As I continue telling my story, one of the central characters you will soon meet is my friend Pam Jowers. Pam and I first met many years ago, but have become very close in the last 2 1/2 years. She is an accountant and lives in Northwest Arkansas with her husband Nathan and their four sons. Their first placements were two brothers that I now proudly call my sons. With that, I proudly introduce you to Pam.
How long did you foster and how many children did you foster during that time?
We fostered for 3 years and had a total of 6 foster children during that time. Our longest placement was almost 2 years, and our shortest was just a few weeks. We also provided respite care on a couple of occasions.
(Note: Respite care is usually a very short-term placement where the child returns to another foster placement once they leave your home. For example, if a child's foster family needs to go out of state for a period of time and can't take the child with them, then a respite family can care for the child until the other family returns. Or, a family just needs a short-term break from a difficult placement. There is always a need for these short-term families.)
Why did you make the decision to open your home to foster care?
Mostly the huge need for foster parents. We have been blessed with so much that we wanted to be able to help others and provide children with a loving family, even if it was temporary.
What was the greatest challenge to you as a foster parent?
Learning to navigate the system. It's such a broken system and sometimes things happen that just don't make sense.
What has been the biggest blessing to come out of your experience?
We have been blessed to see all 4 of the kids that we had for long term placement flourish. Two of them were adopted into a very loving home. We have a great relationship with them and their parents and get to see them on a weekly basis. Two of the others went back home with their biological families and are doing very well. We have also been able to keep in touch with them.
Can you share any humorous anecdotes from your foster care experience?
Although it wasn't really humorous at the time, the biological mom of our first 2 boys loved to bring them lots of sugar, chocolate, tea, and Mountain Dew to her evening visits with her 2, already wild, boys. She even brought Reese's Pieces to one of them who was allergic to peanut butter. Talk about getting the caseworkers fired up!
What effect did foster care have on the children already in your home?
Foster care was a great experience for our children. They took on the responsibilities of having extra kids in the house and they were very compassionate for their situations. A lot of times, they were much more patient with the struggles that we had at times than we were.
How did your extended family respond to your desire to foster?
Our family has been very supportive of our decision to foster. I'm sure they think we are crazy, but they mostly kept those thoughts to themselves and always treated our foster children like their own!
How do you respond to people who say, "I could never foster because I would get too attached"?
We have always had the mindset from the beginning that we are only a temporary placement for these children. Did we love them? Of course. We still do! We fought hard for the best interests of the kids in our care. But we also know that we were not the "best fit" long term for any of the kids in our care. That made "letting them go" a much easier process than most would think.What advice would you have for someone considering becoming a foster parent?
Have a good support system. Have patience with the foster care system. Try to always remember the situations your foster kids come from...it helps when it comes to having patience with their less than desirable behaviors. Added from Nathan: Remember the big picture...kids that start out as little hellions can turn into sweet little guys! (I think I may know to whom he's referring)As you might imagine, I owe Pam a great deal. She and her family taught my boys what a loving, stable family looked like and for that we are eternally grateful. I know it wasn't always easy for her (I've seen the videos of my little "angels" that prove otherwise!), but we couldn't have asked for a better "middle mother" for our boys.
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. Please feel free to share it with others who might be considering foster care or adoption. And if you have any questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Jowers family (including a couple of extras). December, 2012