This is the time of year we find ourselves reflecting on the past eleven months and giving thanks for all of our blessings. Blessings come in all shapes, forms and sizes; they could be the important people in our lives, special events in which we have participated, milestones reached, achievements attained, or unsolicited generosities both given and received. We here at CONCERN have so many blessings for which to be thankful it would be impossible to list them all and I fear we might omit some by mistake. Therefore may we take this time to say THANK YOU to all who have supported and continue to support our mission in fostering the growth of healthy, responsible and productive community members, the children of CONCERN.
On my 21st birthday, I was approved as a medical foster parent for children with special needs. After months of anticipation, I received a phone call to meet a little boy who needed a loving home until his mother could properly care for him. They informed me this little boy had cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, a seizure disorder, received all nutrition through a feeding tube and was non-verbal and non-ambulatory.
On March 13, 2012 I met a shy, malnourished, fragile boy who would forever change my life. He was temporarily residing at a long term care facility for children. After meeting with staff members from children and youth, I left the facility with only a single night to determine whether or not I could provide for his needs.
On March 15th 2012, I brought him home with me. He was 6 years old, weighed a mere 34 pounds, and was quiet as could be. He was unable to do much of anything on his own. He couldn’t even hold his own head up. The first few months were filled with a slew of doctors appointments, therapy appointments, court dates, and visitation with his biological mother and brother. I had huge expectations for him, and others looked at me like I had ten heads whenever I brought up my expectations of him. Therapists told me he would probably never be able to sit up on his own. Doctors told me he would never progress past a 1-3 month developmental age. I saw past all of this; there was something inside Dane that was telling me he could do so much more than that.
Dane quickly stole my heart and taught me how to be an advocate for his needs. I fought to get him into school. I’ll never forget the first day I put him on the school bus and he cried to be leaving my side. He came home that day and lit up the second he heard my voice. It was that moment I realized Dane and I had formed a bond that was irreplaceable.
Our lives were quickly filled with therapy 4-5 times a week. He receives physical, occupational, speech, feeding, swimming, and hippotherapy. We go to at least one doctor appointment every other week. It’s been over a year and a half since that day I took Dane home with me. Dane has become a HUGE part of my life and I couldn’t imagine my life without him. There wasn’t a single hesitation in my mind when they asked me if I was interested in adopting him. On September 27, 2013, I became his “forever mom.”
I’m very proud to say that he has made tremendous strides since day one. He currently weighs 60 pounds. He is now sitting up on his own with minimal assistance, rolling over own his own, and using a gait trainer. He still receives supplemental tube feeds overnight, but he eats by mouth three times a day. He has started to use sign language to communicate his needs and uses an iPad to communicate needs that he is unable to sign. He is currently at a twenty-four month developmental age and quickly progressing.
I quickly realized that maybe Dane wasn’t the only one growing. Dane was also teaching me how to become a better person. I look at the world through different eyes. I learned to become a strong advocate and an even better mom. Dane may not necessarily be able to tell me “thank you” or “I love you” verbally, but his non-verbal cues say more than any verbal language.
To anyone considering becoming a medical foster parent, I’d like to say that its more than worth it. Is it hard? Absolutely. But we all know that being a parent is hard. Don’t let a tube feed or seizures or any other medical condition scare you away. Underneath all of that, is a child who needs the care and love that you can provide.
Beginning my internship with CONCERN this semester has been an exciting yet nerve wrecking experience. I found CONCERN by chance looking through books at Arcadia University, where I am currently a senior undergraduate student. While I was applying for an internship with CONCERN I had no idea of what to expect. Being a psychology major one would think I have some background knowledge about social work and foster care, but in all honesty, I did not. Going to a liberal arts university has given me background awareness on many different topics, from psychology to the history of humor, to global public health. With my extensive background in psychology I thought I would be well prepared to intern where a majority of the employees have degrees in psychology. Nervous yet eager to start, I quickly realized there was a lot to learn.
I found myself listening to my supervisors and learning information I had never heard of before. I had such a preconceived idea of what the foster care system was like but quickly realized I truly had no idea of what it was all about. You hear many people talk about foster care and the children involved and it is usually negatively stigmatized. After asking some friends at Arcadia I found whenever I asked about foster care it was usually followed by the work “bad”. I heard countless times that the kids were “bad” kids, or the parents were “bad” parents or they would not be in the foster care system to begin with. I could not believe what I was hearing since this word is not what anyone in CONCERN’s office would call these children or adults. Every family that comes through CONCERN’s doors are known by name. The employees talk about each child as an individual and always use their first name in referencing them. They all have such a passion to work with and help the children which is something I look forward to working with and learning from everyday I come in. At CONCERN no child is considered “bad” and they are treated in a manner that will most benefit the children.
In only the short amount of time I have been here at CONCERN I have learned so much and I hope to pass the information on to my friends at school. It hurts me to know that foster care has such a bad reputation and I wish colleges would teach their students the benefits and positive attitude that surrounds the foster care system and the children involved.