Have you ever thought about becoming a foster parent? If you are a parent, have you considered how fostering would be different? Maybe the idea of foster parenting had crossed your mind, but the unknowns, the misconceptions and your own self-doubts stopped you from ever looking into the qualifications and licensing procedures.
Although many foster parents love the youth they take-in as their own, fostering is not the same as parenting ones biological child or even ones stepchild. Fostering calls for training and commitment in order to provide abused, neglected, and/or runaway youth a safe and nurturing temporary home until they can be reunited with their biological family or placed in a more permanent residence.
At Hale Kipa, we place three- to 18-year-old youth referred from the Hawai‘i State Department of Health in short-term homes with foster parents (also known as resource caregivers). Currently, we have six homes on the Big Island and 15 homes on O‘ahu. We also place youth needing emergency shelter in homes on Oahu for periods of one day to one month. We are always looking for individuals willing and able to foster.
Now more familiar with the basics of foster care and Hale Kipa’s placement services, how can we best answer if you should or could foster? No one can advise you better than our remarkable foster parents. Meet Myra Acosta and Leila Thelen – two inspiring individuals who make room in their homes and their hearts for Hale Kipa’s foster youth. Caring for foster youth as if they were their own, they immediately object to the foster label. For Myra and Leila, foster kids are simply kids and members of their ‘Ohana. This value shared between the two was passionately asserted as we asked them the below questions and encouraged them to share their foster parent experiences. We invite you to see a foster parent’s perspective in hopes you will be inspired to foster too.
Why did you initially become a foster parent (resource caregiver)? Both Myra and Leila come from big, loving families and are parents of several of their own children. Helping others, an important practice their parents passed on to them, is simply the norm. Thus, welcoming foster youth to each of their homes naturally fits into their lifestyles.
Leila enjoys building relationships and having fun with her foster kids. “I’m a big kid. We go swimming at the beach and do all the same, basic activities I took part in when I was growing up,” said Leila. “That bonds us – our family – together.”
Myra takes great pride in knowing she did all she could to help her foster youth overcome challenges and excel during her limited time with them. “A lot of kids are really smart and truly gifted. They just didn’t have the chance to blossom,” said Myra.
What is most challenging about foster parenting? As foster youth often come from harmful situations, they can exhibit challenging behaviors in their new foster homes. Leila explained how she would encourage youth to give her home a chance, telling them, “Whatever you went through, I was not there and I was not the one who treated you poorly. Let’s start with a clean slate.”
“When foster youth come to my house, they are learning healthy behaviors all over again and the transition can be frustrating for them,” said Myra. “No matter how small the skill – reading, math, simply being social, controlling emotions – it’s a touchdown when they learn something.”
What important insights would you share with someone interested in becoming a foster parent (resource caregiver)?
“A foster parent is a parent,” commented Leila. “The catch is the legal system and the fact that you will have to let the foster kid go. This will be painful as you will form a level of attachment. Once they are gone, you will wonder where they are and what they are doing. Just know you planted the seeds for them to grow in the future.”
Myra reiterated Leila’s feelings. She stated, “You truly love them (foster youth). When they leave it’s hard, but you have to accept the fact that you gave them a safer, healthier life in your home. You are connected, but at the same time you cannot become too connected.”
Myra further explained the emotional dilemma of being a foster parent, saying, “A child knows when you really care, so do not ever be afraid to show them you care.”
“There is no perfect plan for parenting. Don’t over think becoming a foster parent. Just do it,” said Leila.
Both Myra and Leila can attest to the support Hale Kipa provides to foster parents. “Hale Kipa is awesome! I love my Hale Kipa,” exclaimed Leila! “I am really fortunate to work with such great people, like Tanya, at Hale Kipa,” said Myra.
When you become a foster parent, you are not alone. In addition to Hale Kipa’s resources, foster parents meet at quarterly info sessions hosted by Partners In Development Foundation.
Become a Foster Parent
Submit a Foster Parent Interest Form
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