Department of Family Services – Children, Youth and Families

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
703-324-7500 TTY 711
12011 Government Center Parkway, Pennino Building
Fairfax, VA 22035
Oriane Eriksen

The Unexpected Rewards of Foster Parenting

Who better to share about foster parenting experiences than foster parents themselves? Here are some thoughts offered by Mr. & Mrs. D of Fairfax County.

*Names of foster parents are confidential to protect the privacy of the children

What interested you in becoming a foster parent in the first place? How did it happen for you? What finally “brought you in”? What is your motivation to care for these children?

When our last child left for college, we found ourselves reflecting over the twenty-eight years we had raised children in our home. The end of our “in home” parenting journey left us sitting on a mound of blessings. We realized that we basically had two choices – ingest everything we had been given into ourselves and become fat or pour those blessings out into someone or something else. We asked God to show us where we could invest and He began to open a door for foster parenting. Our dual professional backgrounds in education, our love of children and our enjoyment of opening our home to others were a starting point for investigating foster care.

Did you attend an orientation meeting and training sessions for foster care? Was the information helpful?

An orientation meeting and twenty-seven hours of training are some of the requirements to becoming a foster parent in Fairfax County. While we received helpful information in these sessions, by far our greatest training has come at the hands of our children’s Fairfax County social workers and our own resource worker. Each foster parent is assigned a resource worker to guide them through the complicated world of foster care. Our worker has been an invaluable resource and support for us.

How long have you been a foster parent? To how many children have you been a foster parent?

We have been foster parents for about a year and a half and have had three children in our home at different times. Two of our children only stayed one week each, but our current little guy has been with us over a year.

Please talk generally about the child or children you have had in your care. What are their stories, their challenges – and how have they coped?

We have a very limited scope on the foster care spectrum as we have had all infants in our home, each arriving sometime before they were seven weeks old. Even children this young are impacted by being removed from their birth families and need lots of love. Our current placement came home from the NICU with us, and we recently celebrated his first birthday. He has a very loving birth family whom we have been deeply involved with from the beginning. He has been diagnosed with a long-term special needs condition which makes his possible return home more challenging.

When we first brought him home, our little guy did not even cry when he was hungry. We had to set our alarm for every three hours, around the clock, in order to feed him. In the beginning, we spent an enormous amount of time just feeding, wearing and loving him. We have also spent much of his first year with an amazing team of specialists, just pursuing answers to his medical issues. It has been quite the transformation. To see the chubby, smiling, energetic toddler he is today brings us such joy.

What are some of the challenges foster parents face?

As a foster parent, you are signing up to open your home, your family, your parenting styles and your very lives to the intense scrutiny of others. Birth families, social workers, therapists, CASA workers, attorneys and others will be moving in and out of your life, and possibly your home, as they serve your foster child. Sometimes, it can feel overwhelming. Remembering that these professionals are striving to find the best possible outcome for your child is very helpful.

What are the rewards?

For us, the rewards of foster parenting far outweigh the struggles. Being able to walk alongside a child and their family during some of their most difficult days is a humbling, distinct privilege. To see the dramatic growth and changes of our little guy from the tiny, non-crying infant we brought home from the hospital to the giggling toddler we chase around our home today is a happy and joyous journey. Every day, he makes us smile. He has turned our lives and our home upside down – in all the best ways. Due to his special needs, many developmental milestones only occur for him after months of therapy and daily practice. To see him finally acquire skills which you have worked with him on for months, like rolling over or drinking from a straw, are incredibly rewarding moments.

What kind of person are you? What are some of your personality traits?

Foster parenting for us is a team family endeavor. Our adult children have been incredibly supportive of us in our foster care journey, even when foster parenting took time away from them. Our team core values reflect around principles of loving God and loving people the way He loves them. Opening our home to others is our joy. Children have always been our passion. Foster care is a perfect blend, for us, of those principles which are particular to our family team.

What have you experienced as a foster parent that you think others would be interested in knowing about you?

No matter how much we have put into foster parenting, no matter how hard the days or how long the nights, no matter how emotionally draining it can be to see the things a child and family go through when they need to be in the foster care system – we never give into foster care as much as we receive back. The rewards of being a foster parent far outweigh any sacrifice we have made.

Interested in becoming a foster parent? Learn about the children in foster care and what the requirements are to be a foster parent. Learn what the Foster Care and Adoption program has planned for foster families - stay on top of trends, participate in trainings and learn about policy changes.

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