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Barbara Hancock* has been involved in foster care for more than a decade. She has fostered more than 25 children, adopted three and worked as an Adoption Specialist and Foster Parent Trainer for KidsPeace Foster Care for two years. She and her husband have one biological son who is in his teens and very involved, organizing a walk every year to raise awareness of the need for foster and adoptive families. The family has also started a ministry at their church to promote foster care and adoption and collect and assemble backpacks that are filled with personal items and age appropriate toys and activities and given to each child entering foster care through one of the KidsPeace foster care offices.
The dynamics that must exist between the husband and wife who foster or adopt are not definable, according to Barbara. “They have to be on the same page or it can tear the family apart,” she said. “It is truly a journey, but, when it works, it is an experience that will bring couples closer together and become a path they walk together throughout their marriage.”
Working in a Foster Care/Adoption Setting
Barbara is a former teacher. While at KidsPeace, she conducted home studies and child profiles for potential adoptive parents, “doing the prep work to enable a family to adopt a child,” she said. Foster parents have the first opportunity to adopt the child in their home if parental rights are terminated. She also conducted foster family recruiting, helped families through the approval process and provided many of the mandatory training hours each family must have. In addition, she started a KidsPeace Foster Care Support Group for the families in the area.
She was passionate about making the whole process easier for the foster/adoptive parents. “It is hard to move kids, and it sometimes takes a few tries to find the home that meets the child’s needs, but the child deserves it,” according to Barbara. She stressed that case workers do not hold it against foster families who give notice that a child is not working out in their homes. “Kids are challenging, and there must be a connection with the foster family for the placement to work,” she explained. She also feels that families who take in teenagers “are saints” because it is often harder to develop connections with
Taking Children into Your Home
Barbara began foster parenting because she and her husband wanted to adopt siblings for their son. She has always taken children younger than her son because she believes it is important to keep the birth order and keep him in the role of “big brother” to all children who come into their home. She has primarily done regular rather than treatment foster care, although she did have one child who suffered from shaken baby syndrome. The Hancocks took the child to several specialists and came to mentor the mother who had also been abused by the baby’s father, having her spend weekends at their home as she learned how to parent her son. Barbara considers this a real success story because the mother now has custody, and the child, despite some delays, is doing well.
Barbara is adamant about improving the image of foster parents. She wants the public to see them as average families living in average neighborhoods who are not expecting to make any money from fostering. They are not out to save the world, but they want to provide nurturing environments for children who have no place to go.
When asked what it takes to be a good foster or adoptive parent, Barbara said, “You have to have a big heart and want to help children.” She went on to explain that flexibility is very important because a home full of children can be chaotic at times. There is a great need for a support system of family members, friends, church groups and other foster families who can drop off a meal, for instance, when there is no time to cook because a new child is arriving in an hour. She emphasized that no one expects super parents; just open hearts and welcoming homes.
*Name changed to protect privacy