardest thing I ever had to deal with. Since then, I’ve been placed with several families and group homes.
I really wanted a family to love me, but my behavior kept getting in the way. If someone tried to help, I became very aggressive. I would curse at them and mentally and physically abuse them. When I got mad, I would destroy other people’s property. I didn’t care about anyone’s feeling because I felt like no one cared about mine. Over the years, I was placed into some really good homes, but my behavior would always cause a problem. They would eventually give up on me after a few incidents and send me back to the group home. My feelings became numb after failing so many times.
When I met my current family, I felt it was going to be a perfect match. They came to visit me several times at the group home. They took me to the Soul Circus, and we had a great time laughing and watching the show. The next weekend we had an overnight stay. They had a beautiful home, and I instantly fell in love with their two big dogs. This home felt like how home was supposed to feel. I couldn’t wait to be placed there. I wanted them to be my family.
Overcoming My Past Demons in a House of Love
But even though I was the happiest I’d been in a long time, my issues started to come back after a few weeks. The honeymoon was over, and the real me came back again. I tried my hardest to keep things right, but I couldn’t control myself. The second floor bathroom flooded twice, and my dad was really upset about that because the ceiling almost came down; I hit and hurt the dogs when no one was looking. I would curse in their home and disrespect my mom. They would get really mad and punish me, but they always forgave me. In the next several months, they never gave up on me.
I couldn’t ask for better parents. They love me, even though I still have some problems I need to work on. Last year on my 14th birthday, my foster parents gave me the biggest present in the world: adoption. When they told me that they wanted to adopt me into their family, I jumped for joy. I couldn’t believe that they really wanted to adopt me. Wow! My parents care about me and love me for who I am. I love you, my mom and dad.
FOSTER DAUGHTER | Jazmine Cummings
I was nine years old when I was taken away from my parents and placed in foster care, along with three of my ten siblings. When I was first taken away from my family, I had no clue what was going on, and no one explained what was happening.
I remember driving for hours in the middle of the night, wondering where I was going and where my Mom was. It was scary. And I only had my three brothers to comfort me in my time of need. When we finally reached our destination, they told us what had happened and what was going on. But their explanation wasn’t so clear. I still didn’t understand. I just wanted to go home to my real family. After that first foster home, there were three more. Then I spent two years at my auntie’s house, until her husband molested me.
I was immediately taken out of that home and placed back in foster care, but the sexual abuse made me paranoid. After two more foster homes, I was placed with a lady who lived in Maple Heights. She was very kind-hearted, intelligent, sweet, patient, caring, and respectful. I liked her a lot, which was a surprise to me because I never really got along with any of my foster parents.
A Foster Mom I Could Love
She ran her house with a lot of rules and guidelines—a new experience for me. She showed that she really cared about the kids; foster parenting wasn’t just some job to her. She showed me love on my first visit. I was so happy to find a foster parent who I actually got along with and who respected my feelings. I came to care about her during a time when I didn’t care about anyone except myself.
This loving lady adopted me six years ago when I was 12. I call her “Mom” now, and she refers to me as her daughter and not just some adopted child. I love her so much for being here for me when I needed a parent the most. She loves me unconditionally, and my love for her is the same. She protects me from my past, provides for me, and lets me know that there is hope for the future. My mom is more than a parent; she is my hero because she stepped in and played a role in my life that she didn’t have to play. She became a mother and role model to a child that she barely knew. I hated foster care but without it, I wouldn’t have the mother I have now. So I am thankful for it all: the bad and the good!