Looking in from the outside, the benefits of foster parenting might appear to be outweighed by the stress that comes with the job. Welcoming a child into your home, that has been removed from his/her biological home due to abuse or neglect is tough enough; but going into the situation knowing that your foster child will eventually move on to another home can be even more challenging.
Angela and Byron Williams, however, disagree. These foster parent veterans say the benefits far outweigh the challenges. The couple has been fostering children through St. Vincent Catholic Charities for ten years this month.
“Sometimes I wonder who gets the biggest benefit [from the relationship], because they have brought so much to us, seeing them grow,” said Byron.
While the couple started foster parenting when they still had their biological children living at home, the two are now empty nesters, a demographic that has recently been highlighted by St. Vincent Catholic Charities as great candidates for foster parenting, due to their experience as parents and their newfound free time.
Heather Akers, child welfare assistant director at St. Vincent Catholic Charities, explained how what they look for in a foster parent lines up perfectly with what empty nesters have to offer: a loving home.
“[We look for] someone who wants to do this and wants to make an impact on a child. I think we have some really awesome foster parents. They do it because they genuinely want to make a difference in [these kids] lives,” said Akers.
“Speaking of empty nesters, I think that’s a really great time to become a foster parent. They have their kids leaving the home and want to still have that hands-on parenting experience and really help shape a child.”
The Williams’ are a perfect example of a family that still has a lot of love to give a child. In addition to parenting their biological children, they have fostered multiple children and have recently adopted their son Koran, who was a true test of what they could do as a foster, and now adoptive, parent.
“Koran is autistic,” said Byron, who is now retired from the military and the U.S. Postal Service. “Never being around autistic children before, that was a huge challenge. He was non-verbal. We decided we would try it and this little boy came into our home and he just captured all of us and showed how much he needed us and how little it took for us to provide for his needs.”
While the Williams’ admit that they haven’t had all positive experiences with foster parenting – they’ve ran into their fair share of challenges – they did say how rewarding the entire process has been for them.
“It has been a very rewarding experience,” said Angela, a retired 32-year employee of the State of Michigan. Her husband agreed.
“I knew I couldn’t just come home and do nothing,” Byron said. “I enjoy teaching and she (Angela) enjoys children and it made a great fit for children who want some guidance, some boundaries. We want to show them how to survive in this thing that you call the world. The thing I always tell people is, they don’t need you to be special, they just need you to be you.”
If you are interested in learning more about foster parenting or adoption services or about how to get involved, visit stvcc.org.