Over the course of 19 years, a pair of Courtenay caregivers have opened their hearts and home to no less than 80 foster children. At present, the couple have an infant, a three-year-old and a nine-year-old. At one time, they housed five siblings all under the age of seven.
It’s rewarding work, they say, which comes with inevitable challenges but no end of memorable moments — some happy, some sad, some funny.
“We’ve had some beautiful moments,” the woman said, recalling the day she felt a drop of water land on her head. Turns out their youngster had flooded the upstairs bathroom.
On another occasion while mom and dad were tending to guests in the living room, two of their little boys seated in high chairs decorated the white kitchen tile with spaghetti sauce.
“It’s like having your own children but multiplied by the number of kids that go through your home,” the man said.
Raising children for 42 years
The couple — whose identity has been withheld to protect their foster children — have three grown children of their own, one of whom is adopted.
“We’ve been parents for 42 years,” the man quips.
A love of children
When the couple first moved to the Comox Valley, the woman worried she would have nothing to do because she could not land a job in the field of her choice. When her husband asked what she loves, she said children. She recalled her brother had fostered children in the old country — and their lives as foster parents began.
“It’s an experience you can’t really even explain to somebody,” the woman said. “There’s so many emotions everyday, frustration being one of them sometimes. I know it’s a job but it doesn’t ever feel like a job.”
Foster Family Month
These and other foster parents are being honoured throughout October during Foster Family Month in B.C.
Upwards of 8,000 vulnerable children and youth in B.C. are in foster care. In the Comox Valley, about 100 children live in roughly 55 foster homes.
“I think caregivers are such a critical component of the entire child welfare system,” said Shawna Stevenson, resource social worker at the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
There is a shortage of foster parents in B.C. One need not have been a parent, but applicants must provide a supportive environment and be able to make a positive difference in a child’s life.
“I think the big thing with foster parents is we act as a catalyst in the process to help the child along, and the adoptive parents or the biological parents to get through whatever it is they’re involved in, to come out with a positive result at the end,” the man said, noting the importance of empathy, trust and common sense.
“We hope that we add some stability to their lives.”
Care time varies
Their foster children have stayed at home for as short as three months and as long as 3 1/2 years. Some come back to visit.
“It’s really nice when you can still get that connection,” the woman said, recalling a foster daughter who had left the community and later returned. Her heart melted when the girl made spaghetti the way she taught her.
“She probably thought nothing of that statement, but to us it spoke volumes,” she said.
“You sometimes think you’re not having any impact, but you do,” her husband said. “It’s deeply buried in the child’s head, but it comes back.”
For more information about foster parenting, call Stevenson at 334-5803 or 1-800-663-9999.