Richard & Janet

Foster Care

What lesson have you learned providing respite care?
Janet was surprised by “how much love [she has] to give little ones besides my own children.” She finds it incredible how much the children learn and change while in foster care. The children learned better manners and betters ways to express their anxiety. Janet has learned the positive impact a foster parent can have. Responding to what he learned as a foster parent, Richard learned that each child comes with a different story and set of needs. Richard believes that he learned as much from parenting a child as the child learned from him.

Why be a foster parent?
Janet and Richard entered into foster parenting after they compared their blessings and privileges against the unfortunate circumstances of many children. With children in need of a temporary family, Richard and Janet believed they could help a child and contribute to the community as foster parents. Their hope was to offer a child an opportunity to grow into a healthy, productive and happy adult in society. After their experience as foster parents, they have found “so much joy, it’s amazing.” Richard admitted “seeing the smiles on their faces is a joy to my life.” Janet found that providing foster care was “a joy to my household and my life.” She struggled to find adequate words to express her pleasure in being a foster parent.

Is it difficult to work with children, knowing you have a limited time with them?
Richard and Janet were honest about the difficulty of loving and then letting a child go. Stating it simply and bluntly, they said “it was hard to see them go; it was tough, we fell in love.” Janet and Richard comforted themselves by knowing they had helped the child learn good behavior and self control. The child’s anger and acting out behaviors were mitigated by structure, nurture and patience from Richard and Janet. Janet and Richard believe that their love, as much as their discipline, helped the child’s behavior and self esteem increase. Ultimately, they take comfort in remembering the positive impact they had on the child. They also took comfort by the fact that the biological family truly loves their child and wants her back. Speaking of the biological parents, Richard said: “Everyone needs a second chance in life.”

Foster parents have to cope with their sense of loss and the mixed feelings the foster child has when returning home. The children may count the days before going home, but in the end they love the foster parents too. Janet shared that when the mother came to take their foster child home, the girl turned to Janet and asked “when are you going to call me?” Janet replied, “Not every day but I will call you and check on you once in awhile.” Richard said it was hard to see them go but prepared himself from day one, knowing they would eventually leave.

Why did you choose Northern Virginia Family Service, (NVFS) for your agency?
“I did my homework and NVFS stood out as the most people-friendly agency in Northern Virginia,” explained Richard. Part of their decision was based on the fact that NVFS staff replied almost immediately to our inquiry. The couple also appreciated the training provided. Richard likes to be prepared and he learned something new at each training session that would help with caring for other people’s children. Additionally, they appreciated that their questions were answered, even if the staff had to do some research. “Professional, fantastic, very friendly, informative, timely; we feel like we’ve joined another family,” Richard said.

Did you discuss becoming foster parents with your biological children?
Before entering the program and before accepting a placement, “we adults sat down and, then, with our kid, we talked about it.” The couple discovered that their biological child enjoyed the foster children. The children interacted “beautifully together” and found a myriad of games to share. It was a pleasure for the parents to observe their child and the foster children accept each other.

What would you like for others to know about being foster parents?
“We have so much love for these children; we treat them as our own and we see the joy in the children’s faces…Seeing the smiles on their faces brings so much joy,” sums up Janet’s sentiments. Richard thought about it and said, “Well I think I get a lot out of it even though we only have them for a short period of time.” He finds it fun to have a new person and new personality in their home. He is surprised by the great satisfaction he received from the experience.

What is particularly memorable from your experience as a foster parent?
Richard recalled a foster child who showed no compassion and teased her sibling unmercifully. In addition, he observed that the siblings were very competitive with each other. When Richard learned that a troubled parent, who favors one child, can create unusual competition, he sat down with the child and explained that words can be more damaging than a punch when coming from a sister. “The child didn’t realize how much damage she was doing. She apologized and stopped doing it.”