Why I Decided to Become a Foster Parent: Waridi Heard’s Foster-to-Adopt Journey Reveals Love Can Heal Effects of Trauma
20th of May 2020
How did you get into fostering and why was it important to you?
I was introduced to foster care in 1988. My mom was a foster parent who turned her home into a group home. She did that for several years and I was her back-up sitter, basically her right hand. I moved away from fostering to pursue college and my life direction changed when I got married and had my own children; it was conducive at that time. Eventually, I began thinking about going back into foster care as my children became teenagers.
Several years later, I made a decision that fostering was something that I truly desired to do. I became a foster parent because there are so many children in the system and there is a viable need for foster parents. I worked in the medical field and we’d hear cases about foster children being removed from home for being abused and neglected. This prompted me to want to go back to being in the fostering system. Knowing there was a need, having the heart to heal and love, and wanting to leave a mark on this earth, all made me want to foster even more.
How long were the children you fostered in your care before you adopted them and what are their names and ages?
The children were in my care for 3 ½ years. Their names are Carl (12) and Donnie (10).
What was the biggest challenge you’ve overcome with your sons?
The biggest challenges we overcame was the boys’ desire to accept love because they didn’t know what love was or what love looked like. The other challenge was teaching them how to appreciate and reciprocate love, as well as manage behaviors due to previous trauma.
How were you able to overcome challenges?
Loving the boys was very easy because love doesn’t stop. Love is patient, love is kind, and love is long-suffering. It’s a continuous action we give to one another, so regardless of what the child says or does, unconditional love is exuberated from me to them, no matter what. My sons had to know that no matter what, I was going to love them, make sure that they were safe and secure and know that I would provide them with stability consistently. Over time, they were able to see that and say, “Oh, she does care about me.” For example, Carl would demonstrate poor choices that would lead into consequences at school which would trigger behaviors. He would say “What I did was really, really bad and you’re not upset with me?” Even though I may have been upset with him on the inside, I didn’t allow my emotions to govern how I responded which could have possibly made him withdraw from me. I still demonstrated love, but I let him know that I was unhappy and disappointed with the choices he made. As far as the behaviors are concerned, having continuous conversations with Carl and Donnie were important; letting them know that they are a reflection of me because they are considered my children, helped them want to do well. I demonstrated love and compassion, and my sons reciprocated it. I’d give them kudos and/or reward them for making positive choices. With love, consistency, and giving a little direction on how things could have been handled differently, my sons did something they’ve never done before and became someone they’ve never been.
Were there any challenges you faced in the adoption process that Trinity helped with?
When paperwork needed to be processed, completed and tuned in, Trinity completed their paperwork and submitted documents to the county without hesitation. They literally walked me through the process and ensured that all processes were efficient and effective. When the County started requesting information from them, they were right on it, so the process went faster than normal. I can say that everything I’ve ever needed, Trinity has always been there. So, walking me through the process, coming out, and giving me reminders were just some of the things Trinity did for me. My social worker, Mrs. Dana has always stood by my side and met my needs when I needed direction, support, or just an ear to listen as well as Mrs. Laura, Mrs. Ashiko, and Mrs. Lupe. In fact, the whole team is always accessible, and that’s the one thing I appreciate. I have not seen anyone on my children’s caseload drop the ball.
What are some of the traits of a good foster parent?
They should possess the trait of being able to see the children as their own children. If they can’t, that will put a barrier between the child and the foster parent because the children will feel it. Be willing to stick it out irregardless of what it looks like in the moment; give the children time because they have been through a lot of trauma and had a lot of things happen to them where they had no choice in the matter. They are not going to recover in one day. Don’t let one incident be the deal breaker for you keeping a child. Continuously pour love into them. Love changes and kills things the babies are inflicted with. Don’t take anything personal. Whatever is said, it is not personal. Children don’t intentionally try to hurt you. Being separated from family, being with someone new that may or may not be family, and enduring challenges they’ve been through, including neglect, can be difficult for them; its a process.
What are some skills good adoptive parents possess?
Take the step to be committed to a child for the rest of their lives, no matter what. Being an adoptive parent is taking on more accountability, but you’ll have the ability to impact lives even more, because you’ve taken the fear of the unknown away from them. To me, adopted kids are your children. The boys and I are closer now. They are proud, happy, and shout from the mountaintops, “This is my mom.” So it’s up to us to show them what family life looks like and break the cycle that is negative. Continue to see them as your children, and everything will work out fine. So, while I have my children, it’s my purpose to help them love themselves, know what love feels like, and know how to have a healthy relationship and demonstrate love to their own family. At some point in time, they’ll want to see their family as the door is open. I’ve left it open for them so they can show their families how to love in a healthy way, build their self-esteem, and break cycles. All these seeds are being planted, and my hope is that once the seed is planted and I’ve watered it, my sons can go back to their families and have a love relationship with them.
How has your life changed since becoming a foster/adoptive parent?
I’ve been obedient to God, and I am employed at the school district, so I have the opportunity to work with the kids at school and be a touchstone in their life. My mission is to love God and love others. I am a Trinity Ambassador, so I get to talk about how awesome Trinity is as an agency. As a foster parent, I attend conferences, mentor kiddos, work with behaviorally challenged children in my home and at work and elevate children to another level. I think I am admired by many because people can see the changes in my children and the impact I have working with children whom may be having or had a difficult childhood. I believe once you have dealt with your own issues thoroughly as an individual, you have a message to give and a story to share with others that can impact the world.
Everyone talks about how the children have changed, and how they’ve grown up. I feel like my purpose is being fulfilled and that’s the greatest gratification. I found a deep-rooted happiness in fostering and nothing can take it away. I’m really appreciative knowing that my purpose is being fulfilled, and I get to watch these babies grow up and become grown men. Even if they don’t stay with me forever, they told me that they’d come back. I had a child who didn’t stay with me, who wrote me all kinds of letters of appreciation, telling me how I touched his life and helped him believe in himself. He walked away believing in himself and knowing he can do anything he puts his mind to do. He was loved and he had a purpose for being in my home as well.
I really believe that it’s up to us to keep kids off the streets, out of jails, and help them stop making poor choices. I believe that God placed it in my heart to save as many of His babies as possible. He challenged me to step out of what was comfortable for me, which was just raising my own kids and my grandchildren. Fostering and adopting is helping me grow, helping the children grow in an effort to live life on life’s terms, and fulfilling my purpose in the world. I want God to be pleased with me as His servant.
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Eve Powers, Foster Care Marketing Specialist
Eve has a strong commitment to helping foster youth and their families thrive and live successful lives. A former foster youth, Eve obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degree in Communications from California State University, San Bernardino, and is a certified Holistic Life Coach, motivational writer, self-help author and celebrity interviewer. Beyond the Trinity Youth Services blog, Eve’s articles can be found in numerous platforms including Foster Focus Magazine, Heart & Soul Magazine, BET Centric and Huffington Post. A passionate advocate for the LGBTQ community, Eve continues to educate, support and mentor foster youth throughout Southern California.